CVM Today Spring 2020

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 1 // SPRING 2020


DEAN'S MESSAGE

In 2016, the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) celebrated the 100th anniversary of its opening. It was a tremendous time for our college, and for Texas A&M as a whole, and was made all the more momentous by the grand opening of the new Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC). Fittingly, as the first entering veterinary class to walk the halls of the VBEC graduates this May, it corresponds with another CVM milestone—the 100th anniversary of the graduation of the very first Aggie veterinary class. In that respect, the Veterinary Class of 2020 is, in many ways, a symbol for change. They were the first “first-year” class to use the spaces that are now mainstays for our administrators, faculty, staff, and students; they were the first to use some of the innovative technology and learning resources that the new VBEC allowed us to incorporate into our educational model. And they have never known it any other way. The new facilities’ capabilities were the impetus of the redesigned Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) curriculum, which we began integrating with the Class of 2021; therefore, the Class of 2020 also represents the end of our “old” DVM curriculum. Change was, and continues to be, afoot in the CVM. And that includes change for me, personally. Last August, I announced that I will be leaving the college in pursuit of a new opportunity, and as June, my intended departure date, quickly approaches, I cannot help but think more and more about my time here at Texas A&M, how grateful I am to have worked and interacted with so many wonderful faculty, staff, students, donors, and other constituents; how much we have accomplished together; and how much I will miss the things that make it special—in particular, all of those people. This is, indeed, a special place, filled with special people, and this edition of CVM Today serves as a reminder that while change is inevitable, it is not always a bad thing. The stories in this edition highlight some of those special people and the wonderful contributions they are making and will continue to make in the worlds of science, veterinary medicine, and education. You can read about how we are incorporating technology into the new DVM curriculum; the ways both our students and faculty are working to advance knowledge through research; the clinicians and cases that reinforce the importance of our Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) to the people of Texas; and the value of the human connections our faculty, hospital staff, and alumni make with our students, clients, patients, and the world. At the center of this edition is the Class of 2020. As they prepare to complete their education at the CVM, the careers and lives ahead of them will, undoubtedly, contribute greatly to society and the future of veterinary medicine. I hope you are as excited as I am by what’s going on at the CVM. As we forge ahead into a future filled with change, I know that the future will continue to be bright because of all of those people who have made my time here so special.

ELEANOR M. GREEN, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP The Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine

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CONTENTS

Dean’s Message............................................................................. 2 Saying Goodbye............................................................................. 6

30

ACADEMICS Best Practice................................................................................24 AccessABLE Academics..............................................................28 Cracking Into Undergraduate Research...................................30

HOSPITAL Setting The Pace..........................................................................33 Scratching Beneath The Surface...............................................36 A K-9’s Courage............................................................................40

SPOTLIGHT

33

A Century Of Compassionate Care...........................................44 Cut From The Same Cloth.....................................................46 Countryside Care....................................................................48 Eyes On The Prize................................................................... 52 Healing With Love...................................................................56 The Power Of Persistence.....................................................60 Leadership Lessons...............................................................62 Taking The Bull By The Horns...............................................64 Steady In The Storm............................................................... 67 A Passion For People And Pets............................................. 70 The Sky’s The Limit.................................................................72 Today’s Research, Tomorrow’s Cure.................................... 74

RESEARCH

56

A Wonder-Full Life....................................................................... 76 Challenging The Norms..............................................................80 Growing Knowledge, Shrinking Tumors...................................84

TEACHING Finding Meaning In Mentorship................................................88 Catching The Teaching Bug........................................................ 91

ALUMNI & GIVING Small Screens And Big Dreams.................................................94 Petco Foundation Grant Assists Patients Working To BTHO Cancer.........................................100 Lucky, Thankful..........................................................................104

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Vol. 21, No. 1

ON THE COVER: Scott Mash, fourth-year veterinary student, and Rockstar (Photo by Brian Wright)

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CVM INFORMATION

COLLEGE ADMINISTRATION THE CARL B. KING DEAN OF VETERINARY MEDICINE Dr. Eleanor M. Green EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN Dr. Kenita S. Rogers ’86

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Jennifer G. Gauntt WRITERS: Courtney Adams Justin Agan Dorian Martin Megan Myers ’19 Margaret Preigh Emma Stogsdill Michelle Wiederhold COPY EDITORS: Aubrey Bloom ’07 Madeline Patton ’17 Marissa Vargas ’19 ART DIRECTION & DESIGN: Christopher A. Long PHOTOGRAPHERS: Michael Kellett ’91 Brian Wright CORRESPONDENCE ADDRESS: CVM Today Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University 4461 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4461 vetmed.tamu.edu CVM Today is published by the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences for alumni and friends. We welcome your suggestions, comments, and contributions to content. Contact us via email at cvmtoday@cvm.tamu.edu. A reader survey is available online at: tx.ag/cvmtodaysurvey. Permission is granted to use all or part of any article published in this magazine, provided no endorsement of a commercial product is stated or implied. Appropriate credit and a tear sheet are requested.

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ASSOCIATE DEAN, PROFESSIONAL PROGRAMS Dr. Karen K. Cornell ASSOCIATE DEAN, RESEARCH & GRADUATE STUDIES Dr. Robert C. Burghardt ASSOCIATE DEAN, UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION Dr. Elizabeth Crouch ’91 ASSOCIATE DEAN, GLOBAL ONE HEALTH Dr. Gerald Parker Jr. ’77 ASSISTANT DEAN, RESEARCH & GRADUATE STUDIES Dr. Michael Criscitiello INTERIM ASSISTANT DEANS, HOSPITAL OPERATIONS Dr. Susan Eades Dr. Jonathan Levine Dr. Ramesh Vemulapalli ASSISTANT DEAN, FINANCE Ms. Belinda Hale ’92 DEPT. HEAD, VETERINARY INTEGRATIVE BIOSCIENCES Dr. Todd O’Hara DEPT. HEAD, VETERINARY PATHOBIOLOGY Dr. Ramesh Vemulapalli DEPT. HEAD, VETERINARY PHYSIOLOGY & PHARMACOLOGY Dr. Larry J. Suva DEPT. HEAD, LARGE ANIMAL CLINICAL SCIENCES Dr. Susan Eades DEPT. HEAD, SMALL ANIMAL CLINICAL SCIENCES Dr. Jonathan Levine ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT FOR DEVELOPMENT (TEXAS A&M FOUNDATION) Ms. Chastity Carrigan ’16 CHIEF OF STAFF Ms. Misty Skaggs ’93 EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY & ASSISTANT CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER Mr. Kris Guye DIRECTOR, COMMUNICATIONS, MEDIA, & PUBLIC RELATIONS Ms. Jennifer G. Gauntt

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CVM INFORMATION

COLLEGE DIRECTORY COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES Texas A&M University | 4461 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4461 vetmed.tamu.edu DEAN’S OFFICE & ADMINISTRATION 979.845.5051 ADMISSIONS 979.845.5051 BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES PROGRAM 979.845.4941 DEVELOPMENT & ALUMNI RELATIONS 979.845.9043 CVM COMMUNICATIONS 979.845.1780 CONTINUING EDUCATION 979.845.9102 GRADUATE & RESEARCH STUDIES 979.845.5092 GLOBAL ONE HEALTH 979.845.8612 PUBLIC RELATIONS 979.862.4216 VETERINARY INTEGRATIVE BIOSCIENCES 979.845.2828 VETERINARY PATHOBIOLOGY 979.845.5941 VETERINARY PHYSIOLOGY & PHARMACOLOGY 979.845.7261 SMALL ANIMAL CLINICAL SCIENCES 979.845.9053 LARGE ANIMAL CLINICAL SCIENCES 979.845.9127 VETERINARY MEDICAL TEACHING HOSPITAL ADMINISTRATION 979.845.9026 SMALL ANIMAL HOSPITAL 979.845.2351 LARGE ANIMAL HOSPITAL 979.845.3541

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DEAN ELEANOR M. GREEN Dean Eleanor M. Green

As Dean Eleanor M. Green prepares for her next big move, she reflects on what brought her to Texas A&M, bringing her vision for the college to life, and the things and people who have made her experience so special. Story by JENNIFER GAUNTT What were your thoughts when you were offered the dean’s position at Texas A&M? I had gone back to the University of Florida 14 years previously with the intent of finishing my career in my home state at my alma mater. When Texas A&M called, I was reluctant to apply at first; however, I had visited former Dean John Shadduck at Texas A&M once before. He took us to a football game, where we stood for the entire game. I decided to research Texas A&M further to help make my decision, and my explorations confirmed that Texas A&M

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was a large, comprehensive, tier-one research institution with immense capabilities. Its College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) was clearly a crown jewel of campus, one that also boasted a strong undergraduate program. I was intrigued by the Texas A&M core values and its many traditions. The vastness of Texas, its large urban centers, the livestock industry, its historic ranches, the Texas A&M University system, and the proximity of the Texas Medical Center in Houston all contributed to a fertile environment for veterinary medicine and veterinary medical education. I simply could not pass up this invitation. During my on-campus interview, it took very little time to recognize the uniqueness and appeal of Texas A&M and its CVM. Within half a day, I was committed. The formal offer came by phone when I was in Liverpool, England, attending the British Equine Veterinary Association meeting as president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).


DEAN ELEANOR M. GREEN

That was it; I was coming to Texas. My canine sidekick, Cohen, and I packed up and moved, leaving the horses behind until I could find accommodations for them. Among your initial goals as dean were prioritizing research, assuring educational excellence at all levels, creating the veterinary medical teaching hospital of the future, and addressing the changing world of veterinary medicine. What strides do you think the college has made in those arenas under your tenure? All strides were made with much help from others. Many within and beyond the CVM have contributed substantially to each and every accomplishment, as they continue to do. No progress could have been made without hardworking, dedicated, talented faculty, staff, and students, as well as external supporters. I would put the CVM faculty, staff, students, and supporters up against all others. People make programs.

Dean Eleanor M. Green with students

“I would put the CVM faculty, staff, students, and supporters up against all others. People make programs.” - DEAN ELEANOR M. GREEN

Texas A&M, similar to every other university, has missions that include transformative teaching and learning, discovery and innovation, and outreach and engagement. For the CVM, world-class, compassionate patient care is foundational. In the research arena, veterinary colleges are uniquely positioned to advance animal, human, and environmental health. This offers a breadth of research opportunities along a continuum, from basic discovery to translational research to commercialization. Research funding appropriately includes the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal sources, foundations, industry, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and other creative means. With the decided goal of advancing the CVM research agenda, my first action was to prioritize research by limiting my start-up requests to CVM research support. I was able to obtain campus funds to complete the Veterinary Research Building (VRB), which was under construction at the time, and to provide the money to finish out all of the laboratories, rather than require the principal investigators to use their own monies, as had been planned. Since then, we have further bolstered research by taking advantage of opportunities as they arise, such as the President’s Senior Hires, the Chancellors Research Initiative (CRI), the Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI), the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study, the Provost’s excellence initiatives, targeted hiring, start-up funds, adding designated research support staff, and much more. Dr. Bob Burghardt and his team have been highly successful

in supporting research and graduate studies. The existing research signature programs were revisited, resulting in the identification of research focus areas and the development of tangible criteria for areas of research distinction, all under the umbrella of translational research. Toxicology, oncology, and environmental health sciences fulfilled the criteria for distinction, with the Texas A&M Superfund Research Center reaching great heights. Graduate education support was completely revamped, consolidating degrees, aligning with research focus areas, centralizing admission, offering a rigorous week-long orientation and an oath ceremony, actively recruiting, creating a core facilities experiential learning program, and providing professional development opportunities. Over the past decade, research expenditures have tripled, the CVM graduate program has been cited as a model on campus, research has incited great impacts, and the contributing faculty and graduate students have received many well-deserved awards and recognitions. The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program is an enormous success. With Dr. Kenita Rogers followed by Dr. Karen Cornell at the helm, the Professional Programs Office (PPO) has built a team of education specialists to foster educational technologies, advance pedagogy, and support faculty initiatives, ultimately for the benefit of our students. The DVM program received full accreditation in 2016 by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council

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on Education with no substantial compliance issues. The CVM has become known as a leader in veterinary education nationally and beyond. This reputation has been bolstered by the award-winning Center for Educational Technologies (CET). This unique paragon has supported a myriad of initiatives, including innovative educational technologies, interactive learning experiences, web-based learning, curriculum development, collaborations with other veterinary colleges, and agricultural-capacity building in developing countries. Faculty opportunities are also found in the Bridges Teaching Academy, Teaching Showcase, and CET Lunch & Learn workshops. The newly formed CVM White Coats program allows students to contribute to the CVM while developing professionally. The DVM class size had not increased for many decades, despite the growing Texas population. To meet the state’s needs, it has increased from 132 to 162 students per class, soon to be 180. The DVM Curriculum Committee has met annually to review and modify the curriculum to keep pace with changing needs. With a recent yeoman’s effort by the PPO office and the faculty, a completely revised, integrated curriculum was implemented, with core competencies mapped.

Our faculty are tapped by the profession to advance veterinary education worldwide, such as the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ (AAVMC) competency-based education initiative and the AAVMC Leadership Academy. Educational excellence at the CVM has progressed substantially, all while minimizing student debt. Texas A&M remains the best in North America for our student debt-toincome ratio. The Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) undergraduate program has grown in size and excellence under the able direction of Dr. Elizabeth Crouch, along with talented educators and advisers, as elucidated in the recent Academic Program Review for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The BIMS program was expanded to the Texas A&M University Higher Education Center at McAllen, with a record number of students. The overall BIMS enrollment is approaching 2,700, maintaining its status as the largest undergraduate degree-granting program on campus. BIMS also boasts strengths in underrepresented minorities and first-generation students. Its undergraduate research program is cited on campus for its rigor and excellence. BIMS graduates make up a large portion of Aggies who matriculate to Texas healthcare professions. A BIMS Advisory Board was formed and has proven to provide enthusiastic support for BIMS. Scholarships have increased and a BIMS Outstanding Alumnus award was created. The Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) created a vision to be the premier veterinary teaching hospital in the world, with a mission of creating a better life through compassion, innovation, and discovery. Praise from clients and referring veterinarians confirms that these efforts are successful. The hospital’s caseload and income continue to climb, which allows the purchase of cutting-edge equipment and other hospital support. This equipment includes advanced technologies, like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and support for a new telemedicine service. Both senior and new faculty are contributing to a rising level of excellence across many services.

Dean Eleanor M. Green and Dr. Karen Cornell

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It has been imperative to advance the culture in the VMTH of treating everyone the same, which is to say, royally. At the same time, it is important to know who each client is so that we can acknowledge them as indicated; for example, if


DEAN ELEANOR M. GREEN

a loyal supporter and donor brings in a patient, it is vital that we know enough about them to thank them appropriately. If Board of Regents members are clients, we should acknowledge them for all they are doing for Texas A&M and the CVM. Another cultural component in the VMTH is that people treat others as they are treated, underscoring the importance of treating our clinicians, staff, and students royally as well. Out of all of your accomplishments as dean, what are those that stand out for you? And why? It is hard to say, because I claim none as mine alone. With that in mind, I might say that the biggest accomplishment is gathering the team we have. We have the most amazing leadership team I’ve ever seen. The executive committee is comprised of leaders who are absolutely devoted, capable, talented, and who have made this college much better. Each of them has, in turn, assembled teams of excellence in their respective areas. The Dean’s Office staff, under the leadership of Misty Skaggs, is also the best I have ever experienced.

A timeline of Dean Eleanor M. Green's achievements

2008 Dr. Eleanor M. Green is approved as Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine, effective March 1, 2009. She is the fifth woman dean at an American veterinary college, and the first at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

I’m really proud to have been a part of putting these teams together. Every single member of the executive committee and of the dean’s office staff has joined the leadership team within the last 10 years. They, individually, and their recruitment of other talented people have shaped this college through their collective efforts. Culture starts at the top. I have tried hard to create a culture of excellence, integrity, mutual respect, transparency, engagement, compassion, kindness, and inclusion. We must model these traits and mentor our colleagues. The more we intentionally support and reward excellence, while addressing inadequate performance, the better and more fulfilled the whole team becomes. We intend to give everyone the encouragement and opportunity to achieve excellence. Most choose excellence, but some do not, and that must be addressed. I have often said that our first choice is for people to be happy here, the second choice is for them to be happy somewhere else, and the last and only unacceptable choice is for them to be unhappy here. There are really good people and really good jobs, but there are not always really good matches. We truly care about people and want to help them achieve all of their career aspirations in whatever position that might be; in fact, the one most rewarding thing about being dean of this college

2009 VMTH becomes the first veterinary teaching hospital to receive American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Referral Practice Accreditation, reflecting the highest standards in veterinary medicine and certifying it as Level 2 facility by Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (VECCS). Partnership announced between CVM and West Texas A&M University to create the Veterinary Education, Research, & Outreach (VERO) Building as part of the “Serving Every Texan Every Day” initiative to create Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC).

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is being able to help others achieve their goals. When we collectively bring our goals together and I can help advance them in any way, it is enormously rewarding to see those initiatives come to fruition. Creating and launching the Global One Health Program has been particularly rewarding. Because of efforts like these, the importance of the inextricable link among animal, human, and environmental health is finally being embraced by audiences beyond the veterinary profession. For the first time ever, in 2019, the President’s National Biodefense Strategy contained the elements of One Health. Dr. Gerald Parker and his collaborators have become noted resources in Washington, D.C., Austin, and on campus, especially during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership with the Bush School and other campus entities has proven successful, including the Annual Global Pandemic Summits.

The CVM accepts one of the first Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) Heritage Practice Awards. Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) established.

This effort opens unique opportunities for our students and faculty. It also positions Texas A&M and the CVM as valuable trusted resources. I am especially proud of the Veterinary Emergency Team (VET). In 2009, Dr. Wesley Bissett came to my office to ask for permission to form a VET with the goal of being prepared for the next hurricane. He added that he would do so on his own time. I immediately said yes but that this was a college program and should be developed on college time. He and his team have created the largest, most sophisticated veterinary emergency response team in the nation. They have formed rich collaborations across the Texas A&M University System (TAMUS), Texas Task Forces, Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA), Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), Texas State Guard, private sector veterinary professionals, Texas communities, Banfield, the AVMA, the United States Department of Agriculture

Grand Opening of Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS).

2010 Grand Opening of $43.1 million Veterinary Research Building Annex.

Dean Eleanor M. Green and VET

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(USDA), and other veterinary colleges. I cannot count the number of comments of praise and expressions of gratitude I receive for their good works and also for the involvement of students. We are the only CVM that has “Community Connections” rotations. This is “service above self” like no other. Students learn not only how to respond in emergencies and disasters, but they also gain experience managing teams. Diversity and inclusion are cornerstone values of the CVM. I feel strongly that people who cross our CVM threshold should immediately feel included, embraced, and accepted. This encompasses all people—whether they are faculty, staff, students, clients, colleagues, constituents, visitors, donors, or anyone else. I remember asking Dr. Kenita Rogers if she would be willing to serve as the CVM director for diversity and inclusion. She stepped up, as she always does, and the program materialized. As the time demands of this program grew, we discussed the idea that one day we might need a separate diversity officer. Later, when I asked her if she were ready for someone else to step in, she declined emphatically, saying that she wanted to keep diversity, and she did. I am gratified by all that has been accomplished. We are leaders on campus, within the profession, and across the healthcare professions. We have a Council on Diversity & Professionalism, multiple trainings, wellness initiatives, inclusive facilities, diversity scholarships, Veterinarians for One Inclusive Community for Empowerment (VOICE) Broad Spectrum, and much more. Nearly 200 CVM faculty and staff have completed mediation training. We have competed well for campus funds that reward success annually, and faculty and students have received awards.

2011 Texas A&M joins the Global One Health program, introducing the One Health Initiative to create “One Health, One Medicine, One World.”

Human Health

Animal Health

ONE HEALTH Human Environments

Green receives Wilford S. Bailey Distinguished Alumnus Award from Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Grand opening of $12 million Diagnostic Imaging and Cancer Treatment Center, the first of its kind fully equipped with diagnostic and treatment capabilities.

Now, we have received awards at both campus and national levels, including a third consecutive Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. I am aware that some have questioned these efforts, but make no mistake, diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams, enhancing excellence, ingenuity, workforce development, and even improving financial success. I am also pleased with the CVM International Program, which encourages and facilitates our faculty and students to be world citizens in a global society. The program, under the leadership of Dr. Linda Logan, offers rich study abroad opportunities, student exchanges, internships, faculty visits and exchanges, international development, and capacity

Green begins her second term as Chair of the Texas A&M President’s Council for Climate and Diversity.

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building. The International Program Advisory Committee ensures representation by CVM units in implementing and strengthening programs. Student experiences include summer courses in various countries, semester long experiences, and research programs. With regard to the changing landscape of veterinary medicine, I have developed a passion for innovation and entrepreneurship. We live in an exponentially changing world, one in which even the rate of change is accelerating. If our profession, our college, and our university are to be successful in the future, we must respond to those changes, and, hopefully, lead in that effort, not just follow. The CVM also has developed a reputation as a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship. We have done many things to earn that reputation, such as the annual Veterinary Innovation Summit (VIS), the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy (VEA), Aggies Invent, and the DVM elective in veterinary entrepreneurship. The VIS, in partnership with the North American Veterinary Community’s (NAVC) Veterinary Innovation Council (VIC), was the first of its kind, attracts leaders in the profession, and has been described by attendees as the best program ever attended. The VEA has become national in scope, with participation by students from many other veterinary colleges. Aggies Invent is offered in partnership with the Texas A&M College of Engineering and some of our own faculty serve as mentors. Participating students experience firsthand the favorable

2012 Green receives the Texas A&M Women’s Progress Award for Administration. The CVM becomes lead college for Texas A&M University's One Health Initiative.

2013 Grand Opening of $1 million expansion of the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center.

Green becomes first veterinarian inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

2014

Dean Eleanor M. Green

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The CVM receives the first National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Center grant to provide a funding center for Translational Environmental Health Research, a collaboration between Texas A&M University, Baylor University, and the University of Houston.


DEAN ELEANOR M. GREEN

consequences of working on diverse, multidisciplinary teams and of freely contributing their own ideas, rather than learning what others tell or show them. Students describe this experience as life changing.

Grand Opening of $33 million Thomas G. Hildebrand, DVM ’56 Equine Complex, the first phase of an $80 million equine complex and home to the Equine Initiative.

Jeremy Kenny, who oversees the CVM Office for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is a highly valued resource in advancing these programs. The students are our future. It is our responsibility to prepare them well for the world they will enter and to give them the confidence to make a difference. The partnerships between the CVM and four TAMUS universities have been described as especially innovative. It has been satisfying to help create all of them, especially the Veterinary Education, Research, & Outreach program (VERO) on the West Texas A&M University (WT) campus in Canyon. My first visit to the Texas Panhandle in an official capacity as dean occurred only a few weeks after joining Texas A&M in 2009. That is where the partnership was born among the CVM, WT, practicing veterinarians, and livestock industries. That is when the first discussions were held about offering some of the DVM program in the Texas Panhandle. It took a while to knock down all of the barriers, but the partnership is strong and the program is well on its way. WT President Dr. Walter Wendler and his team have proven to be trusted partners. As we were discussing VERO and the proposed 2+2 program with Texas A&M’s president and provost, we underscored the unique nature of this program. How often is it that one has the chance, with a modest investment, to create a program that is the best of its kind, the top in the nation? However, it’s not just about being No. 1; it’s about contributions. The CVM can help feed the growing world population, ensure the integrity of our food supply, protect and grow the Texas economy, assist the veterinary profession, and encourage our youth. That is entirely within our grasp when one considers mobilizing the resources in College Station and the Texas Panhandle, where over one-third of the nation’s beef is fed. At the 2020 veterinary deans’ meeting, a few deans asked if they could visit this program, as they would like to consider a similar model. Particularly rewarding has been the improvement to the CVM facilities. Most notable is the $120 million Veterinary and Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC). During planning stages, a group of us visited other veterinary colleges; the University of California, Davis medical college; and Stanford University’s medical school and College of Business. We

2015 Grand opening of $3.1 million Avian Health Complex, meant to expand the Schubot Center for Avian Health.

Green receives Distinguished Achievement Award for Administration at Texas A&M University.

