INNOVATION IN EDUCATION
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INNOVATION on every front CVM Today | 1
DEAN’S MESSAGE This year, 2017, marks the beginning of the second centennial of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) at Texas A&M University. This is the ideal time to focus on the future of the CVM and how it contributes to the university missions of transformational learning, discovery and innovation, and impacting the state, the nation, and the world. The CVM also is obligated to contribute solutions to the major challenges the veterinary profession faces on a daily basis. Standing at the crossroads of change, we realize we clearly have two choices: we could choose the path of least resistance, knowing that despite our best attempts to go the way of bold and new, we may be driven back to things that make us “comfortable” and that our efforts at creativity may be thwarted before they get on track. Or, we could overcome that “path” by being cognizant of the opportunities and responsibilities facing us. In deciding between those options, the CVM chooses to chart a path of innovation. We are moving in the direction of creating a climate for innovation that encourages new ideas on all fronts. We are focusing more on new research, with interdisciplinary teams, clinical trials, and enriched graduate programs. We are implementing a new, integrative curriculum replete with educational technologies and methodologies tailored to the students of today. Step by step, we are in the process of creating the veterinary medical teaching hospital of the future, one that creates a “wow” experience for clients and referring veterinarians, as well as for our own dedicated clinicians, students, and staff. We are developing partnerships and other collaborations across the campus, the state, and beyond. In this culture of innovation, we are celebrating wins and applauding attempts. In 2017, we are still settling into our new Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC). The VBEC was designed to support innovation in education as far into the future as we can imagine. This new, flexible space affords us enormous potential to create novel opportunities for transformational learning for veterinary students, undergraduate students, and graduate students. It also has the capacity to accommodate enriched continuing education programs, a multitude of campus events, and extramural collaborations. A prime example is the Veterinary Innovation Summit. The first of its kind, it was recently developed, designed, and implemented by a team of our college faculty members and administrators, along with the NAVC (read more on page 5). The summit was a tremendous success. We see it as confirmation that we’re on the right path in the creation of an innovative environment wherein people from all professions and all walks of life come together to discover and create. We realize that our ambitious intentions require obligations. We realize that the work we do and the innovative pieces we create must be more than a long list of objectives. In order to be innovative, we are creating a culture of innovation, an environment conducive to out-of-the-box thinking and doing. We are removing the obstacles to innovation by encouraging and rewarding risk-taking. As others have said, failing fast and failing often chart the fastest path to success. In this environment we foster creative conversations among entrepreneurs and health professionals as well as structure dialogue with people from various backgrounds who offer diverse ideas and perspectives. We are working together, encouraging change, disrupting while honoring traditions, and celebrating risks. We hope you will keep your eye on us this year and let us know how we’re doing! In the meantime, enjoy this issue of CVM Today with its focus on innovation. We are looking forward to your visit—please come soon.
Eleanor M. Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP The Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine 2 | CVM Today
RESEARCH 5 | INNOVATION SUMMIT—A GAME CHANGER 8 | GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER 10 | IN DOG YEARS 12 | COLLECTING KISSING BUGS 14 | ADDING AN INNOVATIVE DIMENSION 16 | HELPING DOGS, HELPING PEOPLE
EDUCATION 18 | IT’S A PRODUCTION 20 | PROBING AROUND 21 | EYE ON THE PRIZE 22 | LEADING LARGE 24 | A HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE 26 | PEDAGOGY PROJECT 28 | SPOTLIGHT ON CURRICULUM 30 | BONE HEALTH IN BULGARIA
SERVICE 36 | WELCOME TO OUR HOUSE 38 | A BROAD SPECTRUM OF LEADERSHIP 40 | A SYMBOL OF SERVICE 44 | DISASTER DAY 46 | STRONGER TOGETHER 48 | PASS IT BACK, AGS!
CONCENTRATING ON INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS
50 | NEW ENROLLMENT AT THE STEVENSON CENTER 53 | VETERINARIANS HELPING VETERANS 54 | RETURNING TO HIS ROOTS 56 | A LOVE THAT KEEPS GIVING CVM Today | 3
Dr. Megan Palsa ’08
Contributing Writers: Dr. Kristin Chaney Dr. Eleanor M. Green Callie Rainosek ’17 Meagan Raeke
Audrey Bratton ’15
Graphic Designers: VeLisa Bayer Jennie Lamb
Photographers: Tim Stephenson Larry Wadsworth
CVM Today Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University 4461 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4461 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.
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 Office 979.845.5051 Development and Alumni Relations Office 979.845.9043 Continuing Education Office 979.845.9102 Public Relations Office 979.862.4216 4 | CVM Today
College Administration Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Eleanor M. Green Executive Associate Dean Dr. Kenita S. Rogers ’86 Associate Dean, Professional Programs Dr. Karen K. Cornell Associate Dean, Research & Graduate Studies Dr. Robert C. Burghardt Assistant Dean, Research & Graduate Studies Dr. Michael Criscitiello Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education Dr. Elizabeth Crouch ’91 Associate Dean, Global One Health Dr. Gerald Parker, Jr. ’77 Assistant Dean, Finance Ms. Belinda Hale ’92 Interim Dept. Head, Veterinary Integrative Biosciences Dr. C. Jane Welsh 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 Senior Director, Development Chastity Carrigan ’16 Chief of Staff Ms. Misty Skaggs ’93 Director, Texas Institute for Preclinical Studies Dr. Egeman Tuzun Assistant Dean, Hospital Operations Mr. Bo Connell Executive Director, Communications, Media, & Public Relations Dr. Megan Palsa ’08
Biomedical Sciences Undergraduate Advising Office 979.845.4941
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences 979.845.9053
Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences 979.845.2828
Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences 979.845.9127
Department of Veterinary Pathobiology 979.845.5941 Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology 979.845.7261
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital Administration 979.845.9026 Small Animal Hospital 979.845.2351 Large Animal Hospital 979.845.3541
INNOVATION SUMMIT — a game changer By: Dr. Eleanor M. Green
The Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine
The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) welcomed game-changers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and visionaries to the Veterinary Innovation Summit (VIS) in late spring 2017. At the event, veterinary and non-veterinary entrepreneurs and health professionals shared fresh perspectives on the latest technologies, debated controversial issues, fostered new ideas, and catapulted the profession into the future with fearlessness and innovation.
It is clear that the world is changing, not just at a linear rate, but exponentially, and these changes are having a profound effect on veterinary medicine. At the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), we are dedicated to sparking and fostering ingenuity. The inaugural Veterinary Innovation Summit (VIS) on April 28–30, 2017, brought together a diverse group of talented, progressive individuals representing veterinary and non-veterinary health professionals, regulators, and entrepreneurs, paired with a combination of unique programming and an immersive learning environment to explore how veterinary medicine will not just respond to these changes, but will lead changes and prosper from them. For many veterinarians, especially those who operate their own businesses, entrepreneurship and business know-how are career staples. But business is changing. Information is more readily available than ever before, and information technology is rapidly expanding. The human health care delivery systems are rapidly changing, with veterinary health care delivery close behind. Veterinary medicine not only must adapt, it
must lead—that’s the CVM and North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) philosophy, as well as the philosophy of progressive members of the veterinary profession.
Innovation Comes to Life
With those thoughts in mind, the idea of a VIS at Texas A&M came to life as a unique way to bring the “thoughtleaders” to the table. We wanted to create robust exchanges among practicing veterinarians, academic veterinarians, students, organized veterinary medicine representatives, regulators of the profession, start-up innovators, and entrepreneurs, all of whom will shape our future. Planning and implementing the VIS was no small task. We had already created a new position in the college, a director of innovation and entrepreneurship, and had recruited Dr. Adam Little to the position with the charge to lead innovation and entrepreneurship. Dr. Little, who says the VIS was also a dream of his, devoted himself fully to the VIS and drew from his network of innovators to craft an outstanding program. In concert, we had been talking to the NAVC about partnering CVM Today | 5
on some novel continuing education opportunities, and the VIS was our first. Pete Scott, chief operating officer of NAVC, worked closely with Dr. Little, the CVM administration and faculty, and the outstanding staff at both the CVM and NAVC to design the program. Soon, the outline and format for the summit were in place. “Many veterinarians are concerned, anxious, or even fearful about the direction of the profession. There are growing competitive threats to established business practices, concerns around debt, and high levels of burnout,” said Little. “However, we are lucky to have Dr. Green leading this charge. She strongly believes that the future is full of possibility and potential for veterinarians to contribute in unique ways to serving their staff, clients, and patients. Areas of personalized medicine, on-demand care, and others present new opportunities for the profession. “The dean’s goal was to harness the incredible strengths of the veterinary community and create a positive conversation about how we can build an even better future for all of us in animal health. The result was a collective and optimistic voice for the profession that we believe will get more powerful and meaningful in years to come,” said Little. This innovative intersect of processes for people to have conversations was one of brilliance and discovery, and I applaud Dr. Little, Pete Scott, and the many staff, faculty, and administrators who worked to bring this summit to fruition. The CVM faculty not only participated in the summit, but they also hosted the sponsors and exhibitors. The many breakout sessions, the networking opportunities, and the conversations in the hallways created a unique ambiance. Representatives of the TVMA, AVMA, AAVMC, AAVSB, and others contributed. It was described by some as the best conference they had ever attended and one described it as a “Disney Wow.” In addition, the new Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex provided an ideal setting for stimulating ideas, establishing collaborations, and fostering productive discussions. Networking opportunities at the summit initiated dialogue that encouraged innovative, take-home ideas, and solutions for future success.
Texas A&M President Michael Young welcomed the participants and told a story about his and his wife Marti’s love for animals. They came to Texas with a horse and now have a ranch full of animals, all of which have visited the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. President Young underscored how Texas A&M University values innovation across colleges. As dean, I spoke about our incredible faculty and the innovative technology and teaching methods they have brought to our college. Dr. Little discussed his first meeting with me and our sharing of the vision of this summit. All introductions prepared everyone for the two-day journey ahead. Veterinary professionals who successfully have started 6 | CVM Today
Aggies Invent With innovation paramount in their minds, six teams of students representing the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), Agriculture & Life Sciences, and Engineering participated in the first Aggies Invent event, a 48-hour intensive design experience offered at the Engineering Innovation Center (EIC). The CVM’s students engaged in handson projects that pushed their innovation, creativity, and communication skills, competing for more than $2,000 in cash prizes in an effort to develop solutions to problems many veterinarians face today. During the event, students in each group had 48 hours to create prototype solutions for issues they felt were pertinent to the veterinary community. Among the things the teams looked for during the activity were solutions to incorporate aspects of veterinary clinical skills training, the creation of sensors to monitor the health of non-verbal patients, and the implementation of new diagnostic tools.
Wanting to offer veterinary students a curriculum in entrepreneurship and connect them to job and service opportunities, last summer, CVM director of innovation and entrepreneurship Dr. Adam Little began the Veterinary Student Innovations Program (VSIP). Through the VSIP, five second- and third-year students were matched with early-stage startup companies, some of which had applications in veterinary medicine but did not have veterinarians on their teams to help guide the company. VSIP partner companies include innovators who provide students with the unique learning opportunity to shape how technology impacts the future of veterinary medicine. The program represents a new paradigm in veterinary education, combining aspects of traditional learning styles and new teaching techniques. Students gained hands-on experience with the companies, while also being mentored by Little and other CVM faculty. They also received support and feedback from their peers.
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INNOVATION IN RESEARCH
Veterinary Student Innovations Program
their own companies or created new software and programs for the industry spoke on a panel Saturday, encouraging other practitioners to awaken their own innovative and entrepreneurial spirits. A few examples of the amazing keynotes follow. Ben Jacobs, co-founder and chief executive officer of Whistle, a GPS and activity tracker for dogs, spoke about finding and developing a product that would address a pain point in the customer market, while looking for the quantified patient. Stephen Chen, the founder and chief executive officer of PETNOSTICS, a company that provides at home urine test kits for pets, talked about democratizing diagnostics and making diagnostics accessible to pet owners. Raymond McCauley, chair of digital biology at Singularity University, discussed the digital biology engineering of healthy animals, which allows for DNA microarrays for any species that can be customized for around $60, and how whole genome sequencing is no longer a thing of the past. Benjamin Lewis, a fourth-year veterinary student at the University of Pennsylvania and the chief executive officer and co-founder of The One Health Company, shared how his company is crowdsourcing the everyday veterinarian to take part in biomedical research, which can not only double the revenue for the veterinarians, but also have them participate in groundbreaking research to help advance their field. Jon Ayers, chief executive officer at IDEXX, spoke about the human-animal bond and innovation at IDEXX as it strives for “innovation with intelligence;” eighty-six percent of IDEXX’s revenue is in companion animal health, and the company is approaching $2 billion in worth, all of which was organically grown from within the company. In parallel with the VIS was a future design school led by Sarah Prevette. The workshop introduced faculty to future thinking in a novel way. A striking point was that many of the innovators were not veterinarians, but they recognized great potential in the veterinary space. These visionaries said that they strongly preferred to work with veterinarians, but they would not wait on them. The opportunities in veterinary innovation are vast. In all, the summit welcomed more than 380 participants, 24 of them from nine different countries, including 11 from the United Kingdom, nine from Canada, two from France, one from Germany, and one from Palestine. A special thanks go to the AVMA, AAVMC, Banfield, Petpartners, IDEXX, Zoetis, Animal Policy Group, Hills, Vetrax, Merck, Merial, Royal Canin, PetSmart Charities, and VitalX. It is an exciting time for veterinary medicine. Linking our vast strengths and diverse ideas will transform the future of our profession. The summit will be offered again by the CVM and NAVC in College Station on April 6-8, 2018. Attendance will be limited in order to preserve the rich opportunities for dialogue. For more information about the summit visit tx.ag/VetSummit17.
HEART OF THE MATTER By: Jennifer Gauntt and Dr. Megan Palsa
What is music to Dr. Sonya Gordon’s ears? Hearing the “lub-dub, lub-dub” from a healthy canine heart. Through her research, Gordon tackles some of the important questions in veterinary cardiology, all so she and other veterinarians can hear the beating of their patients’ hearts for a longer time. Gordon’s work in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) is transforming discovery into innovative treatment by helping veterinarians everywhere more effectively treat canine cardiac disease. Gordon calls this “top-down research,” which is the identification of treatments and diagnostic tests that help primary care veterinarians do a better job caring for their patients. Recently, Gordon helped identify an effective treatment for mitral valve disease (MVD) in dogs. Now, Gordon is on to the next step, applying and disseminating those research results. As an educator, she teaches students and fellow veterinarians about these new and effective treatment options, and as a clinician, she offers state-of-the-art treatment to her patients—all in the name of improving the hearts and lives of dogs and their owners.
Treating Mitral Valve Disease
Gordon’s research focuses on MVD in dogs, which accounts for more than 75 percent of all canine heart disease. The condition is characterized by the degeneration of the mitral valve, which, in turn, hinders the heart’s ability to adequately pump blood through the body, ultimately leading to heart failure in many dogs. Gordon was part of a research team that led the largest prospective study in veterinary cardiology to date, the EPIC Study, and the results were revolutionary. The findings demonstrated that the drug pimobendan effectively delays the onset of clinical signs of MVD and extends overall survival. In humans this condition is typically managed by surgical repair of the valve. While surgery is an option for some dogs, availability and cost currently limit its clinical utility. However, according to Gordon, many dogs will now benefit from earlier treatment with pimobendan. “The results of the EPIC trial will change the way the most common cause of heart disease and heart failure in the dog is managed on a day-to-day basis by veterinarians around the world and will contribute to dogs with MVD living better and longer,” Gordon said. In the EPIC trial, pimobendan delayed the onset of congestive heart failure secondary to MVD for an average of 15 months, or 60 percent; so while pimobendan is not a cure, it is a way to manage the condition and allow dogs to live longer and more enjoyable lives. Gordon said this research means that more dogs will “die with valve disease, not from it.” “We’ve known for a long time how to treat dogs with 8 | CVM Today
Cardiology procedure performed at the CVM.