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extracted ideas from all sites, especially from the new College of Business at Stanford. I recall well walking down the street at Stanford with the Stantec architects, including Dan Caren, who ultimately were awarded the contract to design VBEC, when they asked me what we were trying to accomplish. I told them that when people saw VBEC, their immediate response should be that this must be the best veterinary college in the land. This look must include a front door to the CVM, lacking at the time, with the building set back off the road with a tree lined boulevard entrance. The building had to accommodate modern, innovative teaching methods and technologies as far into the future as possible and that included flexible learning spaces for large and small groups. The building had to be modern, yet it had to be Texas classy. It must be warm and inviting such that people wanted to come inside and

Initiative announced to expand VERO reach through partnerships between the CVM, West Texas A&M, Prairie View A&M, Texas A&M – Kingsville, and Tarleton State University to solidify TVMC. Certificate program created for Texas A&M University One Health Grand Challenge. Approximately $42 million in total have been donated to the Equine Initiative since its launch.

once inside, they wanted to stay. The first designers were creative and gifted, but they did not get Texas. After a number of attempts, they were replaced, and the next designers nailed it. Our friends in the College of Architecture had helped us with the program requirements at the beginning and, interestingly, their initial rough design was close to the final design.

2016 - CENTENNIAL YEAR

I am enormously grateful to Chancellor John Sharp, who supported this project entirely with Permanent University Funds. The $120 million also supported the remodeling project for the Small Animal Hospital. The reception area is really nice, as are all areas remodeled. We desperately need a new Small Animal Hospital.

Grand opening of $120 million Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) – creating 33,000 sq. ft. of new classrooms, laboratories, office space, collaboration, and learning space, funded solely by the Permanent University Fund (PUF).

The $33 million Thomas G. Hildebrand, DVM ’56 Equine Complex was also most fulfilling. Large Animal Clinical

Chancellor John Sharp, Dean Eleanor M. Green, Sen. John Cornyn, and President Michael Young at the VBEC grand opening

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DEAN ELEANOR M. GREEN

$3 million expansion of Equine Theriogenology Facility.

Completed renovations of Small Animal Hospital including a new front entrance, lobby expansion, and 3 new exam rooms.

Dean Eleanor M. Green and Dr. Jim Heird

Sciences (VLCS) executive director Dr. Jim Heird laid out every inch of the facility, including the equestrian team facilities and the cross-country course for Texas A&M Athletics. This facility has become a treasured resource on campus, hosting more than 250 events and attracting more than 30,000 visitors per year. The entire $33 million was from private donations. The grand opening of the Thomas G. Hildebrand, DVM ’56 Equine Complex was held on the same day as the VBEC ground breaking. That was a special day. There are other facilities projects for which I am appreciative. The Diagnostic Imaging & Cancer Treatment facility is a state-of-the-art facility that has proven to be an enormous asset for the VMTH and the CVM. The Schubot Center for Avian Health is a one-of-a-kind academic center supporting teaching and research. The Multispecies Research Building provides much needed large animal space. The Global Health Research Complex, a collaborative campus space that was previously lacking, will substantively change our research capabilities in infectious disease. The Highway 47 Reproduction Research facility has been expanded, and Veterinary Medical Park has improved tremendously. The equine reproduction lab was expanded, as was the food animal reception area. The Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS) is an impressive research facility that is destined to become invaluable in

The CVM receives full accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education (AVMA COE).

Green forms a DVM Class Size Task Force, including TVMA representation, which recommends that the class size be increased by 30 students.

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supporting translational research and innovation in its next phase. I regret that I will not be dean for the VERO facility grand opening in Canyon. TAMUS Chancellor John Sharp once again devoted Permanent University Fund (PUF) monies for this special facility. Likewise, outside of your accomplishments, what has been particularly rewarding about being dean? I have said many times that the position of Dean at the Texas A&M CVM is the best position I have ever held in the best place I have ever been. Why is that still the case? It is the people. It is particularly rewarding to work with such highly successful, dedicated faculty. The CVM students are smart, devoted, and attract the praise of our own faculty and staff as well as outside constituents. The devoted staff make everything happen, as they are constantly attentive to success and the impression we make. The Texas A&M core values are alive and well at the CVM. One of the most rewarding accomplishments was raising all of the salaries within the CVM. At the time, faculty salaries were in the lower-half to lower-quartile among veterinary colleges. We were able to raise all of the faculty salaries well above the mean. I have also enjoyed working with many people across campus, such as other deans, provosts, vice presidents, presidents, chancellors, and the people who support them. Also included are those in the Texas A&M Foundation, Association of Former Students, and 12th Man Foundation. I have had the privilege of working with three provosts, four presidents, and three chancellors, if interims are counted. It has been a privilege to get to know them, represent the CVM

2017 Grand opening of the new, $53 million Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL). VET receives a disaster-relief grant to buy a custom, 25-foot veterinary medical unit from Banfield, the team’s first fully equipped, truck-based unit suited to treat the animals they rescue, as well as the canines used by Texas Task Force 1.

The CVM receives 2017 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT into Diversity Magazine.

New DVM Curriculum implemented with incoming class of 2021. DVM Class size increases to 142.

Chancellor John Sharp, Dean Eleanor M. Green, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and President Michael Young

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The CVM hosts: the inaugural Veterinary Job & Externship Fair, in partnership with the TVMA; the first PoreCamp in the U.S.; the National Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) Symposium; and the Veterinary Innovation Summit (VIS), in partnership with the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC).

USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford and Dean Eleanor M. Green

to them, and help whenever needed to advance the greater mission of the university. I have enjoyed preparing and delivering each and every presentation about the CVM to these groups to make sure they are aware of the excellence of our CVM, how we contribute to the university and system, how we influence the state of Texas, and what it will take to make the CVM even better. It is clear that we all share the goal of advancing Texas A&M. I have thoroughly enjoyed the development aspects of the position, because development is basically friends-building. Working so closely with the CVM Development Council, the Equine Development Committee, the BIMS Advisory Board, and the Texas A&M Foundation has been a joy. These loyal friends of the college have given or helped raise millions of dollars of support for our people, programs, and facilities. I will forever be indebted to each one of them for their gifts and their love of Texas A&M that rivals ours. You will see the names of many throughout the college, on endowed chairs, in buildings and on scholarships. I have always said that it is gifts from our friends that help us achieve the level of excellence to which we aspire.

The Texas A&M Superfund Research Center, housed at the CVM, is established with the support of a five-year, $10 million grant from NIEHS to comprehensively evaluate hazardous chemical exposures and mixtures, as well as potential adverse health impacts.

The VET provides the largest veterinary medical emergency response effort during Hurricane Harvey, deploying to 10 Texas jurisdictions spread across approximately 375 miles and impacting approximately 3,000 animals.

With the risk associated with calling out one of them, I share the story of the largest single gift we have received. Jim (Heird) and I had planned a long-awaited vacation, the first since we had been here, to attend a horse show circuit. The day before we were to leave, we received a call from Jeff Hildebrand saying he would like us to come to Houston to meet with him. Of course, we would make that happen. When we arrived he informed us of his intended gift of $25 million for the soon to be designated Thomas G. Hildebrand, DVM ’56 Equine Complex. He took our breath away and

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we were filled with a mix of emotions, mostly humility and gratitude. The rest, as they say, is history. Later, Jeff told us how hard it is to give away money. He said that gifts represented desires of the entire family. He said he sought assurance that his wishes would be honored at the time and into the future. Very importantly, he had to have trust in the individual overseeing his gift. I have never forgotten those words, that day in Houston, or that gift. Betsy Overholser offered a glimpse into the heart and motivation of our donors when she said, “I used to not care about making money, but now I want to make a lot of money so I can give it all to the CVM.” Those words reminded me that they are not our donors, rather we are their cause.

2018 The CVM receives 2018 HEED Award for the second straight year. The CVM is ranked first veterinary school in the SEC and fourth in the nation. The CVM hosts: the National Veterinary Scholars Symposium (NVSS), the National Colloquium for Combined DVM/PhD Biomedical Scientists, and the second annual VIS in partnership with NAVC.

I also have found fulfillment in working with those outside of the CVM. The CVM and the TVMA built a mutually beneficial relationship and I was proud to be able to pay the membership fees for every CVM faculty member for several years. The Veterinary Job & Externship Fair has proven to be a valuable shared event. Unfortunately, I did not make it to every local veterinary organization in Texas, but I did visit every one that extended an invitation. There are too many industry groups to name, but included are the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo (HLSR), San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo (SALE), Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, and Rodeo Austin. There is nothing like Aggie night at the HLSR; these organizations donate millions of dollars every year to student scholarships across Texas and our students are beneficiaries. The Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) also has been exceptionally supportive of the CVM.

The VET deploys for the first time out-ofstate to assist with recovery efforts in Butte County, California, in the aftermath of the Camp Fire. Groundbreaking for $22.8 million Veterinary Education, Research, & Outreach (VERO) Building at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, intended to facilitate collaborative, multidisciplinary research by creating an “information superhighway” across Texas.

Dean Eleanor M. Green and Dr. Jim Heird, winners at the 2019 Florida Gulf Coast Circuit

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2019 The CVM receives 2019 HEED Award for the third time.

Dean Eleanor M. Green testifies at the Texas Legislature.

It has been a pleasure to work with all of the Texas livestock groups and to visit most of the historic ranches in Texas. I call out the 6666 and the Burnett Estates, LLC, because of their support for the CVM in gifts and educational opportunities for our students. The head of their equine division is Dr. Glenn Blodgett, one of our DVM graduates and a CVM Outstanding Alumnus. Another notable supporter is the historic King Ranch, including Helen Groves and James Clement. I have also had the opportunity to advocate for the CVM in the Texas Legislature and in D.C. Dr. Charles Graham has been a special friend of the college, giving his time, resources, and connections. He has advocated for the CVM constantly, making impacts behind the scenes that few realize. How did your past roles in academia and as an equine veterinarian influence your time as dean?

Completion of the $86 million Global Health Research Complex.

Texas A&M and West Texas A&M (WT) announce the addition of fourth-year clinical rotations in the Texas Panhandle starting in May 2020 and a new 2+2 program allowing DVM students to take classes at WT starting in 2021.

In each of our lives, our collection of experiences makes us who we are and gives us the tools to contribute. My professional career in veterinary medicine started as a mixed animal practitioner and practice owner in a small rural community in Northeast Mississippi. I have both heartwarming and humorous tales to share. Having the perspective of a practicing veterinarian was foundational as I entered the academic setting. The opportunity to enter academia to build a new college of veterinary medicine from the ground up was life changing. We dived deeply into every aspect of a veterinary college, from obtaining approval and financial support from the legislature to planning the entire curriculum, which included developing a syllabus for every course, with learning objectives for every lecture. We designed and constructed a modern facility that was way ahead of its time. We created admissions procedures, developed position descriptions, and recruited faculty and staff.

The VET celebrates its 10th Anniversary.

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I taught in all four years of the curriculum, sometimes lecturing six hours a day to several different classes, some of which were anatomy, physiology, normal and abnormal systems, various clinical skills laboratories, and even behavior. We launched a clinical service and built a loyal caseload and referral service. During this time, I was approved for an alternative residency training program by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) and sought board certification with both the ACVIM and American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP).

2020 - A LASTING IMPACT Green receives 2020 AAVMC Billy E. Hooper Award for Distinguished Service.

At the University of Missouri, I finally was able to pursue research. I collaborated with Dr. Harold Garner and his team with a primary focus on endotoxemia and laminitis. When the opportunity presented itself to enter an administrative role, I was conflicted; however, I accepted the challenge with the goal of making a broader impact. I was a department head/chair and hospital director/chief of staff for a total of 19 years at two different universities. It was always important to remain connected to the livestock industries, the horse industry, and to be involved in organized veterinary medicine. Most importantly, I’m an animal owner with a strong devotion to animal health and wellbeing. All of these experiences have afforded me a unique perspective as dean.

Green is named a Bridge Club Industry Icon. Estimated August completion of VERO Building.

What has been the hardest part of your job (either professionally or personally)? Once, someone asked me what I worry about every day. I try not to be a worrier; however, what I think about is the opportunity buffet. How do we make sure that we do not miss opportunities we will later regret passing up, yet how do we avoid taking on so much that we are not good at anything? And how much do we take on without creating undue burdens for others? It is difficult not being able to accomplish all one wants to accomplish, especially when the value and significance are clear. Resources are certainly related and are also limited. It is hard to observe what faculty and students need for their programs and not be able to “write a check” every time. An enjoyable challenge is identifying and seeking different, perhaps creative, sources of funding for various needs. A challenge in every administrative role is confidentiality. The administrator is often privy to personnel issues and to both sides of controversial issues; however, strict confidentiality must be maintained. It is especially difficult to hear the perceptions and, often, misperceptions about these issues knowing the facts and not being able to share

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them. Administrators often receive misplaced blame as well. That is just part of leadership roles. Is there anything you might consider the highlight of your time as dean? There are so many highlights they cannot be counted. I will certainly never forget the day the chancellor agreed to provide $120 million for VBEC or the day Jeff Hildebrand offered his $25 million gift. Then we had the groundbreaking for the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex on the same day that we had the grand opening of the Thomas G. Hildebrand, DVM ’56 Equine Complex. Imagine major events for two notable facilities, each on the cutting edge, on the same day. That was a $150 million day. Later, the VBEC grand opening attracted the largest


DEAN ELEANOR M. GREEN

attendance of any grand opening in the history of Texas A&M, including national and state legislators. Of course, all of the ground breakings and grand openings were highlights. The creation of the CET was the culmination of a longstanding aspiration. We are leaders in veterinary education, and the CET supports our faculty and helps them build on their great talents as educators. Few veterinary colleges have such a valuable resource. I am really proud of how we’ve expanded communications in this college. We have made substantial progress in distributing our stories far and wide to help people in all walks of life understand who we are and how we contribute. Our photographers do more than take photos; they capture our essence and record our history. Our graphic artists are so creative they continue to earn accolades and awards. Many outside of the CVM believe we outsource to a professional company; they are surprised and impressed when I tell them it is all done in-house because of the enormous talent we have. When we write stories in a CVM Today, people tell me that while they usually throw away most of these types of publications upon arrival, they keep ours, using them as coffee table books because of the quality of publication and content. Those things make me proud. Another memorable moment was learning about the Texas Monthly survey that asked Texans, “When you think of Texas A&M, what do you think of?” They said the veterinary school No. 1 and football No. 2. Now there’s a moment. Subsequently, I got a call from the Houston Chronicle’s chief editor, who said, “We have a retreat every year for our executive team at points of particular interest in Texas. May we have our editorial staff retreat at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences?” I replied, “Of course you may.” He said, “We want to come there because we know that the CVM is iconic in Texas and it’s one of the places that we would like to highlight.” That really does make me proud. What were some of the “lighter moments” you’ve particularly enjoyed during your time here? There are actually many lighter moments that go along with being dean. In my case, they started even before I arrived. During my on-campus interview, Dr. Kenita Rogers, then associate dean for professional programs, had been assigned to pick me up at the airport. Much to our dismay, my bags did not show up, leaving only one slightly used

Dean Eleanor M. Green and Reveille VIII

“A university is never an island and certainly never should be. It’s extremely important that we have vital connections across our campus and beyond our walls.” - DEAN ELEANOR M. GREEN outfit for my entire interview. Dr. Rogers took me shopping at Target, where I procured a Texas A&M T-shirt and a pair of exercise pants. They served as pajamas and lounge wear, while I washed my only outfit in the hotel room sink. I still have that “Target outfit” and smile whenever I wear it. Before I moved to Texas, a diehard Aggie and big Texas A&M supporter, Frank Mueller, called to ask if I had made living accommodations—I had not—and temporarily offered one of his patio homes in Chimney Hill. Over the phone, he gave me an address and a phone number with instructions to call Jerome as I was pulling into town. I found out later that Jerome was Jerome Rektorik, one of Frank’s classmates and the development officer at the Bush School. He greeted me that night along with the entire theriogenology section, all of whom helped me unload my

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horse trailer. A few weeks later, Frank called to say I had to move before graduation because his family would be coming to stay. Soon afterwards, he called again to relay that I did not have to leave permanently; rather, I should move out just while his family was in town. He gave me a new set of instructions to go to another address south of Navasota, where I would meet Dr. Nora Janjan. Carrying my suitcase and Cohen, I rang the doorbell of this perfect stranger to inform her I would be staying with her for a few days. She and her husband, Jack, were perfect hosts and even held a dinner party for “friends of the college.” Aggie hospitality is alive and well. Another lighthearted moment was on the day of the grand opening of the Diagnostic Imaging and Cancer Treatment Center (DICTC). I had brought Cohen for the 5K walk/ run fundraiser, Paws to the Pavement, that preceded the ceremonies and realized that I had not thought the day through well with Cohen, as I had no place to put him during the stage ceremonies. He was well behaved, so I decided to take him on stage with me, along with the invited dignitaries. That seemed reasonable as I watched others address the crowd, until I realized that I had to have a plan for him when I was speaking—I couldn’t just tie him to my chair or ask a Board of Regents member or the Texas A&M president to hold him for me. In a flash, I decided to take him to the podium with me. I placed him on the podium facing the crowd, where he stood like a statue attentively scanning the attendees during my entire presentation. Regent Jim Schwertner was so amused that he took a photo of Cohen on the podium. There are few times I have seen Regent Schwertner since that he has not mentioned Cohen on the podium that day, and he has sent me the photo periodically since. In the end, we are veterinarians and we love our animals. It is fitting for them to be a part of our lives and even our special events.

Dean Eleanor M. Green and Cohen at the DICTC grand opening

very well, works hard, and laughs harder. It is a joy to work with a group of dedicated professionals who weave humor into their conversations. Erma Bombeck took it a step farther when she said, “Where humor goes, there goes civilization.” Our CVM is healthy. As dean, you’ve continued to be active in the veterinary community. What motivated you to stay involved? A university is never an island and certainly never should be. It’s extremely important that we have vital connections across our campus and beyond our walls. That’s one goal that I have worked very hard on—building and maintaining relationships. I encourage others to do the same. What do you look forward to in your next endeavor?

Dr. Kenita Rogers and I began to develop a very close relationship from day one. She has a remarkable sense of humor, and I love humor, so we both enjoy bantering. One particular day when we were deep into our humorous exchanges in a public forum, one of the faculty members asked someone else if we liked each other. The answer was a resounding yes. William Arthur Ward sums it up by stating, “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.” We all deal with daily pressures and I have always found humor stabilizing. The CVM is balanced by its executive committee that gets along

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One thing I do not look forward to is leaving the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. That is going to be a very sad day for me. I truly have loved every minute of every day here. What I will look forward to is utilizing all of my experiences to focus on areas of particular interest in veterinary medicine. A few buckets include innovation and entrepreneurship affecting veterinary health care and education, leadership, executive coaching, and animal welfare. I have already been asked to serve on boards of one startup and one large international company.


DEAN ELEANOR M. GREEN

It will be fulfilling to work on issues of significance to the profession with Mark Cushing, founder and CEO of Animal Policy Group. I hope all will remember that I will help Texas A&M and the CVM whenever desired and I will be a phone call away. Riding my horses, being on the ranch in Millsap, and spending more time with children and grandchildren are certainly draws to this new chapter. What will you miss most about the students, faculty, and staff? I will miss the people the most. The CVM is family. We have been through good times and challenges together. What do you hope people will remember about your time as dean? Just that I cared and worked hard for the benefit of others, the CVM, Texas A&M, and Texas. What advice would you offer the next dean? The main advice I would give is to love the CVM and trust and appreciate its people as much as I have. The college is well-positioned for ongoing success. The CVM executive committee can be counted on under any conditions. I would urge the new dean to be a steward of vital connections, both internal and external relationships. How do you hope the CVM will build upon your legacy? I hope the CVM will continue its constant attention to excellence and leadership in veterinary education. The students are our future; they’re why we’re here. We have to make sure that we do what’s right for them, that we give them all of the tools they need for a very successful career. We need to constantly build on research efforts, from basic discovery to commercialization. Translational medicine must be leveraged. Value all research impacts. Build on those successes to-date and continue to be leaders in the research arena.

Dr. Kenita Rogers and Dean Eleanor M. Green

and even digital humans. But as the latest technologies are incorporated, carefully preserve the personal touch with the compassion. Is there anything else you would want to add? I have really enjoyed the bragging rights that come with being dean. It is hard to imagine how fulfilling and inspiring it is to talk about how great this college is and how great its people are. One of the things I’ll remember most about our college is the way it comes together around those in need, whether it’s a student, a staff member, a faculty member, or friend beyond the CVM. Certainly, we’ve had some sorrows and some losses along the way, and in each and every case, this college has come together around those in need. In the end, I can look back and say I’ve never worked as hard, I’ve never had as much fun working so hard, and I’ve never laughed as hard as I have here. I will miss you all. Thanks for the memories. ■

Define and build the VMTH of the future to support veterinary healthcare that is connected; integrated; continuous, rather than intermittent; proactive, rather than reactive; precise, rather than imprecise; and personalized, rather than generalized. These include business models, technologies, artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality,

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ACADEMICS Dr. Jennifer Schleining leads the thirdyear elective “Practical Large Animal Medicine for the Rural Practitioner” class in a virtual reality exercise.

BEST PRACTICE Through the new DVM curriculum, students are gaining more hands-on experience that incorporates innovative technologies and builds in complexity as students advance in their academic careers. Story by DORIAN MARTIN New medical procedures, cutting-edge treatments, rapidly evolving technologies, and ground-breaking inventions such as 3D printers are among the many care options available to today’s veterinary clinics. Not surprisingly, teaching future veterinarians how to successfully make a diagnosis and then navigate this complex and ever-expanding menu of diagnostic tools and treatments requires a more flexible approach that focuses as much on problem solving and professionalism as it does on medical knowledge. Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) is responding to this challenge

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through an updated, innovative curriculum designed to prepare the next generation of veterinarians. “We’re moving to a more learner-centric education model,” said Dr. Katie McCool, a clinical assistant professor of small animal clinical education who works concurrently with the CVM’s Professional Programs Office (PPO) to support the curriculum development efforts. “That’s based on data from current practitioners and what they’re looking for in new hires, which involves both medical knowledge and critical thinking in how you approach a problem. After they have the diagnosis, anyone can look up how to treat a dog with liver disease, but to actually figure out what your patient has is a trickier problem to approach.”

A FIVE-YEAR PROCESS The curriculum revision process began during the 2014-15 academic year, when faculty brainstormed and mapped the knowledge and skills that future veterinarians would need. That effort, which also took into account the requirements of numerous governing boards and accrediting organizations, resulted in a framework of instruction and experiences deemed necessary to prepare CVM graduates to successfully enter and thrive in today’s professional landscape. The updated curriculum has been rolled out in three


ACADEMICS

ACADEMICS

sequential years with the goal of building a strong scaffold of knowledge. For example, in addition to the essential foundational courses such as anatomy and physiology, firstyear students study the different facets of a healthy dog, including nutrition and vaccinations. “With each year we increase the complexity of problems the students are required to solve. Each requires more indepth critical-thinking skills and knowledge of how specific organ dysfunction might look in a patient,” said Dr. Jennifer Schleining, a clinical associate professor of large animal clinical education who also works concurrently with the PPO to support the curriculum development efforts. “In the third year, students pull all of the things they learned in their early preclinical classes together and apply that knowledge with their critical-thinking skills to make diagnoses and begin to think about treatments for those conditions.” During the 2019-20 academic year, the implementation

HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH

process is focused on the third year, the final preclinical year of the student curriculum. This methodical rollout has allowed faculty to evaluate how well students are learning about the complexities of animal health and make adjustments to the curriculum. This intentional rollout also lets faculty continually evaluate the scope and sequence of the curriculum.