“Evidence-based medicine is the ultimate goal in veterinary cardiology, and I think it’s nice to be able to contribute the kind of data that allows that to happen.” -Dr. Sonya Gordon
Continuing Research via Collaboration
Dr. Sonya Gordon and a patient congestive heart failure. Previous studies have proven which therapies work, resulting in strong evidence-based recommendations and guidelines. In addition, it’s easy to identify which dogs have MVD even before they develop congestive heart failure,” Gordon said. “However, until recently, there was no proof that starting a medication before a dog with MVD developed congestive heart failure could change what was going to happen, and, therefore, there were no evidence-based guidelines for the asymptomatic stage of MVD,” she said. “Evidence-based medicine is the ultimate goal in veterinary cardiology, and I think it’s nice to be able to contribute the kind of data that allows that to happen.”
As a native Canadian, Gordon became aware of the supportive community within the CVM when she was welcomed as an integral part of the staff in 1998. Since then, she has been part of a team of cardiologists and technicians at the CVM and helped train 13 cardiologists. She also works collaboratively with a wide network of local, national, and international veterinary cardiologists, all of which contribute to her ability to tackle big challenges. “The reason we’re successful here (at the CVM) is because we have three cardiologists, three cardiology residents, two dedicated technicians and a dean, department head, and hospital director who think what we do is important,” she said. “If none of that existed, if you didn’t have a supportive environment, it would be really hard to take part in the kind of things we’ve had the luxury of taking part in. It’s exceedingly rewarding to be part of a progressive cardiology service and a global community of cardiologists all working together to advance our understanding of cardiac disease.”
A New Standard of Care
Gordon’s research is part of a growing trend toward using the results of well-designed clinical trials to make evidencebased recommendations in veterinary medicine, something that has long been the standard in human medicine. The EPIC study represents the epitome of the type and extent of the impact that a well-designed clinical study can have; it is in the top 5 percent of all research outputs, resulting in more than 12,000 downloads in the first three months following publication, according to Gordon. The impact of the EPIC study will continue in many ways over the coming years, as it is incorporated into updated guidelines, the curriculum at veterinary schools, and continuing education lectures for veterinarians. However, the ultimate influence the study has on the practice habits of veterinarians with respect to how they treat the most common cause of heart disease in the dog will be its lasting legacy. Many dogs will experience a relevant extension in symptomfree and overall survival, a benefit that will undoubtedly be
Dr. Sonya Gordon in the operating room CVM Today | 9
INNOVATION IN RESEARCH
enjoyed not only by the dogs but also by their families, Gordon said. “I now get to talk to aspiring young veterinarians about the fact that the recommendation of when to start pimobendan in dogs with MVD is now based on evidence and not just opinion; that’s pretty nice,” she said.
In Dog Years By: Jennifer Gauntt and Dr. Megan Palsa
Aging is a universal experience, shared by both humans and animals. But many mysteries still surround the aging process. Now, a collaborative project between the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), the University of Washington, and other colleges and organizations is set to chip away at these mysteries to better understand how our canine companions age both physically and mentally. The Dog Aging Project is an innovative proposal to study aging in pets, to benefit their health and longevity, according to Dr. Kate Creevy, chief veterinary officer on the Dog Aging Project and associate professor at the CVM. “The things that we can learn about dogs to benefit them also can benefit people,” she said. “We hope that our interest in studying the dog for its own sake provides terrific benefit to people, as well.” Starting with understanding and characterizing how dogs age, the project seeks to build upon what little information currently exists to describe normal aging in various sizes and breeds, Creevy said. This not only will help veterinarians better treat aging canines, but it will help researchers understand conditions such as diabetes and arthritis that affect both dogs and humans as they age.
Dogs of All Shapes and Sizes
Approximately 10,000 dogs of varying ages and breeds living throughout the United States will be enrolled in the project, accounting for a sample size that is representative enough to describe aging in a typical dog. The study will take a long-term look at the health of dogs in their natural environment over five to 10 years, making middle-aged dogs particularly valuable candidates for the study. Enrolled dogs will live out their days as they normally would, seeing their regular veterinarians, which will allow dogs across the country to conveniently participate. They will be divided into two subsets, a more closely 10 | CVM Today
monitored group and a less closely monitored group. Each group will contribute unique data to the project. For the closely monitored group, local veterinarians will collect regular blood and urine samples that will be sent to Creevy and her team, who will also assess the dogs’ medical records and remain in close contact with the veterinarians. Researchers also will regularly communicate with owners about their dogs’ routines. The less-closely monitored subset comprises dogs that will provide genetic samples, which will help the research team understand the genetic origins of age-related diseases. Researchers also will monitor the dogs’ medical records. “It is our goal to make the portion of the dogs who are closely monitored a larger and larger group by continuing to obtain additional funding,” Creevy said.
Exercising Body and Mind
Because activity levels are known to influence health, the Dog Aging Project also will use monitors to measure levels of activity, heart rate, and other vital parameters in some dogs. Using accelerometers will provide the researchers with important health information about the dogs’ activity levels, which likely also will be of interest to owners, Creevy said. “We will be interested in that data for research, but the owners also will have access to that data,” she said. “For example, if an owner wants to know how much her dog runs around the house when she’s not home, she can.” Physical health is not the only thing that the researchers are investigating; the Dog Aging Project also aims to understand and characterize how dogs’ brains age. Through the project, owners will have access to a website that allows dogs and owners to play various games to assess different aspects of cognition. “It’s not about whether your dog is smarter or dumber; it’s about how your dog thinks and if certain breeds and ages of dogs tend to think the same way,” said Creevy, adding that
The Big Picture
Creevy’s research is a first step in providing a foundation for future canine aging research. The field is so cutting-edge, many of its questions have yet to be discovered. “We won’t really know what some of the data means at the time that we collect it,” she said. “We won’t know what it means until we’ve captured the information from a lot of dogs and have had time to see how their lives unfolded. “(Likewise) Some of the information we’ll be giving back to owners won’t be of immediate use to them, but as the research progresses and some of that information develops new meanings, they’ll be able to use the information to better understand their dogs,” Creevy said. By providing this fundamental knowledge, the Dog Aging Project has the potential to help support a new field in veterinary medicine—geriatrics. “One of the things that’s true about veterinary medicine is we do not currently have a specialty in geriatrics the way they
In many ways, dogs mirror their owners. By sharing the same habits, dogs can serve as a model for human conditions, such as obesity, cancer, and arthritis. But dogs are not only helping people; people are helping dogs, as well. “We have chosen to use models from human medicine to identify some of the diseases we think are going to be the most important to healthful aging, because the diseases that dogs experience in aging are, in many ways, very similar to people,” Creevy said. “Obesity is a big problem for dogs, just as it is for people in this country. Cancer is a big problem for dogs, just as it is for people in this country. They get low thyroid function or hypothyroidism. We consider all of those to be very, very important diseases of dogs.” Creevy said aging sometimes can be associated with dogs losing interest in daily life, becoming difficult to interact with, and losing normal control of food and bathroom times. These things can be a challenge for aging people, as well. “Trying to understand dogs who end up experiencing
Dr. Kate Creevy and Poet
“We hope that our interest in studying the dog for its own sake provides terrific benefit to people, as well.”
-Dr. Kate Creevy
do in human health,” Creevy said. “Certainly as people age, you see a gerontologist. We do not currently have a specialty of veterinary gerontology. Defining what the typical or normal old dog looks like is our first challenge.” Creevy also anticipates people becoming more aware of the Dog Aging Project and to have future collaborations with groups that want to further examine certain variables, such as diet, exercise, and even certain medications. These variables could impact canine aging and, in turn, affect human aging.
those conditions, versus the dogs who don’t, may lead to some way we could interact with dogs younger in life to decrease the likelihood of these outcomes,” Creevy said. Ultimately, it’s the love humans have for their dogs that helps push the research forward, Creevy said. “We’re trying to be on the cutting edge, and I think we are inspired by the fact that dogs are so important to people,” she said. “There is no limit to the things owners would do to try to promote healthy, enjoyable lives for their dogs. Because that’s true, we’re capable of pushing the research envelope and asking questions that haven’t previously been asked because dog owners are willing and able to help us.” CVM Today | 11
INNOVATION IN RESEARCH
the tests will allow owners to bond with and understand their dogs.
COLLECTING KISSING BUGS innovatively protecting the lives of animals and humans
By: Dr. Megan Palsa and Callie Rainosek Stumbling across an unidentified large black bug in your house may make you feel panicked or even curious. Should you smash it with a nearby shoe? Or scoop it up in a cup and release it outside? If that insect happens to be a kissing bug, you have another option—send it to Dr. Sarah Hamer and her research team at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Kissing bugs—also known as cone-nose bugs, or triatomine insects—feed on human and animal blood. The insects are of particular interest to Hamer because of their potential to transmit the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease, a malady that can lead to acute or chronic heart disease or death in humans, pets, and wildlife. Acute heart disease is severe and has a sudden onset, while chronic heart disease develops over a long period of time. There is a significant human health burden of Chagas disease in Central and South America and Mexico, where medical doctors are generally aware of the risk of disease. There is far less awareness for the disease in the U.S., despite estimates of over 300,000 infected people in the country. While many of these individuals are likely to have contracted the disease in Latin America before moving to the U.S., there is increasing recognition for locally acquired human infections in the southern states, where infected kissing bugs are widespread. A growing number of dogs across the South are
recognized to be infected, possibly from consuming infected bugs in the environment. While some infected dogs may live happy, health lives, others may die acutely or suffer chronic cardiac disease. Because there is no vaccine and treatment options are limited, efforts to control the vectors and parasite in nature may hold the key for disease prevention. To better understand the risk of Chagas disease in the southern United States, Hamer and her team are taking an ecological approach to characterize the transmission cycles so that the parasite can be managed in nature before it spills over to humans and dogs. They are gauging infection and cardiac health status in pet dogs, working dogs, and shelter dogs
“We can’t match the effort of the citizen scientists. It’s huge, and it’s awesome.” -Dr. Sarah Hamer
Dr. Sarah Hamer and students Italo Zecca, MPH (back left); Megan Ellis (left); Julia Purnell; and Sarah Slack (right).
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INNOVATION IN RESEARCH
across the state. And they are trapping kissing bugs to learn about their infection and feeding patterns across different regions. When Hamer and her team started researching Chagas disease, they decided it was best to collect bugs from across Texas to address different research questions about the bug’s ecology. However, setting traps for the bugs was inefficient and did not provide enough for research; Hamer said her team often came up empty handed or had few bugs to work with from the field. After talking to land owners, Hamer realized that many people are familiar with the kissing bug and have seen them on their property. “People started hanging on to some of these bugs that they would see in their houses or in their dog kennels,” Hamer said. “They would put them in an old pill container or plastic bag and save them for us, and the next time we were out doing field work, we’d look at them.” As the project grew to emphasize citizen science, the team’s research power expanded; citizen involvement granted the team access to more samples than they could ever dream of collecting themselves. “We now have well over 3,000 bugs in our collection, which is bigger than any other collection of kissing bugs in the United States,” Hamer said. “Our students still are out actively trapping bugs, but we can’t match the effort of the citizen scientists. It’s huge, and it’s awesome.” With so much citizen involvement, the program evolved to include outreach materials, such as a website with an interactive map to show where kissing bugs have been collected, informational pamphlets, and an established email account to answer questions and further include the public on the project. Hamer sees the outreach component as a way to educate the public about kissing bugs and protect the public’s health, as well as the health of pets and surrounding wildlife. While citizen scientists are often interested in knowing whether the bug they submitted is infected, Hamer says the result of any single bug is less informative than the overall epidemiology of the vectors. Finding an infected bug in the yard does not mean the family members or the family dog are at immediate risk for the disease but broadly suggests the region around the home is suitable for kissing bugs and Chagas disease, Hamer said. The team often educates the public specifically about how the disease is transmitted to help the public make decisions about their health. In fact, Hamer said the route of transmission for Chagas disease can be rather inefficient—the cycle of the disease begins when a kissing bug feeds on the blood of an infected host. But unlike mosquitoes or ticks, kissing bugs cannot spread the parasite by simply biting another animal or person. Instead, the parasite occurs in the bug’s feces, and, therefore, the bug must defecate on a person or animal and the infected fecal material must be absorbed into the skin through the eyes, mouth, or a wound created by the kissing bug biting the victim. That series of events can be a rare occurrence, especially given a good standard of housing where bugs
Dr. Sarah Hamer and Valery Roman-Cruz, MPH are unlikely to colonize inside the homes to reach people. However, oral transmission can also occur, and Hamer said dogs can contract the disease by consuming an infected kissing bug. Once inside the new host, the parasite circulates in the blood for some time and then can infect different organs, including the heart, where it replicates, causing damage to the heart tissue cells. Over time, more and more heart tissue cells are destroyed, which can lead to heart disease. While the effects of Chagas can be fatal, many infected individuals may never know they have been infected. It’s not possible to predict which infected individuals will suffer disease, and so physicians and veterinarians have a difficult time discussing the prognosis. Hamer said some people infected with Chagas may find out after donating blood, since blood banks now routinely screen for Chagas antibodies. Because there is no cure for Chagas disease, only treatments to manage the symptoms, Hamer emphasizes that studying the parasite in bugs and wildlife can provide key data to protect the health of humans and dogs, and public outreach is a key component. “We are working on a cell phone app as a future direction to enhance our outreach and research,” Hamer said. “People can upload pictures of their bugs and the app will time stamp it and mark it with location data. In addition, the app will also be a simple interface to get good information about kissing bugs and Chagas disease.” The team is collaborating with other veterinarians, parasitologists, entomologists, geographers, diagnosticians, and public health officials at Texas A&M, the state health department, other universities—including in Mexico and Brazil—and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without collaboration and teamwork, Hamer’s research interests and efforts to educate the public about Chagas would not be possible. To learn more and submitting a kissing bug to the TAMU Citizen Science Kissing Bug program visit kissingbug.tamu.edu. CVM Today | 13
ADDING AN INNOVATIVE
DIMENSION By: Jennifer Gauntt and Dr. Megan Palsa
Anyone who has ever seen an ultrasound knows how difficult the images can be to interpret. Many soon-to-be parents have squinted at an ultrasound of their unborn child, asking the doctor, “What is it? That there?” This situation is also a reality for many veterinary students. When students learn to interpret images of an ultrasound or X-ray, they are essentially learning to see a 3D object in only two dimensions. Even veterinarians who are trained to read these images are not getting the full picture in a single static image. But with new technology at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and the work of Dr. Ashley Saunders, students, doctors, and clients can better visualize images of the heart using 3D imaging and 3D printing. Saunders, an associate professor and cardiologist in the CVM’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, is focused on better understanding the heart using state-of-the-art Echopixel software that merges many images from a CT scan into a single 3D model. With this software and a pair of 3D glasses, the viewer can see the 3D heart projected in front of them. Unlike virtual reality goggles, the 3D glasses do not fully immerse the viewer or make them disoriented. “It makes so much more sense when you’re looking at a heart that is a complex 3D structure,” Saunders said. “It is very exciting because we can repair things and see things that we couldn’t before.” Creating 3D images of the heart also allows cardiologists to give patients unprecedented care because they are able to see and understand the heart in a novel way. The software has been used in human medicine, but Saunders’ work is the first time it’s being applied in veterinary medicine and education. Other software exists that can translate these images into 3D, but Saunders said the programs are limited, allowing the heart to be viewed only at certain angles or restricting how the image can be rotated. In contrast, the software used by the CVM allows viewers to move the image any way they choose, providing an unprecedented view of the heart. Another option is creating a 3D printed model of the heart, which can give clients and students a tangible way of examining the organ. However, 3D printing requires extra materials and can take hours to days to generate, whereas the software creates a 3D image of the heart in less than five minutes, according to Saunders. These 3D images and models have the potential to revolutionize how veterinary students are taught by addressing students’ learning styles and making veterinary medicine more open to individuals to learn more effectively with non-traditional methods. “We’re trained in veterinary school in anatomy first, so you learn the body and you can see it and touch it,” Saunders said. “But after that, we spend our time teaching the students how to interpret the body in two dimensions on flattened images looking at X-rays and ultrasound images. But when we start teaching in flat 2D images, I think some things get lost. If we can put it back into 3D and let them see the layers and structures, it’s 14 | CVM Today
“It makes so much more sense when you’re looking at a heart that is a complex 3D structure.”