BUILDING NEW SKILLS

TEACHING ALUMNI & GIVING

A critical focus of the updated curriculum is helping students build skill sets that will be crucial when they begin their practice, including clinical hands-on, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills, as well as professional skills such as interpersonal communication. “The curriculum is very heavily focused on skills in the form of hand-eye coordination—such as placing a catheter, surgery skills, and bandaging—as well as ultrasound and diagnostic skills,” Schleining explained. “For example, ophthalmology classes use eye models made of golf and ping-pong balls as stand-ins to help preclinical students learn how to use diagnostic equipment to perform an exam of the back of an animal’s eye. This approach allows students to practice proper technique before attempting the assessment on an actual patient. “We also focus on how to critically work through a problem,” Schleining said. “For example, a clinical scenario surrounding a disease process in which there may be more than one acceptable antibiotic that could be used for treatment requires students to work through the problem from many different angles to arrive at a defendable conclusion about how to use antibiotics judiciously.” The curriculum also concentrates on helping students develop leadership and communication skills. “Veterinarians often work in team environments with

Schleining's students explore a feedlot in the Texas Panhandle from the comforts of a College Station classroom.

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ACADEMICS

other veterinarians, veterinary nurses, and office staff,” McCool said. “So, figuring out from day one how to utilize skills such as giving effective feedback, working appropriately in a team, and managing conflict is critically important. Those topics are integrated into the curriculum and create an ongoing conversation on how to most effectively manage interpersonal communications.” Students such as Katie Freeman, a second-year veterinary student (2VM), have found that the new curriculum aligns with what potential employers are seeking. “I have fallen in love with this company called Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG), and I am really looking forward to working with them this summer. Their philosophy and business model are very similar to the professional and critical skills we are learning right now,” Freeman said. “Companies like VEG want future clinicians to have emotional intelligence and be self-aware. The new curriculum’s emphasis on effective communication in professional and clinical skills is preparing 2VMs for positions at these progressive and exciting practices.”

CHANGING NATURE OF STUDENTS

Students access lessons through QR codes scanned with their phones to practice making real-life observations of cattle in a feedlot.

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The updated curriculum takes into account that all students admitted to the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program often do not have the same educational background. While, historically, many students have had backgrounds in animal science, current students often enter the program with degrees in biology, biomedical sciences, or other less traditional degrees, such as plant pathology. Students’ diverse backgrounds also give them very different perspectives. “Someone from a rural background or a farm area may walk into veterinary school with more than a passing familiarity of how to care for a cow, horse, or livestock, whereas someone from a major city or the suburbs may not have that as part of their upbringing,” McCool said. “In addition to helping students get on the same medical page, we have to emphasize the general understanding of how to care for these very different species.” The updated curriculum also addresses the changing nature of students, who are accustomed to learning in interactive classrooms and with technology. “Today’s world is a little bit different, especially in the world of education and adult learners. The historical lecture where the professor will give a bunch of information and ask students to memorize it is not as effective with today’s students,” Schleining said. “That is especially true with clinical skills, such as placing an IV catheter. You could tell someone how to do it, but that doesn’t mean that they can translate that information into being able to insert a catheter themselves.”


ACADEMICS

ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT

PREPARING FACULTY MEMBERS

“Our current teaching models are great, and our goal is to continually improve them, making them higher fidelity and more life-like.” - DR. JENNIFER SCHLEINING

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ALUMNI & GIVING

the cutting-edge of veterinary medicine. “The more we learn, the more we realize we have to learn. Where is the limit to these learning opportunities?” Schleining said. “Our current teaching models are great, and our goal is to continually improve them, making them higher fidelity and more life-like. Technology is advancing at a really fast pace; equipment that was cutting-edge and brand new two years ago is now obsolete for some things.” Ultimately, the updated curriculum strives to provide a solid foundation upon which DVMs will build their practice of veterinary medicine during these times of rapid change. “We’re trying to help our students learn how to become lifelong, self-directed learners,” McCool said. “We know that four years of veterinary school cannot teach all of the knowledge they’re going to need for the rest of their careers so we need to help them develop the skills to continue to learn throughout their lifetime.” ■

TEACHING

The adoption of the updated curriculum has prompted many faculty members to review their own teaching and find ways to enhance their delivery. “Veterinarians in an academic setting are not very different from other academicians in that we know our area of specialty very well, but most of us did not have an education-centered component to our professional training,” Schleining said. “One of the biggest advantages Texas A&M has is that even though we have folks who have all sorts of different medical specialties, the population of educators here recognize that even though we have not been trained to have a background in education, we want to be the best educators that we can be, so we seek out opportunities to become better instructors.” To make that happen, CVM faculty members have tapped into multiple resources, both within the college and across the university. For example, the college’s Center for Educational Technologies and PPO members provide assistance with curriculum and course design, testing strategies, assessment, and peer review of teaching. Faculty also participate in forums such as the annual VetMed Teaching Showcase and Texas A&M teaching conferences. The faculty know they need to be vigilant in developing their own subject-area knowledge and skills to remain on

RESEARCH

Dr. Jennifer Schleining talks with third-year elective “Practical Large Animal Medicine for the Rural Practitioner” students.


ACADEMICS Laura Ann Grymes with her dog Dyson (Photos by Vince Chihak)

Laura Ann Grymes works with the Center for Educational Technologies (CET) to ensure that learners with visual disabilities, like herself, and other disabilities can more easily navigate the college’s abundant online learning materials. Story by MICHELLE WIEDERHOLD Technology has become a crucial mechanism in veterinary medicine education. As such, ensuring that all students—including those with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive disabilities—can easily navigate required software, applications, and other online materials is equally as important. This concept, known as digital accessibility, is an essential component of the overall higher education student experience because nearly every aspect of academic life now leverages digital or web-based tools and applications. As part of a society that is constantly “plugged in,” colleges and universities recognize the vital need for incorporating technology that not only enhances student learning and campus life, but also is universally accessible to students, staff, faculty, and visitors. The Center for Educational Technologies (CET), housed within the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), is recognized as a trailblazing

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advocate for ingraining accessibility within the framework of curriculum development. While many of today’s current technology tools have the ability to check for accessibility (which can include tagging pictures loaded onto a website and even sentence length), they fail to offer the vital feedback the CET views as most important to true accessibility—the learner experience. To gain a true glimpse into how all types of learners interact with the CVM’s online courses and materials, the CET sought a fresh perspective from a learner who relies on assistive technologies to navigate digital content. In June 2017, Laura Ann Grymes, a member of the local community who is blind, joined the CET as a program aide to assist the team in ensuring materials produced by the center meet both Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and support the learner in gaining new knowledge. “Laura Ann is an invaluable member of our team,” said Molly Gonzales, CET instructional assistant professor. “Watching her interact with the content we have created and listening to her share her experience is humbling and insightful. Our partnership with Laura Ann was the catalyst that changed our perspective on how we develop new digital learning tools and experiences.” The CET and Grymes partnered to further enhance the center’s StepStone online authoring tool by transforming it


ACADEMICS

ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT

CET program coordinator Michelle Wiederhold, Grymes, and Dyson RESEARCH TEACHING

Grymes explores the CET's digitally accessible content.

and increasing awareness of accessibility considerations in digital environments. “True accessibility is way more than just checking off a box to say it’s accessible,” Grymes said. “I love that this team has high standards and makes teaching modules accessible for all learners.” Through collaborations with partners like Grymes, the CET and CVM will continue to blaze the trail for integrating accessibility within academics and the campus culture. To learn more about utilizing StepStone to create accessible content, visit http://tx.ag/StepStoneLearning, and to learn more about the CET, visit http://www.tamucet.org. ■

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into a fully ADA-compliant web-based platform. StepStone allows educators to produce interactive, media-enriched learning resources that can be accessed from any internetenabled device. “Addressing accessibility is an issue shared by all who rely on digital content,” said Tim Ponder, CET instructional technologist. “Beyond the legal considerations, digital accessibility is a component of good design and delivery, potentially enhancing all users’ educational experiences.” Grymes collaborated with Ponder and Dan Shuta, CET multimedia developer and the brain behind StepStone, to discuss best practices in accessibility and share some of the most common challenges faced by learners with differing levels of abilities in an online environment. “Working with the CET and the CVM has been a gratifying experience,” Grymes said. “It is rewarding to be part of a team passionate about making materials accessible for learning and who are actively working to remove challenges to help students grow and learn efficiently.” As a result of Grymes’ collaboration with the CET, now both authors and end users can experience the benefits of a fully ADA-compliant authoring platform. Content-building authors can incorporate ADA components directly within StepStone by placing alternative text and long descriptions on images, while end users have the ability to use keyboard shortcuts or spoken instructions via a screen reader to navigate the course. Many CVM faculty members use StepStone to build online case studies in which students make decisions on how to proceed through a clinical case from the patient’s admission to discharge. These case studies have provided future veterinarians with a safe space to practice their critical thinking skills using real-world scenarios based upon former Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) patients. Grymes continues to play a pivotal role in ensuring that StepStone generates accessible content for all learners. She has performed quality assurance testing on several of the StepStone modules and often offers suggestions for how to improve the student learning experience. “Laura Ann has taught us how to view online learning through a new lens, one that goes beyond the initial assurance that the content and resources are accessible to also consider the language and descriptions we use within our writing,” Gonzales said. “Am I painting the appropriate picture with the words that I am using? Or is my lack of clarity a potential barrier to someone’s learning? She has really opened our eyes to give careful consideration to the details that really bring the whole picture together.” Grymes is looking forward to continued work with the CET


ACADEMICS

Story by DORIAN MARTIN Chickens’ eggs serve as the foundation for three innovative studies currently underway through the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ groundbreaking initiatives, the Biomedical Research & Development Certificate and the Aggie Research Scholars Program. These programs are designed to help undergraduate students learn to do research. Both are the brainchild of Dr. Christopher Quick, a professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP). He started the programs in 2016,

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and they have grown to be the two largest undergraduate research programs at Texas A&M. Although these two programs provided semester-long research opportunities to more than 800 undergraduates, they are not even close to meeting demand. “Approximately one-quarter of undergraduates at Texas A&M get a chance to engage in research before graduating. The Aggie Research Program typically attracts three undergraduates for every research opportunity,” Quick said. “Last year, we could only support 50 percent of the undergraduates applying to the Biomedical Research Certificate Program. We recruit broadly, not to generate


ACADEMICS

ACADEMICS

“The most valuable skills I've learned have been realizing how to work with team members and how to use everyone’s skills to really push the project in a positive direction in order to see results.” - ERIN O'CONNOR

EXPERIMENT 1: RADIATION AND LYMPHATIC CELLS

RESEARCH

Saripada’s team developed their topic through meshing some initial research interests. Initially she was interested in researching how a ketogenic diet affects the body’s blood vessels. She met another student who was interested in

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EXPERIMENT 2: GLUCOSE AND DIABETES

TEACHING

BIMS major Oula Eldow ’21 and her team are using chicken eggs to study the effect of radiation on lymphatic vessels. The eggs, which are grown in flasks after being removed from their shells, allow students to easily witness changes. “Being able to grow the eggs this way is very helpful because the blood vessels become really accessible,” Eldow said. “We can see how radiating these eggs will change the diameter of the lymphatic vessels. We also can see if these vessels grow differently when we radiate them versus if they weren’t radiated.” The team believes this research will help them get a better understanding of radiation treatments used for cancer. “When you radiate a tumor to stop its growth or kill its cells, the cells in the tumor get a very high dose of radiation, so they die or their growth is stopped,” said Eldow, who wants to become a pediatric primary care doctor with a goal of eventually working in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). “There is a side effect in the cells surrounding the tumor, such as lymphatic cells and blood cells. These cells get a smaller dose, so our experiment is on low-dose radiation. This lowdose radiation doesn’t kill these cells, but it does change the function. We want to see what these changes are.”

SPOTLIGHT

interest, but to make sure everyone has a fair shot at participating.” “He showed up in the fall semester in one of my freshman seminar classes. You see this really eclectic professor come in shouting about this program,” said Janisah Saripada ’21, a biomedical sciences major who plans to attend medical school. “My friend and I said, ’Why don’t we try it out? It looks like a cool research opportunity.’” Both programs, which serve students across Texas A&M University’s campus, use “research-intensive communities,” a model that involves teams of students coming together to work on research in groups instead of as individuals.

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From left: BIMS majors Erin O’Connor, Janisah Saripada, and Oula Eldow

The model also encourages students to try a different research paradigm. “Our research is more like, ‘See something, Test something and then get more questions from that test,’” Saripada said. “When you experiment and get more knowledge, your questions about the subject matter grow exponentially.” Ultimately, this program prepares students for doing research in their careers, as well as graduate school. “I think it’s a really good way to get hands-on experience because a lot of places want research, but it’s not being offered to undergraduates,” said animal science major Erin O’Connor ’21. “This is a good way for undergrads to get their foot in the door and get some actual real-world experience.”


ACADEMICS

From left: BIMS majors Erin O’Connor, Janisah Saripada, and Oula Eldow conduct research in the lab.

looking at the effect of glucose in the body. “I thought, ‘Oh, it would be a perfect idea to mesh these two projects together and look at one single disease, diabetes, because diabetes affects the levels of glucose and ketones in your body,’” the junior noted. Using a chicken egg offers a useful way to study this problem. “We add glucose, which is a type of sugar, and ketones, which are chemicals produced when your body doesn’t have enough insulin to convert sugar into energy,” Saripada said. “We’re basically trying to model diabetes, specifically gestational diabetes, using the Chick CAM model since it has many similarities to human embryonic development.”

EXPERIMENT 3: SODIUM FLUORIDE AND THE MICROVASCULAR SYSTEM O’Connor and her team are using chicken eggs to try to detect changes in the microvascular structure through low doses of sodium fluoride. “We chose this because we found other studies that showed that sodium fluoride affected embryo growth in frogs,” the Uvalde resident said. “We know that sodium fluoride can be in daily products, such as water and toothpaste, so we are trying to see what happens with low

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doses. Are they actually harmful or is it something that needs to be watched out for?” The research may open doors for additional research on the microvascular system’s response to other teratogens. “Teratogens are any agent or substance that affect the development of an embryo, such as malformations or birth defects,” O’Connor said. “This is important because we want to be able to identify any environmental factors that can pose a detrimental effect to a developing embryo or fetus.”

GROWING SCHOLARS AND LEADERS These programs also give undergraduates the opportunities to develop skills that will serve them both inside and outside the research lab. “The most valuable skills I’ve learned have been realizing how to work with team members and how to use everyone’s skills to really push the project in a positive direction in order to see results,” O’Connor said. Eldow has enjoyed the opportunity to grow as both a researcher and a leader. “This research is something that I’m very passionate about,” she said. “It’s helped me grow as a leader and grow as a student.” ■


HOSPITAL Dr. Ashley Saunders and Birdie

Although Dr. Ashley Saunders regularly implants canine pacemakers, she found herself confronted by multiple challenges as she worked through the night to save Birdie’s life.

These surgeries are usually minimally invasive with a quick recovery time, but in Birdie’s case, it would take a team of specialists an entire night to heal her heart.

Story by MEGAN MYERS

In May 2019, Birdie’s owner, Katherine McLeod, noticed that Birdie was acting sluggish and behaving abnormally. “It was really odd. It was like she was just cranky,” McLeod said. “Over the next couple days, she got pretty lethargic and acted like she didn’t want to go outside or do anything. She was still eating and drinking, but she clearly didn’t feel well.” McLeod’s local veterinarian in Waco discovered that Birdie had an abnormally slow heartbeat and recommended a medication for treatment. But the medicine only helped for a few days, so when the lethargy returned on a Saturday afternoon, McLeod knew that her best option was to bring Birdie to the SAH, where she entrusted Saunders with Birdie’s care. “Birdie had a really low heart rate called third-degree AV

When Birdie arrived at the Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital (SAH) with an extremely low heart rate, Dr. Ashley Saunders knew that immediate action was necessary to save the 7-year-old Beagle’s life. As a veterinary cardiologist and professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), Saunders had seen Birdie’s symptoms many times. Cases with arrhythmias, or slow, irregular heartbeats, come into the SAH on a weekly basis; if caught in time, the condition is typically fixed with a treatment that is routine to Saunders but often a surprise to the general public—by implanting a pacemaker.

A MIRACULOUS RECOVERY

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(atrioventricular) block,” Saunders said. “The middle part of the heart stopped working, so the top and bottom couldn’t communicate well.” This miscommunication contributed to Birdie’s slow heartbeat, lethargy, and overall unwell feeling. Almost immediately after the diagnosis, Saunders, fourthyear veterinary student Amanda Tabone, and SAH staff began preparing to implant Birdie’s pacemaker. “Typically, you want to put a pacemaker in through the jugular vein in the neck,” Saunders said. “That’s the ideal way to do it. So, we took her back to do that, but the pacemaker electrically would not capture her heart. This can happen in rare cases, and we have to quickly adapt.” Saunders moved to the next option, which involved surgically screwing the pacemaker into Birdie’s heart through her chest. Thanks to help from Dr. Whitney Hinson, a small animal surgery resident, they finally got the pacemaker attached and working properly. But because of the unexpected issues with the pacemaker, Birdie remained under anesthesia for longer than they initially planned and more complications began to arise. “We were in surgery into the middle of the night at that point,” Saunders said. “Dr. (Bradley) Simon, the anesthesiologist, stayed with us the entire time, and we ended up having to spend even more time trying to get her

Fourth-year veterinary student Austin Floyd examines Birdie.

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“I enjoyed getting up early every morning to care for Birdie. I can’t describe it, but I feel there are patients we’re fortunate to have a special connection with that we can’t predict, and I immediately felt that with Birdie.” - AMANDA TABONE to wake up after the surgical procedures because her lungs were slow to reinflate.” Finally, Birdie improved. By the next day, the pacemaker had brought Birdie’s heart rate back to normal speed and she was able to go home to Waco with her family. “Dr. Saunders called me that morning and said miracle of miracles, basically,” McLeod said. “She said, ‘You can come get her. She’s doing great.’ You could tell in her voice that she was excited.”

GIVING DOGS A NEW LEASH ON LIFE While Birdie’s case had several setbacks, pacemaker implants are typically much less complicated, according to Saunders. She sees pacemaker cases at least once a week, on average, for a variety of dog breeds and ages. “Everybody is always stunned when I say I’m a veterinary cardiologist,” Saunders said. “People always say, ‘What? People put pacemakers in their dogs?’ Yes, we can do that, and we do it a lot. That always surprises people. “It’s exciting with older dogs because people often think their dog is just getting older and they are cautious about spending the money to put a pacemaker in at that age,” Saunders said. “I tell them we’ve paced a lot of older dogs and people frequently tell us that their dog’s energy is way better; what they have attributed to aging was actually low heart rate. I think that encourages people to move forward and then it allows the dogs to have their activity back.” For Saunders, being able to perform those life-changing procedures, and getting to work with a variety of other SAH services in the process, makes the high-stress career worth it. “People don’t realize how high-stress it is to be a cardiologist because it feels like life and death all of the time,” Saunders said. “But in the moment, you have to keep thinking because you really have a patient’s life in your hands; you just have to keep problem solving until you get it. “I think it helps the more experience you have, but you also have to be really level-headed,” she said. “You have to keep making decisions because when you look around, everybody’s looking to you to make them.” At the SAH, Saunders finds relief from her stress in the daily student interactions and opportunities to pass on her knowledge to the next generation of veterinarians. “As you go along in your career, you realize that you


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ACADEMICS

were once the one being helped and now you can help other people reach their goals,” Saunders said. “It is really rewarding. The students identify where they want to go and then you can help them along that path.”

BONDING OVER BEAGLES

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Birdie

“As you go along in your career, you realize that you were once the one being helped and now you can help other people reach their goals. It is really rewarding. The students identify where they want to go and then you can help them along that path.”

I would go to her in a heartbeat just for her bedside manner. She’s going to have a big-time career.”

RESEARCH

- DR. ASHLEY SAUNDERS

SPOTLIGHT

GOING HOME AN AGGIE

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Back in Waco, Birdie returned to her normal, active, friendly self within a week. “Anytime you want to take her on a walk, she gets all fired up about that. She loves her treats and all the different food that she gets,” McLeod said. “She’s great with Skittle (McLeod’s other Beagle); they’re best buds and they’re very happy to be back hanging out together. “I pray for my dogs every day and I’m so thankful that Birdie’s still here and that she’s healthy,” she said. “It’s just really incredible.” As a huge Baylor fan, McLeod had no experience with Texas A&M before Birdie’s procedure at the SAH, besides rooting against the Aggies on gameday. “It was funny. When we went to pick Birdie up, she had her maroon bandages on and what I like to call her ‘Aggie haircut,’ because they had to shave parts of her,” McLeod said. “I said, ‘What? Come on, man, no green and gold bandages?’ The hospital staff said, ‘Hey, you’re at A&M.’ “I said, ‘You know what? Forever we will root for the Aggies—unless they’re playing us, which is very unlikely these days,’” she said. “But it’s funny now—any time I watch football, I say, ‘I’m for A&M. Just for A&M.’” ■

TEACHING

Tabone was excited to have the opportunity to scrub in for surgery and help care for Birdie post-operatively, especially because of her love for Beagles. “I was the student on call the weekend Birdie came in,” Tabone said, “and I always joke that if I’m going to get called in, I hope it’s a Beagle, because I have an overwhelming attachment and love for this breed.” Tabone, who has three of her own Beagles, fell in love with Birdie and was thankful to be involved in her case. “I enjoyed getting up early every morning to care for Birdie,” Tabone said. “I can’t describe it, but I feel there are patients we’re fortunate to have a special connection with that we can’t predict, and I immediately felt that with Birdie. “It was incredible to see the transition she made from being very gloomy to being excited and ready to go home with her family,” she said. “I was really lucky that I got called in for this case.” Birdie’s case was also meaningful for Tabone because it was her first clinical experience and her first opportunity to be hands-on in a surgical setting; when Birdie arrived at the SAH, Tabone and her fellow fourth years had just begun their first week of clinical rotations. “We had a really unique cardiology rotation, from a student perspective, because all of our residents were gone for their board exams, so it was just the students and Dr. Saunders,” Tabone said. “We got to be one-on-one with her for two weeks, which I found incredibly amazing because of the amount we learned from her and how hands-on we were with all of our cases.” Tabone also interacted with McLeod and her family to keep them updated on Birdie’s progress. Even after Birdie returned home, Tabone made a habit of checking in with McLeod to make sure Birdie was still feeling well. “Birdie’s mom mailed a letter to the teaching hospital, and I’ll definitely keep it for my entire career,” Tabone said. “She had the most kind and sincere things to say about me and the work that Dr. Saunders did. I plan to have it framed in my office and when I’m having a not-so-great day, I can read it and think of my experience with Birdie and her family; it’ll forever be great motivation for my career.” Likewise, McLeod was extremely grateful for Tabone’s genuine love for Birdie and the fact that she went above and beyond in caring for both client and patient. “Amanda is going to be one heck of a veterinarian,” McLeod said. “Whatever she decides to do in whatever field,


HOSPITAL Dr. Dusty Nagy and Patrick

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ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT

Dr. Dusty Nagy’s holistic approach to veterinary care was borne from her personal experiences with chiropractic and acupuncture treatments.

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something stupid, by my standards,” Nagy said, with a laugh. In agony, she fell to the floor, where she would stay for the next two hours. To appease her technician, Nagy went to the hospital, only to be offered pain medication, a remedy she did not desire. Upon returning to work, the receptionist, who had been badgering Nagy for years to see her chiropractor, had already made Nagy an appointment. “I looked her dead in the face, and I said, ‘I don’t even care if they kill me. I will go because I can’t do this anymore.’ And I went and I got the most thorough exam I had ever gotten from a doctor that I can remember,” Nagy said. After her initial appointment, Nagy returned to the chiropractor a couple of days later for her first adjustment. For the first time in years, she slept through the night. “It turned me into an absolute believer that when applied appropriately, chiropractic treatment can be useful. My experience and outcome made me go, ‘You know what? Maybe I should learn more about this,’” Nagy said. “I decided to learn acupuncture because with production animals, we do not have a lot of options for pain control, and I thought that this would be a good tool to add to my toolbox. What I realized in class is that acupuncture can be used in animals for a variety of conditions.” Today, Nagy uses acupuncture and chiropractic treatments on many animals; she has seen how both can help improve the quality of life and longevity of her patients.

TEACHING

The familiar sound of a mooing cow echoes through the clinic. This time, the noise is not coming from a patient but from Dr. Dusty Nagy’s cellphone. A bovine lover to her core, Nagy’s passion for her profession radiates from her everywhere she goes. A clinical associate professor of large animal clinical sciences (VLCS) at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), Nagy spends her time teaching future veterinarians and treating patients in the clinic, sometimes in uncommon ways. As a new faculty member, Nagy’s unique work in animal chiropractic medicine and acupuncture makes her an integral part of the team. Currently, Nagy is the only veterinarian on staff to offer chiropractic care to patients. However, she hasn’t always been a chiropractic “believer.” In fact, she used to be skeptical of the practice in both humans and animals. That was until a few years ago, when back pain had taken over Nagy’s work life; she said she had not slept through the night in years. “My husband and I were trying to figure out how I could retire early because I just couldn’t work anymore,” Nagy said. “It was just too painful.” One day, Nagy was examining a cow when she suddenly felt the all-too-familiar debilitating back pain. “All I was doing was palpating a cow. I wasn’t even doing

RESEARCH

Story by COURTNEY ADAMS


HOSPITAL

“Most often, I think people seek out acupuncture for animals in pain or those with behavioral problems,” she said. “I still use acupuncture primarily as an adjunctive treatment along-side western medicine, most often for pain control,” she said. “When others ask me for an acupuncture consult on a case, it is often for patients that have failed to respond adequately to western medicine and we are attempting to exhaust all of our options.”

FINDING HER PATH Nagy grew up in an environment that prepared her for the busy lifestyle of a food animal veterinarian working in an academic setting. Nagy’s father encouraged her at a young age to remain busy; she was told to find a job—or he would find her one. So, Nagy spent much of her free time working on farms on the outskirts of the Maryland town in which she lived. Caring for the animals sparked her interest in being a veterinarian. “I was one of those who decided I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was really small,” Nagy said. “And it stuck. I love what I do; I wouldn’t change it for the world.” She completed her bachelor’s degree in three years, splitting her time between Colorado State University and the University of Maryland before going directly into Cornell

“I still use acupuncture primarily as an adjunctive treatment along-side western medicine, most often for pain control.” - DR. DUSTY NAGY University’s veterinary program. She says she found the first year of veterinary school to be an uphill climb. “I’m not sure I was ready for that kind of commitment,” Nagy said, remembering how she struggled her first year. “As the years went on, vet school got a lot easier.” During her last year in veterinary school, Nagy decided to pursue a post-graduate internship and was matched with the University of Missouri, which wasn’t her first choice, but would ultimately turn out to become home. “It was the program I liked the most, but I didn’t want to go to Missouri,” Nagy said. “I had always thought of it as a fly over state.” Nagy was only supposed to stay for a year, but toward the end of her internship, the University of Missouri asked her if she would be willing to stay for a residency. She eventually decided to stay, and about a year and a half into her studies, the program hired a new section head. “My entire life course changed from the second he walked into the building,” Nagy said. “He tried to convince me to roll my master’s into a Ph.D., and I told him no until the very end of my residency.” Not only did Nagy go on to complete her Ph.D., but when her husband, who is also a veterinarian, was given the opportunity to complete a diagnostic imaging residency at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Nagy’s section head allowed her to accept a faculty position there while completing her doctorate.

MAKING THE MOVE

Acupuncture

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After Nagy’s husband finished his residency, the couple contemplated their next step. Nagy interviewed at other places, but “Missouri just really still felt like home,” she said. And so back to Missouri they went, and there, Nagy was happy, working with people she liked. “By all accounts, I was going to be there until the end. That was my life plan to stay there. I never, ever thought about moving,” Nagy said. Throughout her career at Mizzou, she occasionally received calls from colleagues at Texas A&M about job opportunities. During a 2018 call, Nagy was intrigued by the CVM’s new curriculum for veterinary students, but she was still not interested in moving. That changed when Nagy finally decided she would visit the CVM. Although she viewed the trip more as a way to rid


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ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH

Dr. Dusty Nagy and Charlie TEACHING ALUMNI & GIVING

the recruitment phone calls than find a new job, it took only half a day to feel like she would be a fool not to pursue a position at the CVM. So, what changed Nagy’s mind? “It’s a great place. There’s so much opportunity here,” Nagy said. “The support is phenomenal. This is an opportunity to finish out the rest of my career in a place of resources,” Nagy said. Now that she’s at the CVM, Nagy said she looks forward to building a new reputation with her students and clientele in the years to come. “I was really well-loved by the students at Missouri, and sometimes you go, ’Well, here I am in a brand-new place, and can I actually recreate that? Do I actually do a good job or was it just an urban legend they all believed?’” Nagy said. “You know, it’s not a bad thing to have to prove yourself every now and then.” ■

Dr. Dusty Nagy

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Rachael Crivelli, Dr. Brandan Wustefeld-Janssens, and Remington

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ACADEMICS

“I'm grateful for Texas A&M surgeons, students, and technicians, and for Project K-9 Hero’s financial support. I feel I made the right decision to have a very major surgery done. I don’t think he would've survived this surgery if we went anywhere else.” - RACHAEL CRIVELLI

HOSPITAL

Search and recovery dog Remington is now enjoying retirement thanks to the care he received from the Small Animal Hospital’s Oncology Service.

SPOTLIGHT

A K-9'S COURAGE Story by MEGAN MYERS

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Crivelli felt a call to serve and began her career as a firefighter following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She rescued Remington when he was only 4 weeks old and soon after began training him for an important role—

TEACHING

A LIFE OF SERVICE

locating human remains, whether it be a deceased body or the smallest drop of blood, following a crisis like 9/11. Together, they have volunteered to search for human remains at crime scenes and disaster sites across the state, even contributing to a 30-year-old cold case in South Texas. “We have searched a burnt house that somebody was suspected to have been murdered at and Remington assisted in locating the exact room where the person died,” Crivelli said. “We deployed during Hurricane Harvey and searched in neighborhoods for anybody who could have been deceased,” she said. “Luckily, we didn’t have to locate anybody during Hurricane Harvey.” In addition to this work, Remington also served as a mascot for New Caney Fire Department for several years and then for Navasota Fire Department until his cancer diagnosis and subsequent retirement. “He would go to public relations events to greet members of the public,” Crivelli said. “Having a K-9 allowed firefighters to be more approachable; people or kids who might have too much anxiety to approach firefighters normally were always more comfortable with Remington around. “He also was a great comfort after making tough calls,” she said. “We would come back from a CPR call or a fatality wreck and it was interesting to see Remington go up to all the firefighters and let them pet him. He knew when people needed loving from a big furry teddy bear. Even on searches, he would comfort the searchers, as well as the victim’s family. “That’s what I miss most with him being retired,” Crivelli

RESEARCH

It was a training day like any other when Rachael Crivelli noticed that her dog Remington, a search and recovery canine for the Navasota Fire Department, developed a limp after slipping during an agility course obstacle. Remington was still limping two days later, but Crivelli’s local veterinarian was unable to provide a diagnosis. Soon after, Crivelli met Dr. Deb Zoran, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), at an urban search and rescue (USAR) training event and was encouraged to take Remington to the Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital (SAH), where a team of specialists could work to discover the cause of the limp. After several tests and visits with various SAH services, Remington was diagnosed with a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor, a common, but often misdiagnosed, form of cancer. Crivelli, who had worked with the 8-year-old Labrador Retriever mix for nearly his entire life, was heartbroken by this diagnosis. But knowing how much Remington had done to serve others, she decided to do whatever it would take to get him back on his feet. “They say a dog will let you know when it’s time to go,” Crivelli said. “Remington was letting me know he had a lot of life to live.”


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Remington at work

Rachael Crivelli and Remington

said. “He was a comfort dog more than a search dog at times.”

FIGHTING FOR REMINGTON Remington’s tumor ran from the spinal canal to where the femoral nerve entered his right hind leg, causing him significant pain and requiring an intensive surgery of several hours for removal. “This type of tumor is not very common but often misdiagnosed early on because initially, the signs are so gray,” said Dr. Brandan Wustefeld-Janssens, an assistant professor of surgical oncology. “It’s very common for these dogs to be lame for up to six months and have several rounds of X-rays, yet their veterinarians never find anything wrong. Eventually, when they come in here, they are very painful or the atrophy is so severe that it is now obvious.” Crivelli, a cancer survivor herself, knew that Remington had more life in him and deserved the opportunity to beat his cancer. “His job was to assist families and law enforcement with justice by helping provide answers,” she said. “He fought for those who couldn’t fight, so I had to give him a chance to fight for himself.”

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Remington after his surgery

Wustefeld-Janssens and a team of oncologists and neurologists removed the right side of Remington’s pelvis and his leg, opened the last three intervertebral spaces, and cut the femoral nerve as close to the spinal cord as possible. “The cutting of the nerve is a really important step because, number one, we hope to remove the entire tumor, and, two, if there are no pain signals back to the spinal cord, these dogs feel much better,” Wustefeld-Janssens said. After surgery, Remington recovered quickly and was soon cruising on three legs. As is typical for dogs who have undergone an amputation, he improved greatly once the source of his pain was gone. “Dogs are incredible in that we can remove half of Remington’s pelvis and a big part of his back, and then two weeks later he’s running and jumping over small walls,” Wustefeld-Janssens said.

SUPPORTING OUR K-9 HEROES Luckily, Crivelli wasn’t alone in her support for Remington. After he was diagnosed, she reached out to Project K-9 Hero, a national nonprofit organization that helps fund medical care for retired police K-9s and military working dogs. “I purchased a bag of Sport dog food and on the back of


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ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH

Jason Johnson, Rachael Crivelli, and Remington

With 34 deployments and six confirmed finds on his résumé, Remington has earned the right to a relaxing semiretirement from his search and recovery career. He now spends most of his time at home with Crivelli’s family, while continuing to greet citizens and help the Navasota Fire Department with public relations. He also is

- JASON JOHNSON serving as a Project K-9 Hero representative to help other K-9s receive the same support he did. “I’m grateful for Texas A&M surgeons, students, and technicians, and for Project K-9 Hero’s financial support,” Crivelli said. “I feel I made the right decision to have a very major surgery done. I don’t think he would’ve survived this surgery if we went anywhere else. “Remington appears to be feeling better than he has in years,” Crivelli said. “He is playing ball, swimming, and just loving life.” ■

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“We felt that because of his age and because of how much life he had left in him, providing the surgery was going to allow him to live a high-quality life for the next couple years, hopefully. We're honored to serve heroes like Remington, heroes who dedicated their careers to protecting our communities.”

TEACHING

it was a story about Project K-9 Hero,” Crivelli said. “It’s for police and military dogs, but Remington’s a search and fire dog. I thought, ‘I’ll just try,’ so I filled out their application and two hours later I got a call from the founder, Jason Johnson, who said Remington was accepted to the program.” Project K-9 Hero covered Remington’s full surgery cost with funds raised entirely through donations. As a K-9 Hero, Remington will also receive free food and medical care for the rest of his life. “We felt that because of his age and because of how much life he had left in him, providing the surgery was going to allow him to live a high-quality life for the next couple years, hopefully,” Johnson said. “We’re honored to serve heroes like Remington, heroes who dedicated their careers to protecting our communities.”


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In 1920, a class of four Texas A&M University veterinarians walked across a stage to receive the first Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degrees awarded in the state; those four men would go on to serve Texas’ 4.7 million residents and their animals with the best medical care the School of Veterinary Medicine could provide. One hundred years later, a lot has changed within the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). This May, the CVM will send 132 new veterinarians into the field to serve Texas’ 28.7 million residents and their animals, and the demographics of those veterinarians have shifted from all males a century ago to a class that is approximately 79 percent female in 2020. Despite these many changes, what has stayed the same is the love each veterinary student has for animals of all species and their commitment to being the best doctors they can be. The Veterinary Class of 2020 is a lot of things—ardent, focused, and ready to give back to the profession and to those who have helped them get where they are. Many, if not most, have dreamed of being veterinarians since childhood, some have overcome tremendous obstacles to achieve that dream, and no matter how hard they have worked, as they stand on the precipice of graduation, they know they are fortunate to be where they are. “You hear all of the stories about how hard it is. Your first day in Animal Science 107, they ask how many of us want

to be veterinarians; it’s a 500-person class and two-thirds raise their hand,” said Kale Johnson ’16, DVM ’20. “But there are not that many spots. And that’s just one class. You’re competing against the best of the best, and it gets harder and harder every year. When I got in, it was a relief. “It’s been a great experience. The ability to ascertain all of this knowledge, work with people who are leaders in their field, and get to see and do things that I never would have imagined when I was growing up in a small town in the Panhandle has been wonderful,” he said. “There are always goods and bads, but I can honestly say that I’ve had a really good go at it. I’ve been really blessed in the deal.” As the CVM celebrates the 100th anniversary of its first graduates, the college also honors this milestone class and what they represent for the future of veterinary medicine. Joining the ranks of 8,221 other Aggie veterinarians, the Class of 2020 is a tapestry of experience and ambition. They will become small, large, and mixed animal veterinarians; work in large cities and rural communities across the state and country; and protect animals engaged in research. They will be the next generation of board-certified veterinary specialists; they will be the next generation of veterinary leaders. While their paths may vary, bonded by their experiences and the “families” they have created among their peers, they will always share the passion that brought them together.

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100 YEARS OF GRADUATES | COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES

“I think the most exciting thing will be to build relationships with clients that I can maintain, to be able to see the same clients as their pets grow and do what I can to keep their family members around as long as possible. I'm really excited about that. - AMANDA TABONE

CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH Story by MEGAN MYERS Veterinary medicine runs in the Tabone family. Growing up in Colleyville, Amanda Tabone spent much of her free time at the veterinary hospital where both her father, veterinarian George Tabone ’93, and mother, veterinary nurse Katy Tabone, were employed. “I spent a good portion of my summers at the hospital, even starting in late elementary school and early middle school, watching my dad and going into rooms with clients,” Amanda said. “Once I got older, I got to start watching surgeries, which was really neat.” This exposure to veterinary medicine at a young age, along with a household full of pets, was instrumental in Amanda’s decision to become a veterinarian herself. “I’ll never forget the day she called us at the hospital and said, ‘That’s it. I’ve made up my mind, I want to be a veterinarian,’” George said. “I always felt that she could do whatever she wanted to do if she put her mind to it, but her passion and her natural affinity toward animals was obvious. I told her mother, ‘She’s going to be good.’ Honestly, she’ll be better than I am.” When Amanda decided to study veterinary medicine at Texas A&M, where her father earned his DVM and her mother worked at the Small Animal Hospital (SAH) for several years, her parents were overjoyed. “There was never a backup plan for me,” Amanda said. “It was either apply until I get into A&M or keep applying. I was really lucky that it happened on the first try, because there was never a plan of going elsewhere.” Though her father encouraged her to apply to multiple veterinary schools, he was secretly thrilled that she was determined to study at the CVM, which was also where he had met and married Katy. “My veterinary school experience 26 years ago was absolutely the most wonderful four years of my life,”

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George said. “I developed so many special relationships with clinicians, professors, and friends to whom I still talk today. With the great traditions here, I don’t think she’ll ever forget her days at A&M.” During Amanda’s years as a veterinary student, being able to turn to her father for advice and encouragement helped her stay motivated and focused on her goal of becoming a small animal general practitioner like he is.

Dr. George Tabone and Amanda Tabone


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Dr. George, Amanda, and her mom Katy Tabone

“My veterinary school experience 26 years ago was absolutely the most wonderful four years of my life. I developed so many special relationships with clinicians, professors, and friends to whom I still talk today. With the great traditions here, I don't think she'll ever forget her days at A&M.”

Thanks to their shared passions for animals and veterinary medicine, the Tabone family has a strong and unique bond that will hold them together, even if they are separated by physical distance. “My dad and I have always been close because of sports, and this whole aspect of our shared profession has brought in a new dynamic to our relationship,” Amanda said. “My mom supported him through veterinary school and she’s been a huge rock for me during veterinary school, as well. We have a really neat family dynamic.” ■

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- DR. GEORGE TABONE

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“It’s been a really cool experience throughout veterinary school to call him about different topics and have him be able to relate,” Amanda said. “It’s been even more rewarding in my fourth year, when he and I have been able to chat about the patients and cases I got to work on that day, what I saw, or what surgery I helped with.” During her fourth-year clinical rotations, Amanda discovered her passion for interacting with pets’ owners in addition to the pets. Two cases stand out to her as particularly impactful—a Beagle named Birdie from her cardiology rotation (see page 33) and a Bloodhound named Annie from orthopedics. “Annie had a complicated fracture we got to repair,” Amanda said. “Annie’s mom was willing to do anything for her; Annie is a huge part of her life. She was a rescue, so it was a really rewarding case. The bond she has with her mom was something really special to witness, and I was lucky be a part of Annie’s team under Dr. (Laura) Peycke. “One of my favorite parts of fourth year is getting to speak with clients and letting them know I’m taking care of their pets to the best of my ability and treating them with love, like how I would want my own pets treated,” Amanda said. “I think that goes a long way, especially for the people who are stressed during their pet’s visit. That’s why when Annie comes in for her rehabilitation appointments, I try to stop in and say hello to her mom, because I really do appreciate and enjoy that aspect of our profession.” Amanda plans to take this mindset with her into general practice, where she looks forward to establishing trusting relationships with all of the animals and people who come through her door. “I think the most exciting thing will be to build relationships with clients that I can maintain, to be able to see the same clients as their pets grow and do what I can to keep their family members around as long as possible,” she said. “I’m really excited about that. “We all love animals, but for me the driving factor (for becoming a veterinarian) was the connection we have with our pets,” she said. “That’s why I enjoy the client interaction part of it the most, because I want to do whatever I can to make their human-animal bond the best that it can be. That’s what drives me.” Though Amanda will return to the Dallas area after graduation to be near her family, she plans to find a new clinic to join, rather than working with her parents. “I’ve gotten to watch my dad all of these years and I’ll continue to lean on him for mentorship, but he thinks I should work at another clinic where I can learn from others, learn how to do things differently, and find my own preferences and techniques, as opposed to just his,” Amanda said.


4VM FEATURE

“The thing that makes veterinary medicine so fun for me is the diversity. I very much want to dabble in a little bit of everything.”

100 YEARS OF GRADUATES | COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES

- KALE JOHNSON

Story by DORIAN MARTIN Kale Johnson and Elizabeth Lake come from opposite ends of the spectrum. Johnson, who hails from a rural community with a population of less than 2,200 in the Texas Panhandle, grew up around a variety of livestock. In comparison, Lake, who was raised in the heart of Dallas, primarily spent her early years around dogs and horses. However, both fourth-year students are now committed to joining the ranks of rural veterinarians. This is important because the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 500 U.S. counties, many rural, were underserved by veterinarians in 2019. Forty-four states reported shortages, which is the largest number since tracking began.

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TAKING THE MACRO VIEW Lake initially wasn’t interested in veterinary medicine; instead, she considered law or policy. “Despite always loving animals and people always asking me if I wanted to be a veterinarian, I just didn’t see myself doing that,” she said. “But then in college, I actually took an epidemiology class and a veterinarian came and talked about public health and the One Health idea in general. That lecture got me thinking, ‘OK, there’s so much more you can do with a veterinary degree.’” After earning an undergraduate degree in human biology with a minor in political science and a master’s degree in environmental science from Stanford University, Lake decided to apply to veterinary school.


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Kale Johnson

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Elizabeth Lake in the lab

“I’m looking forward to the case variety of a true mixed animal practice and to building relationships with my hospital team and the communities that are trusting us with the care of their animals.” - ELIZABETH LAKE

Elizabeth Lake

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“Texas A&M was always a top choice, just because I’m a proud Texan,” she said. “I’ve always been a huge Aggie fan my whole life, and A&M’s really strong in the areas that I’m interested in: large animal, especially food animal medicine, and One Health.” She hasn’t been disappointed in her decision. Lake points to her summer research fellowship with the CVM’s Dr. Morgan Scott and Dr. Keri Norman, during which she explored how antimicrobials are being used in production settings to affect resistance patterns and bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. She also participated in a rural internship program through the CVM and West Texas A&M’s Veterinary Education, Research, & Outreach (VERO) program, during which she explored the clinical challenges of a rural mixed


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anything. I hate getting to the end of something and looking back and going, ’Well, I could’ve done a little bit more of this or that.’” His time in the CVM also has been influenced by his wife, Elizabeth Ford-Johnson, who graduated from the CVM in 2015. The couple met when Johnson, an undergraduate, was assisting the CVM’s Dr. Juan Romano with a research project on Boer goats while his soon-to-be-wife, then a fourth-year student, was on a field service rotation. “That’s not where I thought I’d meet my wife, in a stinky goat pen,” he said with a smile. Over the years, Elizabeth has offered valuable advice to Johnson on how to navigate veterinary school. “She’s my saving grace, because from day one, I had somebody who had just been through it,” he said. “Especially that first year, it’s really hard adjusting to that kind of study mentality. She warned me about classes like anatomy, physiology, and immunology, which are the ones that trip up a lot of students.” After Johnson’s graduation, the couple will move to Louisburg, Kansas, where they have both been offered jobs at a rural practice. “The thing that makes veterinary medicine so fun for me is the diversity. I very much want to dabble in a little bit of everything,” he said. “I like to have the ability to go out and palpate 200 cows in the morning, come back to a dog C-section at the middle of the day, and then go out and do some Coggins tests on some horses.” Johnson also looks forward to becoming an integral part of a rural community. “You know everybody by name; everyone waves at you going by,” he said. “These people need good veterinarians. They need someone they can depend upon in times of financial need, since these cattle are their livelihood. And then they need care for their pets as well, which are emotional animals for them. I feel a great need to serve in those areas.” ■

SPOTLIGHT

Johnson’s entire life has involved agriculture and livestock. His mother’s family raised stocker cattle while his father’s family focused on show cattle and ran a cow-calf operation. Johnson’s parents both competed in rodeo and worked for the Cargill plant in Saginaw. Growing up in the small rural community of Idalou, Johnson’s interest in becoming a rural veterinarian was fostered through raising show animals and his interactions with his agriculture teachers, especially Wayne “Fud” Robertson and the late Danny Gunn, whom he said were tremendous influences on his drive to be a leader and give back to the FFA. “Growing up in these smaller communities, very often the veterinarian was the most academically educated person in the community and that was something I admired,” he said. “People often came to them for things way outside the role of veterinary medicine. I want to be able to do that for other people as well.” Now that he’s in veterinary school, Johnson has tried to make the most of his CVM experience. “Showing up to class every day and doing the extra things were important to me,” he said. “I didn’t want to waste

Kale Johnson feeding his cattle

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RETURNING TO A (RURAL) HOME

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animal practice and worked with dairy veterinarians. “I was really impressed by the quality of medicine that was practiced out there,” Lake said. “A lot of times we think when you’re dealing with limited budgets, limited resources, and limited abilities to refer, you’re really handcuffed medically. To some extent that’s true, but I still didn’t feel at all that patients were getting a lower quality of care. I was, by any standards, highly impressed with how dedicated those veterinarians are to continuing their education and to offering outstanding services to their communities.” Lake will start her veterinary career at a mixed animal practice in central Texas that serves a large town and surrounding rural communities. “I’m looking forward to the case variety of a true mixed animal practice and to building relationships with my hospital team and the communities that are trusting us with the care of their animals,” she said. She one day hopes to use her breadth of knowledge in veterinary medicine, environmental science, and human biology to get involved in policy decisions. “There’s an increasing focus on how we’re managing herds. That’s not necessarily a veterinary-exclusive thing; that’s almost more of an animal science- or managementtype deal. But there are still contributions that veterinarians can make to those types of discussions, obviously,” she said. “(And) anytime you’re treating a food animal, you’ve got human health in the back of your mind, too.”