-Dr. Ashley Saunders
Dr. Ashley Saunders and students
INNOVATION IN RESEARCH Dr. Ashley Saunders using the 3D visualization system.
really beneficial.” The 3D visualizations have proven wildly popular in the classroom. “The students love the 3D. Everybody likes it because it helps you see and it has a ‘wow factor,’” said Saunders, adding that she takes the technology beyond the “wow factor” by highlighting how practical the technology can be. “Students can answer questions about different parts and see how they relate to each other, and point out challenging concepts.” Veterinarians who’ve been trained to use X-rays and other 2D tools should not feel their skills are no longer valuable, since 3D and 2D tools can be used in tandem as complements to each other; a 3D understanding of the anatomy helps veterinarians interpret the 2D images better in practice, according to Saunders. The technology is particularly useful for patients with congenital heart defects because surgeons are given a glimpse of the heart before the procedure. “When we have a puppy or kitten born with a heart defect, we have to figure out how we can fix it, and visualizing it before you get in there is very, very helpful,” she said. In preparing for a surgery, Saunders and her team can use 3D images and models to discuss specifics such as what the heart looks like compared to how the patient is positioned. “Then we can identify the problem and map it out,” she said. “It brings the cardiologists together with the surgeons, so everybody’s on the same page.” Saunders also makes use of 3D technology during an operation. “We have a 3D ultrasound probe to build the heart in 3D and help us make decisions about how we are going to fix our patients right in the operating room, when we need it,” she said. “That’s been incredibly useful. “The clients are really ecstatic,” Saunders said. “They’re mostly happy that we’re able to fix their pet, and I don’t believe we would have been able to be as successful as we have been without being able to see the heart the way that we do.” CVM Today | 15
Kristin Patrick dropping Sadie off for her appointment.
HELPING DOGS, HELPING PEOPLE This story first appeared in MD Anderson’s Conquest magazine.
Look at Sadie Watson and you may not guess she has much in common with anyone at MD Anderson. After all, Sadie is a 9-year-old French bulldog and beloved family pet. But she’s also facing the same diagnosis as many patients in MD Anderson’s Brain and Spine Center: a brain tumor called a glioma. Sadie’s owner Kristin Patrick and her husband, Robert Watson, also have two young sons, but Sadie was their “first baby.” 16 | CVM Today
By: Meagan Raeke
“When you love a pet so much, they become part of your family,” Patrick said. But in July 2016, while Patrick and Watson were on vacation in Paris, Sadie had multiple seizures and eventually was diagnosed with the glioma. When it came time for Patrick and Watson to decide how to treat their beloved pet, their perspective as both parents and researchers in the Texas A&M’s Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology shaped their treatment
to benefit, but they represent an amazing opportunity to understand the biology of brain tumors, to understand how tumors evade drugs and to understand the immune response.”
-Dr. Jonathan Levine
A Better Model & a Shared Hope
decision—Sadie would undergo brain surgery to remove the tumor, donate the tissue for analysis, and enroll in an innovative clinical trial being conducted at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “Participating in science is essential to move these therapies forward for families,” Patrick said. “If our actual baby had a brain tumor—I can’t even fathom that.” The clinical trial, it turns out, will have implications not only on Sadie; the same brain tumors that affect dogs are found in humans, too. Using data from this clinical trial, physician-scientists from MD Anderson and the CVM are teaming up to help man and man’s best friend.
A Common Bond
“We have the same struggles in that these gliomas in dogs are really hard to treat,” said Dr. Jonathan Levine, professor, Helen McWhorter Chair and department head of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the CVM, where Sadie is a patient. Current therapies simply aren’t very effective at treating high-grade gliomas, such as grade IV glioblastoma, and survival is poor in both humans and dogs. Scientists know that tumors from both species look almost identical on MRI scans and under the microscope. In 2015, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) created a comparative brain tumor consortium to evaluate canine brain cancer as a model for human disease. “The big question is: Are human and canine high-grade gliomas genetically the same?” said Dr. Amy Heimberger, professor of neurosurgery at MD Anderson and co-leader of the Glioblastoma Moon Shot. To find the answer, she’s leading a P30 grant funded by
All new cancer drugs are tested for safety and effectiveness in the lab—often in engineered mouse models— before they are approved for clinical trials in humans or dogs. “Pre-clinical studies can look fantastic in mice, but fall apart in humans,” Heimberger said. For a cancer like glioblastoma, which less than 10 percent of patients survive for five years, this is exceedingly frustrating. “I want to reduce the cost and futility of clinical trials,” she said. “When you have a patient facing something this dire, you want to offer them something with a good chance of success.” The current model system is imperfect: mice do not grow brain tumors on their own. Their tumors are small, sometimes microscopic. They live in a sterile environment. And their immune response is biased, making it difficult to accurately assess immunotherapies. Pet dogs, on the other hand, spontaneously develop large brain tumors. They have a natural immune response to cancer, and they live in the homes of their human families. As the grant team analyzes the tumor tissue samples from Sadie and other dogs, they will look for genetic mutations and immune responses known to occur in human brain tumors. If the results show that canine brain tumors are indeed a good model for human brain tumors, then clinical trials in man’s best friend could reveal which new immunotherapies have the best chance of success in mankind. “Cancer is horrible for anyone affected by it, whether that’s a dog or a person,” Levine said. “There’s a huge opportunity here to develop something that helps dogs and also helps people.” The original article can be viewed at: https://www. mdanderson.org/publications/conquest/spring-2017/adogged-pursuit.html. CVM Today | 17
INNOVATION IN RESEARCH
“These dogs, not only do they stand
the NCI. Fittingly, Heimberger is also a dog-lover, with a pet collie named Duke, a west highland terrier named Winston, and a long haired dachshund named Millie. Levine and brain tumor genomics expert Roeland Verhaak, Ph.D., professor and associate director of Computational Biology at The Jackson Laboratory in Connecticut, are co-investigators on the grant. (Levine has a border terrier named Lucy. Verhaak has a Chihuahua named Lola.) The P30 grant is the first large-scale, advancedsequencing project to characterize genetic alterations in canine glioma and the first screening project to identify immune responses in these tumors. Verhaak is currently analyzing data from whole-genome and RNA sequencing of 90 tissue samples from dogs with brain tumors. The grant’s long-term goal is to develop a safe and effective immunotherapy for both dogs and people with high-grade gliomas. “These dogs, not only do they stand to benefit, but they represent an amazing opportunity to understand the biology of brain tumors, to understand how tumors evade drugs, and to understand the immune response,” Levine said.
IT’S A PRODUCTION By: Dr. Megan Palsa
Students at the Texas Cattle Feeders Association
In 2008, Dr. Virginia Fajt, clinical associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP) in the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), came up with a brilliant idea. Collaborating with veterinary faculty Drs. Dan Posey, Jeff Musser, and Floren “Buddy” Faries, Fajt devised a concept that would engage second- and third-year veterinary students in food supply veterinary medicine and, hopefully, impact students’ career choices. The result of that collaboration, the Food Animal Production Tour, now provides an innovative, experiential enhancement of students’ learning, building upon their knowledge base of the numerous opportunities in food supply veterinary medicine. Since its inception, 58 students have gone through the Food Animal Production Tour in the Texas Panhandle. The tour focuses on providing students with a working knowledge and background in animal agriculture by allowing students to discuss and learn about the roles of food supply veterinarians. The six-day tour, which runs Sunday through Friday, is designed to expose students to multiple types of production units within a relatively short time; to access prototypical, well-run operations, which will showcase the veterinary career opportunities in the field; and to introduce production concepts and terminology of the food animal industries. It also acquaints students with opportunities for future externships 18 | CVM Today
and elective courses, while also improving their ability to work within food supply veterinary medicine. “I had the distinct pleasure of attending the tour and must say that it was an extremely enlightening and educational experience,” said Kameron Soules, third-year veterinary student at Texas A&M University. “Until then, I had never seen a feedlot, dairy, processing facility, or a swine production facility firsthand, and I was exceedingly impressed. “Dr. Posey and Dr. Griffin did a fantastic job of introducing us to people in the industry, as well as to veterinarians working in the Texas Panhandle. We were an inquisitive group and our questions were always taken seriously and answered thoroughly,” Soules said. “Due to this tour, I will be seeking an externship at one of the veterinary practices we visited, during my fourth year, and will be tracking either mixed or food animal.” The tour’s format exposes students to modern food supply veterinarians’ roles in feedlots, dairies, swine operations, and rural private practice. This year’s tour included partnering with the Dalhart-based Full Circle Dairy, JBS Swine Operations, and Circle H Animal Health; the Amarillo-based Randall County Feedyards, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab, and Tyson Packing House; the Dimmitt-based Dimmitt Veterinary Clinic; the Hereford-based Hereford Veterinary Clinic; and the Panhandlebased Carson County Veterinary Clinic. “The Food Animal Production Tour is an elective in the
understatement. Because of my schedule this summer, this tour was essentially my vacation, and I was not let down at all. Going into this trip, I had a pretty solid foundation of large animal medicine, having worked as a large animal tech at a nearby clinic. I didn’t really think there would be that much to learn but more just to experience. I was definitely wrong. To be honest, this trip was probably the single-most educational week of my vet school journey so far. Not only did I get to see things I had never seen before, but I also got to apply what I’ve been learning in classes in a real-life setting.”
students’ veterinary-school curriculum,” Posey said. “An important aspect of the tour is the veterinary students’ opportunities to talk with agricultural leaders, dairy and feedyard managers, agriculture employees, food animal veterinarians in the industry, food animal veterinarians in
Students having lunch with Dr. Posey.
Students touring in West Texas. private practice, and veterinary diagnosticians. “The tour is an important method to introduce veterinary students to large-scale production agriculture,” he said. “We are very thankful for our educational partners and appreciate their impact on the educational process of this tour.” One of the tour’s main objectives is to take the student out of the classroom to develop the learner’s understanding of the “Learning, Experiencing, Reflection” cycle through experiential learning; students learn the concepts in food supply veterinary medicine in the classroom, experience it in the daily tour events, and reflect on the concepts through open discussion and journaling, according to Posey. “The tour has changed over time and is now focused on 3VM students who are exploring the career options in food supply veterinary medicine,” he said. “This also exposes the 3VM student to rural practice experience and the many opportunities for veterinarians in food animal careers outside of private practice.” This year’s participants were: Kameron Soules, Michelle Morelli, Libby Woodruff, Susannah Jones, Pamela May, Hannah Klein, Anne Jablinski, Ben Shepard, and Mary Cartagena. “This was a career-altering experience for me and I will encourage others to attend next year. Thank you for funding this program and I hope that you continue to do so for future classes,” Soules said. “I think that this was a fantastic way to get student exposure to food animal production and West Texas opportunities! Thank you, again.” One of the key components in this year’s Food Animal Production Tour is the CVM’s partnership with West Texas A&M University’s (WTAMU) Department of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. WTAMU was instrumental in the success of this year’s tour by providing a welcoming environment, faculty resources to assist in instruction, sharing their connections to agriculture industry, and providing numerous departmental resources. Thanks to WTAMU for their extraordinary help in educating future food animal veterinarians. CVM Today | 19
INNOVATION IN EDUCATION
“Saying I had a great time would be an
By: Callie Rainosek
Michael George explores the innovation behind radiology in his fourth year as a DVM student. When Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) fourth-year veterinary student Michael George started his journey in a pre-vet program at Tarleton State University, he never imagined that his love for robotics in high school would translate into his future career in veterinary medicine. But instead of a robot remote control in his hands, he now is looking forward to using a probe to perform ultrasounds on animals. “If I can have a probe in my hand all day, I’d be happy,” George said. A veteran who grew up living all over the world, George has a special interest in radiology, and particularly ultrasounds. In fact, George hopes to learn how to use ultrasounds to make more effective choices in treating various animals, including dolphins and other wildlife. For example, performing an ultrasound on an animal can give George a better idea of how serious a disease is. “Radiology can be used to stage cancers or look for certain diseases, such as liver or renal disease,” George said. “Oftentimes, you can make a diagnosis without radiology, but you wouldn’t know how extensive the disease is. I think radiology is a really useful tool and it should be used more often to make better treatment choices.” Though George is now confident he is destined to be a veterinarian, he wasn’t always so sure. After spending a year in the military, George decided to pursue education to become a teacher. However, an experience with his friend’s pregnant dog changed his plan. “When I first met Blue, she was pregnant and about to have her first litter of puppies,” George explained. “Dogs usually don’t like to have strangers around when they’re pregnant, but she came up and sniffed my hand. We bonded pretty quickly. Then a few days later, I helped her give birth. After that experience my friend suggested I look into veterinary medicine.” Since then, George has excelled in his studies and is looking forward to more hands-on learning in his fourth year. “I want to learn the day-to-day life of a veterinarian,” George said. “I know the medicine, diseases, and treatments, but I don’t know how to apply them yet; that’s what I am really hoping to learn this last year.” After graduation, George hopes to move north with his wife, Susan, and his daughter, Sophie. He plans to continue pursuing radiology and practice in multiple settings, including clinics and even aquariums. With his final year ahead of him, he sees the opportunities as endless. 20 | CVM Today
Michael George (left) and Aurash Behroozi (right)
By: Callie Rainosek
In his final year of veterinary school, Aurash Behroozi shows special interest in innovative ophthalmology. Aurash Behroozi, a fourth-year veterinary student at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), has a special interest in small-animal ophthalmology, despite his curiosity in many other fields, including dermatology. “If I could wake up tomorrow and be anything, I’d want to be an ophthalmologist,” Behroozi said. Though he is the first in his family to pursue veterinary medicine, Behroozi is confident and ambitious. He said these strong qualities stem from his parents who supported him throughout his life. “My parents molded their children to be determined individuals, to never give up, and always try their hardest,” Behroozi said. Pursuing veterinary school has been Behroozi’s goal since middle school, when he helped care for a childhood pet with epilepsy. “It was really hard for me when my dog got epilepsy,” Behroozi said. “It was traumatic, but I wanted to do something about it.” The event motivated Behroozi to learn more about animals and how to help them when they are sick or hurt; this motivation, along with the support of his family, pushed him to begin veterinary school early, while he was still pursuing his biomedical sciences degree from Texas A&M. Although it may sound like Behroozi is strictly business when it comes to academics, he said that taking time to destress is important. In fact, Behroozi admitted that some may think he is a little “too relaxed” sometimes. “I’ve seen a lot of students get stressed out with school, but one of the things I learned in college is that there is so much information and you can’t learn it all,” Behroozi said. “You have to manage the stress and take care of yourself.” When Behroozi is taking a break from the books, he can be found playing with his miniature Australian Shephard; visiting his girlfriend, who is a first-year medical student; or playing sports with friends. As Behroozi begins his final year in the DVM program, he looks forward to learning more about ophthalmology and gaining more independent-thinking skills. In addition, he hopes to get more practice and experience in different procedures, such as surgery and making his own diagnoses. Though he has dreams of practicing out of state, Behroozi plans to practice in Houston after veterinary school. No matter where he goes, Behroozi’s uplifting and confident spirit will guide him toward achieving his goals. CVM Today | 21
INNOVATION IN EDUCATION
Eye on the Prize
By: Callie Rainosek and Jennifer Gauntt
Dr. Susan Eades brings a wealth of experience from across the Southern U.S. in innovative teaching, mentoring, and researching as the new head of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. When Dr. Susan Eades, professor and head of the Large Animal Clinical Sciences Department at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), enrolled in engineering classes at Louisiana State University (LSU) in the 1970s, her family of engineers thought she was destined to take on the family profession. However, Eades had a different plan. Quickly realizing the field wasn’t for her, she traded her engineering calculator for a stethoscope and started a preveterinary program soon after she began her undergraduate degree. Passionate about becoming a veterinarian and helping companion animals, Eades continued her education at LSU and earned her DVM degree in 1982. Though Eades expected to specialize in companion
Erin Lester, Dr. Susan Eades and Clarissa Root 22 | CVM Today
Dr. Susan Eades and fourth-year veterinary student Clarissa Root examining Charlie. animals, horses had always intrigued her. In college, she took every opportunity to interact with horses, including cleaning stalls and exercising horses for a cutting and reining horse trainer. In veterinary school, she purchased her first horse and developed a bond. This bond, and her clinical rotations, further convinced Eades to develop her skills in large animal medicine, with the goal of working in a small-town mixed private practice. However, during her fourth-year clinical rotations in small and large animal internal medicine, Eades decided she wanted to specialize in internal medicine, so she applied for academic internships after earning her DVM degree and never looked back. “I ended up never going into private practice,” Eades said. “Instead, I stayed in academia.” She participated in clinical research during her internship and residency at New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania and decided that another degree would be the next step in her career. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in 1988 in veterinary physiology and pharmacology and then accepted a position there as a clinical faculty member. But Eades’ love for horses never waned; she started researching laminitis, a crippling disease that is categorized by inflammation in the horse hoof, at the University of Georgia. She described this time in her life as “perfect” because her passions for medicine, horses, and research were being used simultaneously in the veterinary profession. Her work with laminitis gave Eades the opportunity to develop worldwide research collaborations. Though laminitis is a complicated condition, Eades and her research partners
the CVM, Eades crossed the Louisiana border once again to continue her leadership role in the veterinary profession. “At LSU, I became more active in faculty mentoring and administration and decided I wanted to do that full-time as a department head,” Eades said. “I came to the CVM because of the resources, positive energy, and outstanding leadership that’s here in the college.” As a new CVM faculty member, Eades hopes to bring more focus into outreach programs at Texas A&M. “Some of my personal goals are to reach out to veterinarians for feedback and find where we can strategically expand our services to help them better serve their clients,” Eades said. She also hopes to help the large animal faculty excel in their efforts in clinical service, teaching, and research. Though Eades looks forward to spending a lot of time at the CVM, she also is excited for new adventures in her personal life. Eades can be found hiking, walking her dogs, kayaking, playing volleyball, following many different sport teams—including the LSU gymnastics team—and, of course, caring for horses or watching the Kentucky Derby. Whether she’s lecturing students, mentoring a faculty member, or contributing to worldwide research in laminitis, Eades hopes to bring a lifetime of leadership to the CVM. “I’m just really happy to be here,” Eades said.