100 YEARS OF GRADUATES | COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES

4VM FEATURE

EYES ON THE PRIZE Story by DORIAN MARTIN The majority of Texas A&M veterinary students go on to careers in general practice, but some become so enthralled with specific branches of medicine that they decide to dedicate their entire careers to that field. Such is the case with Annalis Cigarroa, Maria Granello, and Hunter Enderle, who plan to take their professional aspirations to the next level after completing their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degrees by pursuing years of additional training and hands-on experience that will allow them to earn board certification in a high-demand veterinary specialty. Becoming “boarded” in one of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s 41 recognized specialties means specialty candidates must complete a one-year internship and a residency program that can span up to three years; publish original research; and pass additional examinations. This type of training substantially deepens the veterinarian’s knowledge and skill set. “I loved medicine since I was a child, but then I also figured out that I loved surgery in our junior surgery course. I didn’t want either of them to be exclusive,” Cigarroa said. “I think neurology is the perfect specialty that combines medicine and surgery. I also like that for a large portion of the patients we see, some of the surgeries truly can restore the animal.”

A PASSION FOR SOUTH TEXAS Cigarroa is proud of her hometown, Laredo, and that pride has influenced her decision to pursue a veterinary specialty. “Laredo is a really unique city because there is such a blend of Mexican and American culture,” she said. “Everywhere you go, every restaurant and shop you walk

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Annalis Cigarroa, Indigo, and Margaret Preigh

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100 YEARS OF GRADUATES | COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES

“I'm interested in bringing specialty medicine further into South Texas. I hope within the next 10 years there can be a shift, whether that's just providing some aspect of specialty care in South Texas or coming up with a way to bring specialty medicine in just one area and having it serve a greater population.” - ANNALIS CIGARROA into, you’ll be spoken to in English and in Spanish. As a result, there’s a Laredo accent, Laredo sayings, and other things that are just unique to border life.” However, this booming city, which is the top trade port in the nation, has a healthcare deficit in specialty veterinary medicine. “The closest specialty practice in South Texas is in San Antonio (more than 150 miles away),” said Cigarroa, who grew up with many foster pets and rode quarter horses in cutting events. “There are so many growing cities like Laredo, McAllen, and even Corpus Christi that don’t have close access.” Cigarroa’s interest in medicine was piqued as a child by her father, who is a human cardiologist. “I always had a love for medicine,” she said. “It just wasn’t until later in my (undergraduate) studies that I decided it was a love for veterinary medicine and not human medicine.” The fourth-year student, who entered the DVM program with a degree in science pre-professional from Notre Dame, hopes to combine her passion for animals, medicine, and the Texas border region to build a bilingual practice that specializes in small animal neurology in her hometown. “I’m interested in bringing specialty medicine further into South Texas,” she said. “I hope within the next 10 years there can be a shift, whether that’s just providing some aspect of specialty care in South Texas or coming up with a way to bring specialty medicine in just one area and having it serve a greater population.”

EQUINE-IMITY Horses are an integral part of Granello’s life. As a young girl, she started competing in eventing, an equestrian sport similar to a triathlon, and then continued her passion as a member of the varsity equestrian team at Sewanee: The University of the South. Now Granello wants to pursue a profession that will allow her to work with these animals—which has led her to commit to specializing in equine sports rehabilitation. “I always want to keep horses in my life and then I found that veterinary medicine is a really great way to be engaged every day with both horses and the people who love and

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Maria Granello

care for them like I do,” she said. The native of Dallas, who holds an undergraduate degree in biology and a chemistry minor from Sewanee, believes the CVM’s program provided a solid and comprehensive veterinary foundation. “Even though I’m an equine track, we get exposed to everything at A&M, which I think makes us more wellrounded,” she said. “But I have really enjoyed my time on the equine rotations.” Granello has completed four rotations focused on horses and three externships at equine referral hospitals across the nation. The next step on her professional journey is an internship at the prestigious Littleton Equine Medical Center in Denver. Afterwards, she plans to pursue either a surgery or sports medicine residency, which will prepare her to work with horses that are worth millions of dollars. “I’m really interested in performance horses and helping these horses reach athletic and performance potential,” Granello said. “I really respect and am interested in how to improve and keep them at peak form.” She credits Texas A&M for preparing her to be successful in this fast-paced and high-pressure setting.


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ACADEMICS

“I think that the CVM’s professors and clinicians are very encouraging and they really want you to succeed in your goals and your career. I have felt like everyone here wants the students to succeed and be the best veterinarians they can coming out of this program.” - MARIA GRANELLO

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“I think that the CVM’s professors and clinicians are very encouraging and they really want you to succeed in your goals and your career,” Granello said. “I have felt like everyone here wants the students to succeed and be the best veterinarians they can coming out of this program.”

SPOTLIGHT

TRY, TRY AGAIN

RESEARCH

Hunter Enderle examines Lily Belle.

“I knew in my first year of vet school that cardiac physiology clicked for me. It just made sense and I was good at it. And having worked in the specialty practice, I was drawn towards the more specialized part of being good at one thing.”

a noninvasive procedure to fix a dog’s heart from a disease it was born with,” he said. “But then cardiologists also work with a lot of medications and medicine management of really complicated congestive heart failure cases. They work with imaging like echocardiograms. You see a good variety, but you also get really good at the things that are common.” Ultimately, Enderle wants to return to the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. “Dallas is an underserved area for cardiology right now. I think there’s one cardiologist in the Dallas area,” he said. “For as many people that are there, it’s just not enough.” ■

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- HUNTER ENDERLE

TEACHING

Enderle’s path to a veterinary medicine career took an unexpected detour when his first application to the CVM wasn’t accepted. “That was a little bit of a heartbreaker for me,” said the Midlothian resident, who earned a biomedical sciences degree from Texas A&M in three years. “It was my first defeat in life.” His initial interest in a career in veterinary medicine had been fostered by his passion for several academic subjects. “It was my interest in math and science and then my love of animals,” he said. “These two interests came together and formed this veterinary medicine career path.” Enderle’s unexpected gap year resulted in valuable hands-on experience. Returning home to regroup, Enderle accepted a job as a technician at a Dallas-area specialty veterinary hospital. Over the next year, he was introduced to a number of sub-specialties—including internal medicine, emergency medicine, and oncology—and had the opportunity to work with CVM associate professor Dr. Ashley Saunders, who offered cardiology consultations in the Dallas area. That experience led to his acceptance to the CVM’s veterinary medicine program and the development of a mentor relationship with Saunders. It also helped him realize that he wanted to pursue a specialty. “I knew in my first year of vet school that cardiac physiology clicked for me,” he said. “It just made sense and I was good at it. Having worked in the specialty practice, I was drawn toward the more specialized part of being good at one thing.” Enderle believes earning board certification in cardiology will prepare him to be successful in the middle ground between medicine and surgery. “The cardiologists do a lot of interventional procedures, so they’re closing off patent ductus arteriosus; they’re doing


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Zachary and Victoria Grimsley

Zachary and Victoria Grimsley had only been engaged for a few months when they began applying to veterinary schools. They met as animal science majors at Texas Tech University—where she had won a National Championship in wool judging and he participated on the meat judging team—and they knew that whatever veterinary school they ultimately chose, they would go through that experience as they had their undergraduate education—together. “It was a stressful couple of months, knowing that we were at somebody’s mercy, essentially, for where we were going to be for the next four years of our lives,” Victoria said. “I remember the day we got the news about Texas A&M—I got in immediately, and Zach was No. 2 on the waiting list. “That was a rough day, because I was excited that I got in and I really wanted to go to A&M. I had known as a very young child that I wanted to be an Aggie veterinarian; it was my life goal,” the Pflugerville native said. “But then Zach didn’t get in to A&M right away, so it was a very melancholy day.” The pair was fairly confident Zach would ultimately be accepted and carried on in planning for their July wedding. As the deadline to claim her position drew nearer, Victoria had to make a decision on whether to accept Texas A&M’s offer. It was not lost upon her that she could reject the offer, only for Zach to get the opened spot. Fortunately, a week or two before she had to make that decision, Zach received a phone call. “We were sitting in the car. He answers and is very stoic, saying all of the things you would say if you’re getting into veterinary school at A&M, but he wouldn’t tell me while he was on the phone,” Victoria said. “He finally gets off

SPOTLIGHT

Story by JENNIFER GAUNTT

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HEALING WITH LOVE


100 YEARS OF GRADUATES | COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES

4VM FEATURE

the phone and he’s like, ‘I got in’ and I start bawling in the passenger seat. I cried happy tears for, I don’t know, quite a while because I was so excited that we were both going to get to go to A&M together.” “I didn’t show my emotions as much as she thought that I would, but I was really excited,” the Abernathy, Texas, native said. “They had told me that I was more than likely going to get in, so I kind of already accepted that it was probably going to happen. But it definitely was a relief to know that I was finally accepted.” On July 22, exactly one month before their first day of veterinary school, Zach and Victoria were married. In the month that followed, they went on a honeymoon, moved across the state from Lubbock, and settled in to life in College Station. While many of their peers were adjusting to the traditional challenges of veterinary school, Zach and Victoria were also adjusting to married life as newlyweds who were living together for the first time. In many ways, those challenges exacerbated each other, as they acclimated to each other’s educational idiosyncrasies. “I will be the first to admit that Zach is way smarter than I am. He inherently gets things a lot faster. He can read something one time and he will remember forever, or somebody can explain it to him one time and he’s got it,”

Zachary and Victoria Grimsley

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Victoria said. “I need to sit down, process the information, and write it out; it takes me probably twice, maybe three times, as long to really understand the information. “Nothing compares to vet school classes, just the sheer speed and volume, and so that was a big struggle we had to work through our first year, really learning our different learning styles,” she said. “Another of the tough parts of being in vet school at the same time is how we prioritized studying,” Zach said. “My mentality is I do my schoolwork first and then do everything else household-wise, whereas Victoria is completely the opposite; she cannot focus if the house is a mess. “The hours also made it tough because we were both in school from early until late and on weekends, we had to study for Monday tests,” he said. “Nobody was like, ‘I can go to the grocery store because I have time.’ We both felt like we needed to be studying and so that was a struggle.” “That first year of veterinary school for us was probably the roughest as far as how quickly everything all came together. But we made it and I think it’s only made our marriage stronger; we always joke, ’If we can get through vet school together, we can get through anything together,’” Victoria said. On the other hand, going through the experience together offered benefits that many of their married peers did not have, including having someone to bounce ideas off of and, as competitive individuals, having “built-in” motivation. “I feel like there were parts we thought were going to break us individually, but it’s been really nice to have somebody who knew exactly what I was going through on a day-to-day basis, who really understood that I had to study so much,” Victoria said. “No one felt neglected or made the other feel guilty when we needed to study instead of going out to see a movie.” As fourth-year veterinary students, they have experienced the strange phenomenon of having completely different schedules during their clinical rotations; while some may wonder if that has presented a challenge for a pair who have been “inseparable,” with nearly the exact same schedules for the past seven years, they actually find it refreshing. “It got to the point where we almost didn’t know what to talk about anymore because we had done the same thing together all day long,” Victoria said. “Being on different rotations, we get to come home in the evenings and really talk about something that excites us, that the other person didn’t experience; getting to share that has been really fun for us. “We play it like almost a game,” she said. “We present a signalment and tell the other our clinical findings and the other person has to guess what we did, and then we talk about the case together.”


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- ZACHARY GRIMSLEY

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This is something they will continue to do for a while after graduating; the two accepted jobs as small animal veterinarians in Spring, in north Houston, but at different clinics. “Coming out of vet school, we knew we would probably have to go to two different practices, just so that we can get different experiences under different doctors, but the hope one day is to come together and practice in the same clinic that we own,” Zach said. “Then we can take all of those experiences and put them together to have the best medicine that we can practice together.” Ideally, the clinic they own together will allow Victoria to continue to practice small animal medicine, mainly focusing on dogs and cats, and Zach to focus on mixed animal medicine and play a larger role in the business aspects.

TEACHING

“Our dream is to have a family-owned business that we can raise kids in—running around the clinic after school. Making it a family-centered experience is something I think will be really good for us once we get out of vet school and start building our family.”

For now, because everything to this point has managed to work itself out, as long as they’re able to pursue their dream together, side-by-side, as a married couple, they will consider themselves fortunate. “It’s been really rewarding for both of us to be in veterinary school together. A lot of people joke—we were referred to as the ‘married couple’ for a really long time,” Victoria said. “But, ultimately, that is who we are in vet school; we are the couple that came in together and have thrived together. “We’re both really thankful that we got in together; we’ve been told countless times—I really have no idea how many times we’ve been told this—how we are very lucky to have gotten in at the same time, to be in the same class and able to experience all of this together.” “Continuing into our future, we’ll still be doing something similar together,” Zach said. “Our dream is to have a familyowned business that we can raise kids in—running around the clinic after school. Making it a family-centered experience is something I think will be really good for us once we get out of vet school and start building our family.” ■

RESEARCH

In the lab, the Grimlseys often partnered with one another; Zachary was always the “driver” because he was more adept at “steering” the microscope, according to Victoria.


4VM FEATURE

“I learned to lean on the support of others. There are going to be times when you feel like you can't do it, you're not smart enough, but just lean on those who love you and support you no matter what and just keep going.” 100 YEARS OF GRADUATES | COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES

- ALICIA ROBINSON

THE POWER OF PERSISTENCE Story by MARGARET PREIGH The road to veterinary school is, by nature, dauntless and difficult. While many students are fortunate to gain entrance on their first attempt, some students face additional obstacles they must overcome in order to pursue their dream of becoming a veterinarian. Alicia Robinson, from Wills Point, Texas, applied three times before being accepted to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “It was really hard,” Robinson said. “There were a lot of times I thought about applying to nursing school, because that seemed like the easier thing to do. I told myself I was going to give myself four tries, and if it didn’t happen after the fourth time, it was probably time to do something else.” In the years between her undergraduate degree at A&M and acceptance into veterinary school, Robinson earned a master’s degree in biomedical sciences at A&M. She also used the time to focus on herself and her family, which was important along her path to eventual admission. “I had a lot of support from my husband and family. They kept telling me not to give up, but it was definitely hard; every rejection letter stung,” Robinson said, noting that her loved ones helped her overcome the disappointment. “But I learned to lean on the support of others,” she said. “There are going to be times when you feel like you can’t do it, you’re not smart enough, but just lean on those who love you and support you no matter what and just keep going.” Since entering the CVM, Robinson has continued to demonstrate her tenacity, serving two years as the CVM’s Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) delegate, liaising between the college and the association, serving on the board of directors for conferences, and being involved with legislative advocacy. Despite the perseverance required for Robinson’s

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admission, she strongly believes that her hard work paid off. After all, in May 2020, she will earn her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and, hopefully, find a job working in rural mixed animal medicine. “At the end of the day, I’m getting to do what I want to do, so yeah, it was definitely worth it, all those struggles,” she said. “I actually have my acceptance letter framed in my office so I can look at it every time I study.” Elizabeth Martin, from Allen, Texas, has also carried on

Alicia Robinson


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ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH

Elizabeth Martin

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in January 2018. Martin also served as an Internal Medicine Club veterinary lab coordinator last year. After veterinary school, Martin plans to pursue her interest in small animal cardiology and hopes to end up at a specialty clinic in Texas. Specializing in cardiology requires Martin to commit to a one-year internship and three-year residency in the field, an experience she says she looks forward to completing. She is also passionate about health and wellness. Martin teaches spin classes at A&M’s Recreation Center. She asserts that although it may seem difficult for students to fit fitness into their schedules, it is beneficial in the long-run, boosting focus, energy, and mood. “I think it is important to continue to take care of yourself while in veterinary school,” she said. “A lot of times people think there is not enough time, but do not realize how beneficial health and fitness are to daily life.” She thinks that her past illness has changed her mindset on how she spends her time and where she places value in her life, as well as motivated her to chase her ambitions in pursuing a cardiology specialty with more vigor than ever. “I know after I woke up, I realized that time is precious,” Martin said. “I do not ever know how long I have; therefore, I try to make the most of every situation and plan to live like this the rest of my life.” ■

TEACHING

through her fair share of setbacks. In the summer after her freshman year, she was in a medically induced coma for five weeks because of a severe case of pneumonia. She had to withdraw from classes the fall semester of her sophomore year to go through physical rehabilitation and then reapply to her undergraduate program at A&M. Though her illness disrupted her plans, Martin believes her experiences have ultimately made her into a stronger person and have set her up to be a better veterinarian. “It has given me the ability to empathize more with the patients and the owners in what they have experienced,” she said. “I have seen how a medical emergency has impacted my family’s life, as well as my own.” At the time of Martin’s induced coma, doctors did not know whether she would even be able to walk again. Even though recovery has been extensive for Martin and her family, she has not let this impact her veterinary education or her future in veterinary medicine. “I awoke with chronic nerve damage, so I continue to wear an ankle brace on a daily basis. This has made it a challenge to juggle chronic pain while being a veterinary student, but has made me even more determined to be successful. Martin refuses to let anything slow her down. She served as president of the Heifer International Chapter at the CVM for two years, raising $16,000 for the non-profit organization


4VM FEATURE

“I love not knowing what's coming in the door next. I feel that in stressful situations, I'm the one to take a breath and see the big picture. That's where I thrive.”

100 YEARS OF GRADUATES | COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES

- ANNA MARIE PRATAS

LEADERSHIP LESSONS Story by MARGARET PREIGH While many Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students were not Aggies before they were admitted to veterinary school, they fully embrace the Aggie Core Values as they step into the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) to begin the next step in their educational journeys. A select few go on to demonstrate their commitment to selfless service by stepping up as leaders, using their time as students to improve their school and the veterinary community as a whole. Anna Marie Pratas, a Lubbock native who earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin, is one of those students. Emerging as a leader who was willing to go above and beyond for the causes she cares about, Pratas became president of the Texas A&M chapter of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA). “I think that students have a lot of passion to give,” Pratas said. “SAVMA was a great way to direct that passion into something that could make a difference.” During her time as president, Pratas worked with her peers to better her school and community. This involved organizing town halls with CVM associate dean for professional programs Dr. Karen Cornell, coordinating a president’s council to bring together all CVM student organization leaders in a forum, and helping victims of domestic violence and their pets. She also represented Texas A&M on a local and national level through SAVMA. As a leader, Pratas notes that she must often find a way to take chaos and organize it into something functional. Those kinds of skills will carry into her career in emergency medicine, a specialty that requires the veterinarian to remain calm and level-headed in chaotic environments. “In emergency medicine, you’re not just necessarily narrowed down to a certain specialty,” Pratas said. “You

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get to do everything: cardiology one minute, and then gastrointestinal medicine the next minute, and neurology the next. Emergency medicine is exactly that, but oftentimes in life or death situations.” Emergency medicine, she says, is a good fit because she is drawn to environments in which she must be highly adaptable, a trait that also can be beneficial in leadership. “I love not knowing what’s coming in the door next,” she said. “I feel that in stressful situations, I’m the one to take a

Anna Marie Pratas and Cyrus


4VM FEATURE

ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH

Anna Marie Pratas and Cyrus

- ANNA MARIE PRATAS than academic institutions and, true to her nature, Pratas wants to see it all. Even outside of veterinary medicine, Pratas believes that the lessons she has learned as a leader will enhance her life and interactions with others. “On a day-to-day basis, anyone could take that leadership role of pumping other people up, encouraging others, and being there for them whenever they need you. I hope that’s something I’ll be able to embrace once I’m out in the world doing my thing.” ■

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“On a day-to-day basis, anyone could take that leadership role of pumping other people up, encouraging others, and being there for them whenever they need you. I hope that's something I'll be able to embrace once I'm out in the world doing my thing.”

TEACHING

breath and see the big picture. That’s where I thrive.” Emergency medicine also employs the strong communication skills Pratas has developed through her time serving in leadership positions. “As an emergency veterinarian, the client communication aspect is really unique, because you’re interacting with someone you’ve never met before,” Pratas said. “It is potentially one of the most stressful days the owner has ever had and you’re having to gain their trust in a very short period of time. It’s really challenging, but it also opens a lot of doors for really good client relationships.” Though graduation will change the role she serves within the community, Pratas believes that her tendency to step out from the crowd will remain. She puts it best when she explains that veterinarians, by nature, are figures of authority. “I feel like as a veterinarian, whatever environment I’m in, I will be a leader in that environment,” she said. After graduation, Pratas hopes to pursue an internship with a private practice working in emergency medicine. Private practice programs often receive a larger caseload


100 YEARS OF GRADUATES | COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES

4VM FEATURE

TAKING THE BULL BY THE HORNS Story by JENNIFER GAUNTT Unlike with many of his peers, veterinary medicine wasn’t Timothy Turner’s first career choice. “I wanted to be an astronaut first, but when I was 10, I was fishing with my grandpa, and we found a big piece of metal in Lake Nacogdoches,” he said. “We started asking around to find out what it could be and learned that it might be a piece of the Space Shuttle Columbia that had blown up several years earlier. That cured me of ever wanting to fly to space.” While the Douglas, Texas, native got what he might believe to be a “late” start in veterinary medicine—considering that he would complete his homeschool curriculum and enter Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) at 14—he began focusing the same energy and attention that were preparing him for a career in astrophysics into veterinary apprenticeship, shadowing under the watchful eye of Dr. Jim Weatherly ’80. “After a year or two, Dr. Weatherly really started to notice that my interest was shifting from just, ’I love animals’ to really paying attention to and loving the work in medicine, especially with large animals,” Turner said. “So, he really took me under his wing. He pushed me and made me see what I would be doing in the future and how I can make the profession better. Even though he’s an old school veterinarian, he was always striving to make the profession better every single day. “He taught me about veterinary medicine to the point that by the time I left there at 16 or 17 years old, he had begun joking, ‘You’re just going for a piece of paper now,’ because he gave me what knowledge he could in that time,” Turner said. “He basically is the reason I’m here today.” At SFA, Turner studied animal science while working for

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4VM FEATURE

ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH TEACHING ALUMNI & GIVING

Rockstar and Timothy Turner

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Weatherly. When he wasn’t initially accepted into veterinary school at Texas A&M, he decided to stick around SFA and pursue degrees in chemistry and biochemistry. This ended up being fortuitous for Turner, as he met his wife (Meg, who is now a medical student at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Worth) in organic chemistry class. Living apart while dating and then as a married couple presented its challenges; however, knowing that medical school was just a pit stop on the journey to a life together as doctors and the mutual understanding of the “grueling” nature of their curricula—along with conscious effort and FaceTime—have allowed the Turners to make it work. It hasn’t hurt that their mutual love of medicine has brought them together in sometimes unexpected ways, such as when Meg’s cat, Charlie, ate a piece of string that became stuck in his intestines; because the cost of surgery was preclusive for medical students, the pair met at a family friend’s veterinary clinic, where, under the veterinarian’s watchful eye, Turner removed the foreign object. “It was a great bonding moment, it saved her cat, and we got to be medically associated together,” Turner said. “It was just a really great experience.” While Turner plans to devote his career primarily to bovine medicine, circumstances like that of Meg’s cat have also reinforced his love for small animal surgery. “Charlie was very sick; in another couple of hours, he could have died, but we performed surgery for an hour and a half and he woke up happy, healthy, and ready to eat soft food. It’s just amazing, the turnaround surgery can have,” Turner said. “A picture-perfect day in the life of Tim as a veterinarian would be spending three or four days a week out in the field working on cattle and then a couple of days locked away in small animal surgery,” he said. “Surgery is just very satisfying to me.” That picture-perfect day would also include being back home in a small East Texas town, working at, and eventually

Timothy Turner

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“After a year or two, Dr. Weatherly really started to notice that my interest was shifting from just, ‘I love animals’ to really paying attention to and loving the work in medicine, especially with large animals.” - TIM TURNER owning, a mixed animal practice, with his wife also working at, or perhaps owning, a rural medicine practice. Turner does admit that the concern among students about pay in rural communities, when associated with veterinary student debt, also concerns him, but, ultimately, his desire to help improve the veterinary situation in East Texas drives him to serve at home. “I don’t necessarily think there’s a lack of large animal veterinarians in East Texas, but I don’t know that owners see the full value of our veterinary services. They can give their own antibiotics, they can buy a lot of vaccinations, they can de-horn—they can do a lot on their own,” Turner said. “Where veterinary medicine is having to shift is helping producers understand that our knowledge on nutrition, on selecting heifers, and other aspects of preventative medicine ultimately benefits the business. “For example, if we select the cows that aren’t going to have problems calving, if I can get the number of calves that are getting stuck and having to be pulled down, then I help the producer. He’s not spending money on the dystocias; it takes less recovery time for the cow; the calf does better,” Turner said. “That’s something I’m going to have to actively go out and promote. I will have to be service-oriented and consult-oriented. So, yes, I am concerned about my debt, but I don’t think it’s insurmountable.” That milk-glass-half-full mindset has driven Turner throughout his educational experience—whether it was learning the minutia of cattle medicine to provide services that he knows he’ll soon have to do on his own or the hard work it’s taken to get him where he is, Turner has simply enjoyed the ride. “I really overworked myself that last year of undergrad, and so during veterinary school, I have made it a point to find the joy of what I’m doing each and every day,” Turner said. “I’ve always wanted to be an Aggie, ever since I was little, and I think a lot of it was Dr. Weatherly’s pride in the school. He was always proud of his ring and has worn it every day of his life since he’s gotten it. “When I sit down and think about it, I’ve enjoyed every minute of veterinary school,” he said. “I know that it’s not a very common opinion, but if you told me that I had to start back from day one in order to be a veterinarian, I would do it all over again. I really would.” ■


4VM FEATURE Sarah Brien and Zachary Grimsley examine a dog.

Story by DORIAN MARTIN Disasters that endanger animals come in many guises. Some come in the form of natural disasters like Tropical Storm Imelda, which severely flooded 13 Texas counties in September 2019. In rural Chambers County alone, approximately 100 cattle, horses, dogs, and cats were rescued and/or treated for floodwater-related injuries. An additional 4,000 head of livestock were supported on site. Other disasters come in the form of neglect. Just prior to Tropical Storm Imelda, 270 dogs and one cat were recovered from an inhumane situation in South Texas’ Cameron County when authorities responded to complaints of loud barking. These animals, which were locked in a warehouse, needed to be evaluated and then receive proper attention before being offered for adoption. Fortunately, Texas A&M’s Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) provides critical support during these times of extreme need across the state and nation.

Also, fortunately, for a dozen fourth-year veterinary students on the CVM’s Veterinary Emergency Management rotation, when the team deploys, the students deploy, too, giving them an educational opportunity like no other. These students typically spend the Veterinary Emergency Management rotation, taught by VET faculty members, learning about the differences between general practice and emergency situations and then assisting communities with developing a disaster plan. If a crisis happens during their rotation, these students deploy to the emergency area and work with the VET to provide appropriate care. Students who deploy get to see a different side of veterinary medicine. “Deployment medicine is different because you’re not in the teaching hospitals, where resources are abundant, so you don’t have all of the capabilities you have there,” said Zachary Grimsley, who deployed to Cameron County. “But it also teaches you to be able to assess animals quickly and efficiently and to know that you don’t always have to have

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100 YEARS OF GRADUATES | COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES

4VM FEATURE

an X-ray machine and ultrasound right there at all times.” During a major crisis, these students are assigned critical jobs that support the mission. “The team has an integrated organizational structure with the available resources, equipment, and facilities to effectively respond to any disaster-related medical emergency,” said Lillian Maldonado Santiago, a fourthyear student who deployed to Chambers County. “We got experience with all of these things when we were divided into smaller groups (small vs. large animal-oriented), each with group leaders (veterinarians) to facilitate accountability and communication.”

A FLOOD OF RELIEF Students learn that each disaster requires a specific response based on the type of emergency. In the case of Imelda, many of the needs were based on dealing with the aftermath of severe flooding. Students were able to diagnose and treat submersion injuries, also known as “river rot,” which tend to adversely affect the skin and can lead to swelling and additional infection. Students saw this when the team had to evaluate a group of ponies that were in floodwater for an unspecified amount of time. The large animal veterinarian did a visual exam to

“Having emergency planning and response as a part of my veterinary education will make me a better veterinarian in the future. I will be better equipped to serve my community during a time of emergency, should it arise.” - ZACHARY GRIMSLEY determine whether an animal needed immediate care. Once they were cleared, students decontaminated each pony and moved them to a clean sheltered area with access to food and water. “Seeing this made me realize that there is no room to second guess yourself,” Santiago said. “Every decision needs to be made with confidence, as others are counting on these decisions in order to act accordingly.”

HUMAN KINDNESS

VET members in Chambers County

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The situation in Cameron County was completely different. “While this disaster was unlike the usual deployment conditions the VET faces, it was a disaster in its own right,” said Sarah Brien, one of the CVM students who deployed. “When the county found them, the animals had been neglected and the community was overwhelmed by the volume of animals in need.” Students’ problem-solving skills, clinical abilities, and resiliency were tested during this situation. “We arrived at the Cameron County Animal Shelter with a rough plan of the triage system we wanted to execute,” Brien said. “However, the realities of the housing and behavior of the animals had to be accounted for in our updated plan.” The revised plan required creating a better system to keep track of the overwhelming number of animals and maintain complete records. In addition, VET responders had to use innovative methods to deal with animal control issues. “We had to handle the animals in a way that minimized their stress, which was challenging because they were not leash-trained; we also had to be aware of heat exhaustion issues,” Brien said. “We would quickly troubleshoot to find a better way of handling the animals that were resistant to leashes and moved patients into air-conditioned rooms or


4VM FEATURE

ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH

VET members prepare to depart for Chambers County.

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trucks for physical exams and medical care to decrease the risk of overheating for patients and VET members.”

PREPARED FOR A CRISIS

ALUMNI & GIVING

Ultimately, the CVM students benefited from the VET’s deployments as much as the animals that were served. In the Cameron County deployment, each student performed full physical exams on more than 50 patients, administered vaccines, and drew blood for heartworm tests. They worked with both friendly and unruly animals that had suffered injuries, which required them to face the reality of abuse through the physical deterioration of a few animals. The students believe that these types of deployments give them an understanding of the pressures of an emergency situation and how they could be called upon to respond when they have their own practice. “Having emergency planning and response as a part of my veterinary education will make me a better veterinarian in the future,” Grimsley said. “I will be better equipped to serve my community during a time of emergency, should it arise. The memories and the skills I learned during my deployment will stick with me for the rest of my career, along with the feeling of being able to serve a greater cause.” ■

Fourth-year student Jill Starks

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4VM FEATURE

“People care so much about their pets, and so often when they come in they're so anxious and it can be about the littlest thing. I like talking to people and I like making them feel better.” 100 YEARS OF GRADUATES | COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES

- MONICA PICKETT

A PASSION FOR PEOPLE AND PETS Story by MEGAN MYERS “I’m one of those students who decided they were going to be a veterinarian when they were 5 years old,” Monica Pickett said. Along with the love for animals that unites all veterinarians, Pickett’s calling is largely based on her desire to interact with clients, and is as much about the people as the pets. “People care so much about their pets, and often when they come in they’re so anxious, and it can be about the littlest thing,” Pickett said. “I like talking to people and I like making them feel better.” When she was a sophomore in college, Pickett decided to pursue small animal general practice after witnessing the love and care her family’s veterinarian had showed Pickett’s dog Spud, who had developed hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessel walls. “I was at my parents’ house when he fainted because he had a splenic tumor that had ruptured,” Pickett said. “We rushed him off to the emergency hospital and he went through everything. He had an emergency splenectomy and a plasma transfusion, but there was no saving him. “My family and I were a crying mess and the veterinarian was so calm and straightforward with us,” she said. “She was very realistic and didn’t give us any false hope. I was in there when Spud passed away. That was when I was sure—I wanted to be a veterinarian.” The following summer, Pickett was still mourning the loss of Spud and felt the need to care for another dog. She looked into fostering and took on the “fixer-upper” Wolfie, a German Shepherd who had heartworms, weighed less than half of her ideal weight, and suffered from multiple physical and mental health issues. “She was skin and bones,” Pickett said. “She had horrible diarrhea because we were reintroducing her to food. She

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had been abused and was terrified of people. She had severe mange, so she hardly had any hair. “That dog was my life; I spent all of my time nursing her to good health,” she said. “I had her for three months, and by the end of it she had put on weight and looked like a dog again. I loved her and I got to see her become a happy, welladjusted dog. It was the most rewarding experience.” After Wolfie was adopted by “the perfect person for her,” Pickett kept in touch and even met up with them a year later.

Monica Pickett and Ellie


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Monica Pickett and Ellie

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smart enough. All of my classmates are so smart,’” Pickett said. “It’s intimidating being around such high-caliber people all of the time. Dr. Kemnitz was always there to say, ‘No, you’re a high-caliber student, too. You’ve got this.’ “We talk usually every few weeks,” she said. “He checks in to see how I’m doing, and when I’m stressed out, he tells me it’s going to be OK and that we all get through it. I just know that he’s going to be a really good mentor when I graduate.” As Pickett begins her career in general practice, her relationships with colleagues, clients, and pets will support and encourage her throughout her time as a veterinarian. “I don’t think I can explain how much I love general practice,” she said. “When someone brings their pet in as a puppy, you do all their puppy vaccines, build a relationship with them, and see them for their annual appointments. Then if their dog becomes sick, they trust you, they depend on you, and you’re there for them. That’s my favorite part.” ■

TEACHING

“When I walked up, I didn’t believe it was the same dog,” she said. “I squatted down and she was a little unsure. Then she freaked out and tackled me, and she was kissing all over my face. It was exciting that she remembered me.” After graduation, Pickett plans to join Hill Country Animal Hospital in Austin to work with her mentor of several years, Dr. Kohl Kemnitz ’14. Pickett met Kemnitz during her undergraduate education at the University of Texas when she took Wolfie to his practice, where Wolfie had been an established patient. She mentioned to Kemnitz her desire to attend veterinary school and he immediately offered her the opportunity to shadow him at the hospital, even though he was only a new graduate himself. “He took me on and I spent the entire summer with him,” Pickett said. “He let me shadow him as much as I wanted. The clinic was my favorite place to be; it was like paradise.” Since then, Kemnitz has supported Pickett throughout her entire veterinary school journey. “A lot of times in veterinary school, you get imposter syndrome and you feel like, ’I don’t belong here. I’m not


4VM FEATURE

100 YEARS OF GRADUATES | COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE & BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES

“Exotic medicine is a lot more about connecting with the person and getting them on the right page, being excited about what they're doing and happy because they feel like they know how to understand or bond with their animal. That's what makes me feel really fired up about medicine.” - JILLIAN VILLALVA

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT Story by MEGAN MYERS Jillian Villalva has always been fascinated with birds. “As a kid, my parents would lose me when we were walking places because I would see some bird and want to follow it to figure out what it was doing,” said the fourthyear veterinary student. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, the force that drew her to nature also instilled in her a love for all animals, and especially exotic birds, which have always held a special place in her heart. “My grandfather was a woodsman and was really fascinated by birds,” she said. “I would go out walking with him and he would tell me about all of the different species; he knew all of them. “Birds always just felt magical to me,” Villalva said. “They’re flighty and weird and you have to be quiet and sneak up on them, so when you get to be near one, you feel privileged, because it’s not something that people normally get to do. You feel very special when you work with them.” When she decided to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian, a career in avian medicine was the obvious choice. Birds and other exotic animals typically require a sensitive touch and precise care to remain happy and healthy as pets. The veterinarian caring for these animals must understand the uniqueness of each species and know how to recognize the slightest changes in appearance or behavior. “It’s just a completely different mindset of how you approach your patients,” Villalva said. “I like paying attention to the really tiny details and the long conversations that you end up having with owners. “Exotic medicine is about connecting with the person and getting them on the right page, being excited about what they’re doing and happy because they feel like they know how to understand or bond with their animal,” she said.

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“That’s what makes me feel really fired up about medicine.” To begin working toward a career in exotic medicine, Villalva studied ecology and conservation biology for her undergraduate degree at Boston University. She then moved south to Texas to be near her husband’s family and begin her veterinary education at Texas A&M. In her third year as a veterinary student, Villalva had the opportunity to attend an educational abroad trip with CVM associate professor Dr. Donald Brightsmith. They traveled to

Jillian Villalva and Bonnie


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Jillian Villalva and Bonnie ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH

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After graduation, Villalva plans to begin a practice route specialization in avian and exotic medicine. This method of specialization involves writing case reports while working in a clinic, and then submitting those reports for a chance to take an exam for board certification. She then plans to open her own clinic somewhere in Texas and spend every day caring for the birds and other exotic animals she loves. “Texas is so unique in that it has this private sector of exotic medicine,” Villalva said. “With most places in the rest of the country, when you want to do exotics, you have to do public medicine—at a zoo, a rehab center, or something that’s run by the state—so the medicine is really different. “When I came here, I was excited to see opportunities in private exotic medicine that had the patients I’ve loved forever and the type of medicine that I love,” she said. With a strong passion for such a unique area of veterinary medicine, Villalva is sure to have an exciting career ahead of her full of the animals she has been fascinated with for her entire life. ■

TEACHING

Peru to continue his ongoing research on the scarlet macaw, a species that is experiencing declining numbers in the wild. Brightsmith’s research focuses on macaw chick-rearing behavior, with an emphasis on finding ways to improve chick survival rates. Mother macaws typically lay multiple eggs over a period of time but only care for the chick that hatches first because it is the largest. Through previous studies, Brightsmith discovered that by removing a chick and rearing it by hand, it could then be translocated to a different nest with a chick of the same size. After several days, the mother macaw would accept the new chick and begin feeding it along with her own chick. As a veterinary student, Villalva was interacting directly with the chicks to assess their health, take measurements, and track their growth. “It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “We walked around the jungle, climbed 100- to 150-foot trees in the Amazon, and played with baby macaws. “I really loved the collaboration between all of the scientists there, because everyone was coming from a different background with slightly different focuses,” she said. “It was this huge collaboration of minds all coming together to solve problems and think about things critically.”


4VM FEATURE

Duc Nguyen and Dr. Dana Gaddy

Story by MEGAN MYERS For Duc Nguyen, research is one of the most fascinating aspects of veterinary medicine. While he initially intended to be a child behavioral psychologist when he began studying psychology at the University of Houston, in the final year of his undergraduate degree, Nguyen suddenly realized that his true passion was for animals and veterinary medicine. “I always had an interest and love for animals, but I had this strange fear that if I made a career out of it, my love for animals would go away,” Nguyen said. “My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, said I was being irrational and convinced me to go for it. Women are always right, so I’m glad I listened to her!” Nguyen never really considered other veterinary schools outside of Texas A&M; he wanted to stay close to his mother in Houston, where he lived for the majority of his life after emigrating from the small province of Tay-Ninh, Vietnam. “My mom is a single parent and isn’t fluent in English so

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Texas A&M allows me to be closer to her if she ever needs my help,” he said. Once Nguyen decided he wanted to become an Aggie veterinarian, he began looking for ways to make his application stand out. He soon became involved in research work in an ophthalmology lab at the University of Texas Health Science Center. His lab studied zebrafish and mouse genetics to gain insight on a genetic mutation that causes Retinitis Pigmentosa, a disease in humans that causes death of the photoreceptor cells in the eye, which translate light into electrical signals that the brain can understand. While mammals only have photoreceptor cells, zebrafish also have rod progenitor cells, which have the ability to repair retinal damage. “Mammalian retinas have no mechanism to reverse photoreceptor cell death, but by examining the incredibly advantageous, regenerative properties that zebrafish rod progenitor cells have, the study could lead to finding therapeutic treatments for one of the leading causes of


4VM FEATURE

ACADEMICS HOSPITAL

“I enjoy having the ability to be involved and up-to-date with the latest biomedical research as well as having a very diverse patient population. I like all fields of research, but I have a special interest in cancer research.”

SPOTLIGHT

- DUC NGUYEN

Duc Nguyen and Dr. Dana Gaddy

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“I enjoy having the ability to be involved and up-to-date with the latest biomedical research, as well as having access to a very diverse patient population,” he said. “I like all fields of research, but I have a special interest in cancer research.” “Even from my limited experience in research, I’ve witnessed some incredible breakthroughs in cancer research, which is really exciting,” he said. “However, there are still so many more questions we can answer. I can’t say I will be the person to cure cancer, but as a lab animal veterinarian, my hope is that I can serve as a conduit for the field of cancer research.” In all areas of research, lab animal veterinarians can have a big impact on the health and safety of animals involved and on the research itself. By responsibly caring for lab animals, Nguyen’s contributions to today’s research will support the future of both animal and human medicine. “If we want to continue developing drugs, medical devices, and diagnostic tools that help both humans and animals, we have to all work together to raise awareness of the vital role animals play in biomedical research,” Nguyen said. “By doing so, we can continue to save lives.” ■

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blindness,” Nguyen said. From this experience, Nguyen discovered his love for research and laboratory animal medicine. “I had an amazing principal investigator who always encouraged me to attend journal clubs and research seminars, which really cultivated my interest in biomedical research,” he said. “I also got to work extensively with the animals and really gained an appreciation for what they give to science. I definitely lucked into the field.” Once he began his veterinary classes, Nguyen continued to look for opportunities to get involved in research. Since then, he has learned to appreciate the role that lab animal veterinarians play in supporting and protecting animals. In the summer of 2017, he was accepted to the CVM’s Veterinary Medical Scientist Research Training Program to study cellular response at the site of injury of Staphylococcus aureus infected femurs. Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, as it is often known, is a common germ that can lead to serious, and sometimes fatal, infections if it makes its way to the wrong place. Better understanding the cellular response to this infection will help equip healthcare professionals with more effective treatment methods. “I gained so many invaluable experiences from the research training program,” Nguyen said. “I learned a ton and had first-hand experience writing a research proposal, abstract, and manuscript; producing a poster; and getting to present that poster at a research seminar. “I also traveled to the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., to present my poster with my friends, which was really fun.” After graduation, Nguyen hopes to return to Houston to work as a clinical lab animal veterinarian in academia and collaborate on many research projects.


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A WONDER-FULL LIFE As a pioneer of domestic animal genetics, Dr. Leif Andersson is driven by a fascination in the things he can’t explain. Story by MARGARET PREIGH The world of genetics might at first seem to be far removed from our daily lives, conjuring images of glass test tubes and sterile gloves contained within a laboratory. However, Dr. Leif Andersson, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), brings this world to a more domestic sphere. Andersson is among the first to have applied molecular genetic techniques to domestic animals. He has worked with pigs, chickens, horses, finches, dogs, herring, cattle, and more. Though Andersson’s scope of research may seem wide, he remains fascinated with the same question throughout multiple model organisms. “My general passion in science is to understand the relationship between genetic variation and the phenotypic variation that we can observe,” Andersson said, referring to the relationship between what the genes of an organism encode vs. that individual’s physical appearance. “The human, horse, chicken, and fish genomes have on the order of 20,000 genes,” Andersson said. “We know quite well what some of these genes do, but a lot of them we have a very limited understanding of.” Indeed, just because we have great familiarity with an animal doesn’t mean that we entirely understand what is going on at a molecular level. Great mysteries remain in the genetic networks that sculpt everything from grasses to humans. Even though scientists have successfully sequenced the human genome, we still don’t know the functions of many of those 20,000 genes. Andersson hopes his research is a step toward unraveling the mysteries of our DNA.

FARMYARD GENETICS Andersson’s career began in his home country of Sweden, where he holds a dual professorship at Uppsala University. He earned his undergraduate degrees in Chemistry and Biology at the University of Stockholm before pursuing a Ph.D. in Animal Breeding and Genetics at Uppsala University.

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Postdoctoral research associate Dr. Jingyi Li and Dr. Leif Andersson

“I took biology as my undergraduate, but then almost by accident I ended up in the agricultural university and I started work with domestic animals,” Andersson said. After graduating from his undergraduate institution, Andersson sought out work as a biologist, hoping to become involved with ecological protection. Andersson instead found a position at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences working on a project that


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analyzed genetic data from horses to establish pedigrees for breeding purposes. Using this data set, Andersson was able to map two genes that determined a horse’s coat color. This research culminated in Andersson’s Ph.D. and kickstarted his career as a pioneer of domestic animal genetics. He said that human meddling with the breeding of domestic animals makes them fascinating subjects in comparison to more traditional model organisms.

“The strength for these domestic animals is that they have gone through such a rapid evolution. Their domestication started 10,000 years ago,” he said. “Since then, we have transformed horses, cattle, pigs, and chicken into the variety of forms that suit human needs.” Andersson said his research is fueled primarily by curiosity. Often, finding the next trait he will study is as simple as noticing some trait in the wild, then searching for

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the mechanism behind that trait. Anderson said, “Everything I can’t explain is of interest.”

SWINE AND DINE Genetic research often functions at the level of gaining basic knowledge about a specific pathway, which may seem divorced from reality to the untrained observer. However, Andersson’s research has demonstrated how insights into gene function can lead to sizable cultural and economic payoffs. One example of this is Andersson’s research into an IGF2 mutation in pigs. When observing muscle mass, fat deposition, and heart size in different types of wild and domestic pigs, Andersson noted that alleles from domestic breeds increased muscle mass and decreased back-fat thickness. In genetics, an allele is a version of a gene, like different flavors of the same food. Using genetic analysis, Andersson’s team determined a selection of genes that were likely to contribute to this physiological change. From their pool of candidate genes, Andersson and his team used selective breeding, genetic sequencing, and other genetic tests to determine that a mutation in the gene IGF2 created an allele that was likely responsible for the observed trait. IGF2, also known as Insulin Growth Factor 2, can be mutated in a certain place where protein interactions will encourage expression of this gene at three times its normal level. This translates to a 10-20 percent variation in back-fat thickness and 15-30 percent variation in muscle mass. This change can provide a boost in food production efficiency. “This mutation means that, for each pig, food producers get about 4 kg more meat. It shunts the pig’s energy towards meat muscle production rather than fat,” Andersson said. “You get a leaner pig that produces protein basically, and that is exactly what the consumer pays for.”

VIRUS FIGHTER From this same IGF2 research, Andersson also identified a factor called ZBED6. When IGF2 is mutated to the form that increases muscle production, ZBED6 is no longer able to interact with IGF2. This disruption accounts for increased production of the mutated IGF2 gene and a corresponding increase in muscle mass, as ZBED6 discourages IGF2 expression in the unmutated form. As Andersson investigated the function of ZBED6, he identified it as a transposon, or a “jumping gene.” These genes encode an enzyme that allows them to cut themselves out of a certain spot and “jump” into the organism’s DNA at another location. As expected, these sequences can be highly mobile, though most of them stopped their jumping a long time ago in the mammalian genome. These jumping

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“I have this keen interest to understand how things function. Research is trying to understand the world, I would say. When you get insight, new knowledge that no one has had before, that is really rewarding.” - DR. LEIF ANDERSSON genes usually settle down inside of another gene, so they can freeload off of the permanent gene’s on/off switch, and other regulatory hardware required for expression. When ZBED6 decided to settle down in its current location, it teamed up with another gene that is very important in helping the cell transport genetic material in and out of its control center, or nucleus. Unfortunately, some harmful viruses, like HIV and influenza, have caught onto this role and hitchhike on this transport protein to the cytoplasm where virus proteins are made. Andersson hopes that he and his team can use the knowledge they gained from understanding this pathway to develop a medicine that blocks protein interactions with viruses, and as such hinders the virus’s ability to spread within the body. “With influenza we have the flu shot, but the fear is that a new version of influenza that we don’t have a vaccine for will come up, and then you need something else that could block this virus,” Andersson said. Blocking the ZBED6 pathway would allow the same drug to block many different strains of the flu. A drug like the one he is working to develop would also be able to fight the active infection, unlike a vaccine which must be given to an uninfected individual. Andersson’s path from discovering how to increase meat production to how to fight viral infections demonstrates the unexpected discoveries one can find from studying how genes work, and just how useful these discoveries can prove to be.