Dr. Susan Eades and veterinary students CVM Today | 23
INNOVATION IN EDUCATION
around the world have played a crucial role in gaining a better understanding of the condition. “We really have made a lot of advances,” Eades said. “It’s just a difficult condition to treat because by the time signs of laminitis are evident, there is already so much damage to the tissues in the hoof that lameness is inevitable.” After 10 years at the University of Georgia, Eades decided it was time to continue her laminitis research and returned to Louisiana to move her three children closer to extended family and work at LSU as an associate professor. There, she became a full professor and mentored faculty and taught students, further encouraging her strong passion for education. “I love teaching because I get to help students do something they never thought they would be able to do, such as taking a blood sample or putting in a catheter,” Eades said. “I love watching them gain confidence and grow exponentially with every little skill they learn.” Additionally, Eades learned the importance of veterinary outreach programs while at LSU. She participated in these programs by collaborating with Louisiana veterinarians helping them better serve clientele across the state. Eades’ mentoring and administration experience at LSU led her to pursue her position at Texas A&M this past spring. With her kids grown, Eades felt moving to Texas and working at the CVM was an exciting next step in her career. After experiencing the Aggie spirit and meeting other leaders at
“We have been honored to have
Dr. Gerald Parker
Dr. Parker join our team. With his many talents, experiences, and widespread reputation, he will help us realize our goals of synergizing the unique strengths across campus to advance animal, human, and environmental health in a shared ecosystem.”
-Dr. Eleanor Green
A HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE By: Jennifer Gauntt When Gerald Parker Jr. came to Texas A&M as an undergraduate, he planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a veterinarian. Completing both his bachelor’s degree in veterinary sciences and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in just five years, Parker was on the path his father had hoped for him; the next step would be to return to San Antonio, where Parker grew up, to join the family practice. But while serving in the Corps of Cadets (also like his father), Parker decided, instead, to join the military, where his trajectory would completely change, setting the stage for a “non-traditional career” that would take him through 26 years of military service and a decade of service with the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Defense (DOD). Within two years of joining the military, Parker’s work, and interest, in medicine began to shift from animals to humans, which was accentuated by opportunities to earn a doctorate in physiology from Baylor College of Medicine and to participate in the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National 24 | CVM Today
Defense University. He was the only Veterinary Corps officer asked to participate in the master’s program at the Industrial College, which was one of the premiere senior service schools for future military and civilian executive leaders. “I’ve always thought every job I’ve taken was the best job I’ve ever had, and that was the best job I ever had, at the time. I was commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and when I got notification that I was selected, I first went, ‘Boy, I don’t want to leave this job,’” Parker said. “I talked to my commanding general, who was named General Parker, no relationship, and he said, ‘You’re crazy if you think you’re going to stay in (the) command (position); you’re going to do this, because you’re destined to do bigger things.’ So that’s what I did. “It was a great experience,” Parker laughed. “I was really blessed to be selected and then to serve as student president for my class. The overall selection rate’s really low, and the in-residence program was hard work and competitive, but very interesting. I don’t know how I got it, but I did.” Through the Industrial College’s rigorous curriculum,
Parker learned about the elements of national power— economic, political, social, and military—as well as resourcing the U.S. national security strategy; this knowledge ultimately would benefit his governmental work in strategic policy and in developing his expertise in Global One Health. When Parker retired from the military, the executive leadership experience he had in biodefense, emerging infectious diseases, global health security, and public health preparedness made him a natural fit within the DHS and, eventually, with the HHS, where he served as the principal deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response. As the No. 2 person in charge, he coordinated federal public health preparedness efforts and responses to Hurricanes Katrina thru Alex, the 2009 H1N1 flu virus pandemic, and the Haiti earthquake. “It was during this time that emerging infectious diseases were recognized as threats to our national security and global health security became a public health focus,” Parker said. “Today, the growing threat of a pandemic is one of society’s greatest challenges, and flu viruses have the highest pandemic potential; this is what keeps me up at night. But the emergence of new flu viruses are also right at the nexus of animals and humans, where we have prevention opportunities,” Parker said. “Veterinarians have a huge role to play, as most emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic; if we can prevent a spillover event from animals into humans, or detect it early, we may be able to prevent an outbreak anywhere from becoming a pandemic.” Efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to the threat of the new flu viruses and other microbes are examples of how human, animal, and environmental health converge to form Global One Health, as a concept, to contain emerging infectious diseases at their source, according to Parker. The actions also tie into the niche Parker hopes to carve out for Texas A&M as the new campus director for Global One Health and associate dean for Global One Health at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “I believe that One Health’s time has come. One Health is a very complicated concept that, I’d be the first to tell
Dr. Gerald Parker Sr. (second from left) working on a patient. CVM Today | 25
INNOVATION IN EDUCATION
Dr. Gerald Parker Jr. (left) and his father (right) in the Corps of Cadets.
you, is hard to define. I think the concept has suffered from trying to be too many things to too many people, rather than focusing on priority problems,” Parker said. “And it’s not just me saying that One Health is growing in importance, especially when focused on the fight against infectious diseases and related challenges, like antimicrobial resistance; this has been brought up by the biodefense Blue Ribbon Panel, the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology, and recently by the G20 nations.” At Texas A&M, Parker also holds joint appointments at the Bush School of Government Service and AgriLife Research. He believes this not only reflects the multidisciplinary nature of One Health, but will allow for greater collaboration across campus. “Other colleges, faculty, and students want to be part of multidisciplinary coalitions to work on hard global problems, and if we do that, I know Texas A&M will make significant contributions to solving some of the most pressing challenges of our time,” Parker said. There are many reasons why Parker decided to return his alma mater after his final governmental position in the DOD, including nostalgia. “I felt there’s something I needed to give back, to help shape the next generation of leaders. I continue to have an interesting career from where I started as a student here; I never would’ve imagined the things that I did,” he said. “Veterinary medicine was a great foundation for me to build a career in national security and public health preparedness.” While living in College Station with his wife, Denise—his high-school sweetheart, the mother of their three sons, a fellow Aggie, and one of his role models—Parker also hopes to be involved in mentoring students and raising awareness of the career opportunities available through Global One Health. “We need to focus on emerging infectious diseases globally and locally, and what Texas A&M can do to be a part of the solution,” he said. “It’s a big challenge requiring academia, non-governmental organizations, government agencies, and international partners working together.”
teaching earns Ramadoss spot in Texas A&M’s
‘PEDAGOGY PROJECT’ By: Jennifer Gauntt
Dr. Jay Ramadoss
Dr. Jay Ramadoss, assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology Department (VTPP), has been recognized for his commitment to innovative teaching by being selected as a featured instructor for Texas A&M’s Pedagogy Project. A program established by Texas A&M University’s Office of the Provost for Undergraduate Studies, the Pedagogy Project aims to improve student success and retention through the implementation of motivating and engaging classroom instruction. Four professors from across campus whose teachings align with the university’s undergraduate learning outcomes—which include demonstrating critical thinking, communicating effectively, and working collaboratively—were interviewed on video to create two, three-minute featurettes on the best teaching practices. A piece includes an interview filmed in question-and-answer style in the KAMU studio by assistant provost for undergraduate studies Dr. Tim Scott and another filmed in the classroom. Ramadoss was selected for his sophomore-level Physiology for Bioengineers 1 and 2 classes, courses he has been teaching to engineering students. In these classrooms, Ramadoss employs a number of strategies to keep his students engaged.
Ramadoss explained: “Students learn to apply concepts in real-life scenarios. We use a balance between instructional and active learning, and for every two lectures, which themselves involve a lot of active-learning components, we follow that up with what we call APPL—active physiology principles learning. “Each week the students assume a role; for example, they could be an astronaut, researcher, physician, or a scientist, and then the class solves a real-life problem, which is an application of what they’ve learned in the previous two lessons. “The biomedical engineering students are amazing and highly motivated, and we’ve done a lot of transformation in the teaching practices of this course. Some of the basic concepts we kept, but a lot of it we transformed to have a good mix, to not lose the good things from the traditional aspects, while also taking advantage of the best practices in teaching offered by the Pedagogy Project.”
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Dr. Jay Ramadoss and a student in the lab
observe in the blood,” Ramadoss said. “If we characterize those, then we can create a more accurate diagnostic marker for exposure to alcohol during pregnancy.” But his research is not limited to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Ramadoss also is exploring other fetal health concerns, such as the much-touted “safer” e-cigarettes, the effects of which Ramadoss has started examining in his most recent research. “We are especially interested in an environmental, lung, heart, and blood vessel perspective,” Ramadoss said. Both his research and teaching have been accentuated by the recently opened, state-of-the-art technology in the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex; technology, such as the abundance of microphones in his classroom, facilitates the active-learning component of his class by making his lessons more accessible for students, according to Ramadoss. He attributes his success to a variety of factors, such as his ability to learn from and be motivated by the experience of his VTPP colleagues, including Drs. James Herman, a pioneer in undergraduate education; Randolph Stewart, a veterinary physiology educator; Charles Long, in graduate education; and Katrin Hinrichs, who offered strategies for conducting the course, as well as to seminars by the Center for Teaching Excellence, and especially his past mentor, Dr. Tim Cudd, under whom he studied as a Ph.D. student in Texas A&M’s biomedical sciences program. “I would like to thank Dean (Eleanor) Green for her continuous support for my endeavors,” he said. “I have received a lot of encouragement from both VTPP and biomedical engineering department heads Drs. Larry Suva and Anthony Guiseppi-Elie and VTPP business administrator Ms. Yvonne Kovar to achieve excellence in this course.” Everything he does, from his well-researched syllabus to the creation of his resources and activities—all designed considering the attention span of his students—is time consuming, but Ramadoss believes it’s well worth it. “My thing is, I am passionate about really wanting this course to be a positive experience for the students, something they can remember for the rest of their lives. It’s not really about me; it’s about what I want for the students and the course,” he said. “When they leave the class after every lecture, I want to ensure that they leave with a positive experience. That makes my day. I want to constantly improve the course. “It’s a lot of effort, but in the long run, this effort is going to pay in terms of what we can do in undergraduate education. I just want to do something for the class,” he said. His many awards, including from the National Institutes of Health, United States Department of Agriculture, scientific societies, and the Carlos Robles Teaching Award, are evidence of his devotion to his students. In his office hangs a signed class picture, a gift from his appreciative students. “I’m hoping that whatever the students become, whether they become veterinarians, physicians, or they earn a Ph.D., they will be able to relate my physiology course somehow in their life,” Ramadoss said. CVM Today | 27
INNOVATION IN EDUCATION
That transformation has included creating 12-minute video summaries of each lecture he gives and allowing students to voluntarily give half-minute overviews of the topics they learn at the beginning of classes, as well as gaming such as “Physiology Millionaire.” “It’s a large class, but we still get to do a lot of active learning; we do case-based learning, role play, critical thinking, debate-based learning, problem solving, and traditional things as well,” he said. “I want to be able to take a very complex concept and put it in a way that everyone will get it and also be able to apply it. When the students are involved in the process, it’s a very good thing.” Ramadoss said he finds inspiration in his research for his lectures, which, in turn, inspire his labs by making him feel enthusiastic and happy about his productivity. One of his major research goals is to decrease the effects of fetalalcohol spectrum disorders—an umbrella term referring to any disorder documented that is associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy—in children. Effects of these disorders may include specific craniofacial differences, cardiovascular problems, and nerve dysfunction. “Right now, a conservative estimate is about 2 to 5 percent of young school children in the United States have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders,” Ramadoss said. Though alcohol consumption during pregnancy is correlated with the development of diseases later in the offspring’s life, Ramadoss said labeling maternal alcohol consumption as a cause of any disease developed during adulthood is hard. As a result, Ramadoss is focusing on decreasing the effects of these disorders on children affected by them. Like with his teaching, Ramadoss takes a different approach to his research by holistically studying multiple organ systems of the fetus instead of focusing on just one or a few organ systems. Because of his Ph.D. and his post-doctoral experience at the University of Wisconsin studying the fetus, pregnancy, and the biology of the uterus, Ramadoss’ research is unique from other research in his field. “The hypothesis is that, depending upon how long one drinks or the amount of consumption, there are varying patterns of the sugar connected to the protein that we can
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By: Kristin Chaney
Spotlight on Curriculum
2) provide opportunities to practice professional skills including communication, leadership, and wellness, and 3) provide exercises to develop problem-solving and criticalthinking skills. This course will be held each semester of the preclinical curriculum and will incorporate consecutive and cumulative material in the areas of clinical skills, professional behaviors, and critical thinking. The curriculum review planning team will continue to support the faculty and course coordinators as the remainder of the courses in 2VM and 3VM are created and/ or redesigned. Every effort will be made to ensure that the New Graduate Outcomes are the driving force for course and content development and that relevance to Day-One practice is evident in all lecture, laboratory, and experiential learning opportunities present within the new curricular framework.
Action Items Defined from Stakeholder Feedback for Curriculum Redesign Course Integration Improve horizontal (within a given curricular year) and vertical (between curricular years) integration of course content.
Problem Solving and Clinical Reasoning Skills Provide additional problem solving and clinical-reasoning opportunities throughout the curriculum, combined with learning activities that demonstrate clinical relevance.
Teaching Methodologies Greater emphasis on experiential and active learning and opportunities for students to apply knowledge of practical skills. Increase educational support for faculty to implement learner-centered teaching strategies and knowledge regarding the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).
Material Provide content review to define core versus elective material and an overall reduction of material in some courses to allow emphasis on common/ significant medical conditions relevant to DayOne practice.
Professional Skills Develop opportunities to practice professional skills (e.g. communication and leadership), including financial literacy and business knowledge to promote success as a veterinary professional.
Student Wellness Encourage varied learning modalities in the preclinical curriculum and improve opportunities for independent decision-making and critical thinking in the clinical year. Provide information on resiliency and wellness strategies.
Learning Management System Provide a consistent online system for course materials across the curriculum and continued IT support during examinations. Curricular Inequality Address inequality in course content and hours required between clinical tracks, particularly in 3VM.
Assessment and Feedback Greater alignment of assessment modalities and instructional delivery of content and opportunities for deliberate and timely feedback prior to graded examinations. Create a structured peer-review of teaching program.
CVM Today | 29
INNOVATION IN EDUCATION
In the previous two editions of CVM Today, the Spotlight on Curriculum has featured the DVM program curricular redesign initiative. To briefly recap, this effort began in the spring of 2014 with the creation of the New Graduate Outcomes, which state the knowledge, skills, and attributes expected of an Aggie veterinarian at the time of graduation. A partnership between the TAMU Center for Teaching Excellence and educational experts within the CVM began work to capture feedback from the many stakeholders involved in the DVM program to determine how effectively the current curriculum supported the New Graduate Outcomes. Stakeholders included current students, alumni, faculty, employers of our graduates, and practitioners working alongside our graduates. Both surveys and individual and group meetings were held to discuss more in-depth the details about the current curriculum. In addition, a concurrent curriculum-mapping project was initiated to enable the current content to be reviewed. The curriculum committee was supported by teams of faculty and practitioners from the community in reviewing and analyzing stakeholder data. A list of action items (Figure 1) was created to enable data-driven decisions regarding the curriculum revision and the development of a new curricular framework. The curriculum committee voted to accept a new curricular framework, built solely upon recommendations from stakeholders, to be instituted with the incoming Class of 2021 in the fall of 2017. Since the last installment of CVM Today, a great amount of work has taken place to establish the new curricular framework and prepare for incoming students this fall. Working groups of faculty were assembled to develop new courses and redesign existing courses using the information stemming from stakeholder feedback. Faculty from different departments and instructors from different areas of the program were organized into teams that were responsible for assisting each course coordinator with the development of course material. Utilizing the list of action items from stakeholder data and guided by the curriculum review planning team members, the working groups employed backwards course design theory to develop new courses and restructure existing ones. Each working group selected the appropriate New Graduate Outcomes to align with each course and then developed assessment modalities capable of demonstrating student proficiency for each outcome. With outcomes and assessments outlined, the working groups then determined the content necessary to fulfill the course outcomes and the goals of stakeholder feedback. The curriculum review planning team facilitated the working group sessions and assisted the course coordinators with the horizontal integration of the content. Many new courses have been and are being created to support the data received from stakeholders within the new curriculum. For example, a new course series has been created to address several action items identified as needing improvement in the new curriculum. This course, entitled Professional & Clinical Skills, has three primary goals: 1) provide weekly opportunities for students to practice technical skills through simulation, models, and live animal experiences,
Dr. Larry Suva talking with community members in Bulgaria.
CVM Professor Promotes Worldwide Bone Health in Bulgaria By: Callie Rainosek
Though cancer treatment in the United States involves open and communicative relationships between doctors and patients, this isn’t always the case in European countries. Through his participation in the Fulbright Specialist Program, Dr. Larry Suva, head of the Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), hopes to change this. The program, funded by the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, gave Suva the opportunity to collaborate with New Bulgarian University in Bulgaria during the month of June to implement a program in medical care centers that will promote better bone health for cancer, autism spectrum disorder, and Down syndrome patients across Europe. In some European countries—such as Bulgaria, Austria, the Czech Republic, and parts of Italy—there is a lack of communication between doctors and patients; as a result, patients can be left feeling lost or confused about the next step in treating their illness or managing their disorder, according to Suva. In fact, following an oncology visit many patients in Bulgaria are referred to a psychologist who is familiar with the person’s medical case for follow-up care, including counseling and survivorship. Suva said this process can be hard on patients who are often left with little direction or support. 30 | CVM Today
After learning about this, Suva pursued the Fulbright Program to make a positive change in doctor-patient relationships and create support networks for European patients that would address potential health concerns, such as bone health, during treatment. “We wanted to set up a program where people with Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, and cancer can get support and information about nutrition and their skeleton,” Suva said. “In these patients, bone fractures are catastrophic.” During his June visit to Bulgaria, Suva focused on meetings with graduate and undergraduate students about research ethics, clinical trial design, and how to work with Down syndrome families and children. He also hosted a two-hour workshop and town hall meeting for “People and Families with Down Syndrome” at the New Bulgarian University. In addition to talks on breast cancer patient bone health and the consequences of bone metastasis, Suva worked with survivors. “I gave seminars and webinars for breast cancer survivors and faculty across the university, and beyond,” Suva said. “I followed this up with a meeting with the first survivorship group in Bulgaria that has been going one to two years. “We are now actively pursuing some social media site development to allow them to get the much-needed breast cancer pathology support that is lacking in the country,” he said.
INNOVATION IN EDUCATION
Suva believes his efforts in designing and implementing programming with New Bulgarian University gave the speech and language pathology and psychology students a chance to learn more about how certain disorders and diseases negatively affect the skeleton. This knowledge could help create a better future for patients with bone health concerns. “As students are being trained, they’re going to learn the consequences of bone fractures, poor nutrition, and poor bone health during the treatment journey,” Suva said. “Then, they are going to find a path toward a healthy healing process.” Suva is hopeful that his Fulbright Specialist Program activities were successful in Bulgaria so they can be transplanted to other European countries; by working to make improvements in bone health awareness for cancer, autism, and Down syndrome patients, as well as creating support networks and helping patients in Bulgaria build better relationships with their doctors, Suva gained the knowledge and experience necessary to begin making positive changes in other European countries, too. “Even if the program only helps a few people, someone has to start,” Suva said. Dr. Larry Suva in Bulgaria
“As students are being trained, they’re going to learn the consequences of bone fractures, poor nutrition, and poor bone health during the treatment journey. Then, they are going to find a path toward a healthy healing process.”
-Dr. Larry Suva Rada Kavena, Dr. Larry Suva, and Dr. Margarita Stankova CVM Today | 31
CONCENTRATING on innovative
SOLUTIONS By: Jennifer Gauntt
Texas A&M’s Superfund Research Center ‘mixes’ scientists from across the campus and the country for projects that aim to reduce environmental hazards and mitigate health risks in the wake of both natural and man-made disasters.
In September of 2008, when Hurricane Ike hit Galveston and Houston, waters as high as 15 to 20 feet flooded large areas and carried with it the sediment found in the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay. Was this sediment safe for the people being exposed to it? Was it toxic? Officials didn’t know. Now, with the support of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a team of Texas A&M scientists is taking an innovative approach to offer solutions to these kinds of potentially disastrous natural and man-made emergency events before they happen. The Texas A&M Superfund Research Center will develop a comprehensive set of tools that can be used by cities, counties, states, the federal government, and other entities to respond to disasters and mitigate the health and environmental consequences of exposure to hazardous mixtures during emergency-related contamination events. Under the direction of Dr. Ivan Rusyn, professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), and Dr. Anthony Knap, professor of oceanography and director of the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group in the College of Geosciences, the center includes scientists from across the Texas A&M campus and partners from across the country coming together to conduct four environmental 32 | CVM Today
research projects funded by a five-year, $10-million grant. The projects will include a study on the transportation and mobilization of complex environmental contaminants in sediments; the development of novel, low-cost, broadacting sorption materials suitable for decreasing exposures to complex chemical mixtures; and the establishment of rapid laboratory tests that will help determine the types of human health and environmental hazards to which people may be exposed. In addition, the center will tackle the challenges of understanding and measuring chemical exposures; create new approaches for analyzing “big data” from meteorology, analytical chemistry, toxicology, and geosciences; and help first responders and local, state, and federal government agencies make timely, science-based decisions.
Creating Solutions through Basic Research
All four projects will stem from a case study utilizing Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel. “There are a hundred years of chemicals in the sediment in the Galveston Bay due to the shallow depth and the proximity to a densely populated area. A hurricane or major storm will dislodge and mobilize many of the legacy chemicals in that sediment and eventually deposit it on land. That creates a completely new contamination scenario,” Knap said. “When
FOCUS ON INNOVATION
“It is well-known that subsidence and an increasing sea level are changing the vulnerability of coasts worldwide. Adding a hurricane and toxic chemicals to this mix makes it essential to develop predictive models that can help provide information to responders.”
-Dr. Anthony Knap
Dr. Ivan Rusyn
A student in the lab
that happened with Hurricane Ike almost 10 years ago, the local and state authorities had to act on general, standard procedures, not scientific evidence about this particular event.” The problem was, not only did the regulatory agencies not know the types of chemicals or their toxicities, but they also didn’t know the concentrations of the chemicals in the sediment, nor the changes that occur when the layers of sediment mixed as the water levels rose with the flooding. They knew the sediment likely contained chemicals known to be hazardous because of the multiple industrial sources around the Houston Ship Channel, but they weren’t sure of the health and environmental impact. “Of course, there is monitoring of the water and air quality, but they’re not worried about what’s actually in the sediment,” Rusyn said. “Surprisingly little is known about the fate and transport of chemicals in the sediment, especially in salt water as it is stirred up by a weather-related event.” Texas A&M’s Superfund Research Center will investigate the many known and unknown factors of the sediments found in Galveston Bay; the research also will be readily translatable to other areas around the United States’ vast coastline. “This project is going to make a lot of important discoveries, but most importantly, it is focused on providing solutions that are based on basic research,” Rusyn said. “Our goal is to measure as many factors as we can and then try to understand what else is in the exposure.” “We’re also developing tools that can quickly determine the type of hazard and which concentrations could cause a problem,” Knap added. “This is where the ‘whole mixtures’ theme is important, because traditional decision-making is done one chemical at a time, but humans are exposed to mixtures of chemicals and, especially in these emergency situations, we don’t know the identities of the individual chemicals or their potential toxicities.” This work also will be applicable to other emergency situations; as the ferocity and frequency of storms increase due to climate changes, coastal areas also will increasingly be CVM Today | 33
at risk for weather-related disasters. “It is well-known that subsidence and an increasing sea level are changing the vulnerability of coasts worldwide,” Knap said. “Adding a hurricane and toxic chemicals to this mix makes it essential to develop predictive models that can help provide information to responders.” The new approaches and models being created also will be applicable to any type of emergency-response situation that may involve exposure to hazardous chemicals, according to Rusyn. “This can be used for a chemical spill, for example, or an industrial area where an accident occurs; we may know what chemicals there are but we have no data on them. What do we do? How do we decide whether it’s safe or dangerous for people to be there?” Rusyn said. “If there is a problem right now, we cannot afford to just tell people to wait 50 years. It can’t be, ‘The scientists will figure it out;’ we need to make some immediate decisions: Do we move people out? Do we bring water in? Do we leave adults there but move pregnant women and children out? Those decisions need to be made quickly rather than within months or years. “The potential is very high (for helping communities become more prepared),” he said.
Superfunding a ‘Legacy’
The Superfund program was established in 1980 by the federal government to fund cleanup sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants. Through the program, the NIEHS provides funding to 18 universities across the country, most of them on the east and west coasts. “The competition was strong; the applications were nearly a thousand pages long, and the NEIHS funded only nine or 10 Dr. Anthony Knap
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proposals,” Rusyn said. “We’re a new program, so it’s a major accomplishment, and this university should be proud of having an outstanding team and unparalleled institutional support.” The center also marks the return of a Superfund research “legacy” for Texas A&M, which had a long-lasting and highly successful Superfund project from 1989–2008. “Our previous studies also focused on toxic chemical mixtures,” said Steve Safe, former Texas A&M Superfund director. “The newly funded project will provide novel and practical approaches for addressing critically important emergency exposures to toxic chemical mixtures.” A majority of the existing NIEHS-funded Superfund programs focus on “legacy sites,” sites that are already polluted and have been studied for years or even decades. However, the Texas A&M center decided to do something different by focusing on preparedness for future disasters. The center brings together researchers from the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Medicine, Geosciences, Engineering, and Science, as well as the School of Public Health and the Texas A&M Energy Institute. It also includes partnerships with North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, Baylor College of Medicine, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, part of the Department of Energy. “The reviewers said that our program was clearly one of those examples of when the entire program is greater than the sum of its parts,” Rusyn said. “They really were excited about how we presented ourselves as a team rather than a collection of individually excellent projects. “Almost all of the activities will be here in College Station and in our partner sites, but we will work and collect samples with the coastal communities—anywhere from existing
“The reviewers said that our program was clearly one of those examples of when the entire program is greater than the sum of its parts. They really were excited about how we presented ourselves as a team rather than a collection of individually excellent projects.”
-Dr. Ivan Rusyn
research in the Houston Ship Channel by faculty from the School of Public Health to marine and coastal research carried out by colleagues in the College of Geosciences, as well as other studies in surrounding communities and underserved areas of Houston that flood all of the time,” Rusyn said. “All are in the area that will be used in our case study.”
Behind the Innovation
None of this would be possible without the support of Texas A&M and the Texas A&M Office of the Vice President for Research, which provided resources that enabled the center to coalesce around the central theme and will fund pilot projects, facilitate interactions within the center, support diversity, contribute additional trainee funding, and offer “boot camp” trainings to students, faculty, governments, and first responders. “One of the reasons I came to Texas A&M was to develop and expand on new ideas; our program has been successful because there has been institutional support for creating and competing for marquee programs,” Rusyn said. “It’s something that is just unparalleled; in this current environment, many other universities are much less supportive. This university has been really spectacular in that regard.” Many of the center’s lead investigators, including Rusyn and Knap, have been recruited to Texas A&M within the past five years, and the synergy between their scientific ideas has already led many to join research efforts that were funded by federal and state agencies, as well as by industry. The prestige of the Superfund program grant and the new collaborations and grants that will arise also will give Texas A&M something in return. “Having Superfund support is a major statement of a
very serious commitment that this campus has made to environmental health,” Knap said. “Because this particular program has to combine biomedical and non-biomedical projects as a requirement, we really provide a unique opportunity for our trainees to cross train in environmental engineering, biomedical research, community engagement, and other areas. “It’s a very broad, university-wide program and is meant to be a center of excellence, not just for itself but it also will bring additional research and additional funding because we are acting as a team.”
‘Communities’ Working Together
While the research is underway, the projects’ support, community engagement, and research translation cores will allow the teams to communicate their findings; offer the tools that were developed to assist first responders, impacted communities, and regulatory agencies involved in site management and cleanup; and address the health concerns of the populations that may be impacted by environmental emergency-related contamination events. “Through our translation core, we will work to create packages that will serve as a how-to for affected areas, creating a process to empower both communities and governments with tools to actually make the right decision, because at present, a lot of decision are based not on information, but on emotion or other considerations,” Rusyn said. “We’re increasing resiliency of both the communities, but also governments in terms of understanding what to do when these events happen.” To learn more about the Texas A&M Superfund, visit superfund.tamu.edu. CVM Today | 35
FOCUS ON INNOVATION
Mya Morales testing water in the bay
o t e m o c l e W
OUR HOUSE By: Dr. Megan Palsa
Open House Committee members The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) Open House was on April 1, and by all accounts, it was a huge success. Sounds of laughter, joy, astonishment, and glee filled the college. Paintings of animals, sent in from elementary and middle schools across the county, lined the hallway walls of the VENI Building, adding color and beauty to an already perfect backdrop for Open House. Coordinated by hundreds of veterinary students and undergraduates, the event opened the doors to the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) and both the Large and Small Animal Hospitals for people from all over the state, inviting the community to see behind the scenes of one of the country’s premiere veterinary colleges. There were a multitude of exhibits sponsored by a 36 | CVM Today
“Hundreds of families, from tiny babies to greatgrandparents, lined the hallways, filled the courtyard, waited in line for teddy bear surgery, toured the hospitals, visited the booths and petting zoo, held baby goats, watched horsewomen and men show their horses, and visited our student store. There was something for everyone.”