A LOOK AT FEATHERS At the CVM, Andersson is currently working on research concerned with explaining the variation of feather color in chickens. By breeding chickens with different traits together and observing the traits of their offspring, Andersson hopes to gain insight into how different patterns are created. Who we are is largely determined by our genes and our environment, which means that a large portion of what we will look like is predetermined at a very early stage of development. For example, some cells are destined to become heart tissue, while others are instructed to become feathers. Breaking cell fate down further, some feathers might become short and white, while others will be directed to be long and spotted.


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ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH

Dr. Jingyi Li and Dr. Leif Andersson

The broad scope and open mind Andersson maintains in his research efforts have paid off, resulting in a diverse array of findings and prestigious recognitions such as membership in the US National Academy of Sciences and the 2014 Wolf Prize in Agriculture, among others. In total, Andersson has authored more than 400 scientific papers and is widely considered a pioneer in the field of functional genomics for his work with domestic animals. At the root of Andersson’s success is not only a brilliant

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GLOBAL SOLUTIONS

mind, but also curiosity and the trust that his research, no matter how abstracted it may seem at times, brings important contributions and applications to the real world. “I have this keen interest to understand how things function,” Andersson said. “Research is trying to understand the world, I would say. When you get insight, new knowledge that no one has had before, that is really rewarding.” Andersson’s efforts operate at a global level: he holds dual professorships at the CVM and Uppsala University in Sweden, and splits his time between the two countries. Andersson emphasizes the importance of exchanging ideas between scientific communities. He asserts that science is an international endeavor used to solve international problems. The issues he works to tackle, including disease and food insecurity, are of universal concern. “These new genomic tools that we have give us basic new knowledge about biology,” he said. “That improved basic knowledge can open up the possibilities for practical applications, so you can breed healthier animals, you can also maintain biodiversity in natural populations.” Andersson advises that we must be mindful of how we apply genetic modification in our future, but that if done correctly, it can be a tool in making our future a bright one. ■

TEACHING

Andersson’s research works to decipher the genes behind variations in feather color within a single chicken. Though understanding why different sets of feathers in the same chickens look the way they do might at first seem to be a frivolous endeavor, Andersson asserts that understanding the genetic basis of a trait might lead to future discoveries, as has occurred in his previous research. “I think today there’s a tendency to go towards applied research, that it should have an immediate impact,” he said. “I think it’s also really important to maintain these supportive fields of basic knowledge because it’s always difficult to know where solutions to important problems are coming from.”


RESEARCH Dr. Michael Golding, Dr. Nicole Mehta, Yudishtar Bedi, Alexis Roach, and Kara Thomas

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Story by COURTNEY ADAMS

BECOMING A SCIENTIST

Harbor Labs and one at Children’s Health Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario, before eventually coming back to Texas A&M.

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Golding, now an associate professor in VTPP, currently focuses on the effects that male alcohol consumption has on the development of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Characterized by various mental and physical defects, FAS signs can include facial deformities, learning disabilities, and growth abnormalities. “It became very clear to me as I started this research that there was a piece of this that was missing,” Golding said. So, in 2012, he asked a simple question—Does a father’s drinking affect the development of the fetus? Because the idea challenged a societal norm, he was met with some pushback and funding was difficult to come by at first. “I would get comments back on my grants, ’Why are we doing this? Fetal alcohol syndrome is the woman’s fault,’" Golding said. “They were just of the mind this is not something that should be investigated.” But Golding was determined that he had a question worth asking. “I took the components that they liked and stitched them together into a smaller grant,” he said. Finally, in 2014, he received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to initiate his research, a project in which Golding simply gave alcohol to male mice and mated them with naive female mice. “The fetuses that were sired by the alcohol-exposed males were smaller, and their placentas were abnormal,” he said.

TEACHING

Growing up on a farm in Canada, Golding did not envision himself as a researcher. “I’ve always been fascinated with understanding how things work and why, so I think that component of being curious was always with me,” he said. “But I don’t think that I ever consciously wanted to be a scientist.” Intending to go to medical school, Golding attended college at the University of Western Ontario as a biology major. A developmental biology course he took during his third year, however, changed his career trajectory. “The lecture the professor gave on this thing called Spemann organizer (a cluster of cells responsible for the induction of the neural tissue during development) just blew my mind,” Golding said. “This led me into this fascination with development and understanding how it is that our bodies are organized and programmed.” After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 2000, Golding decided to pursue his Ph.D. and left Canada to study under Dr. Mark Westhusin, a professor in the CVM’s Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP), with whom Golding spent his early years examining the development of cloned embryos. After completing his doctorate, Golding left Texas A&M to complete two postdoctoral fellowships, one at Cold Spring

- DR. MICHAEL GOLDING

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The statement focuses on women—with no mention of men. This oversight is to no fault of the U.S. Surgeon General because it is widely accepted that fetal alcohol syndrome can be blamed solely on the woman. However, Dr. Michael C. Golding and his research team at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) are challenging that very principle.

“I've always been fascinated with understanding how things work and why, so I think that component of being curious was always with me.”

SPOTLIGHT

Today, anybody who sells alcoholic beverages must adhere a label to their product with the following statement: “GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.”

HOSPITAL

Dr. Michael Golding’s approach to his work both in the lab and the classroom is predicated by asking the questions very few people consider.

ACADEMICS

CHALLENGING THE NORMS


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Dr. Michael Golding and Alexis Roach

Kara Thomas

“We had this just very blatant, not complicated phenotype.” The grant lasted for two years, but it took another three to convince anyone that this was worth exploring further. “That’s where we started, and we’ve been chasing that ever since,” Golding said. In June 2019, the Keck Foundation granted $900,000 to Golding and his colleagues to continue the research. “The big thing that they wanted was something that questioned the paradigm,” Golding said. “I put up the Surgeon General’s Warning and I was like, ’Look, this is what I’m questioning; it’s absolutely going against the dogma.’ They loved it. “Ultimately, I want to try and figure out how dad’s drinking fits into the larger picture of fetal health, adolescent health, and then, ultimately, adult health,” Golding said. “Any offspring is the sum total of their experience in utero— their mother’s exposures prior to conception or during pregnancy, her diet, and I want to find out what dad’s role is in that piece of the pie.” Currently, Golding has three graduate students and a postdoctoral fellow in his laboratory. Together, they are working to define the signaling (communication within the cell) and epigenetic mechanisms (those arising from

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nongenetic influences on gene expression) for how alcohol interferes with developmental processes. “I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘How much do you have to drink to see a problem?’” Golding said. “The truth of the matter is we have no idea how alcohol is doing this, and that’s kind of what the central pillar of my research is trying to figure out.” “Dr. Golding’s pretty open to challenging the standard,” said Yudhishtar Bedi, a Ph.D. student in Golding’s lab. “When we do find data that says something—the opposite of what other people have found and maybe two or three labs have found—he doesn’t back down from it. He’s always showing me the way to be, I guess, fearless in a way.” Students working in Golding’s lab are also motivated by the potential for their research to benefit the public. “I feel like a lot of the things that we’re doing right now have a lot of real-world impact,” postdoctoral fellow Nicole Mehta, Ph.D., said. One may question if Golding’s research has had any influence on his parenting ideology—he has three young children: two older boys and a daughter. “I don’t think I could disentangle being a dad from being a scientist,” Golding said. “I cannot simply say to my daughter, ‘OK, you need to be healthy,’ whereas to the other two, ‘You can go out and do whatever you want.’”

TEACHING THE NEXT GENERATION When Golding is not in the lab, he can be found teaching classes at the CVM. Currently, he teaches “Fetal and Embryo Physiology,” a course both undergraduates and graduates can take together, and “Epigenetics & Systems Physiology,” currently only offered to graduate students. In his classes, Golding says he enjoys dispelling myths students have picked up over the years about reproduction. “I consider it a special thrill,” he said. “They have certain facts and statistics that they’ve picked up on the playground through school that are absolutely not true.” One former student, Katie Poulter ’15, remembers Golding’s class as detailed and difficult, but that Golding was willing to spend extra time on anything that was troubling for students. “I could tell he loved what he was teaching about,” Poulter said. “That made a big difference.” When teaching complicated subjects such as human development, Golding tries to tell stories to help students remember the details for years to come. “I make sure I have a section on Spemann’s organizer,” he said. “It’s good to go back to my inspiration.” Golding’s teaching philosophy speaks to his desire for his students to succeed. “I consider the teacher to be a person who’s giving their


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ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH

Dr. Michael Golding, Kara Thomas, Alexis Roach, Dr. Nicole Mehta, and Yudishtar Bedi

- DR. MICHAEL GOLDING

A GREAT PLACE TO BE FEARLESS Golding believes his research would be more challenging without his colleagues at the CVM. “There’s such a breadth of skillsets and interests here at A&M that you can ask questions, like the ones I’m asking, and you don’t have to go too far for help,” Golding said. “The environment is stimulating, it’s diverse, and it is highly conducive to good research.” If there was only one concept the public gains from his research, Golding hopes it is that chronic drinking has an impact on not only their own well-being but also their offspring. “Males have an important role in the health of their offspring beyond simply contributing healthy genes,” Golding explains. He hopes that one day he will pick up a beer bottle to find the Surgeon General’s warning label has changed to incorporate men, too. ■

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sales pitch—‘I want you to become like me,’” he said. In his research lab, Golding teaches by training the next generation of scientists. “He’s so nice and down to earth. He tries to get to know us and have that mentor/mentee relationship that everyone wants,” said Kara Thomas, a biomedical sciences (BIMS) master’s student in Golding’s lab. Golding likes making students into skeptics. “The other component of my professional life that I really enjoy is to bring students in and say, ‘you were taught these things, but now you need to question everything,’” he said. “That growth is very rewarding to see,” Golding said. “I have students in the lab who come in and they get onboard with questioning different things and then after a couple years, it’s like they don’t even need me.” Golding has had two students proceed to prestigious

postdoctoral fellowships—one at MD Anderson and the other at University of California, Irvine. A third student is currently working at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

TEACHING

“There's such a breadth of skillsets and interests here at A&M that you can ask questions, like the ones I'm asking, and you don't have to go too far for help.”


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ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT

Story by JUSTIN AGAN

TEACHING

Ask most 12-year-old children what they want to be when they grow up and you are likely to get a variety of answers ranging from professional athlete to astronaut. While doctor or scientist might be on that list as well, it is doubtful you would hear something as specific as cancer biologist. Mahsa Zarei, Ph.D., however, was one of those rare children.

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An early interest in cancer research set Mahsa Zarei on a path to investigate treatments for rare and genetically linked conditions.

A YOUNG PASSION

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Dr. Mahsa Zarei

When Zarei was 12 years old, she watched two of her close aunts fight cancer. One aunt benefited from early diagnosis and treatment; the second passed away. Throughout this ordeal, Zarei’s mind raced with questions: How could she help her aunts? What kind of cancer did they have? What were the treatments? As a result, she became an avid student of cancer, devouring cancer biology books. “At 12, I wanted to know, what is cancer and what’s happening with the cancer?” Zarei recalls. “I learned most of the treatments for different types of cancer.” Zarei’s interest in this career path never wavered. She earned her undergraduate degree in medical biotechnology and her Ph.D. in cancer biology before accepting a postdoctoral research scientist position at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia.


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In 2016, she was the lead author on a study about pancreatic cancer and its ability to survive in the nutrientpoor conditions of the pancreas. The survivability of pancreatic cancer in such poor conditions has also seemed to translate to its resistance of current chemotherapy treatments. “It’s like a cactus in a desert,” Zarei explains, “without any nutrients, but it’s still growing and aggressive.” Zarei and her co-researchers found that one of the key proteins, HuR, allowed the cancer to survive in the nutrientpoor microenvironment of the pancreas. It also gave the cancer a resistance to chemotherapy drugs.

WHAT MAKES CANCER TICK As the well-known Sun Tzu quote advises, “Know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Zarei has followed this advice in her research by knowing her enemy. Cancer, in one of the broadest definitions of the term, refers to diseases that cause abnormal cells to divide without control and can invade nearby tissues, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most know that there are many different types of cancer caused by any number of things or underlying conditions. Doctors and researchers have spent decades, even centuries, fighting cancer in all its forms. Previous treatments, like chemotherapy, concentrated on killing the cancerous cells, but more recently, there has been a push to discover new ways of fighting it. For the better part of her career, Zarei took the approach of figuring out how different types of cancer worked at a very basic level. By understanding the different pathways and processes that allow these cancers to live and grow, she can understand how better to fight them at that basic level. After leaving the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Zarei joined Harvard Medical School as a research scientist fellow.

“My future goal is to be a well-known scientist working on rare diseases and pancreatic cancer. I’m also really passionate about having students to work with.” - DR. MAHSA ZAREI There, while working at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, she learned about a pair of fraternal twins, one of whom had tumors in the kidney; no one could determine why these tumors were occurring. “That’s why I worked so hard to try and understand her disease better and to come up with something,” she said. After conducting genetic screening, Zarei’s lab found that the girl had a rare genetic disease that causes tumors that can affect the brain, kidneys, lungs, and heart. A mutation in a protein complex called tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is what causes the tumor growth. In normal cells TSC1 and TSC2 help inhibit, or stop, another protein complex called mTORC1. The girl’s tumor cells lacked TSC2, so mTORC1 was hyper-activated. This caused the out-of-control division of cells and the growth of the tumor. After finding the pathway involved in the rare genetic disease, Zarei and her co-researchers looked for ways to interrupt that pathway. They found a drug called THZ1 that was being used for different cancer types, including breast and ovarian cancer. When tested on TSC-deficient cells and normal cells, THZ1 selectively targeted the TSC-deficient cells and caused them to die, but left healthy cells alone. The established treatment for this disease is a drug called rapamycin. Rapamycin and drugs similar to it, commonly called rapalogs, reduce tumor size while the patient is taking the drug. However, as soon as the treatment ends, the tumors begin to grow again, which means that patients would have to remain on the drug indefinitely. Zarei’s research found that THZ1 not only reduced tumor size, but it prevented re-growth of the tumors after stopping treatment. The U.S. Department of Defense now funds this study, and Cyrus Pharmaceutical Company has begun the first clinical trials of a derivative of THZ1. “We are hoping that in the near future we can use this with a TSC patient,” Zarei said.

AGGIELAND BOUND

Dr. Mahsa Zarei and Sneha Harishchandra

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In 2018, Zarei moved to College Station with her husband, who had accepted a position in the Texas A&M University College of Engineering. Zarei was then recruited by the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM)


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ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH

Sneha Harishchandra and Dr. Mahsa Zarei

“The evaluation of her cancer research program by the faculty in our department identified Dr. Zarei as a rising star and drove our intense interest in getting her to Texas A&M.”

TEACHING

- DR. LARRY SUVA in the lab that translate to the patients’ beds. While she has mentored and taught students in her lab, including undergraduate researchers like Rachel E. Yan, one of the co-authors on Zarei’s most recent journal publication, she also hopes to return to the classroom soon, to pass on what she has learned. Zarei wants to teach undergraduate and graduate classes, and “maybe a cancer biology class, if that’s possible.” “My future goal is to be a well-known scientist, working on rare diseases and pancreatic cancer,” Zarei said. “I’m really passionate about having students to work with.” ■

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Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP). “The evaluation of her cancer research program by the faculty in our department identified Dr. Zarei as a rising star and drove our intense interest in getting her to Texas A&M,” said VTPP department head Dr. Larry Suva. “She is an asset to our department, college, and university.” Suva describes Zarei as a “role model for the energy and focus needed for faculty to succeed in academia.” Since arriving at Texas A&M, Zarei has continued her research on TSC. In September, she published a paper on her research in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. She has also renewed her research in pancreatic cancer with renowned cancer researcher Dr. Stephen Safe, also in VTPP. Together, they hope to find a new treatment that will reduce pancreatic cancer’s tolerance of its harsh microenvironment and chemotherapy. Zarei is hopeful they will be able to publish their findings soon. “Dr. Zarei has been great to work with,” Safe said. “She will be a prime candidate for a full faculty position.” Zarei has turned an adolescent passion into a thriving career. In the future, she wants to continue finding answers


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FINDING MEANING IN MENTORSHIP Dr. Dana Gaddy has been blessed with the support of many, so now she’s paying it forward by using the lessons she’s learned to build relationships with her own students. Story by JENNIFER GAUNTT Dr. Dana Gaddy’s mentor Joanne Richards once told her, “People are like plants. You just need to give them a bit of water and let them grow.” That philosophy is so deeply rooted into Gaddy that she tears up when she speaks of her relationship with Richards and what mentorship now means to her as a professor in Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS). “Every single person Jo mentored feels that she played a key role in their having a fulfilled life,” Gaddy said, catching herself as her voice softly begins to break. “Just because you have 50 graduate students and postdocs does not mean that you have 50 happy, fulfilled graduate students and postdocs. What was important to her was to build 50 relationships. That’s what it’s about.” And, indeed, that has been what it’s about for Gaddy; mentorship, she believes, is for life.

PLANTING THE SEEDS She’s been blessed with many mentors throughout her life, starting during her time as a Ph.D. student at Baylor College of Medicine, where Richards was her adviser. “I was always mystified by her ability to take students who would come into her lab as postdoctoral fellows but really were not on the same wavelength as the rest of the folks and by working elbow-to-elbow with them and through regular conversations, she would figure out what made them tick,” Gaddy said. “Then, she would place opportunities in front of them—some of which were not academic—that would put them in the direction where they’re going to be happiest. She didn’t just mold them after herself.” This was modeled by another set of influential mentors, Drs. Gideon and Sevgi Rodan. “I met Gideon when I was a brand-new faculty member and was doing stuff that was really kind of heretical to the bone field at the time,” Gaddy said. (She focused on

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Joshua Bertles, Kirby Sherman, and Dr. Dana Gaddy


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the importance of the reproductive hormone inhibin in menopause, when the scientific consensus placed the sole significance on estrogen.) “He and his wife, Sevgi, were like the mom and pop,” she said. “They always did things for their mentees, even those who went off to other companies or would go back to academia. People who left would always come back, and the Rodans kept track of them.” Her relationship with the Rodans made it particularly poignant when this fall Gaddy received the Gideon A. Rodan Award for Mentorship from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR). “He took lots of people under his wing, even those who didn’t have anything to do with Merck,” Gaddy said. “He would mentor everyone who seemed to want to listen to what he had to say, and his words of wisdom were usually spot on.

something to do and they hate it or they love something else, I see it as my responsibility to figure out how I can provide them more of that so that then they see the success, they feel the success, and they want to go do more in that direction.” It’s also included helping students evaluate what their end-goals are earlier in their academic career and encouraging them to pay attention to what’s happening in all job sectors before they start a dissertation and it becomes too late to change their minds. “Many graduate students coming into my lab initially think that they are going to do what I do, but that ends up not really being their path,” Gaddy said. “My job is to help them find whatever the path is and then help them find a way to get there.” As a result, some of her graduate students have moved into other CVM faculty members’ labs; in other cases, she

“That scientific progeny concept is one that I was steeped in as a young faculty member, as a young scientist, as a graduate student, and it stayed with me,” she said.

has “adopted” trainees working in colleagues’ labs. She estimates that she is probably actively mentoring six former students, one current doctoral student, and a handful that are affiliated with other CVM laboratories; it is that idea of connecting people across areas, whether it’s for mentorships or just networking, that is important for Gaddy. “I have done more of that for other people’s students than I have for my own, not even people at my institution,” she said. “I’ve been involved in the Endocrine Society and the Women in Endocrine Society, as well as the Bone Society and other groups, for which we’ve done professional development events about how to choose a mentor, how to set that mentoring conversation and relationship up, and then what to do if it doesn’t go well, or how to launch out of somebody’s lab to gain independence.” While the connections she’s made, and the award she’s won, have been rewarding, the ultimate reward, in her eyes, is seeing her students succeed in advancing science in their own ways. Among her mentees, Joshua Bertles is her current Ph.D. student in the biomedical sciences graduate program; Kristy Nicks, Ph.D., is a program director at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; Tristan Fowler, Ph.D., is a research scientist director at the biotech company Surrozen; and Daniel Perrien, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Emory University. “That’s what I’m most proud of, because you never know what that student is going to want to do when they first walk in your door,” she said. “I try to spend time programmatically identifying or at least providing exposure to opportunities that will help them learn what it is that floats their boat. And when they find that, there’s no better reward.” ■

A WINNING COMBINATION Gaddy sees herself as a “different kind of mentor,” in part because her mentee pool has been much smaller than previous Rodan Award winners—who have 10-20 trainees at any given time, compared to the three typically working in Gaddy’s lab—but also because she comprehensively evaluates her students and their potential, understanding that what is best for the student may not be best for her. “Part of it is paying attention and trying to read people like my Ph.D. adviser did, to try to understand what it is that really is making them tick,” Gaddy said. “If I give them

Joshua Bertles, Kirby Sherman, and Dr. Dana Gaddy

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TEACHING Dr. Sara Lawhon

CATCHING THE TEACHING BUG Although she never anticipated a career in the classroom, Dr. Sara Lawhon has found the best of both worlds by combining her passions for research and education. Story by EMMA STOGSDILL French microbiologist Louis Pasteur once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Few embody this mantra as wholeheartedly as Dr. Sara Lawhon, an associate professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB). Lawhon began her journey at Texas A&M in 1987 with the dream of becoming a small animal veterinarian. After

completing a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences, she returned in 1993 in pursuit of her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. But four years later, as she neared graduation from veterinary school, her focus began to shift. At the time, she was studying under pathologist Paul Frelier, who proposed that she stick around to fill an open postdoctoral position. After graduation, she took him up on his offer; however, making the decision to go with the flow didn’t come easily. “I had sworn I wasn’t going to do that,” she recalled, in reference to her post-doctoral work, “but spending time in Dr. Frelier’s lab inspired me. The work we were doing married clinical diagnostics and research in a way that sparked my interest in microbiology. “It was exciting,” Lawhon remembers. This marked the start of her transition from one goal to another; as she drifted from the idea of becoming a small animal veterinarian and toward her new passion, she began looking for microbiology residencies. As Lawhon saw it, she had three options worth considering, and one of them was at North Carolina State. Once again, an opportunity had found her and she

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went with it—and was happy to do so somewhere with a favorable climate. “I’m a Texas girl,” she said, adding that the warm weather had a major impact on her ultimate decision, “and fortunately for me, they were willing to take me on.” While completing her residency in infectious diseases and her Ph.D. at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, she discovered her passion for Salmonella. “I didn’t expect to spend my life or career thinking about Salmonella and carbon metabolism,” she recalled. “The science behind the Ph.D. was very basic, but we got to do a lot of things that really had application and direct clinical relevance. It was really a lot of fun.” With the support of clinical microbiologist Dr. Craig Altier during her residency, and through application and direct clinical relevance, basic science came to life. After this, Lawhon returned to Texas A&M as a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. L. Garry Adams and, in 2008, became an assistant professor. However, once again, this was not always part of her plan; she had loved A&M during her time here but never thought it would be her ultimate landing place. “I was certainly supportive of (coming back) as an option,” she recalled. “(But) you just never know what’s going to happen and what jobs are going to be available. I was open to being other places, as long as there was good science, good people, and interesting diseases.” So, with the support of her family and husband Ian, as well as her love for College Station, she returned to A&M, where she has been ever since. She joined the CVM as associate director for the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH), where on day two, her interest in Salmonella expanded to include the genome sequencing of Staphylococcus. Looking for virulence factors (molecules produced by bacteria that help the bacteria cause disease in a host), antibiotic resistance

Cheeto and Chili

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“We all want for the next generation to still have the tools and resources that antibiotics provide. We translate whatever struggles we have in finding information for a patient into an easier way for somebody in the future to find a diagnosis and a good therapeutic agent faster.” - DR. SARA LAWHON genes, and investigating case studies of natural infections all became part of her growing list of responsibilities. These are still her primary interests, but now, Lawhon does three main things; in addition to teaching, she is a clinical microbiologist for the VMTH and the director of the clinical microbiology and clinical immunology laboratory. Likening herself to “Happy Gilmore,” who thought of himself as more of a hockey player than a golfer, Lawhon sees herself as “a researcher who gets to teach.” But it’s a role in which she excels, so much so that in 2018, she was recognized by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) with the Distinguished Veterinary Teacher Award, presented by Zoetis. Important for Lawhon is that her teaching and research are often combined. She emphasized the value of protecting antibiotic resources, adding that part of her goal is to ensure that her students still have many antibiotics to use when they are in their 20th or 30th year of practice. “We all want for the next generation to still have the tools and resources that antibiotics provide,” she said. “We translate whatever struggles we have in finding information for a patient into an easier way for somebody in the future to find a diagnosis and a good therapeutic agent faster.” In addition to the Distinguished Veterinary Teacher Award, this spring, Lawhon also received the Students of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (SAVMA) 20192020 Teaching Excellence Award, an international honor that recognizes outstanding teachers in the profession. Third-year veterinary student Rachel Ellerd, who nominated Lawhon for the award, says she is both an excellent teacher and mentor who encourages students to follow their passions. During a class activity on fecal floats, Ellerd discovered that very little peer-reviewed research existed on crested geckos. Under Lawhon’s guidance, Ellerd began a project on a variety of lizards that is set to become a published paper. “Dr. Lawhon is undoubtedly very busy during the semester; however, there was no hesitation when she agreed to take time out of her weekend to help me analyze gecko fecal samples,” Ellerd said. “Although she specializes in Salmonella and had nothing to gain by helping with my


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Third-year veterinary student Rachel Ellerd and Dr. Sara Lawhon

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might initially have done that, but then you’re going to put in another dozen years of hard work to get to that point. And then when you get to that point, you’re going to work even harder, so they work really hard to be the best possible veterinarians that they can be.” When discussing her reception of the awards, Lawhon emphasized how humbling it is to know that her students elected her for the awards. “That’s incredibly personally satisfying, to get to be a little piece in their story, in their timeline,” she said. “It is really positive and rewarding to share what I get to see at the bench with people that I hope that will find it useful.” Ultimately, Lawhon never guessed that she would be where she is today, but she is glad that her journey has brought her back to A&M. Here, she has the opportunity to inspire future microbiologists, all while making her own positive changes in the world. “You do your best with your education and be prepared when opportunities arise,” she said. “I try to create those same kinds of opportunities for my students now because you just might find your Salmonella somewhere out there. So, if you have the opportunity to try a bunch of different things, it can take you interesting places.” ■

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project, she spent hours assisting with data collection, research, and development, just to foster a love of research in one of her students.” This type of forward-thinking teaching has inspired countless students, who said while Lawhon expressed surprise in winning the teaching awards, they would have been surprised if she hadn’t been awarded it. One of her two current Ph.D. students, Sara Little, said Lawhon has been a huge source of support. “I feel like with her guidance, and her advice, and her support, it’s been more of an all-around growth instead of just your Ph.D. in science,” Little said, with those milling around the room nodding in agreement. “She’s been an example of how to live my life, how to ‘adult,’ and how to be a caring person.” In addition, Lawhon’s care for her students extends beyond the classroom and lab; Little says Lawhon even invites students to her home for holidays. “We don’t necessarily get the chance to go back to our families,” Little smiled. “So, every year, she always hosts a Thanksgiving dinner and a Christmas party, giving all of us little grad student ’orphans’ somewhere to go.” “I have great students,” Lawhon said. “You don’t just wake up one morning and say, ‘I want to be a veterinarian.’ You


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Since graduating in 2013, Dr. Lauren Thielen has found herself—and her work with exotic animals—as the centerpiece of Nat Geo WILD’s “Dr. T., Lone Star Vet.” Story by MARGARET PREIGH Dr. Lauren Thielen, a 2013 graduate of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), is no stranger to a camera. After receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree, Thielen pursued an internship at the Broward Avian and Exotics Animal Hospital in Florida under Dr. Susan Kelleher. One month after beginning her position, Thielen learned that National Geographic would be producing a television show about the practice.

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“I thought it was cool,” Thielen said. “I’m the type who likes these things. I thought it would be great to educate through an outlet so lovely as National Geographic.” “Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER” premiered in 2014 and is currently in its eighth season. The show follows the happenings of the animal hospital as Dr. Kelleher and her team treat everything from ferrets to foxes. Thielen appeared on the show from its beginning in 2014 until she left the practice in 2018.


ALUMNI & GIVING From left: Veterinary student Rachel Ellerd, Veterinary Technician Tonya Green, and Dr. Lauren Thielen work on Sammie the Timneh African grey parrot. (Photo by Nick Willson, National Geographic)

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Her claim to fame didn’t end there, though; she now headlines her own National Geographic program, “Dr. T, Lone Star Vet,” which premiered in October. “Nobody thinks they’re going to be on TV. I went to school to be a doctor,” Thielen said. “I don’t think I ever expected something like this to happen, but I’m really glad it did.”

“One thing I want to accomplish with this show is to show people how veterinary medicine is supposed to be practiced. Being able to show veterinary collaboration at its finest is important. I want to show people that your birds can go to cardiologists, too.”

AN EARLY INTEREST

- DR. LAUREN THIELEN

Although appearing on television was an unexpected twist in her career, Thielen has always held a passion for exotic animals. Raised in Fort Worth, she recalls sharing a love of animals with her father; she was never far from an animal friend in her home growing up. “I’ve had turtles, iguanas, parrots, different types of lizards, hamsters, gerbils, and rabbits. I’ve always had rabbits,” she said, adding that in veterinary school, she had a Dutch rabbit named Penelope. “I’ve had a very big variety of different animals over the years.” When she began thinking about working with animals, she initially wanted to be an exotic veterinarian at a zoo, but at the CVM, she was exposed to the option of becoming an exotic animal pet veterinarian. She was especially drawn to the hands-on nature of working with pets, saying that bunnies were much cuddlier than zoo animals like tigers. “I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian since I knew what a veterinarian was. I’ve really always just loved animals, and I’ve always loved exotic animals,” she said. Thielen’s early exposure to and interest in a range of animals has benefited her career. She has gone on to help a diverse cast of animals, working with everything from emus and capybaras to turkeys and lizards. At this point, there is little that could shock her. “One guy wanted to bring me this red Indian flying tree squirrel that was the size of a cat. It was awesome,” she said.

Dr. Lauren Thielen sedates Onyx the Asian water monitor. (Photo by Gary Collins, National Geographic)

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“I see crazy things all the time. On Tuesday, we saw a lynx.” Among her favorite cases was a pot-bellied pig Thielen treated for water intoxication. The pig came into the clinic unable to move with its pupils fixed and dilated, which means its brain wasn’t functioning properly. “I contacted like five different veterinarians and everyone told me it was completely hopeless and that the patient’s never going to be normal again,” she said. Thielen didn’t give up, describing her approach to that case as meticulous. In the end, her effort paid off. “The pig ended up great and is still doing well to this day,” she said. “I was a brand new veterinarian, and I still found confidence and was able to gather the right knowledge to be able to save this patient against all odds.”

A NEW CHAPTER In 2018, Thielen made the decision to move home to Texas and pursue an opportunity with her former mentor Dr. Sharman Hoppes, a professor emeritus at the CVM. The two had first connected over their mutual love of exotic animals when Thielen was a student assigned to the zoological medicine ward. Thielen eventually joined a group of students led by Hoppes that traveled to Tambopata, Peru, to work with macaws. Thielen said this experience is when she became more involved with Hoppes and her husband, Dr. Bruce Nixon DVM ’85. The two reconnected by chance when they ended up on the same flight to an exotic animal conference. As Hoppes discussed the opening of her and her husband’s new practice, Thielen was particularly intrigued by their concept of providing specialized care to exotic animals within a complex that also offered specialized care in surgery, internal medicine, cardiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, critical care, and dentistry services. Thielen also noted that the clinic would be located near her childhood home. Thielen now is copartner at Texas Avian & Exotic Hospital, which recently added another Aggie, Dr. Jordan Gentry, who completed his residency in zoological medicine at the CVM. Thielen says she is proud to be an Aggie. “I think my favorite part of being an Aggie is just the comradery that everyone has and the support of everybody


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Dr. Lauren Thielen greets Nala the hedgehog. (Photo by Kenyon Henderson, National Geographic)

a joke about the turkey’s sassy strut before diagnosing the animal with a testosterone imbalance.

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Thielen hopes that this program, the first season of which aired for eight weeks on Nat Geo WILD (and is now available on Disney+), provides a platform from which she and other veterinarians can educate the public on proper animal and veterinary care. “One thing I want to accomplish with this show is to show people how veterinary medicine is supposed to be practiced,” she said. “Being able to show veterinary collaboration at its finest is important. I want to show people that your birds can go to cardiologists, too.” Thielen hopes that by providing exposure to these options, owners might seek out more comprehensive care. “We can fix a fracture in a parakeet’s leg. We can remove a tumor on a rabbit,” Thielen said. “By educating pet owners on not only how to take care of an animal, but also that there is real medicine for their pets, people will understand the possibility in what we do.” Thielen said another benefit of her program has been the influence she has over inspiring the next generation of exotic animal veterinarians. “Little girls and even students in veterinary school write

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for one another,” she said. Hoppes is glad to work with her former student and mentee as a colleague. “Lauren is funny, smart, and passionate. She is confident in her knowledge base and her skills,” Hoppes said. “And she is a really good person. She truly loves people and their animals and it shows.” Thielen also brought with her to Texas Avian & Exotic Hospital her TV legacy; “Dr. T, Lone Star Vet,” filmed at this hospital, follows Thielen as she provides veterinary care to exotic animals. “We were nervously excited about this show being filmed at our clinic,” Hoppes said. “We thought it was a great way to educate people, but we were nervous about cameras being there all the time.” Thielen is glad to get back on camera. She said that the decision to resume her television career was easy. “My producer and I always had a really good time filming the other show together, so we thought, ‘why not continue the fun?’” she said. “I’ve been on television literally since I graduated veterinary school, so to me, this is just normal.” Thielen’s comfort in front of the camera is clear. In the first episode of her show, she fearlessly corners a turkey that has been attacking its male owner. Thielen handles the situation with a mix of humor and educational flair, cracking


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Dr. Lauren Thielen and vet staff with Nala the hedgehog. (Photo by Kenyon Henderson, National Geographic)

me and visit the clinic. They’re like, ‘I want to be an exotic vet one day,’” she said. “I didn’t even know this job existed until I was already in veterinary school. For these people to already know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, I just think that’s so cool.” Inspiring more students to pursue exotic veterinary medicine is important, Thielen notes, since not all owners have easy access to veterinarians properly trained to care for their exotic pets. “Patients do travel to see us. There are some veterinarians who see exotics in the area, but we’re the only exoticsexclusive facility in all of Dallas-Fort Worth,” she said. “I do think that there are definitely other veterinarians who will see some exotics, but we’re kind of the only practice that’s going to see the lynx or the monkey.”

WHAT LIES AHEAD In general, Thielen is enthusiastic about most animals that the average person would shy away from. She is particularly drawn to birds, speaking about the beaked animals as lovingly as most people would talk about puppies. “Birds are the cuddliest,” she said. “They’re expressive. When you walk in a room, they get excited and they dance and they fly to you. “I also get attached to lizards,” she said. “I would argue

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“Patients do travel to see us. There are some veterinarians who see exotics in the area, but we're the only exotics exclusive facility in all of Dallas-Fort Worth.” - DR. LAUREN THIELEN they’re all extremely personable, and most of them want to be held and want to be interacted with.” This mindset suits Thielen well as an exotic animal veterinarian, and leaves a lot of doors open for her future work. In addition to filming “Dr. T, Lone Star Vet” and completing her regular clinic duties, Thielen recently became a board certified avian specialist. When reflecting on the animals she has provided care for, Thielen does not recall ever feeling fearful of a patient. “I have a healthy respect for all animals,” she said. “As far as a true phobia, I don’t have anything like that.” Indeed, Thielen is ready for any patient the future brings through her clinic’s doors. She looks forward to continuing to provide comprehensive care to her patients and educating her audience through “Dr. T, Lone Star Vet.” She is optimistic that she can handle whatever is in store. “I see pretty much everything now,” she said. “There’s a lot I haven’t seen, but I think I’m ready for almost anything.” ■


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ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH TEACHING ALUMNI & GIVING

Veterinary student Daniel Olson, Dr. Lauren Thielen, and Veterinary Technician Tonya Green reattach Sam the red-eared slider's fractured shell with screws. (Photos by Pablo Calzada, National Geographic)

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HOSPITAL

- CANNON LENFIELD

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“They truly are a wonderful group of people and there’s no one else in the world I would’ve rather treated my dog. They are some of the most caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable people this world has to offer and will do everything in their power to take care of you and your animal.”

The Oncology team at Texas A&M University SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH

PETCO FOUNDATION GRANT ASSISTS PATIENTS WORKING TO BTHO CANCER Story by DORIAN MARTIN

However, that care isn’t cheap. “We use a lot of the human-level drugs and equipment, but pets don’t have insurance to help support that,” said Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles, an associate professor and Dr. Fred A. and Vola N. Palmer Chair in Comparative Oncology. “We keep our prices as low as we can, but unfortunately, it’s still expensive.” Determined to care for his dog, Lenfield reallocated his own financial resources and time to cover the escalating costs of treatment.

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DEFRAYING TREATMENT COSTS

“I definitely had to prioritize how I spent my money; I stopped eating out,” said the Michigan native, who is a student assistant in the Small Animal Hospital’s (SAH) Gastrointestinal (GI) Laboratory . “I knew that it was going to take a lot of money to pay for it, so I doubled my hours.” Lenfield also felt he had a “lucky break” when he was involved in a motorcycle accident; the $2,000 insurance payment went toward Liberty’s treatment. “My bike still worked, so I didn’t need the money,” he said. Fortunately, he also received some financial assistance through the VMTH. Liberty qualified for a clinical trial that helped cover a portion of the initial treatment cost. She then received additional support from funds provided through a Petco Foundation Pet Cancer Treatment grant, which was awarded to the VMTH in early 2018. “I thought happy tears weren’t real until I got the financial assistance to care for Liberty,” Lenfield said. Over the past two decades, the Petco Foundation has invested more than $200 million in lifesaving animal welfare work, including cancer care and research. Its Pet Cancer Treatment grant provides financial assistance to pet owners who have modest means or whose pets have provided a service to others.

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Cannon Lenfield ’20 counted on his dog, Liberty, for emotional support as he pursued his studies at Texas A&M University. However, the public health major found himself in a difficult financial position when his 9-year-old mixedbreed dog was diagnosed with lymphoma. Lenfield immediately sought treatment from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Texas Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH). As the only veterinary hospital in Texas to offer this type of integrated treatment, the VMTH’s Oncology Service provides cutting-edge, comprehensive cancer care.


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“This fund is meant to help people pay for those things so that they can actually get their animals treated if they want to,” Wilson-Robles said. As the only grant the Oncology Service has received from industry, the Petco Pet Cancer Treatment grant also means a lot to the clinicians and staff. “We’re extremely grateful for all of our donors, but the Petco Foundation funds have allowed us to do a lot more for clients because it is such a large donation,” Wilson-Robles said. “One of the big things about these funds and how they help clients is that they allow pet owners to treat their animals in a more affordable way; owners cannot always afford treatment, so having these supplementary funds, in some cases, helps owners to not have to make a choice about what they can do—it allows them to treat their animal when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. It’s huge for

PROVIDING EMOTIONAL BALLAST

them.” And in some cases, these funds allow owners to spend more time with their pets, an opportunity they are overwhelmingly grateful for, as Lenfield can attest. In the final week of Liberty’s life, Lenfield paid more than $1,500 for her treatment. “Even having that week was worth it; I would never take any of the money back,” he said. “She was definitely my best friend.”

A VMTH surgical team successfully removed FlapJack’s cancerous tumor in August 2018. “Since then, he’s done great. He has no signs of cancer,” Schmidt said, adding that FlapJack continues to have regular check-ups with the Oncology Service staff. FlapJack’s treatment was quite costly, and Schmidt received a variety of grants, including the Petco funds, to help defray some of that cost. Schmidt is especially grateful for this financial support for his beloved dog, who helped him through one of the most difficult times in his life. “I love FlapJack like my son,” he said. “For those other people and companies to recognize that and do things to take some of the pressure off of you so you can worry about making your animal well is a huge blessing.” To be able to offer this type of financial support is also a blessing for the oncology staff. “The house officers are on the front lines, and they get really attached to these patients and clients over time,” said Wilson-Robles. “For the house officers to be able to say, ’The clients are out of money. Is there any way we can help them with these funds?’ and for us to be able to say ’Yes,’ really helps them feel good to know we can help them, and that can be huge.” Ultimately, Schmidt and Lenfield appreciate that the grants help them afford the high quality of care their pets received from the Oncology Service.

This type of grant funding also provides as much emotional support as financial support. Robert Schmidt was still reeling from his wife’s death from cancer in 2017. His dogs—FlapJack, Piggy, and Papillion— were his solace during her two-year decline. “When somebody is dealing with a terminal illness, some of your friends and family don’t know how to react and they stop coming around as much,” the Wimberley resident said. “So, FlapJack and his sister and brother were, a lot of times, the only shoulder to cry on while my wife was going through her illness and when she passed away.” A year later, a routine ultrasound during FlapJack’s dental exam revealed a tiny tumor on the dog’s bladder. Schmidt asked his veterinarian, Dr. Dan Nowland ’84, at Springtown Veterinary in San Marcos, to give FlapJack a referral to the VMTH.

“I love FlapJack like my son. For those other people and companies to recognize that and do things to take some of the pressure off of you so you can worry about making your animal well is a huge blessing.” Liberty

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- ROBERT SCHMIDT


ALUMNI & GIVING

ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH TEACHING

From left: Robert Schmidt, Papillion, wife Kandi, FlapJack, and lead veterinary technician for Oncology Service Jaci Christensen

ALUMNI & GIVING

“Everybody at A&M is fantastic. When I’m checking out (at the SAH), I look at that wall of cards to all of the technicians, the liaisons, the veterinarians—the oncology team—I think about how everybody here is always so kind, thorough, realistic, and cares about you and your animal,” Schmidt said. “It’s the same reason we go to Springtown, which is a bit of a drive for us. Dr. Dan is a product of Texas A&M; you’re just sending good people out into the world to look after animals and their owners.” “I can’t say enough how awesome these people are,” said Lenfield, who is still mourning Liberty’s passing in May. “They truly are a wonderful group of people and there’s no one else in the world I would’ve rather treated my dog. They are some of the most caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable people this world has to offer and will do everything in their power to take care of you and your animal.” ■ FlapJack and Papillion

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ALUMNI & GIVING Tex Moncrief reads from the framed letter written to him and Linda from Dr. James Schroeder following Lucky's passing.

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ALUMNI & GIVING

Dr. James Schroeder, Tex Moncrief, and Linda Moncrief

Story by JENNIFER GAUNTT

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ALUMNI & GIVING

best to “be” with Tex. “I came back from the hospital and I couldn’t find Lucky where he normally stays, by the kitchen or the main entrance. I said, ‘What happened to Lucky?’" Linda recalled. “It was unusual, because when we were away, he would make sure he was the first to greet us. “So, I went downstairs, and I found Lucky on his (Tex’s) shoes, the way he always slept when Tex was wearing his shoes,” she said. “I brought the shoes upstairs and I left part of his clothes in the chair Lucky rested in so that he would feel comforted. I thought that was very special.” So special, in fact, that Linda ended up bringing Lucky to the hospital to see Tex. “He was so happy,” Tex said. “He crawled right up on the bed, and I just rubbed and patted him.” As Lucky aged, he developed Addison’s Disease and then leukemia, which eventually took his life at the age of 11. It was a hard loss for the Moncriefs. “For weeks there, we could hardly stand it, missing that dog. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dog in all of my life that I missed that much. It was awful,” Tex said. “I didn’t think we were going to get over him.” When Lucky passed, the veterinarian who had cared for him throughout it all—Dr. James Schroeder ’65—was there with the dog. Because of the routine nature of Lucky’s

TEACHING

William “Tex” Moncrief has owned a lot of dogs in his 99 years, but none were as special to him as Lucky. Lucky came to Tex and his wife Linda in 2007, when the pug was only around 3 or 4 months old. “He was a cute little guy, all ruffled up,” Tex said. “His name was (originally) Zamboni, like the machine they drive on an ice rink. I said, ’I’m adopting you, but your name is not Zamboni anymore; from now on, you’re Lucky.’ We loved that dog.” And Lucky, he was. Over the years, Lucky came to mean a lot to the Moncriefs, and Tex, especially, meant a lot to the pug. “If Lucky happened to be asleep, and I got up and walked away and didn’t wake him up, it didn’t make any difference where I went in this house—and it’s a pretty large house— he would find me,” Tex said. “It was the darnedest thing. I’d look down and pat him, and he’d lick my hand and wiggle his tail. “I’ve had several pugs, but he was the most lovable fellow I ever had; he just had to be with me,” he said. Lucky even liked to sleep with his head on Tex’s shoe, which Linda interpreted as “making sure he wouldn’t get left behind.” When, at one point, Tex was briefly hospitalized for a nosebleed, Lucky did get left behind, but the pug still did his

RESEARCH

When Tex Moncrief welcomed a rescued pug into his home, he opened the doors to a friendship with an Aggie veterinarian that he would come to cherish as much as his beloved pet.

SPOTLIGHT

LUCKY, THANKFUL

HOSPITAL

- WILLIAM “TEX” MONCRIEF

ACADEMICS

“I met Dr. Schroeder when I took Lucky in for a checkup. I was impressed when I first met Jim. Dr. Schroeder and Jill (who works for Dr. Schroeder) would come to our house to care for Lucky, like he was a little child of their own, almost, and they were just gentle. It meant a lot to me for them to do that.”


ALUMNI & GIVING

Lucky

Tex Moncrief and Lucky

“I've had several pugs, but he was the most lovable fellow I ever had; he just had to be with me.”

Lucky, a “gooood boy,” as his headstone reads, now lies next to some of the other dogs Moncrief has owned over the course of his 99 years.

- WILLIAM “TEX” MONCRIEF treatment, Schroeder had become a fixture in the Moncriefs’ lives. “I met Dr. Schroeder when I took Lucky in for a checkup. I was impressed when I first met Jim,” Tex said. “Dr. Schroeder and Jill (who works for Dr. Schroeder) would come to our house to care for Lucky, like he was a little child of their own, almost, and they were just gentle. It meant a lot to me for them to do that. “Dr. Schroeder just made life easier for us, knowing we were going lose him,” he said. “From Jim, I understood how you can love a little dog.” Knowing that Lucky’s passing was particularly hard on the Moncriefs, Schroeder wrote a letter to the couple to express his condolences. The framed letter now hangs in their home. “‘The past month was difficult to see Lucky lose his strength and energy but through all of that time, until the end, he remained very loyal and faithful to you,’” Tex says, reading the letter. “‘Though it is with humility that I understand that I am unable to cure or save all of my patients, I have long realized that I am just the hands that the Lord uses to assist in the ultimate purpose for these

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little creatures He gives us for a time to enjoy and care for. Believing that gives me some comfort as I try to help with the end of their lives. “‘I will always remember as Lucky’s life was ending that you said a very…,’” Tex pauses as he reads, emotions welling up. “‘…dear prayer thanking God for giving those years with Lucky to enjoy his companionship. I have also seen the sweet adoration and love that you and Linda have shown for each other. That is a reflection of a kind and generous heart that I have seen and I thank you for your trust.’” In recognition of that mutual love and respect, Tex and Linda decided to “give back” to Schroeder’s alma mater with a gift honoring their long-time veterinarian. The funds will honor Schroeder in perpetuity, with a room named after Schroeder at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Small Animal Hospital. “Jim Schroeder is just one of the finest men I’ve ever met. He’s not only a good veterinarian, he’s just a fine gentleman,” Tex said. ■ Editors note: Dr. James Schroeder passed away Feb. 13, 2020. We send our condolences to the Schroeder family.


ALUMNI & GIVING

ACADEMICS HOSPITAL SPOTLIGHT RESEARCH TEACHING ALUMNI & GIVING

Dr. James Schroeder and family

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