-Open House Staff
wide variety of organziations, many demonstrations by numerous animal groups (agility dogs, trick horses, etc.), and animal exhibits galore! A Q&A panel, with both veterinary students and the college admissions committee, answered participants’ questions about how to prepare for veterinary school. The entire event was an opportunity to hear about all of the possibilities and best practices in the field. Thousands of families, with members ranging from tiny babies to great-grandparents, lined the hallways, filled the courtyard, waited in line for teddy bear surgery, toured the hospitals, visited the booths and petting zoo, held baby goats, watched horsewomen and men show their horses, and visited the CVM Marketplace. There was something for everyone. Preparations for next year have already begun. Open House will be held April 7, 2018.
“Paintings of animals, from elementary and middle schools across the county, lined the hallway walls of the VENI building, adding color and beauty to an already perfect backdrop for Open House.”
Students display their artwork at Open House.
The Community and students at Open House learn about X-rays.
-Tracy Howard, CVM Staff
CVM Today | 37
INNOVATION IN SERVICE
Open House visitors prepare for teddy bear surgery.
A BROAD SPECTRUM OF LEADERSHIP By: Callie Rainosek
Broad Spectrum members and allies who participated in the annual tie dye event. As leaders across the nation work to create more awareness of the LGBTQ+ community, more people who identify as LGBTQ+ are finding acceptance in an inclusive learning and working environment. One such organization is the Broad Spectrum Veterinary Student Association (BSVSA), a national organization that works to connect, support, and empower LGBTQ+ veterinary students. The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Broad Spectrum chapter is working to make an impact on CVM students and other local chapters. Austin Hardegree, a fourth-year veterinary student, helped establish the CVM’s Broad Spectrum chapter by serving first as secretary and, later, as president of the national Broad Spectrum organization. Hardegree is leading the way at the veterinary school chapter to educate people on the importance of the LGBTQ+ minority within veterinary medicine, making it unique from other veterinary LGBTQ+ organizations. In recognition of Hardegree’s exceptional leadership as president of the national Broad Spectrum, he was honored by the BSVSA with the second annual “LGBT+ Veterinary 38 | CVM Today
Awareness Award” in April 2017. The award is given to veterinary students, faculty members, or industry partners who provide extraordinary support in ensuring inclusiveness— regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression—in veterinary academia. “We are really proud of the work that Austin and our entire Broad Spectrum organization are accomplishing,” said Dr. Kenita Rogers, CVM executive associate dean. “There is nothing more important than creating a learning and working environment that is welcoming to everyone, regardless of how you identify, where you are from, what your goals are, or what makes you truly unique and valuable. We want everyone— students, staff, faculty, and guests—to feel like they are a part of this remarkable college team. Each and every person makes us better.” The award also recognized Hardegree for his leadership during the 2017 Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) Symposium. He served as the chair of diversity and wellness and organized several programs, including a roundtable breakfast that was open to all symposium attendees and the SAVMA House of Delegates.
resource for many veterinary students and professionals. “I think we have done a good job at the CVM creating safe spaces,” Hardegree said. “If you need something, this is the place to come and ask for help.” Organizing successful events such as the SAVMA Symposium has also led the LGVMA to work even more closely with Broad Spectrum to create LGBTQ+ awareness. “Veterinarians are seen as leaders,” Hardegree said. “I think that we, in all aspects of our lives, should strive to be the best we can be. Creating a positive environment is really what matters.” Neither group could be successful without the support of CVM faculty and staff, especially Drs. Karen Cornell and Kenita Rogers, two national advisers for the LGVMA and faculty advisers for the National Broad Spectrum. Hardegree said both women are leaders for faculty across the nation in diversity, inclusiveness, and in creating a welcoming environment. “The CVM administration has done a good job of making sure that all students, no matter their background, feel welcome,” Hardegree said.
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“It feels great to have been selected for this award,” Hardegree said. “It means that I’m doing something right, at least when it comes to diversity within veterinary medicine. As I move forward in my professional life, I can continue to lead by example and advocate for diversity in our field. “I am most proud of my involvement with the symposium,” he said. “The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is working with the SAVMA to make sure this roundtable breakfast event happens at future SAVMA Symposiums. The AVMA may also adopt similar activities at their convention.” Founded in 2011, the national Broad Spectrum organization stemmed from the Lesbian and Gay Veterinary Medical Association (LGVMA), a similar organization that focuses more on professional veterinary medicine. Veterinary students recognized the need for a similar organization that focused on veterinary medical education and ally involvement in working toward creating diverse environments. Thus, Broad Spectrum was born and formed local chapters at veterinary schools across the nation. While Broad Spectrum and LGVMA focus on different audiences, both groups create safe spaces and welcoming environments for all LGBTQ+ community members, a valuable
40 | CVM Today
By: Jennifer Gauntt
Biomedical sciences majors give back to Texas A&M as members of the prestigious Maroon Coats ambassador program. It is evident from their level of involvement on the Texas A&M campus that junior biomedical sciences (BIMS) majors Ryan Bindel and Elizabeth Nevins have “servant hearts.” Bindel is a member of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets who will join the U.S. Navy after he graduates; he plans to become a physician in the military. An avid runner on marathon and triathlon teams, he’s active in the Ross Volunteer Company and tutors his fellow cadets. Nevins, who plans to become a pediatric hematologist or oncologist, is involved in Fish Camp, her sorority Delta Gamma, and Big Event. Both are active undergraduate research assistants in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Both also are scholarship recipients—Bindel, through the military, and Nevins, through the Terry Foundation. “I actually had two scholarships that allowed me to come to A&M,” Nevins said. “If I didn’t have these scholarships, I probably wouldn’t be here.” Because of the significant role that benefactors have played in their collegiate careers, Bindel and Nevins decided to give back by applying to the Texas A&M Foundation’s Maroon Coats ambassador program, which aims to increase the culture of philanthropy at Texas A&M by educating students on the importance of outside support and thanking donors. More than 300 students applied for the prestigious position, and the selection process was rigorous, including multiple rounds of interviews, according to the students. Only 20 were selected for the 10th class this year, and both Nevins and Bindel were among them. “I’m humbled and excited for the opportunity; I am really glad to bring the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences to Maroon Coats and the foundation because I want to support this college in any way that I can,” Bindel said. “I know in previous years, there have not been many Maroon Coats from this college, and so I really was looking forward to the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, we’re doing incredible things, and we can grow in these ways. Please help us get there.’ It’s really just exciting.” Bindel, from Mansfield, Texas, never intended to choose Texas A&M; he was accepted into the United States Naval Academy and planned to move to Annapolis, Maryland. And then his father was diagnosed with colon cancer.
“We recognized late into my senior year that he was getting much worse, and he ended up passing away in June,” Bindel said. “So we made the decision that going away to the Naval Academy just wasn’t a very good option for my family, for my two younger brothers and my mom, and I needed to stay in Texas; and that was something that was totally OK with me.” To Bindel, the next best military school was Texas A&M, so he applied and was accepted. “Initially, I did not enjoy it at all,” he said of his freshman year.
“I’m humbled and excited for the opportunity; I am really glad to bring the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences to Maroon Coats and the foundation because I want to support this college in any way that I can.”
But one day, bussing to West Campus, he took the only empty seat and noticed a copy of The Battalion lying there. In that edition was a story featuring the work of Dr. Nancy Turner, a research professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology; that ultimately led to his involvement in undergraduate research. “Dr. Turner does colon cancer research, and my dad passed away of colon cancer, so that was just a really easy decision for me to get involved,” Bindel said. “I said, ‘Yeah. I want to contribute to this field and learn more about the disease.’ I don’t know how I would’ve gotten involved in Dr. Turner’s lab if I hadn’t read The Battalion that day.” Through Turner’s laboratory, Bindel works on a NASAfunded project studying colon cancer and how the cancer manifests in the “astronaut environment.” His work is part of the undergraduate research scholars’ program, and he wrote his thesis on the project. “The experimental design that we use includes a no gravity, high-iron diet, which astronauts receive, and then the CVM Today | 41
INNOVATION IN SERVICE
A Symbol of Service
radiation,” Bindel said. “All three of those combine to cause injury to the colon, which has the potential to cause cancer.” The indirect connection to his father through his research and the new family he found through the Corps of Cadets have changed Bindel’s initial views of Texas A&M. “Over time, I realized how important each of the traditions is and the family-like environment of being an Aggie,” he said. “Understanding what that means and getting all wrapped up in it, I realized this is exactly where I need to be.” It was also his connections in the Corps that led him to the Maroon Coats program. “My commanding officer last year, Marisa Howat, was a Maroon Coat, and I got a little bit of a closer interaction with her and seeing what she did,” Bindel said. “She got to wear the coat to a football game and sit in the President’s Suite, and I was like, ‘That’s kind of cool. How do I do that?’ That sparked the initial conversation.” Now, though only an active Maroon Coat for a few months, Bindel has found that the program has deepened his connection to the university, its donors, and the entire community. “An Aggie’s always an Aggie, and I think it’s more than just the students; it’s the community, as well,” he said. “The BryanCollege Station area and the former students who just care so much about what is happening at the school, and, more importantly, the people who are in it, all of the Aggies are incredible. That family aspect has really hooked me.”
“I think that’s what’s so special about BIMS; it helps you see real-world problems and how you can solve those problems innovatively, using the sciences, and then apply that to real-world problems today.”
Unlike Bindel, the Aggie traditions and people were a big part of Nevins’ attraction to Texas A&M. Like with Bindel, the research component became a major draw to the BIMS program. A Plano, Texas, native, Nevins said she always knew she wanted to be a doctor, so selecting the BIMS program was the obvious choice. “I grew up the youngest of three, and so I’ve always been 42 | CVM Today
taken care of. But I’ve always wanted to be able to take care of other people, and science has always intrigued me,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to work with children, as well, because I was a swim teacher growing up. I just love how resilient they are and how they have such a positive outlook on life. “Biomedical sciences is very tailored toward research and becoming more of a well-rounded student. I especially like the electives I’m taking, and it’s so interesting to actually be involved not just in the sciences, but in the application of the sciences,” she said. “I think that’s what’s so special about BIMS; it helps you see real-world problems and how you can solve those problems innovatively, using the sciences, and then apply that to real-world problems today.” Knowing that she could make a long-term impact on the lives of others through research and the role research will play in her future career, Nevins got involved in the lab of Dr. Kevin Cummings, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, studying the transmission of Salmonella by examining fecal samples from animals in feed lots. “We’re looking at birds mainly around H-E-B and Kroger, and you can see the transmission from animal to humans and how that relates,” she said. “The reason I was drawn to this research is because there’s a bridge between animal and human transmission with diseases, and I feel like sometimes it gets overlooked when you’re going into human medicine.” Her lab work is facilitated by the fact that she doesn’t have to worry about tuition as a Terry Scholar, which provides her a full-ride scholarship, ultimately easing the burden on her family of the expense of medical school. Through the Terry Scholars program, Nevins learned about the Maroon Coats, and the idea of giving back through service to prospective students and donors appealed to Nevins greatly. Over the past decade, the group has devoted more than 7,300 service hours in the community, provided more than 200 campus tours to prospective students and other guests, and written thousands of thank-you letters and made hundreds of phone calls to donors and friends. “Unfortunately, I’ll never get to meet my Terry Scholarship donors because they passed away years ago, but I know there are so many donors here who go unnoticed and unrecognized,” she said. “It’s funny; my freshman year, Maroon Coats opened the door (at the A&M Foundation) for me, and I remembered that during my Terry interview, they asked me how I would give back in the future. “Through Maroon Coats, I’m able to give back a little bit of my time,” Nevins said. “In the future, I want to give back monetarily like these donors have, but for right now, giving my time and my Aggie spirit and wanting to make something of myself is, I feel, giving thanks to them.”
INNOVATION IN SERVICE
“Through Maroon Coats, I’m able to give back a little bit of my time. In the future, I want to give back monetarily like these donors have, but for right now, giving my time and my Aggie spirit and wanting to make something of myself is, I feel, giving thanks to them.”
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Disaster Day Students Put One Health into Practice with
By: Jennifer Gauntt
DVM students participating in the Disaster Day simulation event. The gymnasium of the Central Baptist Church Family Life Center in Bryan is filled with more cots than the eye can absorb in a single glance. People wander aimlessly through the room, past emergency stations set up for triage or to dispense medicine, as students meet and attend to the needs of the injured or ill. Screams randomly echo off the walls as a young man lies on one of those cots while Texas A&M students hover over him, assessing the dog bites on his leg and face. Another young man walks past, searching for his dog. Has anyone seen his dog? It sounds like the scene from a pandemic genre movie, but it’s actually all a part of the ninth annual Disaster Day training hosted in March by the Texas A&M College of Nursing. The largest student-run mass casualty simulation event in the country brought together more than 300 students from nursing, pharmacy, medical, and, for the first time, from the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), all of whom were employed to act as care providers for more than 400 volunteers portraying victims of a hurricane. Students were able to gain experience by putting into practice the knowledge and skills they are acquiring within all of Texas A&M’s medical disciplines. While nursing and medical students assisted actors with “broken bones” or “flesh wounds,” 30 veterinary students reacted to three vet-med scenarios written by Michelle Kurkowski and Laura Hurst, third-year veterinary students and co-presidents of the Student One Health Association. Kurkowski and Hurst, who were instrumental in the CVM’s involvement in Disaster Day and served as the vet-med liaisons during the event, specifically created the cases with input from students from the other colleges in an effort to incorporate both human and animal medicine. The scenarios were designed to create a realistic experience that students might encounter in a similar situation 44 | CVM Today
as professionals; they included a man and his dogs showing signs of a bacterial disease and a girl suffering from head trauma who was brought in with her dog; it was ultimately discovered that the girl was epileptic and the animal was her service dog. “The vet students and the medical/nursing students had to realize that the dog and the girl needed to be kept together at all costs,” Kurkowski said. “Failure to recognize this would result in the girl seizing without warning.” In another incident, a child was bitten by a husky amidst a dog fight. “The owner took the dog to the tent for veterinary care and informed the students that the dog wasn’t current on its rabies vaccination. The bitten child was in the medical tent and it was the veterinary students’ job to find the attending physician and inform him that the dog wasn’t current on its vaccine,” Kurkowski said. “The mother of the child demanded the dog be euthanized, and the medical and veterinary students had to diffuse the situation.” The best part of practicing in this simulated environment, according to Kurkowski, was the collaboration that emerged between the veterinary, medical, and nursing students. “The veterinary students greatly enjoyed the chance to interact with the other colleges and get in on the main action. They also remarked that they learned a lot clinically,” she said. “The senior students were vital in helping to teach the younger students how to approach each clinical case and make decisions. “The medical and nursing students began to seek out the veterinary teams for assistance when needed; they even began to consult with the veterinary teams on cases that were not originally written as med-vet interface cases,” Kurkowski said. “The students seemed to enjoy the additional layer of complexity to the scenario once it was clear what was expected of them and how to respond to veterinary situations.
more than 350 companion animals over a 10-day period, accounting for about 30–35 animals a day coming in suddenly and sporadically—Zoran said there’s no question that the activity was valuable for students. “It is a great experience that allows the fourth-year veterinary students opportunities to practice being team leaders. Perhaps most importantly for the first-, second-, and third-year veterinary students, it is the first time they’re introduced to disaster response and the concept of triage and stabilization,” Zoran said. “This training will help them as they continue in school because it’s just another way of developing the skills of thinking things through and problem solving.” Kurkowski and Hurst also tied in an educational component following the simulation by providing handouts and bringing in CPR dummies to teach participants about canine CPR; they hope to establish an even greater presence at Disaster Day next year to increase the learning opportunities for everyone. “There is never a large-scale disaster, natural or man-
Michelle Kurkowski and Laura Hurst
Students participating in Disaster Day simulations.
understand what it’s like to deploy for a disaster on the veterinary side by working through animal cases. “It’s not just taking care of animals when you’re in a disaster environment; there’s noise and chaos around you, people constantly coming in with this or that problem or needing you to talk to the media or offering to volunteer,” said Deb Zoran, professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and VET member. “The chaos of a disaster environment is similar to all of the other things that are going on while you’re just trying to be a veterinarian; that’s a really good skill set to learn for life.” While these devastating events are hard to mimic through simulation—in Brazoria County, for example, the VET saw
made, that doesn’t involve animals in some way; people are very attached to their animals and often consider them members of the family, and anyone who works in disaster management needs to understand this and have a plan for how to handle it,” Kurkowski said. “That’s why it was so important for us to participate in Disaster Day; we wanted to add another layer of reality to the incredible learning experience that the School of Nursing has created,” she said. “We also wanted to show students from all of the schools the communication and collaboration that is necessary when animals are inevitably involved, so that they are better prepared for the real deal.” CVM Today | 45
INNOVATION IN SERVICE
The veterinary students were able to teach new things to the human medical providers and vice versa.” Likewise, students learned a lot from what went wrong during the day; because this was the first year that veterinary cases were incorporated into Disaster Day, awareness and communication were two hurdles that had to be overcome early. “These experiential training opportunities in which our Texas A&M students participate help them think outside the box; work with interdisciplinary teams of medical, nursing, pharmacy, and veterinary professionals; and successfully address disasters,” said Rosina (Tammi) Krecek, research professor for Texas A&M’s Global One Health initiative. “Such training builds confidence and readiness in our students to face inevitable challenges such as natural disasters, pandemics, and other catastrophes.” In addition, members of Texas A&M’s Veterinary Emergency Team (VET)—the largest and most sophisticated veterinary medical disaster response team in the country— set up tents outside to support the cause, helping students
“As a canine rehabilitation practitioner, I help animals get back up on their feet. Dogs that can’t walk after surgery or an injury need special exercises to recover, such as assisted standing, weight shifting, or walking on a water treadmill. That’s where I come in to help. ”
Abby Rafferty and Carl 46 | CVM Today
Furry friends at the CVM find comfort and care in the hands of veterinary technicians.
By: Callie Rainosek
Though veterinarians play an important role in treating and caring for pets, they are not the only people involved in pet care. Veterinary technicians provide innovative technical support in patient health and recovery at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Some responsibilities of veterinary technicians include restraining a patient for a physical exam, checking vital signs, administering medications, obtaining diagnostic samples, monitoring a patient under anesthesia, and assisting a veterinarian during a surgical procedure. However, some veterinary technicians are certified in special areas, such as Abby Rafferty, a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner in the CVM’s Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (VSMR) Service. Earning a certification allowed Rafferty to learn how to help pets recover from surgery, illness, or injuries through assisted therapy. “As a canine rehabilitation practitioner, I help animals get back up on their feet,” Rafferty explained. “Dogs that can’t walk after surgery or an injury need special exercises to recover, such as assisted standing, weight shifting, or walking on a water treadmill. That’s where I come in to help.” The water treadmill, one of the VSMR’s most effective therapy machines, is described by Rafferty as “a valuable tool that is really neat to see.” Patients that need this kind of assisted therapy are placed in warm water on a treadmill and walk to regain their strength; the treadmill eases pressure on their joints. “The water supports the animal’s weight and makes them buoyant so they don’t have to worry about dragging on the ground or hurting themselves,” Rafferty said. “But at the same time, the treadmill provides a little bit of resistance that the animals have to walk through.” In addition to the water treadmill, Rafferty is trained to help patients heal through other therapeutic techniques, such as massaging, stretching to increase the range of motion, and even balancing exercises. If the patient requires intense physical therapy, special equipment may be needed to help the patient heal. “Some cases require electrical stimulation,” Rafferty said. “We can use neuromuscular electrical stimulation, which allows the muscles to contract to help maintain muscle mass in patients that are immobile, or we can use transcutaneous electrical stimulation for pain relief.” Though people are often expected to follow up surgery or an injury with physical therapy, it is less common that pets receive the same treatment. However, Rafferty explained that
it is just as important for pets to participate in therapy as it is for humans. “Therapy can help speed recovery and get pets back on their feet faster,” Rafferty said. “It doesn’t mean that an animal won’t ever return to normal function if they don’t have therapy, but it has the ability to help them recover quicker.” Rafferty described one case of a hunting dog that had fractured its ankle. By participating in therapy, the dog managed to stay in shape through recovery and healed fast enough to save its career. As one of the main veterinary technicians who helped the patient recover, Rafferty said it was a case she will never forget. “This dog needed to get better so he could return to his job,” Rafferty explained. “Otherwise, he would have to retire at such a young age. Naturally, I felt the pressure.” Because the dog lived an active lifestyle, Rafferty helped create a specialized treatment plan that allowed the dog to exercise outside. Though she could have exercised the dog on a treadmill indoors, Rafferty knew exercising outside was the best way to keep the dog in shape for his hunting career. “The dog and I would jog from the hospital to across the parking lot and even up and down stairs,” Rafferty said. “I knew he was a fit hunting dog, so jogging outside was necessary to keep him in shape and conditioned to warmer temperatures.” Although veterinary technicians such as Rafferty help many furry patients recover and return to their normal lives, sometimes veterinary technicians face being unable to restore a patient’s quality of life. “There are certainly challenges,” Rafferty said. “As a more specialized technician, I don’t deal with euthanasia as often, but when I do, it’s harder for me because it’s typically a patient that I’ve been working really hard with or one that I’ve become attached to.” Despite these challenges, Rafferty said being a veterinary technician is ultimately rewarding and that happy times outweigh the bad. “You can’t let sad moments drag you down,” Rafferty said. “You have to think of all of the happy and rewarding moments because that’s what makes the job worth it.” Owners of pets and other animals expect state-of-theart veterinary health for their animals, just as they would expect quality care for themselves and family members. At the CVM, veterinary technicians provide such care, as well as a comforting hand for those pets. CVM Today | 47
INNOVATION IN SERVICE
Pass it Back, Ags! By: Jennifer Gauntt Dr. Mark Vara ’83
DVM alumnus Mark Vara pays forward the gifts of his family and Texas A&M through service to the university, students, and his community.
Some of the most important lessons Dr. Mark Vara has learned throughout his life have come from two of the things that mean the most to him—his family and Texas A&M. The 1983 biomedical sciences (BIMS) and 1987 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine graduate’s earliest lessons stemmed from his humble beginnings in San Antonio, where, as the son of a nurse and a World War II veteran/government worker, Vara and his two brothers lived a dichotomy of attending a private Catholic school while making ends meet with few of life’s luxuries. “We grew up without air conditioning. For family vacations, we’d load in the station wagon and that became both our means of travel and our overnight accommodations; we didn’t sleep in a hotel,” Vara said. “I remember one Christmas getting a washing machine and then the next Christmas we got the dryer. “My dad and my mom, who grew up in the depression, learned to live off of cash, no credit—that was their motto. We’d have one ketchup bottle; there’d be a little bit of ketchup left in the bottle, and my mom would add water and shake it up,” Vara said. “Even though it was watery, she would say, ‘Well, we’re not getting a new one until you finish this.’ My parents were very, very frugal with their money, but they did so well. We were happy as a clam; we didn’t want for anything.” They did so well, in fact, that when it came time for Vara to attend college, his father made him a deal—Mr. Vara would pay for his son’s education, but Mark had to pay him back, by making sure that his own kids’ education would one day be covered. It was the first of many lessons Vara would learn about giving back. The next happened at Texas A&M, where Vara served as a Fish Camp counselor and chairman, student senator, resident adviser, veterinary class president, spoke around the state for Muster, and joined John Koldus’ leadership program. “There’s an old saying that sports don’t build character; they just reveal it. It’s the same about A&M. A&M doesn’t build your character; it just reveals it,” Vara said. “Dr. Koldus had a big influence on me. One day, I needed a favor and he said, ‘I’ll do it under two conditions: you give back what and when you can, and you do something for someone when you get a chance.’” Following his DVM graduation, Vara started the next chapter of a life that would meet both of those conditions, and perhaps go beyond. He accepted a position in a mixed animal practice, where he worked for four years, until he decided to purchase his own practice. Today, he is the CEO of the San Antonio–based Vanguard Veterinary Associates, a company that has three brick-and-mortar locations across the state and employs more than 100, including 45 veterinarians. Professionally, he began giving back to the community through an association with H-E-B that brings affordable pet vaccinations and preventative care to communities through weekday and weekend clinics at H-E-B stores around the state. It is also a point of pride that Vara hires Texas A&M graduates and interns in his franchises. At Texas A&M, Vara’s giving goes further. The active Aggie participates on the 12th Man Foundation, as an Athletics Ambassador, with Fish Camp, and on the veterinary school and BIMS boards. He recently finished a term on the 12th Man 48 | CVM Today
“Some of my best memories of college were the interactions with the professors and administrators. BIMS Board has given me the opportunity to maybe share some of the life lessons I received at A&M.”
Camp Vara, Session C, Lime Color
-Dr. Mark Vara CVM Today | 49
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Champions Council and the Texas A&M Foundation Legacy Society. “The dream for me is that we get more kids coming into the BIMS program. I love being one-on-one with students (through the BIMS Board),” Vara said. “Some of my best memories of college were the interactions with the professors and administrators. BIMS Board has given me the opportunity to maybe share some of the life lessons I received at A&M.” A first-generation Aggie, Vara’s school pride and service converge in San Antonio, where he recruits minority students for Texas A&M; he also endowed two DVM scholarships, one in his parents’ name and the other in his and his wife’s names, and sponsors students for Fish Camp, bringing his Fish Camp experience—from counselor to benefactor—full circle. “There’s a saying: ‘It’s not what you should do with your money; it’s what God wants you to do with His money.’ We always preach that,” Vara said. “Nothing gives me greater pleasure than if we can help somebody.” In recognition of his contributions and mentorship, this year, Vara was named a Fish Camp namesake. He is exceedingly proud of “Camp Vara, Session C, Lime color,” as he introduced it, and even more so of the opportunity to share some of those important lessons he learned. “I write in my Fish Camp speech that life’s what you make it, to do the right thing, but when you stumble—and I put it in parentheses, because we all do—persevere and pick yourself up,” Vara said. “As I tell my student interns when things aren’t going right, you may have the wrong drug, dosage, diagnosis, or doctor. Because as a doctor, you have to be smart enough to admit when you’re wrong and brave enough to do so.” Vara said he realizes that he’s really blessed to be in the position he’s in—having the ability to give back both his time and money to Texas A&M; he is able to devote less time to practicing at his clinic, focusing instead on franchising and business aspects, while also devoting long weekends to his, and his family’s, favorite pastime—fishing. Also among his blessings are his and his wife’s three children, all of whom followed in his footsteps as Aggies. Ashley ‘14 earned her degree in biology and recently started her fourth year of medical school in Houston; Tyler ‘16 currently works with his father and plans to enter graduate school in 2018 to pursue a business finance degree; and Mikaela ‘19 is a junior engineering major and a member of the Zachary Leadership Program. “Sue, my loving and supportive wife, not only helps to raise our children but is very involved in volunteer work throughout the school systems on the east side of San Antonio and has devoted a lot of time to helping at the Vanguard Clinics,” Vara said. “A retired teacher herself, Mrs. Sue, as her students call her, is thrilled to be a part of the Aggie family and has taken in the Fish Camp students as her own.” More than anything, Vara’s proud to be able to carry on the family tradition that was started by his father. “My children have no student debt because we pay for everything, just as my father did for me,” Vara said. “I tell everybody, ‘I’m still paying off that student loan that I have from undergrad.’ They always look at me funny, and I say, ‘Oh, sit down. I have to explain it to you.’”
Beloved Cats Enrolled at the
By: Dr. Megan Palsa
50 | CVM Today
INNOVATION IN GIVING
Tim and Susie Geppert and their cat Cassie
When native Texans Tim and Susie Geppert met in a grocery store line as young high school and college students, they never imagined a life of travel, adventure, and a family of cats, but more than 40 years later they look back and laugh at that chance meeting. Happily married and settled in their comfortable home in San Antonio, you will now find them in the same grocery store line with a cart full of cat food. As loving parents in a non-traditional family of adopted and rescued feral cats, it is with tremendous love and incredible organization skills that the couple has been rescuing cats and kittens from the streets since they were newlyweds—and they don’t have plans to stop any time soon. The Gepperts have stayed busy over the years taking care of their family of three indoor domestic cats—Boo, Cassie, and Niki—and four rescued ferals—Buddy, Coco, Johnny, and Molly—and just like parents of children, the Gepperts find peace in knowing that their babies will get the care they need even after the couple is no longer able to provide that care. After hearing about the Stevenson Center at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), the Gepperts enrolled their cats at the center. Now, when the Gepperts can no longer provide care for their pets, the Stevenson Center will take care of them for the rest of their lives. “The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center provides for the physical, emotional, and medical needs of companion animals whose owners are no longer able to provide that care,” said Dr. Henry (Sonny) Presnal, director
“I think the Stevenson Center is just amazing. It’s a great place for our cats to call home.” -Tim Geppert
of the Stevenson Center. “Clients of the center include pet owners who want to assure their pet’s future prior to entering a retirement home, being hospitalized for an extended period, or predeceasing a pet.” “We are comfortable knowing that if something happened to us, all of our cats will be well taken care of,” Tim said. “I don’t know what we would do if it were not for the Stevenson Center.” Additionally, the couple plans to donate funding to the Stevenson Center and feline medicine at the CVM. By donating, the Gepperts hope to help cats of all ages and backgrounds. The Gepperts’ love for cats doesn’t end there. The couple, known as the “cat people” in their community, even provide a professional pet sitter for their cats when they are away on vacation and hunting trips. CVM Today | 51
Stevenson Center Your pets, as friends and members of your family, depend on you for lifelong care. The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center provides for the physical, emotional, and medical needs of companion animals whose owners are no longer able to provide that care. Established in 1993, as an innovation of Dr. E. W. “Ned” Ellett, former head of the Small Animal Hospital at Texas A&M University, and the only of its kind in the nation, the center assists pet owners who want to assure their pet’s future prior to entering a retirement home, being hospitalized for an extended period, or predeceasing a pet. The center is right next door to the CVM’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH), where pets who live at the center receive world-class health care for the rest of their lives. To learn more about the VMTH visit http://vetmed.tamu.edu/hospital.
“The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center provides for the physical, emotional, and medical needs of companion animals whose Susie Geppert “Our pet sitter comes twice a day and takes care of everything, including the litter boxes, food, and water,” Susie said. “She always communicates with me and even sends me pictures of the cats sleeping in their beds.” Being known as the cat couple comes with additional responsibilities, though. The Gepperts often are called by members in their community if there is a feral cat that needs rescuing. Sometimes, the Gepperts even rescue feral kittens. “One time we had a neighbor call and tell us they had a female cat with kittens living under their storage shed,” Tim explained. “We went there and caught the cat and kittens and brought them all home in kennels.” The Gepperts wish they could keep every fluffy cat they rescue, but with a family of seven cats, adoption is sometimes a better option. In this case, the Gepperts socialized the kittens and made sure they were healthy enough to be adopted. Each kitten found a loving home; however, the couple couldn’t resist 52 | CVM Today
owners are no longer able to provide that care.”
-Dr. Henry (Sonny) Presnal keeping the mother of the kittens, Molly. In other cases, the Gepperts have gathered feral cats in the neighborhood to take them to be spayed and neutered. The couple then releases them back into the neighborhood to avoid disturbing their lifestyle. No matter the strategy the Gepperts use, they are making a positive difference for feral cats in their community. But above all, the Gepperts hope their future donation to feline medicine at the CVM will help cats from a variety of backgrounds. Additionally, the couple is thankful for Texas A&M’s Stevenson Center for one day providing a loving home for the Gepperts’ cats. “I think the Stevenson Center is just amazing,” Tim said. “It’s a great place for our cats to call home.”
was important to me to give Beemer the best treatment possible.”
Lt. Col. Abel White and Beemer
VETERANS By: Dr. Megan Palsa
When retired army Lt. Col. Abel White adopted his Australian Shepherd, Beemer, six years ago, their bond led to an instant friendship. As a veteran who experiences posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition triggered by experiencing a terrifying event, such as war,
White’s relationship with Beemer is even deeper than companionship; the two depend on each other for love and support every day. “Beemer has helped with my PTSD over the past six years that I’ve had him,” White said. “When I have a panic attack or I am stressing, I just grab Beemer. He really helps me.” However, the special relationship Beemer and White share was challenged when Beemer developed symptoms of a disease similar to Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in humans, negatively affecting his white and red blood cell counts. MRSA, an infection caused by a type of bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics used to treat staph infections, led White to bring Beemer to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) for treatment. “Beemer is a godsend,” White said. “So it was important to me to give Beemer the best treatment possible. The CVM went beyond my expectations as far as cleanliness, friendliness, and helpfulness. The attitude and the atmosphere helped me mentally, too, because I was stressing about Beemer’s health.” Now, Beemer is slowly but surely returning to good health, and White credits the veterinarians at the CVM for the improvement. “I’m appreciative of the small animal clinic at the CVM because they were able to find out what was wrong with Beemer and get him back to good condition,” White said. Additionally, White is appreciative of Eli’s Fund, an initiative to give financial support for active duty service men and women, medically retired veterans’ service animals, and retired military animals with veterinary medical bills. The fund is relieving some of the expenses of Beemer’s treatment, and White couldn’t be happier. “The veterinarians at the CVM did a fantastic job treating Beemer,” White said. “Beemer is a special dog to me, and I am grateful for Eli’s Fund and the excellent services here at the CVM.” Beemer has played a positive role in White’s life and his continuing health is important to the CVM for both White and Beemer’s well-being. The CVM looks forward to continuing making the world a better place for veterans by treating their service animals and pets. CVM Today | 53
INNOVATION IN GIVING
“Beemer is a godsend. So it
RETURNING TO HIS
ROOTS Agronomy alumnus Allan Marburger has provided the ‘seed money’ for hundreds of students to grow at Texas A&M. By: Dr. Megan Palsa
Allan Marburger (center) in the Corps of Cadets
For many years I heard mention of Allan Marburger and his generous spirit. I knew that he was an Aggie—class of ’60—a huge supporter of student scholarships; owned a large farm in Paige, Texas; and was super smart. When I met him, during a recent visit to Giddings, Texas, with Bubba Woytek, from the Texas A&M Foundation, I immediately knew that all I had heard about this Aggie legend was true. -Dr. Megan Palsa
From the outside looking in, Allan Marburger is a humble man who cherishes the necessities of life—food, water, and shelter. But if you look deeper, Marburger is much more than that; he is a legend at Texas A&M University for his support of students, having given about 400 $25,000 endowed scholarships. “I give back to the university because I had a scholarship when I was a student, and it really helped me,” Marburger said. Though Marburger now generously gives to Texas A&M and other charities, he wasn’t always blessed with this 54 | CVM Today
opportunity. Growing up on his family’s farm in Paige, Texas, Marburger spent his childhood raising livestock and farming the land. “My family held onto the land through the world wars, Great Depression, and droughts,” Marburger said. The farm, which has been in his family for more than 125 years, started as a means of survival for Marburger’s ancestors. But in 2007, Marburger leased the land to an oil company, and the farm became the reason Marburger can provide financial support for Texas A&M students. “I don’t have any biological kids,” Marburger said. “But I do
along and wanted to lease my land. I leased, they drilled four wells, and that is how I’ve been able to give the scholarships—from the land, to oil, to student scholarships.”
Allan Marburger and Bubba Wyotek
Thanks to his hard work, the family farm, and a little luck, Marburger can now live the rest of his life without any financial burdens. He chooses to live simply in a small apartment—stating that he would rather share his blessing with others, including Texas A&M students. “On a farm, you plant that one seed; it germinates and comes up, and in turn, produces a whole lot of seeds,” Marburger said. “I’m using this scholarship to plant a seed for a student who will bloom and give back to our society and become a better citizen of our state and nation.”
consider the students who receive my family’s scholarship my own kids.” The endowed scholarship bears Marburger’s grandparents names—the August and Minnie Fuchs Family Endowment. In addition, Marburger shows his support of 4H and FFA through the scholarship by giving preference to a student who was involved in youth agricultural programs and grew up on a farm or ranch.
Throughout his youth, Marburger couldn’t see himself attending any college other than Texas A&M. During his time in Aggieland, he served in the Corps of Cadets and was a Ross Volunteer. Passionate about agriculture, he pursued a degree in agronomy and graduated in 1960. After graduation, he worked as an agricultural statistician for the USDA Crop Reporting Service for 10 years. However, in 1979, he went back to his roots to work on the family’s farm as a self-employed beef-cattle rancher. From then until he leased the land to an oil company, Marburger lived a simple life as a farmer. Now, he considers himself a “semi-retired rancher” and spends his free time with friends and financially supporting students and other charities. “I still drive out to the farm every day and make my rounds,” Marburger said. “But in my spare time, I meet with my friends to talk and play dominoes.”
Allan Marburger CVM Today | 55
INNOVATION IN GIVING
“In 2007 an oil company came
By: Dr. Megan Palsa For the late Mark Chapman and his wife, Cheryl Mellenthin, nothing was more satisfying in life than sharing what they had with others. For years, the couple shared a philanthropic ideology, hoping to enrich the lives of others and make an impact not only in Texas but across the United States. This spring, their foundation gave a $1.1 million gift to endow the Mark A. Chapman Foundation Chair in Shelter Medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) at Texas A&M University. This chair will be awarded to a faculty member interested in research to systemically change the plight of animals in shelters and will promote shelter education among tomorrow’s veterinarians. “The Mark Chapman Foundation gave money to build the Mobile Surgical Unit at Kansas State University, Mark’s alma mater,” said Cheryl. “That unit travels to shelters across Kansas and southern Nebraska. We saw the huge impact that unit had in Kansas and wanted to do something to help animals in our neck of the woods.” A portion of the gift also purchased a new microscope for the CVM’s Department of Ophthalmology to honor the Chapmans’ longtime veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer Bowers ’80, of
Cheryl Mellenthin and Dr. Jennifer Bowers 56 | CVM Today
Cheryl Mellenthin, Zipper, and Mark Chapman Bellville, Texas. “Cheryl’s been bringing her personal pets to me for several years,” Bowers said. “Then she started this Prevent Unwanted Pets (PUPS) program (for which she uses a variety of area veterinarians). At first, PUPS provided funding for surgeries for small animals—spays and neuters—and then it escalated to rescuing a lot of dogs; rather than having them euthanized, she and her volunteers would rescue animals out of shelters, get them the attention they needed from a veterinarian, and then put them up for adoption. So, it was no longer limited to just spays and neuters; it was also assisting them with medical conditions. Dogs with injuries or broken legs and all sorts of other medical conditions were treated and loved.” Cheryl and Mark met in Houston, where Cheryl was a nurse and Mark was a real estate investor. After the real estate market crashed in 1987, Mark began to invest in the oil and gas industry. “Everything Mark touched turned to gold,’” said Carla Reichardt ’04, director of the Chapman Foundation and a friend of Cheryl and Mark’s. With their success in oil and gas, the couple decided to purchase dozens of farms in Mark’s home state of Kansas and in Nebraska. Mark graduated from Kansas State University (KSU) and received his Juris Doctorate (JD) from the University of Texas (UT) in Austin. He became a major supporter of KSU. His gifts established the Chapman Center for Rural Studies in History, an art gallery, and the Chapman Scholars Program in the College of Arts & Sciences. Every piano at KSU is a Steinway, a gift from Mark to support his love for the fine arts. He also funded the Chapman Theatre, replaced all of the stained glass in the beautiful KSU library, and provides numerous scholarships, in addition to the Chapman Scholars Program. The couple also supported Cheryl’s alma mater, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s College of Nursing. Additionally, the Mark A. Chapman Foundation annually supports numerous students from Texas and Kansas by providing them with scholarships to pursue their dreams. “Mark was someone who never met a stranger—people sitting next to him on a plane or someone in line at Walmart
INNOVATION IN GIVING
“Mark was someone who never met a stranger—people sitting next to him on a plane or someone in line at Walmart soon became a friend—and after learning about their goals, he would offer them scholarships to pay for school for themselves or for their kids.”
-Cheryl Mellenthin soon became a friend—and after learning about their goals, he would offer them scholarships to pay for school for themselves or for their kids,” Cheryl said. A lover of animals, Cheryl has also made animal rescue a significant part of her charitable giving. Her PUPS organization has assisted with more than 20,000 spays and neuters and adopts out 400 pets per year. “Cheryl and her organization have made a difference in our community. We don’t see near the number of people set up trucks to sell boxes of puppies; we do still see, unfortunately, situations where people drop off their dogs, but it’s not nearly the same as it used to be. Her work has definitely made a dent in the population,” Bowers said. “Her hard work and dedication have made this positive change in our community; she has tireless energy. I don’t think the woman ever sleeps, to be honest. Between caring for all of the dogs in her care, picking up new ones at the shelter, going to adoption events, and running to the vet—she just has tireless energy. Hats off to her. I admire her so much. She is just an amazing person.”
Carla Reichardt and Lois Krenek
Cheryl Mellenthin Mark and Cheryl were united for 27 years before Mark passed away in 2014. The couple spent their time together traveling and caring for their beloved animals. Mark was also an artist and a poet. “Mark taught me that we should support what we care about during our lifetime,” Cheryl said. “I told him, if you give it away now, you can put your money where you want it to go, rather than have that be determined by someone else after you’re gone.” Lois Krenek, a foundation director, added, “Cheryl is now the president of the Mark Chapman Foundation and the four other companies they own. With the assistance of loyal employees, she has helped the company grow in order to continue Mark’s legacy of giving. The community looks to her for support when they see an animal being mistreated, and if they see a need for someone to step in and be the voice for the less fortunate, they call Cheryl.” “She’s absolutely the most generous, dog-loving individual I’ve ever known. She really, truly loves dogs and will do anything to help them,” Bowers said. “She’s also got a lot of compassion for people. As long as they’re trying to take care of their animals, she will help them, 100 percent. She’s very, very compassionate; she’s a genuine friend to many.” CVM Today | 57
In Memorium Softly call the Muster, let comrade answer, “Here!” Class of 1943 George Murray Grimes, 97, of Palm City, Florida, died on April 7, 2017. Class of 1945 James Albert Pulliam, 93, of Heber Springs, Arkansas, died on November 11, 2016. J. Neal Chastain, 94, of Baytown, Texas, died May 8, 2017. Class of 1947 Oliver Forrest Goen, 94, of College Station, Texas, died on August 28, 2016. William Veatch Howells, 94, of San Antonio, Texas, died on May 15, 2016. Class of 1948 Robert “Vic” Victor Johnston, 91, of Lake Jackson, Texas, died on February 2, 2017. Class of 1949 Ray O. Hargis, 94, of Natchitoches, Louisiana, died April 14, 2017. Thomas B. Owen, 91, of Lufkin, Texas, died May 13, 2017. Class of 1952 Paul “Bud” Holcomb Jr., 89, of McKinney, Texas, died on August 6, 2016. James Marvin Prewitt, 89, of Corpus Christi, Texas, died on December 16, 2016. Harold Dean Witcher Sr., 93, of Honey Grove, Texas, died on June 12, 2017. Class of 1953 John Peter Davis Jr., 89, of Shreveport, Louisiana, died on February 2, 2017. Class of 1955 Ralph F. Ziegler, 84, of San Antonio, Texas, died on October 23, 2016. Moise A. Waguespack Jr., 88, of Bossier City, Louisiana, died April 17, 2017. Class of 1956 Alton Fowler Hopkins Jr., 84, of Dallas, Texas, died on February 15, 2017. Derrell Henry Guiles, 95, of Baker, Texas, died on May 3, 2017. Eldon O. Harrison, 84, of Richardson, Texas, died on June 20, 2017. Class of 1957 Robert von Rosenberg Miller, 83, of Ballinger, Texas, died on February 4, 2017. Jock Richard Collins, 84, of Houston, Texas, died March 31, 2017. Class of 1958 Robert Christian Rabe, 85, of Mount Vernon, Washington, died on April 5, 2017. Class of 1960 Arthur Ivan “Rusty” Davidson, 80, of Dumas, Texas, died on March 26, 2017. Class of 1961 J. Fred Love, 80, of Brownwood, Texas, died on June 10, 2016. Class of 1962 John Coleman Hensley II, 79, of Dubach, Louisiana, died on January 22, 2013. Class of 1963 Edward B. Stephenson of Liberty, Texas, died on April 20, 2017. Joe Wood Lindley, 77, died on May 20, 2017.
58 | CVM Today
Class of 1964 Malcom D. Cameron, 81, of Dallas, Texas, died on September 25, 2016. Class of 1965 Robert Clay Stubbs, 74, of Johnson City, Texas, died on November 25, 2016. John Reed Edwin, 76, of El Paso, Texas, died on May 26, 2010. Class of 1966 David Eugene Moreman, 73, of Hedley, Texas, died on September 12, 2016. Jim Wallis Airhart, 74, of Mesquite, Texas, died on December 18, 2016. Class of 1967 Gerald “Jerry” G. Stanfield, from San Antonio, Texas, died on May 29, 2017. Class of 1968 John Dee Norris Jr., 77, of Sulphur Springs, Texas, died June 1, 2016. Class of 1969 Samuel Franklin Muecke Jr., 78, of Wolfe City, Texas, died on February 19, 2017. Class of 1971 Harold Wayne Ray, 70, of Orange, Texas, died on February 16, 2017. Leslie Wayne Yarbrough, 76, of Helotes, Texas, died on May 11, 2017. Class of 1973 William Allen Boyd, 78, of Marshall, Texas, died on June 10, 2017 Class of 1974 Albert S. Pugh IV, 65, of Bridge City, Texas, died on May 16, 2017. Class of 1977 Danny Dean Cole, 65, of Weatherford, Texas, died on November 26, 2016. David Thorstad Roen, 75, of Clarkston, Washington, died on February 2, 2017. Class of 1978 Glenn Ray Pape, 61, of San Marcos, Texas, died on November 7, 2016. Class of 1979 Melani Freeman, 61, of Bay City, Texas, died on September 17, 2016. Class of 1981 John Scott Weems, 59, of El Paso, Texas, died on October 14, 2016. Sandra Lynn Parker, 60, of Simonton, Texas, died on February 28, 2017. Class of 1982 Paul Richard Eismann, 73, of Butler, Pennsylvania, died on May 30, 2017. Class of 1986 Denise Williams Boriack, 56, of Tomball, Texas, died on April 16, 2017. Class of 1996 Helen N. Sharp, 45, of Hidden Valley Lake, California, died in June of 2015. Class of 2003 Shawna Walters Chastain, 40, of Sachse, Texas, died on May 23, 2017.
ContinuingEducation SCHEDULE OF EVENTS Canine Conference August 25 - 27, 2017
Emergency & Critical Care Conference October 21 - 22, 2017
High Yield Clinical Skills for Equine Practitioners February 2 - 4, 2018
Food Animal Conference June 8 - 9, 2018
Veterinary Technician Conference
Feline Forum July 2018
June 23 - 24, 2018
visit our website for details: vetmed.tamu.edu/ce 4470 TAMU, Texas A&M University | College Station, TX | 77843-4470 Tel. 979.845.9102 | Fax 979.862.2832 CVM Today | 59
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A semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical...
Published on Oct 5, 2017
A semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical...