Administrators, faculty, staff, and students in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) are moving the proverbial needle from “unexpected friendships to lasting relationships.” Due to this movement, we are taking notice of the increase in innovative ideas, transformative research, and unique collaborations. Realizing this need to move, we have begun to reshape or rethink the story about how people and animals together can accelerate problem-solving and create meaningful change. Not so long ago, success was defined by answering these questions: “who wins, who is stronger, who is the most competitive, and who is the most intellectual?” If we are being honest, we will admit that for most of our lives, we lived this way. Old habits can be hard to break, and now realizing life doesn’t work as well when we question “who is,” we have come to realize that as times change, the question is better phrased, “who isn’t?” Who isn’t at the table? Whose ideas are left out of the conversation? Who are the disruptors we need to consider? Who isn’t part of this group of problem solvers? We need to find them and make sure they ARE at the table now. When we think back, we realize that humans and animals socialized in small groups within their discipline, banded together to solve problems in small and often similar cultural communities, and discovered solutions to their problems without the help of SIRI. New modes of communication have changed those behaviors and thought processes. We now have all of the world’s knowledge in our pocket, all we have to do is take it out and request a response, and because that’s true, we sometimes forget that fast, easy, and simple doesn’t always compute to “right.”
“As we partner and collaborate, let’s spend some time asking why not, why isn’t, and why now.”
We strongly believe that we—animals, people, and the environment—are all inextricably linked, that the work we do and the partnerships we create are the connections to discovery, solutions, and to positive change in this world. In this edition of CVM Today, we highlight the Collaborative Partnerships we have formed or witnessed that make us better. We wouldn’t be the same without each other. Whether it’s marital relationships, AAVMC leadership opportunities, TVMA partnerships, or students who grew up in the city and are now working in rural communities to impact the world’s cattle industry, etc.—we are working together to create positive change. We are collaborating. We are partners in this work. As John F. Kennedy once said, “The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were and ask why not.” As we partner and collaborate, let’s spend some time asking why not, why isn’t, and why now. Please stop by to see us soon. We look forward to spending time with you. 2 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
Eleanor M. Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP The Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine
Collaborat ive Partnerships
Dean’s Message............................................................................. 2 CVM Information........................................................................... 4
Unveiling a Partnership................................................................. 5 Dream Team............................................................................ 6
Healing Kash................................................................................. 10 A Better Life for Bubbles............................................................ 12 EASE-ing Client Communication......................................... 14 Waylon’s Hero.............................................................................. 16 Horses with Heart........................................................................ 18
Leading the Flock.................................................................. 20
Heading West........................................................................24 Rural Futures................................................................................ 26 Peering into Leadership..............................................................28
COLLABORATING FOR A CAUSE
Recruiting for the Future............................................................ 31 Working Together in Times of Disaster..............................34 Engineering New Possibilities....................................................38
Discovering Opportunities.........................................................42 Lab Partners..........................................................................46 Researching Parasites + Living Symbiotically...........................50 The Road More Traveled.............................................................54 Live from New York!....................................................................58
Honoring T.J...........................................................................64 A Shaker Full of Love...................................................................66
COLLABORATING DURING TIMES OF GRIEF
68 Vol. 19, No. 1
Jacob Michael Cahoon.......................................................... 68 In Memoriam................................................................................70 CE Schedule.................................................................................. 71 Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 3
CVM TODAY | SPRING 2018
Staff Editor-in-Chief: Dr. Megan Palsa ’08 Managing Editor: Jennifer G. Gauntt Contributing Writers: Dr. Ginger Elliott ’83 Kasey Heath ’18 Rachel Hoyle ’13 Callie Rainosek ’17 Art Director: Jennie L. Lamb Graphic Designers: VeLisa W. Bayer Christopher A. Long Photographers: Tim Stephenson Larry Wadsworth
Correspondence Address: 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.
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College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University | 4461 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4461 vetmed.tamu.edu Dean’s Office & Administration 979.845.5051 Admissions 979.845.5051 Biomedical Sciences Program 979.845.4941 Development & Alumni Relations 979.845.9043 CVM Communications 979.845.1780 4 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
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, Hospital Operations Mr. Bo Connell 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 Ms. Chastity Carrigan ’16 Chief of Staff Ms. Misty Skaggs ’93 Director, Texas Institute for Preclinical Studies Dr. Egeman Tuzun Executive Director, Communications, Media, & Public Relations Dr. Megan Palsa ’08
Continuing Education 979.845.9102 Graduate & Research Studies 979.845.5092 Global One Health 979.845.8612 Public Relations 979.862.4216 Veterinary Integrative Biosciences 979.845.2828 Veterinary Pathobiology 979.845.5941
Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology 979.845.7261 Small Animal Clinical Sciences 979.845.9053 Large Animal Clinical Sciences 979.845.9127 Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital Administration 979.845.9026 Small Animal Hospital 979.845.2351 Large Animal Hospital 979.845.3541
When the Banfield Foundation awarded the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) a disaster relief grant for the purchase of a new 25foot, custom-built veterinary medical unit, it came with only one “catch”—Banfield wanted to be a part of highlighting its partnership with the VET and the work the team does. On Oct. 24, representatives from the Banfield Foundation, a Banfield Pet Hospital veterinarian, and members of the VET met up at Disaster City— the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s (TEEX) 52-acre emergency response training facility—to host the official unveiling of the new medical unit.
response rotation for fourth-year veterinary students, said the new truck is a way for the foundation to help “improve the lives of pets and to make a better world for them, because they make a better world for us.” “When I think about what our two organizations can do together to help those impacted by disasters, it’s such important work, and I’m just excited to have such a great new partner in what we’re doing,” Bissett said.
Reporters from across the country descended upon Disaster City to check out the new vehicle and talk with VET director Dr. Wesley Bissett and Banfield veterinarian (and Aggie alumna) Dr. Alyssa Rahaim. Bissett began the morning bright and early with 6 a.m. satellite interviews with news outlets across the state. Showcasing the role the VET plays in supporting Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1) urban search-andrescue (SAR) canine teams, a VET veterinarian demonstrated the kinds of services the VET provides by examining SAR dog Zapp, owned by TX-TF1 handler Matt Young, for camera crews and reporters. During the ceremony, Rahaim, one of the first students to participate in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science’s (CVM) emergency
Take a virtual tour of the truck by visiting banfield.com/ banfield-foundation/disaster-truck. Sketchfab virtual tour images (above) courtesy of the Banfield Foundation Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 5
Dream Since its inception in 2009, the VET has provided veterinary support services across the state, including following the 2011 Bastrop wildfires, the 2015 Rowlett/Garland tornadoes, the Canton tornadoes, and, most recently, Hurricane Harvey. Over the course of its history, the VET and its members have saved countless animals, reunited innumerable families with their pets, and offered support to a variety of agencies, including Texas Task Force 1 and the Wounded Warrior Project. 6 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
Using lessons from previous deployments, Texas A&M’s VET has created a custom-built medical platform that activates all of the resources the team needs to be more mobile, all courtesy of the Banfield Foundation. Meteorologists called Hurricane Harvey a once-in-amillennium storm because of the unprecedented amounts of rain dumped across the Texas coastline, which exceeded the rate predicted to occur once every 1,000 years. First responders such as the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Veterinary Emergency Team (VET)—the largest and most sophisticated veterinary medical response team in the country—that were called upon to assist in rescues, recovery, and damage cleanup also faced unprecedented challenges due to the storm’s impact and the resources needed to respond. Because the southern coastline received the direct adverse weather effects of the hurricane and the coastline counties to the north and east were impacted by the torrential rainfall that resulted in extreme flooding, nine different counties from Rockport to the Louisiana border requested the VET to provide medical resources.
by Jennifer Gauntt
Setting up four bases of operations was in itself a logistical challenge; as a result of needing staff for each of those bases, the VET leadership activated for the very first time its Texas Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps—private practitioners from across the state who join the VET on deployment—and recruited other volunteers from several Texas veterinary associations. In all, a record high 50 team members staffed the VET during the team’s assignments Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 7
from Clegg Industries—was designed by VET members based on lessons learned from the team’s previous deployments and is the model of the VET’s vision for the future, according to Bissett. VET members were given a blank slate in building their “dream” space within the crew-cab vehicle, which will allow the team to carry anywhere from five to 16 members at a time; the medical unit is equipped with a clinic platform that includes gas anesthesia, an oxygen generator, a wet table, an open area to work with some of the larger search and rescue dogs, and lots of storage. Because it is climate controlled, the team will be able to work in it under any environmental condition.
Built specifically for mobile missions, the supply cabinets contain enough medical and pharmaceutical inventory to last up to 48 hours during a deployment. Other equipment in the mobile unit includes a wet table, a gas anesthesia machine, and examination lights. across multiple regions of the state. “This was the largest, longest, and most complex deployment of this academic-based team,” said Dr. Wesley T. Bissett, VET director and associate professor of emergency management. “The sheer numbers of animals alone, as well as the size of the area we needed to cover, challenged the team, spreading it across hundreds of miles to care for thousands of animals of all species.” In a scenario like the one faced during Hurricane Harvey, resources are spread thin. During Harvey, as equipment became necessary to manage four bases of operation, the VET’s 15-vehicle fleet, including its three trailer-based medical platforms, became crucial for meeting the demand for medical assistance. Now, thanks to the generous support of the Banfield Foundation, the VET has another resource to draw from when called upon to answer the state’s needs in times of crisis. In October, the Banfield Foundation presented the VET with a new, custom-built, 25-foot medical unit. “We are grateful to the Banfield Foundation for providing a disaster response grant to our Veterinary Emergency Team that will enable our team to continue providing veterinary care for animals impacted by disaster in their communities,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “Innovation and education are at the heart of all we do in the CVM, so the vehicle made possible by the Banfield Foundation’s grant will ensure effective and focused state-of-the-art care for pets and their owners in times of disaster.” The fully equipped platform—featuring a truck from Chastang Ford and an attached, custom-built medical unit 8 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
These features will contribute to the field hospital system from which the VET works while on deployment, providing electrical power, bays for animal treatment, and surgical capacities that allow veterinarians and their teams to operate in desolate conditions and the most remote areas. “This is a very well-equipped, very robust, truck-based clinical platform. I’m really excited about the quality of the product that we’ve received,” Bissett said. “We will be able to drive up, turn off the truck, go in the clinic, and start taking in patients; it will give us the ability to literally set up a hospital here today and five miles down the road tomorrow and do so fairly easily. “Eventually, we will add a trailer to be pulled that could hold a couple of tents and the support equipment; then, it would literally be one complete unit that has a pretty powerful punch,” he said. “And when the trailer was emptied, it’d give us a place for our responders to sleep or rest, or for us to hold animals.” At 13 feet shorter than the previously smallest trailer in the VET fleet, the new truck will easily maneuver in smaller
“It will be a critical link when we have larger-scale deployments because it’s got the same capacity… as our 40-foot trailer. It will be a part of all of our deployment plans.”
—Dr. Wesley Bissett
spaces, which will expand the team’s medical-response capability and, ultimately, afford the efficient treatment and expedited return of even more pets to their owners. The new medical platform also addresses limitations the team has faced on previous deployments, including mobility and accessibility to remote areas. “I could go all the way back to our very first deployment in Bastrop. In that particular deployment, we were moving a lot,” Bissett said. “We had our base of operations at a National Guard Armory, and it was well-removed from the fire. We would leave every day and go to forward operating bases, and those operating bases changed. As the fire moved, we moved, and there are challenges in getting a 40foot trailer in and out of places; very often, they were tight quarters. “One challenge was to get the bigger units in and out, and then, also, it requires special licenses to drive. With our other platforms, not all of our members can drive those vehicles, and they’re tough to get into tight places,” he said. Because of its size and because anyone will be able to drive it, the new unit will become a mainstay for all of the team’s future deployments. “We do a variety of deployments. From assisting counties whenever there is a search for a missing Alzheimer’s patient, a straight search-and-rescue deployment, to assisting Texas Task Force 1, taking care of the search-and-rescue dogs, this will be the ideal vehicle to get in and out of those locations and to support that mission,” Bissett said. “It also will be a critical link when we have the larger-scale deployments because, basically, the way this is configured, it’s got the same capacity, or the same punch, as our 40-foot trailer does. It very much will be part of all of our deployment plans.” The work VET does can literally mean life or death for animals in areas struck by disaster, and because pets have become an extension of families today, VET members have had a lot of rewarding experiences in what they do. These
Banfield veterinarian Dr. Alyssa Rahaim and VET Director Dr. Wesley Bissett with the new mobile platform kinds of rewarding experiences, and the results that are so meaningful for Texas families, would not be possible without the generous support of agencies such as the Banfield Foundation. “You’re helping to give back a piece of their family and a piece of their past. Sometimes that’s all they have, and that is so important for recovery,” Bissett said. “It is the right thing to do, and this donation provides us the tools to do it. We can’t move our teaching hospitals; I would love to be able to, but we cannot. This allows us to provide a really good platform for really incredible faculty, staff, and students to go out and do wonderful things. “Banfield’s corporate thoughts on community responsibility is perfectly in line with our and Dean Green’s view on our role in community responsibility,” Bissett said. “We (in VET) are just a piece of that. There are a lot of other efforts at the CVM that are reaching out around this state, either through the research that’s being done, the students who are being educated, or cases that are coming into the hospital. We’re one of those efforts, but this allows us to reach the far corners of the state very quickly and very efficiently. It’s that alignment that I think was a perfect fit.”
Members of the Texas A&M CVM and VET, as well as the Banfield Foundation and Texas Task Force 1, were on hand to unveil the new mobile medical platform at Disaster City on Oct. 24. Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 9
Charles Moss reunites with Kash.
by Kasey Heath
10 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
The unprecedented devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey displaced countless people. Many were forced out of their homes to find shelter because of the extensive flooding, the damage from which claimed almost everything they owned. Port Arthur resident Charles Moss lost his home and many of his belongings in the storm, and, for a night, he thought he lost his 6-year-old gelding named Kash. Moss was trying to rescue Kash from the floodwaters when the horse was startled by the rumblings of the storm and escaped from Moss’ grip. “There was no calming him down,” Moss said. “A power line fell and hit the water, and he took off running. The water was too high, so we had to wait until the next morning to search for him.” Moss said the unexpected floodwaters made it a challenge for many horse owners to recover their animals. “A lot of people lost their horses because they didn’t expect the water to get that high,” Moss said. “They couldn’t do anything to save them.” Moss immediately contacted the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, giving officials a description of Kash and sending pictures for identification. The next morning, the sheriff’s department said they had located Kash and had sent him to the Texas A&M Large Animal Hospital (LAH) in College Station. Many horses were sent to Ford Park in Beaumont, where the owners could go to claim their lost animals; Kash, however, was sent to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) , where animals with serious injuries were taken to receive treatment. Dr. Michelle Coleman, an assistant professor of large animal internal medicine in the LAH, operated on Kash, and a team that included other LAH doctors, as well as veterinary students on the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) fourth-year clinical rotation, took proper precautions to ensure his healing. “He had a laceration right over a joint, so we cut some tissue off and sutured it back up,” Coleman said. “The wound was really deep. Every time we went to check on the injury, he reacted poorly, so we knew he was very sensitive. We put a foot cast on him to increase his comfort level and make sure he would heal as quickly as possible.” Coleman said Kash’s injury was significant, but many other horses did not fair as well. “Many horses were submerged underwater for more than 10 hours,” Coleman said. “The skin of those horses just started sloughing off. Kash was one of the lucky ones.” Moss was thankful for the quick response from the sheriff’s department at the time of the flooding.
Dr. Karen Beste attends to Kash. “The longest Kash was in the water was about eight hours,” Moss said. “ I was glad the sheriffs found him when they did. It could have been a lot worse.” Moss and the community of Port Arthur have a lot of rebuilding to do. Moss said his entire neighborhood was completely destroyed, and in late September, when he picked up his gelding, Moss was concerned about bringing Kash home to no food or shelter, but donations of hay had started pouring in after the hurricane. “People from all over the world were donating feed; we have hay for about a year now because of the generous donations,” Moss said. “We came across a big blessing. I also found a stable for him to stay, with a lady who breeds jumping horses. She will help take good care of him.” Coleman said it will take some time for Kash to heal physically, but the emotional toll an event like this takes on a horse can be harder to repair. “He will just need to get used to being loved again,” Coleman said. Moss said he is grateful for everyone at Texas A&M who has helped Kash through the healing and recovery processes and that he is confident that Kash received quality care while at the LAH. “I want to thank everybody who helped Kash,” Moss said. “He can have a little attitude at times, so sometimes working with him requires a great deal of patience.” Even though Kash’s full recovery will take time, Moss said he looks forward to seeing Kash completely healed and performing at his best once again. “We trail ride a lot,” Moss said. “Once Kash heals, he is going to be trained as a cutting horse. I will give him a good four to six months before I even try to ride him, just to make sure he is completely healed. I’m just really thankful that he is alright.” Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 11
“She has so much spunk,” Davenport said. “She’s just a regular puppy; she has no idea there is anything wrong with her. Once she bit my nose, it was over with.” Davenport had Bubbles examined by a veterinarian in Houston, and the puppy was referred to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH), in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), where she was cared for by a team from the Small Animal Hospital’s neurology service, including Dr. Beth Boudreau, third-year neurology resident Dr. Arturo Otamendi, and first-year neurology resident Dr. Maya Krasnow. “Meningoencephalocele can happen either because of congenital abnormalities—the skull just didn’t form properly—or sometimes toxins or nutritional deficiencies can cause that in utero, as well; sometimes it can be acquired because of trauma,” Otamendi said. “In Bubbles’s case, it was congenital; she’s had it since she was born. This happens actually very rarely in dogs and cats, more commonly in people.” The abnormality can cause seizures, and, if at any point the “bubble” ruptured, the puppy could suffer from meningitis, encephalitis, bleeding, and even death.
Dr. Arturo Otamendi holds Bubbles before her operation.
A Better Life
by Jennifer Gauntt
With a charming personality, Bubbles—a 3-month-old black, brown, and white Shih Tzu—lives up to her name. But it wasn’t her sparkling disposition that led to the moniker; Bubbles received her name because she was born with meningoencephalocele—a rare, abnormal sac of fluid, brain tissue, and meninges (the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord) that protrudes from the top of her head. When Darci Davenport, the co-owner of peacelovedogs/ PLD Dog Rescue Project in Missouri City, learned from a friend that the 5-week-old puppy was dropped off at a Montgomery County animal shelter, Davenport, whose rescue is known for taking in high-risk animals, went to visit Bubbles and fell in love. 12 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
“We were worried about the pouch covering the outside potentially getting injured, because she’s a puppy and she’s pretty active,” Krasnow said. “She wants to be able to play with other dogs, but if the bubble were to become damaged, we would worry about her potentially getting encephalitis. Additionally, there is an opening in her skull—there’s nothing really there covering her brain—so we were worried about her experiencing trauma to her brain, as well.” Otamendi, Krasnow, and other Texas A&M surgeons explored their treatment options and decided surgery was the best approach. As they waited for the 2- to 3-pound puppy to get a little bigger in order to perform the surgery, they explored various surgical treatments, including working with a pharmaceutical/bioengineering company to produce a bio-compatible implant that could be placed over the defect in her skull. A couple of weeks later, the doctors were presented a second option—one that involved technology being used by a surgeon in another of the hospital’s services; Dr. Brian Saunders, an associate professor of orthopedics, works in his laboratory with a memory foam implant that will become malleable at warmer temperatures and then hardens as it cools. “We called him and asked if he knew anyone who did 3-D printing, which was our initial idea, and he volunteered that he and a chemist he works with might have something that could interest us,” Boudreau said. With a surgical plan now in place, the doctors were ready to remove the meningoencephalocele from the top of
Bubbles’s skull and implant the centimeter-and-a-half circle made from Saunders’s memory foam technology that would protect her brain. The two-and-a-half-hour surgery went off without a hitch. “I think the biggest challenge was that we didn’t know quite what to expect during surgery; it’s not something that many of us have done before, and we weren’t sure what kind of complications we would run into,” Krasnow said. “But everything went extremely well. Our memory foam from Dr. Saunders’s lab actually fit in very well, and we didn’t have any problems. She woke right away after surgery and was eating, so we were really happy.” The doctors emphasized the huge team effort that went into the surgery, including veterinary specialists from the Small Animal Hospital’s neurology, orthopedic, surgery, anesthesia, and radiology services, as well as through the hospital’s fundraising mechanisms, which helped offset the cost of Bubbles’s surgery. “We were able to combine funds for the surgery through the Laughing Labs, Robbie Vanderpool Save the Animals, and Starr Funds accounts,” Otamendi said. “We definitely thank everybody at Texas A&M and the Texas A&M Foundation for helping to provide these funds so we could perform the surgery that will allow Bubbles to hopefully live a better life.” Through her rescue project, Davenport had raised some money before Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area, but afterward, because there were so many others in need, Davenport said she felt guilty about asking for more for one dog when so many other people and animals were in need. “She’s just so cute; she’s so sweet and has such a will to live that I want to do whatever I can to get her better,” Davenport said. “She has such a spunk and so much will to live that how do you deny that a puppyhood?” Davenport said it means a lot to her that Texas A&M worked to help financially.
“She’s just so cute; she’s so sweet and has such a will to live that I want to do whatever I can to get her better.”
Theresa Cline and Darci Davenport play with Bubbles. “To me, this is the most amazing university ever; it’s the best of the best. We don’t hesitate, any time we have something that’s complicated, to just drop everything and drive the two-and-a-half hours to Texas A&M, because you’re not going to get any better care,” Davenport said. “They are so caring, and for them to help the way they have and go out of their way to accommodate Bubbles and my rescue is…I’m just so grateful.” Throughout this process, Davenport worked to find a good home for Bubbles to return to after her surgery. She found that in Houston resident Theresa Cline, who learned about Bubbles through a friend. “I lost my dog to breast cancer three months before I saw Bubbles, and I was just so distraught; I didn’t know if I was going to have another dog anytime soon,” Cline said. “When I saw Bubbles, it was about at that three-month mark (following her dog’s death) and Bubbles was almost 3 months old; as soon as I saw her, I was like, ‘That’s my dog!’ I just kind of felt like my dog’s soul was in this dog; she just kept pulling me in. I knew I was done, that this was my dog.” While Bubbles no longer has the meningoencephalocele that earned her her name, she does have a sister with whom she can play now that she’s fully recovered and officially a “normal” puppy. As she waited for Bubbles, Cline adopted Mai—a puppy she said looks so similar to Bubbles that they could have come from the same litter—so that Bubbles wouldn’t be alone. For Davenport, knowing that she found a home for her little “Unicorn Puppy”—a puppy that, under normal circumstances, may not have survived to make it to a shelter, much less through surgery—is bitter sweet. “Everybody said, ‘You’re not going to be able to let her go,’” Davenport said. “But this is what I like—to be able to send a dog home with someone like Theresa; that’s my job.”
Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 13
by Jennifer Gauntt & Dr. Megan Palsa
For many, pets are significant members of the family, so when our furry friends are in need of serious medical attention, the treatment process can be stressful. Now, Texas A&M University’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) is working to make that process a bit “EASE-ier” with the introduction of a new mobile application that allows families to track the progress of their patient.
Veterinary technician Jaci Christensen scans the barcode on a dog’s collar. 14 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
“EASE is a state-of-the-art mobile communication tool that allows the VMTH to stay connected with, provide timely updates to, and to educate the families of patients who are being treated at the hospital,” said Bo Connell, assistant dean for hospital operations. “We are the first teaching hospital in the country to bring this innovative, digital-media platform to the practice of veterinary medicine. This is one more example of Texas A&M leading on every front.”
Through the application, VMTH doctors, surgeons, veterinary technicians, residents, and the hospital client liaison will be able to send customized updates—through texts, photos, and videos—to the families of patients as the animal undergoes treatment at the hospital. “We are excited that for the first time, our doctors and nurses will have a direct connection to their patients’ family members before, during, and after procedures and treatments being done at the hospital,” Connell said. “It will allow our staff to give timely updates to our clients and to keep them informed about the care their loved ones are receiving during their stay.” The VMTH’s oncology, cardiology, dermatology, and ophthalmology services are the first to utilize the app in its early adoption at the Small Animal Hospital, with the plan to expand to other services in both the small and large animal hospitals soon. Jaci Christensen, a licensed veterinary technician and oncology technician supervisor, said the oncology service had 20 families that signed up early in EASE’s adoption to use the app. “A super important part of our job is keeping owners updated, but we are so busy that it becomes difficult to do so in a timely fashion; EASE has really made our job easier by simplifying that process,” she said. “It’s a huge help.” Christensen said the oncology team uses EASE to send pre- and post-operation pictures and videos to clients. “We’ll send photo updates of patients, such as a photo of a dog that has awakened from anesthesia, so any general update that may make them feel better about their pet as they’re separated,” Christensen said. “All of the owners really like it. Most of our patients have cancer and are going through a cancer treatment of some sort; it’s a scary process,” she said. “I’ve always thought our clients are among the most dedicated to their pets because they’re going through a lot to gain some time, so I think it means the world to their owners that somebody is treating them as if it’s their own pet. “The app also seems to bring the clients a lot of comfort,” Christensen continued. “It’s more personal to get photos of us loving on their pets as we perform our duties. It allows them to see that their pets are getting quality care.” To use EASE, the pet owners download the app, which is compatible with both Apple and Android phones, and register the patient before his or her arrival to the VMTH. Families have the ability to select the types of updates they want to receive and also can invite other family members to receive updates.
“A super important part of our job is keeping owners updated, but we are so busy that it becomes difficult to do so in a timely fashion; EASE has really made our job easier by simplifying that process.”
—Jaci Christensen Other features include messages that disappear after 60 seconds, which protects patient confidentiality; the ability to communicate in both English and Spanish; and following the pet’s treatment, owners can take a real-time, customized survey to offer feedback to the VMTH. Montgomery, Texas, resident Peggy Raabe was among Texas A&M’s first EASE users. She brought her 7-year-old white Labrador Retriever, Molly, to the VMTH in November to have a soft-tissue sarcoma removed from her hind leg. While not familiar with similar applications, Raabe said she signed up for EASE with the help of the VMTH staff and found it extremely easy to use. She received pictures of Molly as she awaited getting her bloodwork done and in the morning before her surgery, which Raabe was able to share with her husband, who was working in Kuwait; her daughter also signed up to receive the updates. The hospital staff also called Raabe with updates throughout the process, but she said having EASE gave her something she couldn’t get by talking on the phone. “It is wonderful to have something like this when you’re worried about your pet,” Raabe said. “It was wonderful to be able to see Molly; they took pictures and I had a video the next morning, and it was good to know she wasn’t stressed and that everyone was taking good care of her. “I actually called my vet as soon as they messaged me to say she came through surgery really well,” she said. “I told her how awesome the app is and that they should get it.”
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EASE has been widely, and successfully, implemented in human hospitals and healthcare systems for four years.
Dr. Adam Patterson examines Waylon.
ITCHING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE by Callie Rainosek
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“His paws were so itchy that Waylon was literally chewing his paw pads off,” Lee said. “He was causing so much damage to his skin; I was worried for him.” Fortunately for Waylon, the dermatology service at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) was there to help. After examining Waylon’s case, Dr. Adam Patterson, clinical associate professor and chief of dermatology at the CVM, concluded that Waylon was experiencing an autoimmune disease of the skin. “His own immune system was attacking his skin,” Patterson said. “The pimples on his paw pads were extremely painful—he couldn’t even assume the posture to urinate.” Since Waylon hadn’t urinated prior to arriving at the CVM, his bladder was full, causing more pain. The first thing Patterson did was take Waylon outside, hold him up, and let him urinate. This slowed Waylon’s panting and heart rate to normal levels.
Waylon,” Lee said. “Fortunately, Waylon is now in remission and I have the honor of bragging about the fantastic care my sweet dog received from the best veterinary dermatologists in the world at Texas A&M.” Though veterinary dermatologists are trained to treat emergency cases such as Waylon’s, most dermatology cases at the CVM involve health issues with fleas and ticks, skin allergies, and secondary conditions such as bacterial, ear, or yeast infections. “In dermatology, we’re like allergists are to people,” Patterson said. “Animals can be allergic to many things— including fleas, the food they eat, pollen, grasses, or even indoor things such as house dust and mold. At the CVM, we mainly treat allergic skin and ear disease of dogs, cats, and horses.”
“Animals can be allergic to many things—including fleas, the food they eat, pollen, grasses, or even
In addition to being examined by a veterinarian, dermatology patients at the CVM are also seen by Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students. This provides a unique and effective environment for treatment, as well as a great learning opportunity for students.
“Our goal at the CVM is to educate the next generation of veterinarians,” Patterson said. “Students are taught to recognize details between different skin diseases so that when they become veterinarians, they’re confident in treating dermatology conditions. In Waylon’s case, I taught students how to differentiate between a skin allergy and an autoimmune disease.”
indoor things such as
house dust and mold.”
—Dr. Adam Patterson
“From there, we just started managing his skin disease, called pemphigus foliaceus,” Patterson said. “It can occur spontaneously for no reason. Occasionally, we believe that it can be triggered by certain drugs or vaccines, but nothing has been fully proven.”
To help Waylon regain his health, Patterson began treating the disease with steroids and a combination of other drugs. Slowly, but surely, Waylon’s condition improved over the course of a few weeks. However, Lee and Waylon still visit the CVM every two weeks for a check-up. “It’s important that we constantly monitor cases such as Waylon’s,” Patterson said. “When he comes in, we evaluate him and run blood work to see if he is tolerating the drugs in his body. Luckily, Waylon’s condition has improved enough that we are starting to taper the amount of treatment he receives.” “I’m beyond grateful to Dr. Patterson and his amazing team for the passionate care they continue to provide
Since he started at the CVM eight years ago, Patterson said the dermatology service has grown a lot. Between more DVM students enrolling in the dermatology rotation and the first veterinary dermatologist residency at the CVM, Patterson is happy to see the service expand. “We are able to see more appointments now,” Patterson said. “When I first got here, having one appointment in a day was exciting. Now we see multiple cases in a day, Monday through Friday.” Whether a patient is having an emergency such as an autoimmune disease or they are experiencing symptoms of a common skin allergy, Patterson and his team are ready to face any condition. With a passion for dermatology and an itch to make a difference, the dermatology service continues to provide excellent care for its patients. Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 17
When Jill Lee noticed that her Labrador Retriever, Waylon, couldn’t walk and was heavily panting, she immediately knew that something was wrong. After further examination, she discovered that Waylon’s paws and nose were covered in painful scabs and pimples.
HORSES with Heart by Dr. Ginger Elliott
previously published in Livestock Weekly
“That horse has a lot of heart.” There is no better compliment to bestow on a ranch horse. Far more than descriptive of its endurance and athleticism, the statement defines a horse’s physical and mental toughness and willingness to try, despite being maximally challenged or physically exhausted. These guys want to give their all, regardless of their job description. No quit. No counterfeit. In order to “give his all,” the horse must call upon mental and physical attributes, of his heart; intestinal fortitude, plus the efficient 8- to 10-pound muscular pump. Secretariat’s heart was estimated to weigh 20 pounds. The equine heart must circulate about 12 gallons of blood per minute through its 1,200 pound body while performing with speed, agility, and endurance. Adding excitement to the equation generates an appreciation that horses need to be “heart healthy” to benefit their own, as well as their riders’, safety. But as tough as horses are, their equine cardiac pumps occasionally malfunction due to heart diseases. Additionally, cardiovascular problems may be responsible for poor performance. Fortunately, significant heart disease is rare. However, in elite equine performance athletes, such as racehorses or any horse that works at high speeds, it is considered the third most common reason for poor performance, after lameness and respiratory diseases. So it’s important for horsemen to recognize symptoms of equine acute and chronic heart disease. Awareness of other syndromes predisposing horses to heart problems is key. Heart attacks similar to those suffered by humans, such as coronary artery disease, are extremely rare in horses, as are strokes and other peripheral artery diseases. Because of their unique athleticism, horses can compensate for diseased hearts for many months or years without signs of heart failure. However, eventually these heart muscles may weaken, losing ability to provide adequate circulation in meeting the body’s needs. Large vessel ruptures are very rare but can lead to collapse or sudden death, usually when the horse is exercising. Internal parasite-induced aneurysms can be prevented by proper de-worming practices.
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Horses on the Texas A&M Stock Horse Team are being studied by CVM clinicians. Traumatic injuries are uncommon, but deep, penetrating wounds to the chest cavity can be fatal, depending on the extent and location; branches, pipe, fenceposts, horns, etc., can be culprits. Accidents, unfortunately, come with athleticism and environment. Horses can develop heart diseases quickly or over a period of time. The most common congenital disorder of horses is Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). Foals are born with a hole in the wall separating the two lower chambers of the heart. Symptoms include lethargy, shortness of breath, and the inability to exercise normally. VSDs are associated with loud heart murmurs. Developmental heart diseases in horses most commonly involve valves. As valve leaflets thicken, becoming deformed, usually with age, leaks can develop, leading to fluid accumulation and cardiac insufficiency. Clinical findings in severe disease can include murmurs, jugular vein distention, cough, and fluid accumulation in the abdomen, legs, or underbelly. Common toxins affecting equine cardiac function include Monensin and Lasalocid (livestock feed additives and supplements), blister beetles in alfalfa hay, plus ornamental landscape plants, including oleander, rhododendrons, and yew. Certain wildflowers—such as potentially cardiotoxic milkweeds—are generally unpalatable to horses, but inadvertent ingestion comes from clippings or contamination of hay. Rattlesnake venom can have cardiotoxins that damage equine heart muscle, a syndrome
electrocardiograms (ECGs), sweat responses testing, and laboratory values were acquired during the project. ”
Horses have more abnormal heart rhythms than any other domestic animal species. However, not all are considered to cause horses problems. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common clinically relevant arrhythmia in horses; the atria fail to contract but instead quiver or fibrillate. Upper heart chambers may beat up to 400 times per minute, going to non-stop; this rapid fluttering action doesn’t produce significant blood circulation into the lower chambers, thereby negatively affecting performance.
Subclinical abnormalities were detected frequently in these horses—with the musculoskeletal system being the most commonly affected.
AF is often associated with poor performance in horses practicing high-intensity exercise. It’s also the most common cardiac arrhythmia in human athletes engaging in endurance sports. AF often develops in horses with advanced heart disease; AF can develop with minimal or no detectable cardiac signs. Electrolyte abnormalities, resulting from excessive sweating, may predispose horses to AF. It can also occur in horses having experienced previous illness that inflames the heart muscle (such as severe colic, influenza, and toxemia). In addition to clinical signs, thorough auscultation of the heart alerts veterinarians about cardiovascular disease when murmurs and abnormal rhythms are heard. The next tool for the evaluation of horses with murmurs or arrhythmias is centered on the echocardiogram. This diagnostic modality is becoming increasingly available at many referral equine hospitals. Aiding the assessment of athletic performance in equine sports, Standardized Exercise Testing (SET) can be useful to evaluate poor performance, the assessment of training progression, and as preventative medicine tools. In order to utilize SET in western performance horses clinicians at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) are validating a protocol for exercise testing. Horses in this study are competitors on the Texas A&M Intercollegiate Stock Horse Team and had met show season expectations. “Clinicians are hoping this protocol will be useful for investigating poor performance and as a preventative medicine approach of the management of high-level western performance horse athletes,” said Dr. Cris Navas, a clinician and professor of equine internal medicine in the CVM’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH). “This comprehensive exercise testing protocol simultaneously evaluates musculoskeletal, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems and was assessed by historical questionnaires, general physical, and subjective lameness examinations and gait analysis using digital body mounted sensors,” he said. “Resting and dynamic upper airway endoscopy, plus evaluation of respiratory tract secretions were utilized. Echocardiograms, resting, and exercising
“But cardiovascular, plus upper and lower airway abnormalities, were also detected. These results suggest exercise tests may be useful to detect subclinical abnormalities in western performance horses,” Navas said. “Further evaluation of both normally and poorly performing horses is necessary to determine if exercise testing can improve health, performance, and welfare of these horses. “For people with horses with poor performance, my recommendations are to have a veterinarian you are confident with examine the horse,” he said. “If there is a clear abnormality—like lameness, wheezes, coughing, heart murmurs—that can explain the performance problem, investigate or treat. If there is no smoking gun, do an exercise test that evaluates all body systems at the same time. This has two advantages: saving time, while diagnosing subclinical problems that can be treated simultaneously. The disadvantage is cost and sometimes inconvenience.” The CVM believes each member of a team—which includes a primary-care veterinarian, trainer, and specialist in internal medicine, surgery, sports medicine, and rehabilitation—can solve part of the poor performance or preventative medicine equation. “With the help of the Texas veterinary community, we hope to move forward with further clinical trials in sports medicine that also will hopefully prevent the rare events associated with equine activities or sports resulting in compromised (sudden death) safety of horse and rider and public perception of welfare during equestrian sports,“ Navas said. “I should think that ranch horses should follow the same pattern as occurs in previous studies in sport horses, in that they often have several subclinical diseases simultaneously that don’t quite stop them from exercising,” Navas said. “Lameness is consistently the most common one in other groups, then respiratory, second, depending on the group, then cardiac disease more rarely.” Ranchers and cowhands may not label their “toppy” horses as “elite equine athletes,” but when athleticism (turning a cow), speed (getting around cattle fixin’ to scatter), agility (dropping off in a draw), and excitement (‘ringy’ cows, town, indoor arenas) are considered, ranch horses may be more “elite” than previously considered. Food for thought, considering numbers of ranch horse sales (and average price tags) are increasing: “Sound, gentle, capable, athletic…with a BIG HEART“ are always good in sale catalogue resumes.
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that may be underdiagnosed, depending on where the horses live.
Dr. Sarah Hamer stands in front of the Avian Health Complex, which houses more than 200 birds for research and teaching.
t he Flock
by Kasey Heath
As the new director of Texas A&Mâ€™s Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center, Dr. Sarah Hamer brings an array of professional experience and, most importantly, a passion for studying and preserving native and exotic bird species. 20 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
Hamer was tracking and observing this particular species in order to understand their movement, behavior, and nesting habits, hoping to find out why the birds seemed to adapt to urbanization better than other native bird species. “We sewed radio-transmitters onto the birds’ tail feathers to track their movement and see what habitats they were using,” said Hamer, now an associate professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS). “By understanding how these birds moved and utilized resources, we could identify critical factors that allow these birds to thrive in the urban environment.” Hamer and her colleagues began to notice that a large number of American Crows were getting sick and dying. “Because we were tracking their movement, we were able to locate and test the birds quickly after their death,” she said. “Nearly all of the dead birds tested positive for the West Nile virus. The virus impacted a lot of different types of birds, but disproportionately impacted American Crows. “We also sampled and tested mosquitoes from the key habitats where the crows were roosting at night and found the virus within the mosquitoes, as well,” Hamer said. As they conducted this sampling, people living in those neighborhoods also were getting sick from the virus, and what began as a young student’s ecology project quickly morphed into research on the relationship between human and animal health.
“That experience as a master’s student really set me on a career path of studying these emerging pathogens that impact animal health, but also impact human health,” Hamer said. “I became very interested in studying wildlife populations and disease vectors, such as mosquitos and ticks, and how the pathogens they transmit are passed to humans.” As she was pursuing her doctorate in disease ecology at Michigan State University, she began to realize that much of her work involved communicating with health practitioners, which sent her down yet another route. “I realized about midway through my Ph.D. that I was communicating with a lot of medical doctors and veterinarians,” Hamer said. “I decided then that if I had a medical background, it might open up more doors for my research, so that’s when I started in vet school.” After completing her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at Michigan State University, in conjunction with the completion of her Ph.D., Hamer came to Texas A&M University to start a faculty position and lead a research program that focused on the ecology and epidemiology of a variety of human, animal, and vector-borne diseases. Her work has ranged from Chagas disease in humans, dogs, and wildlife, to conservation medicine for the endangered Whooping Crane, to studies of ticks and tick-borne diseases across the country. It was her passion for wildlife, paired with her success in mentoring students and leadership in interdisciplinary federally funded research, that led to Hamer’s appointment as the Richard Schubot Endowed Chair and director of the Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center at Texas A&M. In the role, which includes a joint appointment with the CVM’s Department of Veterinary Pathobiology
“Everyone here is united by their passion for bird health. My leadership is to facilitate the work this group is doing together to solve important bird health problems and to provide meaningful training experiences for students. I also have a vision to expand the scope of the types of bird work the Schubot group tackles.”
—Dr. Sarah Hamer Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 21
As a graduate student at the University of Illinois, Dr. Sarah Hamer spent countless hours inspecting trees and bushes and scanning yards and sidewalks in search of the American crow, transforming residential neighborhoods and community parks into vital sites for her research.
Hamer in the lab
team at Schubot moves forward. “Many pressing issues with respect to avian health are complex, requiring expertise from different disciplines,” she said. “We will combine the strengths within the Schubot Center and partner with others to expand our capabilities and solve these complex problems.” Hamer said the Schubot Center’s strong foundation has provided her with a great opportunity to lead researchers and establish the center as a powerhouse in avian health research. She said the resources and facilities at Texas A&M will help tremendously. “We have a lot of resources and capability as one of the top vet schools at this big, tier one research institution,” she said. “Combine that with what we have in the wild lands just outside of our campus and it puts us in a good position.” Education and research will be one-and-the-same in the center under Hamer’s leadership. Because her education helped her discover her passion for studying zoonotic diseases, Hamer hopes to empower students with similar opportunities to launch into their own career paths focused on improving health.
(VTPB), Hamer oversees the expenditures of the Schubot endowment to enhance avian health research, teaching, and clinical practice, including work conducted at the unique and world-famous aviary for exotic and native birds. “I’m fortunate that my research and my hobby have converged,” Hamer said. “I’ve loved raising birds for most of my life and being a bird watcher. Being out in nature— studying wild populations and trying to keep them healthy— has helped fuel a lot of the research questions that I’m asking.” Her leadership position gives her a chance to assist researchers and current students in reaching their academic goals, while also expanding on the current scholarship in which the center is engaged. “It is awesome to be surrounded by so many people who are united by their passion for bird health. I value this opportunity to help solve important bird health problems and to provide meaningful training experiences for students,” Hamer said. “I also have a vision to expand the scope of the types of bird work the Schubot group tackles.” Part of that expansion involves finding opportunities for internal and external partnerships. “I’m looking to grow collaborations with a number of partners that also share this mission of improving avian health,” Hamer said. Partnerships, Hamer said, are going to be essential as the 22 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
Combining her teaching and research, for example, Hamer co-designed a new, high-impact course, “Methods in Vectorborne Disease Ecology,” with funds awarded to her as a Montague Teaching Scholar. In the course, small teams of undergraduate and graduate students worked together to
“Education is a key component in my vision for the center. In order to succeed as a research powerhouse, we must serve as a training ground for students of various capabilities.”
—Dr. Sarah Hamer
“Our students completed a study that was published last year looking at zoonotic pathogens associated with the Great-Tailed Grackles, the large, black, noisy birds that hang out by the hundreds in the urban grocery store parking lots around town,” Hamer said. “We worked through the federal, state, and local permits necessary to allow our students to capture and band the birds and also collect blood and fecal samples that the students then analyzed back on campus. “Our students found that some of those birds were shedding Salmonella, a food-borne pathogen,” she said. “When those birds hang out on your grocery carts that your food is in, this can be an issue. This is an example of how wild birds maintain pathogens that might have an impact on human health.” Hamer said the Schubot Center’s world-class aviary provides countless opportunities like these for student research studies.
“There is no shortage of students who want to be involved in avian health research—undergraduates, graduate students, and veterinary students,” Hamer said. “These students will continue to be the fuel behind all our research output. “Education is a key component in my vision for the center. In order to succeed as a research powerhouse, we must serve as a training ground for students of various capabilities,” she said. Hamer’s leadership at the Schubot Center, she said, is just another way for her to pursue a passion that started as a hobby and led her down a unique educational path—and, hopefully, will lead others to do the same. “I view my position at the Schubot Center as a way that I can merge some of my own background and perspective with an awesome team of enthusiastic clinicians, faculty, and students so that our research and training can have even more of an impact than we would have been able to individually,” Hamer said.
A bird researcher and bird lover, Hamer owns an African Gray parrot, named Togo. Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 23
conduct original research throughout the semester. Several projects centered on wild bird health.
Michelle Morelli and Pamela May
FOOD-ANIMAL PRODUCTION TOUR INTRODUCES STUDENTS TO WEST TEXAS by Kasey Heath & Dr. Megan Palsa
Summers are crucial for students, as evidenced by the internship, externship, technical, and professional development opportunities that fill students’ email inboxes and job boards in the months leading up to spring semester final exams. Summer opportunities sometimes help students discover particular challenges of a specific field of work, while leading others to their dream job. Last summer, two students from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) took on the West Texas winds and had an experience they will never forget. As part of a new program created by Dr. Dan Posey, academic coordinator for the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC) at West Texas A&M University, and Dr. Dee Griffin, TVMC director, third-year veterinary students Pamela May and Michelle Morelli participated in a foodanimal production externship in West Texas. The program was developed for students who have completed their second year of veterinary school. Posey tailored the program to fit the interests of program participants, but its goal is to expose students to the needs of rural West Texas food animal production. 24 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
May said the program revealed to her the stark contrast between veterinary practices in rural and urban areas. “It’s very different in a rural area versus a teaching hospital or any of the private practices that are in Houston or Dallas,” May said. “It’s all very, very different. This program was a very big exposure to that.” A South Padre Island native who is on the CVM’s foodanimal track in order to pursue beef-production medicine, May did not grow up with a food-animal background, but discovered a passion for food-animal medicine as Posey’s mentee, as well as through her experiences on the production tour and summer externship program Posey developed. May began her summer working at a 50,000-head beef cattle feedlot and then finished with two-week rotations at mixed-animal practices. She said her experiences exposed her to a different world of food animal production that she had yet to experience. “Before I went on the production tour in May, I had never been to a feed yard, and it was different from what the media portrays a feed yard to be,” May said. “I got to learn how it works from the ground up. They taught me how to work cattle, a lot of the basics you don’t learn in school.”
May enjoyed the program location and hopes to return to the West Texas area to practice veterinary medicine.
Growing up in the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania, Morelli conducted small livestock projects in high school, but found her love for agriculture, and specifically dairy production, as an undergraduate at Penn State University.
“I do think that I will end up back there,” May said. “My main goal is making a difference in how producers view women in veterinary medicine, especially in food-animal medicine. There are a lot more women coming into the field, and I want producers to know that women can do what male veterinarians can do.”
Morelli spent three weeks at two different mixed-animal practices and rotated between two consultant veterinarians who have contracts with farms, mostly dairies. She said she experienced a wide range of cases and learned how to apply her classroom skills to real-life situations. “At the mixed-animal practice, in the mornings, we would go to different dairy farms,” Morelli said. “In the afternoons, we would go back to the practice and we would see mostly small-animal patients. Sometimes farm animals would come in, so I got to see a lot of everything.” Though their summer activities varied, May and Morelli both said the summer was invaluable to their education. Morelli said she faced challenges throughout the summer, but the growth she experienced made the challenges worth it. She encourages other students to not fear taking a risk. “Getting up at 4 a.m. isn’t exactly the most fun, but putting yourself out there gets you a lot of really invaluable experience,” Morelli said. “There were a lot of things I did that I had never done before. “I did a lot of first things. Was I necessarily ready to do them in that moment? No, but the veterinarians understood that and were there for me,” she said. “Taking those risks is what’s really important.”
“I did a lot of first things. Was I necessarily ready to do them in that moment? No, but the veterinarians understood that and were there for me. Taking those risks is what’s really important.”
As a student on track to become a food-animal veterinarian, Morelli said she hopes to repair the disconnect between consumers and producers in the conversation about food-animal production. “I want to try and show people that the people who do produce animals that end up going to the food system really do care about the animals’ well-being,” Morelli said. “They don’t want to see their animals in pain or suffering, and they do everything they can to try and fix that. We all do care about the same thing.” May and Morelli both said they could not have done this on their own, expressing gratitude toward Posey for all he did to create a program that enhanced their passion for the food-animal field. “Dr. Posey made the experience what it was, and he made it perfect for me,” May said. “It was great that Dr. Posey had the connections and set us up with the people who would go above and beyond for us,” Morelli said. May and Morelli said Griffin, who also is a Texas A&M CVM clinical professor located at West Texas A&M, also played a large mentoring role for their respective programs. Griffin was named mentor of the year for 2017 at the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) Conference in Omaha, Nebraska. May said the award is fitting. “They started announcing the award by telling us to close our eyes and picture our mentor,” May said. “I pictured Dr. Posey and Dr. Griffin. Low and behold, Dr. Griffin was the one getting mentor of the year.” Out of all the professional and technical development opportunities presented to veterinary students for the summer, May and Morelli encourage anyone to pursue the West Texas production program. “It was an experience that I couldn’t get here (in College Station),” May said. “I would encourage anyone to pursue this program.” “If you want to get a real, hands-on experience and figure out how things are done with clients and how to get through the decision-making process, this is a really great experience,” Morelli said.
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Morelli’s experience was tailored to her interests in the dairy industry.
FOR THESE FOURTH-YEAR VETERINARY STUDENTS IN THE FOOD-ANIMAL MEDICINE TRACK, THE PROSPECT OF PRACTICING IN RURAL AREAS IS ALL PART OF THE PLAN.
by Kasey Heath
LAUREN THOMPSON Texas A&M fourth-year veterinary student Lauren Thompson showed livestock from the age of 8 in her hometown of Grandview, Texas, and knew she wanted to become a veterinarian when she got her first horse at the age of 6. Equine medicine interested Thompson at first, but her undergraduate courses in animal science at Texas A&M University changed that for her. “I got really involved in meat judging and nutrition,” Thompson said. “Initially, I thought I wanted to work on horses, until I got into undergrad and realized that cattle were my passion.” Thompson’s motivation to become a food-animal veterinarian for cattle specifically draws on her passion for feeding the world. “Cattle are going to be a key provider of that,” Thompson said. “Just seeing how I can play a role in meat science and nutrition aspects, in order to make sure that our future population has wholesome and safe and affordable protein sources, has really solidified my passion for wanting to do it.” Relationships, professional and personal, also motivate Thompson to reach her goals in veterinary medicine. “Going through all of my animal science courses, and having all of the professors in the department mentor me, made me realize that those are the people I love to be around,” Thompson said. “It’s just mainly the people.” Thompson hopes to return to her rural roots after graduation and practice veterinary medicine. “I could see myself doing both (large animal or mixed animal practice),” Thompson said. “I want to be in a rural area because I grew up in a small town. That’s just where I feel like I belong.”
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Growing up on his family’s cow/calf and stocker production in Gillespie County, Texas, Texas A&M fourth-year veterinary student Charles Lehne recognized the need for more veterinarians in rural areas. A Fredericksburg native, Lehne said his family often had a difficult time finding an available veterinarian when he was working his show cattle. “There’s a lot of places where it’s hard to find a vet to get there to work cattle or help you with a problem,” Lehne said. “It’s oftentimes hard to find one on call.” He hopes to be part of the solution to that problem by specializing in feedlot medicine or focusing on reproduction. “I’m really interested in embryo transfer,” Lehne said. “That would hopefully be my main focus, eventually, but it’s going to take awhile to get there.” Lehne’s ranching and showing background motivated him to become a veterinarian. “My passion for the cow/calf production system pushed me to do food animal,” Lehne said. “I come from a ranching background, and I hope to go somewhere in a rural community to focus my efforts where there’s a lot of cattle.”
BRENT HALE When fourth-year veterinary student Brent Hale was young, he raised and showed beef cattle at local and county shows around his hometown of Dayton, Texas. “That made me realize that I wanted to work with animals for the rest of my life,” he said. “Being young and unaware of all of my options for working with animals, my first thought was becoming a veterinarian.” Luckily, one of the local veterinarians in Dayton is a family friend, so when he got to high school, Hale began shadowing at the clinic and found that he loved everything about veterinary medicine. Now, at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), Hale is on track to practice food animal medicine following his graduation. In fact, he’s already received an offer to return to his hometown and work at a mixed animal clinic. “The more experience that I gain in veterinary school, the more I realize that I keep going back to my roots of food animal medicine, as far as my main interests are concerned,” he said.
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by Dr. Megan Palsa Balancing a rigorous veterinary school curriculum can be challenging on its own, but many Texas A&M veterinary students choose to devote a portion of their time to professional development via the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) many student organizations. CVM Today asked presidents of student groups to share their experiences as leaders by answering questions about their lives, their career goals, the organizations they lead, and their decision to step into their leadership position.
TARA MAYBERRY, THIRD-YEAR VETERINARY STUDENT AND PRESIDENT OF THE
STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS SHELTERING VETS AND THE CVM CHAPTER OF BROAD SPECTRUM I am from Austin and went to Texas A&M for my undergraduate degree, despite being from an all-Longhorn family. When I visited A&M, I fell in love with the campus, and I later decided to only apply to the CVM. My decision to become a vet stemmed from an experience when I was in the sixth grade—my cat was poisoned and the manner in which the vet handled the situation amazed me. I decided then that I wanted to do the same for another family.
Sheltering Vets is a great organization that helps promote a smaller subset of the career—shelter medicine. Although there are not many full-time shelter veterinarians in the state, we provide contacts to students in the area; we also invite speakers across the state to educate our members on topics such as population control, common diseases, behavior issues, rehabilitation, etc. I love shelter medicine and hope to work in that area part time upon graduation. This organization is very important to me. I am happy to work with my fellow officers to supplement the education of the 20 members of Sheltering Vets, as well as our peers, about wildlife rehabilitation and shelter medicine. In being president of two groups, I’m lucky to have two great officer teams who help organize and run the organizations. My favorite thing about my experiences here at the CVM is the growth I have seen in my confidence and leadership abilities. I have to push myself to learn and work hard. After veterinary school, I want to work in a large city at a small-animal general practice full time and at an animal shelter part time.
28 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
ALESHA RIMMELIN, THIRD-YEAR VETERINARY STUDENT AND PRESIDENT OF THE CVM CHAPTER OF THE STUDENT AMERICAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (SAVMA) I grew up in Friendswood, Texas (near Houston), for the most part. I actually was an English major as an undergraduate, but after graduating and working in my field, I was unhappy with it. I realized I spent most of my free time volunteering at my local animal shelter; it made me happy, and I had always been interested in medicine, so I decided to change course and applied to veterinary school. I chose Texas A&M because of its reputation and because it was my in-state school. It was the only place I applied, so I was very fortunate to get in! I got involved with SAVMA in my first year of veterinary school as a class representative and was the government affairs coordinator in my second year. I ran for president last year because I think what we do is important and I thought I would be a good candidate for adapting to the new challenges we face this year, while refining our direction and goals moving forward. Every veterinary student who pays dues (95 percent of our approximately 480 students) is a member of SAVMA. Being a member comes with awesome benefits. Our local SAVMA chapter at Texas A&M operates as both the student government–umbrella organization for the CVM and as a liaison between the students at Texas A&M and the national organization, and, often, between the Dean’s Office and the student body. SAVMA has many functions, but the most important is providing a voice for the students in the national conversation about the goals and direction of our profession. We also put on many events for CVM students and sponsor individuals and clubs in pursuing conferences, travel, and unique events. As president, my job is to help my team, each of whom is responsible for a different event or area, succeed. I also act as the major representative of the organization in many capacities, with respect to both the national group and the CVM. All of our professors, technical staff, and administrators work hard to make our educational experience the best possible, and they succeed daily at that. Our SAVMA faculty advisers—Dr. Glennon Mays, Dr. Adam Patterson, and Dr. Mark Johnson—do a particularly excellent job of helping our organization make wise decisions and consider all possibilities, and we are so fortunate to have them on our team. (In balancing the group and class) I have always been the kind of person who does better when busy. Vet school is variant in how much time it takes, depending on our exam schedule, so I try to fit in the things I need to do for SAVMA when our class load is lighter and then wrap things up for the semester before finals start. After veterinary school, I plan to work in small-animal medicine, hopefully seeing exotic pets, as well as dogs and cats. My husband and I would like to end up in the San Antonio or New Braunfels areas, in a more urban community. I have loved almost everything I’ve learned and experienced here, but I think my favorite thing about vet school is the people. It sounds cheesy, but this is such a fantastic community of peers and professionals, and my classmates really are exceptional, both academically and personally. It’s just an impressive place, and I’m humbled to get to be here at all, let alone to be able to lead a group that represents the school in the way it does. I like to think that the things we accomplish during my tenure as president will have a lasting positive impact on this school which has done and provided so much for me. I really enjoy being a part of organized veterinary medicine and the Texas A&M CVM family!
Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 29
CEBRINA CAVAZOS, THIRD-YEAR VETERINARY STUDENT AND PRESIDENT OF VOICE Ever since I was a kid in Roma, Texas, I had a desire to help animals. When I discovered my love for science in high school, it just made sense to put the two together and follow the veterinary medicine path. I came to Texas A&M as an undergraduate, so when I began applying for vet school, there was no other choice but A&M. I needed to stay in Texas so I could be as close to my family as possible. Thankfully it all worked out! VOICE (Veterinary Students One in Culture and Ethnicity) aims to increase awareness and sensitivity to socio-cultural issues in the vet-med field. We host events that typically celebrate multiculturalism and promote crosscultural awareness. VOICE provides information to the student body about traditions and cultures that they may not have been aware of, and we even host workshops that instill new communication tools that students can use to better serve future clientele. As president of the group, I schedule and conduct executive team meetings, where we make our plans for the upcoming semesters. Each officer is in charge of organizing and managing an event, so it’s my job to be there to help wherever and whenever it’s needed. I also organize and preside over our chapter meetings, which we hold at least twice a year. It’s nice to have something other than school work to keep me busy, and because I care for what VOICE stands for, I don’t ever feel burdened by the time it may take from my studies. Honestly, what makes the job much easier is the VOICE officer team; I’m very fortunate to work with them. I’m also this year’s Behavior Club secretary and Pathology Club 3VM representative. In my spare time, I enjoy working out at the gym and eating wings with my friends. Since every veterinary student is automatically a member of VOICE, I’ve been an active member since my first semester here. I think VOICE’s mission is very important, which is why I chose to take on the role as president. I believe everyone in the vet school can benefit from whatever VOICE has to offer. I’ve learned that veterinary medicine is more than just treating patients; in order to strengthen the human-animal bond, the doctor and client relationship is of utmost importance. This organization helps fill some of those cultural gaps that may come between these relationships. My favorite thing about holding a leadership position is that I’m able to make contributions to organizations that stand for things much bigger than myself. Although my contributions may not be anything grand, I’m happy helping keep an organization and its mission alive for the students who come after me. I’m very grateful to have Dr. Mark Johnson, Dr. Aline Rodrigues Hoffmann, and Dr. Murl Bailey as faculty mentors that have been by our side since Day 1. They’ve kept our mentor group motivated and have proven to be there for us through our most difficult times in our vet school journey. I’d also like to make a shout out to both Dr. Mickey and Sasha Harris who’ve helped get me where I’m at today. Dr. Jordan Tayce is this year’s VOICE faculty mentor. He’s very open minded and always brings new ideas to the table. We’re glad to have him on our team! My favorite thing about school is that I’m surrounded by incredibly smart individuals who share the same passion for veterinary medicine as I do. After I graduate, I plan to work in south Texas in a mixed-animal practice. I’m not sure if I’ll end up in a city or a rural area just yet, but as long as I’m back in the Rio Grande Valley doing what I love (with my fiancé and my four furry babies: Biscuit, Roxy Pebbles, Oreo, and Savannah Banana), I know I’ll be happy. I also have an interest in clinical and anatomical pathology, so there’s potential to specialize in that area down the road.
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FOR THE FUTURE by Jennifer Gauntt
From left: Fourth-year veterinary student Austin Hardegee, associate dean for professional programs Dr. Karen Cornell, and fourth-year veterinary student Caitlin Conner Veterinarians from the farthest corners of Texas, some driving four to five hours, traveled to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) on Nov. 18 to meet, network with, and, hopefully, recruit students. Here at home, more than 200 eager first- through fourthyear veterinary students entered booth-filled lecture halls in the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC), armed with their resumes and ready to secure coveted jobs and externships in their preferred areas of the state. The first expanded Veterinary Job & Externship Fair was a resounding success, drawing a tremendous number of practices of all sizes that care for animals of all species, as well as students who were serious about securing positions. “In the spring of each year, the college has traditionally organized an evening of interviews during which practitioners interested in hiring a new veterinary school graduate would meet with interested fourth-year veterinary
students. This year, we wanted to maximize graduating students’ opportunities to meet with practices seeking an associate, earlier in the year,” said Karen Cornell, CVM associate dean for professional programs. “Additionally, we wanted to give our first-, second-, and third-year students the opportunity to meet with practices and discuss possible summer employment opportunities and externships.” After developing the idea of the Veterinary Job & Externship Fair, Cornell contacted the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA), and they were excited to partner with the CVM to provide this opportunity for both students and practices seeking associates. “This is an event that has been needed for a really, really long time,” said Dan Posey, TVMA president and academic coordinator for the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC) at West Texas A&M University. “This actually allows
Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 31
COLLABORATING FOR A CAUSE
“There are 110 practices here that are all looking for veterinarians. That opens up the eyes, the first-, second-, and third-year students get to learn about the opportunities in Texas. And it happens in one place, where students actually don’t have to get in a car and drive all over the state of Texas, so it’s really student-friendly, too.”
the students to see what the opportunities are. “There are 110 practices here that are all looking for veterinarians,” he said. “That opens up the eyes, the first-, second-, and third-year students get to learn about the
—Dr. Dan Posey
opportunities in Texas. And it happens in one place, where students actually don’t have to get in a car and drive all over the state of Texas, so it’s really student-friendly, too.” That student-friendly aspect appealed to many of the students who attended, each of whom had their own reasons for attending. Carling Urben, a second-year veterinary student who plans to specialize in mixed-animal medicine, came to the fair looking for summer externships and to begin scouting fourth-year externships “because it’s never too early.” “It’s been a pretty positive experience; it’s been super helpful. Everyone I’ve been talking to has been really open to summer externships and been really awesome,” she said, adding that she was impressed by the variety of exhibitors. “They brought a lot of people together; I’ve talked to someone from Beaumont, someone from Abilene, the Dallas area, Houston area; so, it’s been really nice to be able to kind of get all corners of Texas and talk to them.” Urben said that while she’s been told that she shouldn’t be concerned about her job prospects following graduation, a bit of anxiety about that had persisted until she attended the fair. “It seems like a lot of people are looking for associates soon, or looking for people to take over their practice. Yeah, it kind of looks like the future’s bright for us,” she said. “It is nice to have it cemented that all of these people are looking.”
All four classes of veterinary students took advantage of the chance to speak with prospective employers at the fair. 32 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
Likewise, fourth-year veterinary student Stephanie Dodd had experienced a bit of “job-related anxiety;” she wants to practice mixed-animal medicine but she plans to return to the Houston area, where she’s from, where her boyfriend
COLLABORATING FOR A CAUSE
works, and also where there aren’t a lot of mixed-animal practices. “I was a little nervous, for sure, because there were only three practices that were mixed that were in the area that I was looking for, but I had some good conversations and the couple practices that I talked to today really seem like good potential jobs,” she said. “I’m excited to go and schedule some time later to spend some time there.” Dodd said that while salary will be a contributing factor to the position she ultimately decides to take, her biggest consideration will be the type of people with whom she will be working. “I think the things that I value are good mentorship, veterinarians I’m going to feel comfortable going to asking for advice, asking you know, ‘What would you do in this situation? I’ve never done this. Can you just be there and make sure I’m doing everything OK?’” she said. “I think longterm, my goal is to own my own practice. So right now, it’s just getting the experience under my belt and having the right mentors.”
“We hire by character; we look for work ethic probably more than anything.…I’m very, very pleased with our Aggie graduates.”
—Dr. Joe Hillhouse
Exhibitor Joe Hillhouse, owner of Carson County Veterinary Clinic, two mixed-animal practices in Panhandle, Texas, also said that personality is something he is looking for in potential employees. “We hire by character; we look for work ethic probably more than anything. Secondarily, we look for somebody who is enthusiastic about a mix of things. And then once they get into the practice they can have an opportunity to develop niches within the practice of things they like to do,” he said. One reason character can have such a high priority in his hiring process is because he knows he’ll get solid, skilled veterinarians from Texas A&M, he said, adding that he
Employers from all over the state of Texas attended the fair to recruit externs and future veterinary associates. believes the education students receive in food animal medicine from Kevin Washburn and Brandon Dominguez as part of the two-week Texas Department of Criminal Justice rotation fourth-year students can take as an elective is particularly valuable. “I’m very, very pleased with our Aggie graduates,” he said. Hillhouse said networking with and tracking students has become a big part of his recruitment process, especially in their location, where there is a huge demand for veterinarians, and the CVM’s Veterinary Job & Externship Fair will become a big part of those efforts. “I like this (event); I think that we, as practices, need more opportunities to bring our faces forward,” he said. “Networking is, I think, the most important part. If we can pull the students in to talk to us, if nothing else, we will have developed an initial relationship with colleagues that may last for years.” Overall, Cornell was pleased with the fair’s turnout and is looking forward to making the activity an annual event. “We had more than 110 practices in attendance and provided students in all four years of our DVM program the opportunity to interact with their future colleagues from all over the state of Texas,” she said. “We learned a great deal from this first event and plan to utilize the feedback from practitioners and students to make the event even better next year. We truly appreciate the support of the TVMA and the practice colleagues who joined us here in College Station for the fair.” Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 33
WORKING TOGETHER in Times of Disaster by Dr. Megan Palsa & Jennifer Gauntt
On Aug. 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc in every coastal community from Corpus Christi to western Louisiana. It was difficult to realize all of the damage that would occur from this unprecedented weather event and the impact it would have on the veterinary profession. The Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), the Texas Task Force (TX-TF1 & TX-TF2) search-and-rescue teams, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA), the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation (TVMF), the Texas Equine Veterinary Association (TEVA), and the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) banded together to assist people and animals. In addition, the VET worked closely with agencies such as the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and Texas A&M AgriLife to coordinate the statewide animal response effort. 34 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
COLLABORATING FOR A CAUSE
TVMA Lends a Hand Dan Posey, president of the TVMA and academic coordinator for the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC) at West Texas A&M University, said the outpouring of support among the veterinary community in the wake of Hurricane Harvey was impressive. “As the TVMA reached out to our members along the coast and we learned of the damage and the displacement of the people from their communities and their animals, it was truly overwhelming to witness our profession’s response,” he said. Posey heard story after story of the hundreds of veterinary professionals across the country coming to help Texas. “The sheer number of courageous volunteer veterinarians who contacted TVMA and offered assistance to those impacted by the storm was awe-inspiring,” he said. “In response to these inquiries, the TVMA helped to facilitate the volunteer veterinarians who would deploy with the CVM’s VET, and the TVMA helped to coordinate some of the generous donations by the veterinary pharmaceutical communities.” The TVMA also responded with the TVMF and the Houston SPCA in creating a program called Operation Reunite, an initiative that provides foster care to pets displaced by the disaster. The Houston SPCA was an integral partner in this response, collaborating with the TVMA and the TVMF and facilitating the fostering process. The TVMF offered to cover the costs of the medical supplies used to treat the animals and helped offset the expenses associated with fostering the animals. The veterinary community used their clinic resources and foster care systems to take in the affected Harvey animals and care for them. The profession also responded to Harvey by volunteering their services in rescuing, feeding, and treating animals; working alongside other volunteer organizations to provide veterinary care; and collecting and distributing donated pet care goods. Even though this was a veterinary profession response to the impact from Hurricane Harvey, it is important to acknowledge the individual veterinarians who left their homes and practices in response to the displaced people and their animals. “It is extraordinary the way the TVMF, TVMA, the veterinary community, and the VET responded as one supportive team to this devastating event. This reaffirms my belief there is no profession or association I’d rather be a part of,” Posey said. “There is no way an association or organization could have responded by themselves. We have a greater impact through collaboration, and we are lucky at the TVMA to have strong ties to so many valued partners.”
Fourth-year DVM students scan a found puppy for a microchip.
TEVA Offers Assistance TEVA also responded in various ways to assist horses affected by the flooding. They quickly set up a link that allowed people to donate to the TEVA Foundation, which used the funds to offset the costs of veterinary expenses for veterinarians helping to treat injured horses. The group coordinated an effort to gather feed and supplies from around the country at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy, Texas. Feed and supplies were disbursed to horse owners in need. Many volunteers, including the clients and staff of TEVA members, delivered supplies to those horse owners unable to drive to Katy. TEVA was also very active in assisting the evacuation efforts at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston. At the height of the disaster response, Sam Houston Race Park was home to more than 200 evacuated horses. TEVA members offered veterinary care and organized feed and supply disbursements to assist horse owners and horse rescuers.
VET Responds As the rains came down— but before the hurricane actually hit the coast—the VET deployed to Rockport, Texas, to set up an area and prepare to provide care for the search-and-rescue dogs used in Texas Task Force 1’s (TX-TF1) recovery efforts. Three days later, on Aug. 28, a second team of 21 members, including five fourth-year veterinary students on Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 35
Texas State Rep. Lynn Stuckey visits VET and Houston SPCA operations.
Fourth-year students triage animals seen by the VET on deployment.
the CVM’s community connections rotation, were on their way to join the four when the team was redirected to assist with the extensive flooding in Fort Bend County.
of emergency care triage and inventory control.
There, the VET oversaw the treatment and care of large animals sheltered on site; accepted more than three dozen companion animals for evaluation and treatment; continued to care for the TX-TF1 and TX-TF2 search-and-rescue dogs, as well as the search-and-rescue dogs assigned to more than 30 other urban search-and-rescue units from across the country operating under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Katy; coordinated with emergency management officials on areas of concern; and instructed the VET rotation students on the specialty care required for search-and-rescue dogs, as well as in the areas
“The damage and destruction from Hurricane Harvey were a challenge for all response groups,” said Wesley Bissett, VET founding director. “Once the water receded, more animals that were not evacuated were located and taken to local sheltering operations. The VET supported these animals by providing triage, assessing any injuries and health status, providing treatment when necessary, and ensuring these animals were sheltered locally in a safe place until they could be reunited with their owners.”
“It’s humbling to be invited into a community or to be invited to partner with other response teams, like Texas Task Force 1 and Texas Task Force 2, to do our part and to help the citizens of Texas in their time of need.”
—Dr. Wesley Bissett 36 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
Smaller VET teams branched out to other areas requesting medical support and assistance.
The flood waters were especially problematic for the search-and-rescue dogs, as well as resident animals, because the waters were very contaminated. A special decontamination unit created and deployed by the VET to assist in removing the contaminants from the search-andrescue dogs and other small animals was brought to the VET base of operations. The VET’s care for the TX-TF1 and TX-TF2 search-andrescue dogs was critical as they ventured into the dangerous debris left in the aftermath of the natural disaster in search of trapped humans. One TX-TF2 member said when on the scene, handlers are often focused on the dogs’ reactions in guiding them to find the lost or missing and handlers sometimes miss the nuances that can indicate their dog may be injured, such as a slight limp or change in gait. “The search-and-rescue dogs work in really challenging environments; they have to search in mud, debris, and even downed power lines. They maneuver themselves into places where humans can’t go, and because of that there are some immediate risks,” Bissett said. “Taking good care of their medical needs and making sure they are healthy before they leave our base allows them to be more efficient in the field, which means they can continue to work hard to save lives.
COLLABORATING FOR A CAUSE
“It’s humbling to be invited into a community or to be invited to partner with other response teams, like Texas Task Force 1 and Texas Task Force 2, to do our part and to help the citizens of Texas in their time of need,” Bissett said. The VET also offered medical support to other injured or stranded animals at the request of multiple areas along the Texas coastline that were negatively impacted by the extreme flooding resulting from Hurricane Harvey.
The Community Gives Back While the teams were in the field working day and night to care for the animals, owners, and rescue workers, people back in their homes all across the state and country were thinking and acting on ways to assist. Donations and funds arrived daily, and people from all walks of life chipped in to help. We wish we could personally thank each company, industry, corporation, university, college, family, and individual for what they gave to this effort. Their love and care was overwhelming. Their support meant so much and went so far to help those in need. We could not begin to express the gratitude in our hearts for the donations provided to us for both animals and humans—including, but not limited to, warm beds, hot coffee, blankets, dry clothes, towels, cleaning supplies, medications, hay, a warm barn, a warm shower, a shoulder to cry on, and new and old friends to lean on to help us get through each and every day.
A member of Texas Task Force and fourth-year DVM students care for a search-and-rescue canine. Unbelievable support, caring, and kindness enveloped our team members and our communities. We would like to send out a very special thank you to everyone involved.
From left: Dr. Dan Posey, TVMA president; Dr. Wesley Bissett, Texas A&M VET director; Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine; Michael K. Young, Texas A&M president; Dr. Susan Eades, professor and head of Large Animal Clinical Sciences; Dr. Jonathan Levine, professor and head of Small Animal Clinical Sciences; Bo Connell, CVM assistant dean for hospital operations; and Dr. T.R. Lansford, TAHC assistant executive director celebrated collaborations that made the Harvey response successful at a special program on Sept. 29. Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 37
ENGINEERING New Possibilities
by Jennifer Gauntt & Dr. Megan Palsa
Dr. Ashley Saunders, Dr. Mark Wierzbicki, and Dr. Duncan Maitland 38 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
COLLABORATING FOR A CAUSE
For decades, biomedical engineers have used their acumen to revolutionize healthcare through the development of devices, tools, equipment, techniques, and pharmaceuticals that have advanced the medical field in ways previously unimaginable. While patients around the world have benefited from this ingenuity, those patients almost exclusively have had one thing in common—they’ve all been human. Researchers in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and the College of Engineering have teamed up to begin filling that gap in the biomedical engineering field—that of veterinary medicine— by exploring the possibilities of what can be accomplished when innovative minds come together.
Getting to the Heart of the Problem Dr. Ashley Saunders, a professor of cardiology and clinician in the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital’s (VMTH) small animal cardiology service, began using 3-D imaging and printing to create models of the heart to aid in the teaching of anatomy and preparing for complex surgeries for animals. But while 3-D models are useful in this regard, the technology has not been a definitive training tool, especially in the case of treating minimally invasive cardiology defects. Cardiology residents are taught heart and blood vessel catheterization through observation and practice, relying on
“I learned long ago that we could reduce the number of animal iterations on device development if we brought clinicians in, or even imported our models into the clinical environment for more advanced testing.”
—Dr. Duncan Maitland
Saunders, Maitland, and Wierzbicki an understanding of the anatomy and the feel of inserting a catheter to perform a procedure. Teaching catheterization using 3-D printed models is difficult because doctors can’t see inside the blood vessels they’re trying to navigate, and it’s also difficult to replicate the feel of an animal’s blood vessels; therefore, doctors have to learn catheterization on a beating heart. “That’s how you learn,” Saunders said. “That’s how I learned.” Because heart defects like patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)—a congenital defect characterized by an opening between two blood vessels leading from the heart—are the most commonly addressed congenital defect by cardiologists at Texas A&M’s Small Animal Hospital (SAH), Saunders began looking to create a safer environment in which residents could learn and practice, one in which the stakes weren’t quite so high. Enter Dr. Duncan Maitland, the Stewart & Stevenson Professor I in the College of Engineering’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Dr. Mark Wierzbicki, a post-doctoral researcher in Maitland’s Biomedical Device Laboratory. Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 39
Saunders trains cardiology resident Derek Matthews using the model she helped develop.
Synthesizing a Solution Maitland, whose research focuses on novel treatments for cardiovascular disease, had previously worked with a VMTH cardiovascular doctor to create devices for use in the operating room; the doctor encouraged Maitland and the biomedical engineers in his lab to move toward creating devices for animal patients. “I learned long ago that we could reduce the number of animal iterations on device development if we brought clinicians in, or even imported our models into the clinical environment for more advanced testing,” Maitland said. “Just getting iterations on models of real anatomies reduces the number of animals that need to be used in studies, and the quality of devices goes up exponentially.”
And that’s exactly what she and Wierzbicki, a doctoral student at the time, did. The two put their heads together and devised a plan that would combine the 3-D imaging technology Saunders was already using with the siliconebased technology Wierzbicki was exploring for his dissertation. The final product looks like a clear, rubber block, inside which, upon closer inspection, has the outline of several “tubes.” These tubes are arteries cast from the actual heart from one of Saunders’ canine patients. To make the cast, Saunders used CT scans to create a 3-D representation of the dog’s heart printed on the 3-D printer in Maitland’s laboratory.
Maitland’s lab had developed blocks made of silicone to test devices created to treat cardiovascular diseases. One day, Saunders toured Maitland’s lab and immediately began thinking about how the technology could be applied to help her train residents to treat PDA.
“We were able to 3-D print the CT scanned heart using a dissolvable material and vapor polish the printed model to smooth out the ridges from the 3-D printing process,” Wierzbicki said. “We took the smooth, 3-D printed heart, cast silicone around the model, and then dissolved out the 3-D-printed part. After completing those steps, we were left with a model Dr. Saunders could use for training.”
“The silicone block was made to resemble a PDA, and I knew we could use the 3-D prints from our patients to make one that is more anatomically correct,” Saunders said.
The result was a solution to multiple problems—not only did the project become part of Wierzbicki’s dissertation, but it produced anatomically correct, customized models that
40 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
To create an even more realistic setting, Saunders incorporated a camera that projects what the doctors are seeing onto a computer screen so that they train on a simulated heart that mimics a true procedure. “When we do these procedures in a dog, we can’t see inside the body; we use fluoroscopy, with images displayed on a screen that we have to look up at. So, it is important to learn how to do these procedures by watching a screen,” she said. “We can mimic the procedure by having the silicone blocks, because they have the anatomy inside, and the block is clear, so they can see through it; the document camera displays the image up on my computer screen. “They watch as they pass a catheter in and they learn how to do the procedure by getting the feel of inserting a device,” she said. “It doesn’t require fluoroscopy or radiation, and it doesn’t require them being inside an actual dog to practice for the first time.” The best part—the silicone blocks are virtually indestructible. “This means you can take the block into a training lab setting, knowing that it’s going to stand up to being used over and over again,” Saunders said.
The Future of Biomedical Engineering: Just a Heartbeat Away Because of what the model means for how doctors treat cardiac defects, Saunders, Wierzbicki, and Maitland have published multiple papers related to the model and other
devices used in cardiology. Saunders also has begun using the model in training exercises and labs for both residents and specialists who have an interest in catheterization techniques and interventional cardiology. During a recent training that included specialists from around the world, Saunders found that the doctors responded enthusiastically to the model. “They really loved it,” she said. “They said they feel like they’re more comfortable practicing with the model; it makes more sense to them.” While most companies that manufacture devices for human cardiology currently aren’t interested in making devices for animals, as more and more veterinary surgeons begin recognizing the value of this kind of model, Maitland said he hopes that attention will open the doors for more opportunities for collaboration between biomedical engineers and the field of veterinary medicine. “If you look at all of engineering, and biomedical engineering, specifically, you don’t think about animal health care as a primary focus. We’re not trained to do that, and so there are not enough partnerships going on between the two colleges, and specifically biomedical and the CVM,” said Maitland, who is chairing a committee in his department to do just that. “I think we could make a lot of impact, and in this case, not just with what Ashley is developing for training, but we can also impact the technologies that are used in animal health care significantly, if we just pay attention to it.”
The model simulates a real PDA procedure by allowing students to feel what it’s like to pass a catheter while watching the movement on a screen.
Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 41
COLLABORATING FOR A CAUSE
might change the way budding cardiologists are trained to learn catheterization techniques and repair heart defects.
Drs. Debbie and David Threadgill
by Rachel Hoyle
There are two laboratories at Texas A&M University that tout the name “Threadgill.” But, while they may share a name, each lab is devoted to its own unique niche of research. 42 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
Dr. Debbie Threadgill, an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB), investigates bacterial-induced diseases, while Dr. David Threadgill, a distinguished professor in the VTPB department and in the College of Medicine’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine—as well as the director of the Texas A&M Institute of Genome Sciences and Society—studies mouse models of cancer. They started their research careers in Aggieland as graduate students, though their paths never crossed as undergraduates at Texas A&M. David graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology in 1983 and Debbie graduated with a B.S. in animal science in 1980. They met, instead, soon after David’s graduation, as doctoral students at Texas A&M in Dr. Jim Womack’s lab, studying cattle genes. Their first date was at Mama’s Pizza, which was “the best pizza in town,” according to David. Who would have guessed love was in the laboratory? Debbie did. “When you’re spending up to 50 hours a week together, these things tend to happen,” she said. Much to everyone’s surprise, they showed up at the Womack barbecue together, no one more so than the poor girl Mrs. Womack brought for David as a surprise blind date. They married in College Station in 1987, with many members of the Womack lab in attendance, and after finishing their doctorates, David in 1989 and Debbie in 1990, the two started their scientific careers first with postdoctoral fellowship positions at Case Western University, and then with professorships at Vanderbilt and the University of North Carolina before finishing up at North Carolina State University and returning to TAMU in 2013.
“Nowadays, there are many more opportunities for graduates than when I was in school, but we are not training for them.”
—Dr. Debbie Threadgill
David Threadgill in the lab with a student During their post-doctoral time, their daughters, Caitlyn and Meaghan, were born, and the couple had to balance raising a family with developing their research. Debbie recalls being torn between her two loves, being a mother and being a scientist. When the former superseded the latter, they collaborated on their research. “David had some projects that had a bacterial component that I assisted with, and, then, I was looking at some bacterial induced diseases that needed an animal model that he helped out with,” Debbie said. Although exhausted at times, Debbie believes that working full time helped her be a better mother. “Continuing to work was beneficial in helping me to appreciate the time with my family more,” she said. “Even though I had limited time with my children, I was much more engaged in their lives and vigilant in their well-being than I think the tendancy is for a stay-at-home mom.” Now that their girls are grown and the Threadgills are back at their alma mater, most of their collaborative work involves their graduate students, whose research sometimes crosses the two Threadgill labs. As graduate mentors, they’ve adopted their preferred mentoring style—David has a more lassiez-faire approach, emulating their graduate mentor, which he believes allows his students to explore their interests and come into their Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 43
“I think the biggest challenge is there’s not necessarily one best avenue to go, but most students don’t get enough exposure.”
—Dr. David Threadgill
His “science mind” is on 24/7 and he never turns it off, while Debbie prefers to have a life outside of the laboratory with her girls. The summers are ideal for both Threadgills, allowing family and work to connect; the family often travels together for scientific conferences, meetings, and seminars that coincide with summer vacation. During these trips (usually at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, or Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, New York) the family will set aside time for golfing, hiking, and other outdoor activities, though golfing is the Threadgill family’s preferred sport. “We told the girls they had to do a sport in high school and they both chose golf,” said David, who taught the sport to his daughters and helped them to become better golfers. An active lifestyle seems to be the one pressure they imposed on the girls, as, for now, neither Meaghan nor Caitlyn want to be researchers. Caitlyn is studying to be a nurse practitioner at the University of Cincinnati after earning degrees in public health and nutrition, with a minor
own professionally, while Debbie provides more guidance for her students. The issue, she says, is that most students wait until they graduate before questioning what comes next, so Debbie encourages her students to think about their strengths and interests early on in their graduate studies. “Nowadays,” she said, “there are many more opportunities for graduates than when I was in school, but we are not training for them.” David agreed, adding, “I think the biggest challenge is there’s not necessarily one best avenue to go, but most students don’t get enough exposure.” “I encourage students to go and listen to talks that are not necessarily in their field but strike their interest and talk to the speakers afterwards,” said Debbie. “The TAMU Genetics graduate program tries to invite speakers from many walks of scientific life, from writing, to industry, to teaching, and to research.” Debbie is empathetic with her students because it took some time for her to figure out what to do after she received her bachelor’s degree. But while David quickly realized attending graduate school was something he wanted, it wasn’t until he took summer courses after completing his bachelor’s degree that he learned that graduate school was even a possibility. Today, for David, it’s all science, all the time, and that’s the way he likes it. “Science to me is more of a hobby; it’s not really a job,” he said. 44 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
COLLABORATING COUPLES The Threadgill family: Debbie, Meaghan, Caitlyn, and David in molecular biology; Meaghan, an undergraduate animal science major and Spanish minor at Texas A&M, wants to do “whatever job will allow her to own horses,” David said with a chuckle. Both girls, like their mother, have taken some time to explore their career trajectories. “When they ask me, ‘mom, what should I do?’ I don’t like to limit them,” Debbie said. “I say, ‘I don’t know what you want to do with your life either so you should try to get work experience in different areas and see what you enjoy most.’” Often, during their trips, David spends most of his time on the golf course either with his family or with other scientists. “I’ve got a network of probably eight or 10 scientist friends I know very well; whenever we’re at meetings together, we’ll find a way to go out,” David said, smiling as he adds, “I spend four hours on a golf course with my colleagues and what do we do? We talk science the whole time.” Reflecting on his career, David said, “there’s a lot of luck involved with it, being in the right place at the right times and knowing the right people,” which sounds a lot like how their relationship came to be in the Womack lab. He goes on to say, “you never have an end to an experiment because you tend to raise more questions than you solve.” Similarly, their marriage is like a lifelong project through which they learn about each other and themselves. “You make it as much as you can (with both marriage and research),” David said. “There’s always challenges, but it’s best to look at it from the perspective that nothing is ever finished and nothing’s ever perfect.”
ABOUT THEIR RESEARCH Dr. David Threadgill has turned his love for science into a preeminent career as the director of the Texas A&M Institute for Genomic Sciences and Society and the holder of the Tom and Jean McMullin Chair of Genetics in the Texas A&M College of Medicine. David’s primary research focuses on identifying genetic and environmental factors that lead to differences in disease susceptibility and progression. In 2016, he and his collaborators received a $5.3 million National Institutes of Health grant to study how lead exposure affects humans and a $3.2 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to explore genetic factors that account for soldiers’ differences in response to infectious diseases. Dr. Debbie Threadgill investigates bacterialinduced digestive diseases such as those caused by Campylobacter spp. Several Campylobacter species are known to infect humans and are the main culprits of bacterial foodborne disease. Campylobacter infection occurs from eating raw or undercooked poultry leading to an estimated 1.3 million illnesses each year in the U.S. Infected individuals usually recover without medical treatment unless the individual’s immune system is compromised by infection (e.g. AIDS) or age (i.e. children or the elderly).
Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 45
Dr. Dana Gaddy and Dr. Larry Suva
LAB Partners by Jennifer Gauntt
As a married couple, Drs. Larry Suva and Dana Gaddy share a laid-back, joking rapport that is highlighted by a mutual respect for one another. But when it comes to their joint research efforts, the two are serious about solving the health problems that have hit â€œcloser to the bone.â€? 46 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
have Larry’s expertise in editing, to get the bone language and the salesmanship down; that’s really one of his great strengths, and it continues to be critical to our success.”
They met at a small science conference in New Hampshire in 1997, as Gaddy—an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) who had established her career as a “card-carrying reproductive endocrinologist”—began focusing her scholarly attention on menopausal bone loss; Suva, an assistant professor at Harvard University, was already established as the “bone cancer guy,” devoting his career to understanding the skeletal consequences of disease.
In the meantime, in 2000, Suva, who had begun working in the private sector, began looking to return to academia.
“The ‘bone group’ I was in was very dogmatic in their views because they had been ‘bone people’ for a long time and were not necessarily receptive to an interloper coming in with a new perspective, even though that’s what I’d been hired to do,” Gaddy said. “They wanted me to bring in new ideas, but do it their way. Because I came from outside of the field, to me, bone was just another system to learn. I was excited about it.” Gaddy found that not only was Suva’s group more open to her as a new researcher in the field, but they were also much more fun. “We thought she was a post-doc and that we should make her feel comfortable because the guy we thought was her boss is a nice guy, but he’s a bit stuffy,” Suva said. “So, a bunch of us tried to rescue this post-doc, who turns out, was a tenure-track faculty member. That created a little bit of interaction, as you might imagine, but that’s what got us, our field, interested in what she had, because she brought a very unique aspect of reproductive endocrinology to the bone community.” The two departed the conference as newfound collaborators whose work together would extend over the next two decades as they published on a variety of diseases, including breast cancer, Down syndrome, and bone anabolic treatments. “It really stimulated a whole plethora of research,” Suva said. “Dana was incorporating skeletal ideas into a grant she was writing. I, and our other colleagues in the U.K., started reading the grant, helping to edit it, and she ended up getting funded.” After traveling to England for a project at Oxford University, Gaddy’s career took off and she settled into her faculty position at UAMS. “My career wasn’t just launched by our interaction—it was a very fertile environment for me as a new person in the field and there was huge opportunity to make a contribution; (but) it likely would not have been so successful if it hadn’t been for Larry and the folks I met at the Gordon Conference,” she said. “It really helped to
“I had a job offer in Pittsburgh, and then this opportunity in orthopedics in Arkansas came up,” Suva said. “Dana was in Arkansas, so I said, ‘Oh, Arkansas? Pittsburgh?’ I chose Arkansas.” By 2002, Suva was an associate professor in orthopedic surgery and director of the UAMS’s Center for Orthopedic Research. He ran a large lab, which was one of the highestranked core research facilities in the state, and enjoyed a continued research collaboration with Gaddy. In 2002, they were also married.
Taking Research ‘Personally’ More than a decade into their partnership, Suva and Gaddy were at another science meeting, this one in Colorado, when they attended a session on hypophosphatasia, a rare genetic disorder of alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme mutation characterized by the abnormal development of bones and teeth caused by defective mineralization in the body. In humans, it can be quite debilitating. “A really good friend of ours who works as one of the world’s clinician experts in the disease shows a picture of a tooth from a child with hypophosphatasia; the tooth had come out, roots and all,” Suva said. “A month before, our granddaughter had been at our house eating a grape and
“It really helped to have Larry’s expertise in editing, to get the bone language and the salesmanship down; that’s really one of his great strengths, and it continues to be critical to our success.”
—Dr. Dana Gaddy Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 47
Long before Drs. Larry Suva and Dana Gaddy became partners in life, they were collaborators in the field of musculoskeletal research.
Because that large-animal model didn’t exist, Suva and Gaddy turned to the expertise of the CVM for a possible collaboration, but after visiting Texas A&M, the two decided, instead, to join the CVM faculty—Suva, as department head of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP), and Gaddy, as professor of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS)—so they could create a model without the obstacles presented by working more than 400 miles away from the CVM.
Suva and Gaddy
Only a year into their work, they are seeing early signs of success, effectively replicating the disease in sheep by editing the sheep genome using CRISPR technology and implanting the embryos into ewes. The project is exciting for a number of reasons.
her tooth came out in the grape. We both thought, ‘That looks just like Olive’s tooth! Olive has that disease!’” Their granddaughter hadn’t been formally diagnosed, so the couple called the genetics department at Children’s Hospital in Arkansas and asked a colleague if Olive could be tested. “We took her in, and there it was—she had hypophosphatasia,” Suva said. “It all happened from science.” Because hypophosphatasia is extremely rare and the musculoskeletal system was their area of expertise, Suva and Gaddy took matters into their own hands, starting a project that not only would bring them to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), but also would have serious implications for a disease about which very little is known.
Creating a Model A crucial step in finding a treatment or cure for any disorder, much less one that has been researched only intermittently, is creating an animal model to study how the disease progresses. “Some data exist (on hypophosphatasia) in humans, but it’s mainly cross-sectional; they may have 20 people with one specific mutation whom they saw at 10 years old, but they don’t know what happened when the child was 4,” Suva said. “All they have are pictures of them at 10 and 15 showing what they look like (with the disease).” Their initial attempts to create a suitable animal model, with mice, proved unsuccessful, so Suva and Gaddy explored the idea of using sheep, a validated model for studying the human skeleton. 48 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
“We have built the first real mechanism in which you can longitudinally study how the muscle develops and then once we know why it’s weak, identify things we can do that might intervene,” Suva said. “We’ll see how the disease progresses—what happens when they’re 2 or 3 years old and how that is impacting them when they’re 6 or 7.” Importantly, the next step will involve manufacturing a compound heterozygote, a sheep that carries exon 5 and exon 10 mutations, which happen to be the two genetic mutations carried by their granddaughter. “With this disease, there are more than 300 mutations that have been reported; most are reported as compound heterozygotes, because the mother and father don’t know they are carriers and are not symptomatic,” Gaddy said. While their research is still in the early stages, their work already has attracted attention—and funding; one company also has expressed interest in working to help
“Dana is focused in particular areas; so, she can drill down into levels of information in her brain. She’s got these detailed pockets of information, like a computer.”
—Dr. Larry J. Suva
bone disorder, you can’t laugh about the irony of that, really,” Suva said. “Talk about motivation.
“In order to make a drug for a bone-related disease, the pharmaceutical industry requires scientists to conduct studies in rodents and a large animal before humans,” Suva said. “Now, we have a large-animal genetic model to serve as the platform for that step.”
“We’ve watched our granddaughter play tee-ball and ice skate, but she has muscle weakness. She’s 7, and she’s got four teeth left,” he said. “Only molars,” Gaddy added.
Being at ‘Home’ with Science Spending so much time together on such a personal project might not be possible without Suva and Gaddy’s laid-back, joking rapport, one also highlighted by a mutual reverence for one another and the individual strengths they bring to both their working and personal relationships. They work so well together, they say, because, in many ways, they see themselves as complements. “It’s a really good combination. I have a really broad view; I know lots of stuff, but it’s not in great detail,” Suva said. “Dana is focused in particular areas; so, she can drill down into levels of information in her brain. She’s got these detailed pockets of information, like a computer.” Those aspects of their personalities also carry over into their home lives. “He’s the chef, and I’m happy with that because then I’ll do all the cleaning. He cooks because that’s his way to relax. For me, cooking is not relaxing; I do it because it’s necessary,” Gaddy said. “So, he can relax and cook, and I’ll be happy to relax and clean. Then I’m happy and he’s happy.” And while many couples may cringe at the thought of working together, it’s the science that brings them together.
They know the challenge that lies ahead is not only in creating the phenotype that affects their granddaughter but in utilizing that information in a much broader way. “We’re much closer to the disease than we have been in the past by working in mouse models,” Gaddy said. “When we started, we didn’t understand anything about teeth. By the time we get to the next part, we’ll know plenty about teeth. We know about her muscle weakness; we’ve seen that,” Suva said. “We’re going to fix it; we’re going to find a way. “Even if we don’t fix it for her, we’re going to fix it, because if she ever has a child, that could be a problem,” he said. “We have always done things to try to improve people’s lives and to better understand. This got a bit closer to the bone.”
UNDERSTANDING CRISPR TECHNOLOGY Trimming, changing, and replacing DNA could revolutionize modern medicine and prevent common medical conditions. CRISPR-Cas9 is a gene-modifying tool that targets a specific area of the genome (an organism’s full set of inheritable chromosomes), allowing researchers to cut out and insert new DNA.
“I really feel bad for scientist couples who don’t work together, because they never see each other when they’re doing their own thing,” she said. “For me, working together seems much more rewarding because you can share in success; I feel what we have is hugely beneficial.”
The groundbreaking research, introduced in 2013, has opened the doors for monumental breakthroughs in medicine by allowing humans to repair genes responsible for diseases, or, as in the case of Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Drs. Larry Suva and Dana Gaddy, replicate the genetic mutations that cause hypophosphatasia—an enzyme mutation characterized by the abnormal development of bones and teeth caused by defective mineralization in the body—which will allow them to study the disorder and, hopefully, will lead to its treatment.
It may help that their shared research interests allow them to work toward a common goal, especially as they address issues that have affected them personally. In addition to their granddaughter’s hypophosphatasia, both of their mothers died of bone fractures—Suva’s as the result of bone loss that stemmed from breast cancer and Gaddy’s as a result of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
CRISPR, pronounced “crisper,” which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, has been previously researched at the CVM to fight Duchenne muscular dystrophy, or DMD—a disorder caused by a genetic mutation that deteriorates muscle as humans age—and in enhancing production traits in livestock.
“I would think 75 percent of the time that we’re together there’s science involved,” Suva said. “That’s probably a scary number, but science really intrudes in everything,” Gaddy said. “It’s not like we end each day talking science; I can guarantee we’re not that nerdy. But I do think it’s a lens through which we see life.
“The irony of bone researchers having parents die of fractures and then to have a granddaughter with a rare
W.R. Harvey contributed to this piece (The Battalion, Oct. 11, 2016).
Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 49
them understand hypophosphatasia because of the human implications.
Dr. Haili Zhang and Dr. Fengguang Guo
RESEARCHING PARASITES Living Symbiotically
by Rachel Hoyle
Almost any scientist who doubles as a parent knows that sometimes laboratory work takes a back seat to your kiddos in the car seat. For couples who both work in research, one person tends to sacrifice more, resulting in a sort of parasitism of one career by the other. However, for Dr. Haili Zhang, an assistant research scientist, and Dr. Fengguang Guo, a research associate, both in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciencesâ€™ (CVM) Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB), their relationship resembles a symbiosis that benefits each other, their research, and their children. 50 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
“We were studying plant protection,” Guo said, “basically, the study of plant parasites.” Like the plants they studied, their affinity for each other grew where it was planted: they studied together, they graduated together, and before they knew it, they were planning their lives. “I think we were actually studying on our first date,” said Zhang, smiling as she reminisced about their early years. Learning and growing together is exactly where they wanted to be, and 20 years later, they still share that sentiment. Although they still study parasites, they made the jump to human-animal parasites eight years ago when they started working with Dr. Guan Zhu, professor and principal investigator in the VTPB department. Zhang had just completed her doctorate in genetics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Guo was preparing to start his doctorate in veterinary microbiology. Surprisingly, the jump from plant to people parasites was not as grandiose as their move from the East to the West. The group of parasites they study, called apicomplexans, share many similarities to plants in terms of molecular structure and biochemistry. For instance, both plants and apicomplexan parasites have a plastid, a structure that makes and stores chemicals important for metabolism (apicoplast in apicomplexans) or photosynthesis (chloroplasts in plants). Molecules unique to the parasite, and not the host, serve as the perfect avenue for developing drugs to combat parasites. Unfortunately, not every apicomplexan has such an easy target as an apicoplast, such as the organism Zhang and Guo study, Cryptosporidium parvum (C. parvum).
“You have to adjust yourself to where you are and enjoy the moment, whether we are at work or at home.”
—Dr. Haili Zhang
C. parvum—a single-celled, eukaryotic parasite belonging to the group Apicomplexa—infects the digestive system, causing severe diarrheal disease or Cryptosporidiosis (which tends to be especially severe in developing countries and for the immunocompromised, such as young children, the elderly, and AIDS patients). C. parvum is especially tricky because it is resistant to common disinfectants such as bleach and chlorine; thus, even treated water may harbor the parasite. As a result, about 748,000 cases can be attributed to the apicomplexan a year in the U.S. alone. To target disease-causing parasites like C. parvum, Zhang and Guo study pathways important to the parasite’s biochemistry, such as enzymes involved in parasite metabolism. Normally, enzymes make excellent drug targets because without them, essential reactions cannot occur like those involved in energy metabolism. The problem is that many of the enzymes in a parasite’s metabolism are similar to their counterparts in humans, so it becomes critical to identify drugs that act more on the parasite’s enzyme rather than the host’s. Using a method called drug screening, Zhang and Guo simultaneously test many drugs with similar chemical properties that target specific parasite enzymes. Through this process, they find the best match, the drug compound that will inhibit the most parasite growth and be the least toxic to the host cell. Studying parasites is hardly romantic, and there’s hardly any romance shared between the couple, from what an observer can tell. During the day, they are hard at work at their separate stations—Guo, hunched over his bench, pipetting and separating samples into tiny, plastic tubes, and Zhang, on the other side of the room, eyes glued to a Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 51
Zhang and Guo grew up in China’s Inner Mongolia region and met at Inner Mongolia University for Nationalities.
microscope as she counts the parasites left after her drug treatment. No one would guess that these two meticulous researchers share a private life. Yet, come five o’clock, they leave together hand-in-hand. “They work very hard, and they work well together,” Zhu said. “I can always count on them.” Collectively, they publish two to three papers a year, sometimes individually and sometimes together; yet, daily productivity is difficult to maintain if the daycare is closed or a child is sick. On days like this, they alternate between their roles as parent and as scientist—Zhang takes the morning shift with the kids, while Guo is busy at the bench; they reconvene for lunch and swap. Jumping between roles never diminishes their role as spouse, however; they believe sacrificing for their kids is necessary, but sacrificing for each other’s career is not an option. From books to bench, they continue to be each other’s support in a field that is physically and mentally demanding. “We are fortunate to be in the same molecular biology laboratory with similar research interests and technical abilities; we understand each other’s projects and can help each other with some of the experiments, if need be,” said the couple.
Despite their obvious passion for science, there’s no pressure for their kids to be scientists. “That’s not our decision. We just want them to have the best education and want them to be happy.”
—Dr. Fengguang Guo But at the end of the day, they happily trade pipettes and petri dishes for baby dolls and toy cars, which is the secret to balancing their roles as scientists and parents, according to Zhang. “You have to adjust yourself to where you are and enjoy the moment, whether we are at work or at home,” she said, adding that as soon as they see their children’s smiling faces, it’s hard to think of anything else. Once the kids are asleep, the couple might seek each other’s help in solving a problem in their research. They share a basic knowledge of each other’s projects, but not too much detail which keeps the work theirs, an important consideration when working so closely together. “I feel like I have my own thing and he has his,” Zhang said. Despite their obvious passion for science, there’s no pressure for their kids to be scientists. “That’s not our decision,” said Guo, as they hold their little ones on the couch. “We just want them to have the best education and want them to be happy.” For now, that’s drawing for Lucy, age 6, and everything cars for Lucas, age 4. Zhang and Guo proudly display Lucy’s crayon ponies and princesses in their office, adding a splash of color to the gray walls and brightening their work-time moods.
Guo 52 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
If deadlines call for weekend experiments, Lucy can be found working on her next masterpiece with her markers
The walls of Zhang and Guo’s shared office are adorned with pictures created by their children. spread out across her mother’s desk. Lucas’ artistry is more narrowly focused, as he draws the same car again and again; he prefers a good story, either read to him or memorized and “read” by himself. His favorite books are, you guessed it, about cars. For some couples, sharing a life-long career with their spouse is not appealing. “I could never work with my husband,” admits Mary Yu, a doctoral candidate in Zhu’s lab who works with the couple. “I need my own space and I like that my husband and I have different interests and specialties.” But Zhang and Guo are grateful to share the scientific passion and culture that is difficult to relate to if one of them were a nonscientist. They are excited about what they might discover together, and their constant presence in the laboratory is a good reminder that their careers are a part of their life, and not the other way around. Because, after all, what’s the point of discovery if you have no one to share it with?
“We are fortunate to be in the same molecular biology laboratory with similar research interests and technical abilities; we understand each other’s project, and can help each other with some of the experiments, if need be.”
Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 53
Dr. Cheryl Herman and Dr. Morgan Scott
THE ROAD More Traveled
by Rachel Hoyle & Jennifer Gauntt
Their professional paths may have diverged, but the mutual support Drs. Morgan Scott and Cheryl Herman have for their unique interests and ambitions make them ideally suited for their workâ€Śand for each other. 54 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
Few couples within the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) have more differing professional interests than Dr. Cheryl Herman and her husband, Dr. Morgan Scott.
Herman cycling in India
Herman, a clinical associate professor, teaches anatomy to undergraduate and professional students, whereas Scott is a principal investigator researching antimicrobial resistance among zoonotic bacteria. Their unique paths diverged from the same beginning— the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, where, in 1985, they met as veterinary students during the many social gatherings that brought their two classes together. Not only did they share a common professional interest in large and mixed-animal practice, but they also shared an affinity for pursuing outdoor activities in the Canadian Rockies: skiing, cycling, and backpacking. “I don’t know where the time went,” said a smiling Scott as he recalled their initial meeting, in which they connected easily. Herman graduated first in 1987 and eventually moved to Lloydminster, in Alberta, Canada, to start her clinical career four hours away from Scott as he finished up veterinary school and then started out in a separate practice. After two years, they were reunited at Lloydminster Animal Hospital, a mixed-animal practice in which for efficiency’s sake, they divided their clients—Scott took on the food animals, mostly bovine patients, while Herman jumped at the opportunity to work specifically in equine medicine. “I started out only wanting to work on horses and ended up working only on cats,” Herman said with a laugh. “That’s why I always tell my students, ‘never say never.’”
“I started out only wanting to work on horses and ended up working only on cats. That’s why I always tell my students, ‘never say never.’”
—Dr. Cheryl Herman
Even though they essentially worked together, they had a unique set of patients, which made the work more individualized. If the occasional overlap resulted in conflict, Scott admitted, with a chuckle, “she was always right.” As clinicians, their dedication to their clients took precedence over their lives, because, working in a small practice, one was constantly on call, which made it impossible for the young couple to plan any dates or trips, especially in a time before cell phones. These grueling nights, among other things, began to wear on Scott. “I got bored fairly quickly in the type of practice I was pursuing. There was a lot of repetition, in that 95 percent of what I was doing were things I did routinely, and then there was 5 percent that was new and kept the job interesting,” he said. “One spring, I had done 120 caesarian sections and the last one I took 17 minutes skin-to-skin. I thought, ‘Oh, isn’t that fantastic?’ And I was like, ‘Well, is it really?’” Scott began to focus on those few unusual cases that raised unanswered questions, such as when he came across a steer that had died from pneumonia but also harbored lung worms, a rare find in the “Frozen North.” The case left Scott wondering: should northern Alberta ranchers invest in treating their animals for this parasite, which was otherwise rare and had no apparent ill effects? Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 55
Herman and Scott at the Taj Mahal
be very little food introduction from the outside world. Shortly thereafter, Scott and a team of researchers from Texas A&M University and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service received a $1.5 million grant to study the bacteria in the animals, food, and humans in the unique system. Their move to Texas sparked unforeseen changes, not only in Scott’s career but for Herman’s, as well, in ways arguably greater than the change in climate. While Scott began his research, Herman decided to explore her growing interest in teaching. Their clinic had hosted several summer students who had been drawn to Herman’s approachable and patient nature, making her a preferable mentor, so when the couple moved to Texas, Herman, too, began working at Texas A&M, where her passion for teaching has grown as she has interacted more and more with the CVM’s veterinary and biomedical sciences students. “Anatomy is an easy subject to make relevant. Plus,” she said with a smile, “it’s just fun.”
To delve into the research and statistics that would help clients make those kinds of decisions, Scott obtained his doctorate in epidemiology from the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, a feat made possible by Herman’s support as she continued to work in clinical practice. “She funded this whole expedition,” Scott said. After graduation, Scott accepted a position in food safety surveillance in the Alberta government, where he became interested in bacterial resistance and, specifically, how agricultural practices like antibiotics in animal feed might encourage resistance in humans. He wanted to investigate these questions but acknowledged the inherent complexity in designing a logical scientific study. As Scott put it: how can we investigate resistance factors associated with foodborne bacteria if “I don’t even remember where I ate two days ago?” The answer to his design problem was waiting for him at Texas A&M, where Scott accepted a research position in 2001. At an Aggie Thanksgiving hosted by the university, Scott met the chief veterinarian for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the late Dr. Derry Magee. Their discussion revealed the perfect setup for a study—the Texas prison system, where the food supply and consumers were understood in such a way that Scott could confidently know where the food came from and where there would 56 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
Herman said she has no regrets about switching to teaching after 14 years of clinical practice, even though Texas clinics probably see more interesting cases because of the warmer climate and a much more diverse disease ecology. Herman in the classroom
“It’s all here: vector diseases, toxic plants, rare fungal conditions—things we had to know for the North American Veterinary License Exam but we never thought we’d see in practice back in western Canada,” Scott said. While Scott prefers teaching smaller groups through graduate-level courses, he said he admires his wife’s dedication to teaching. “The tendency of a researcher is to become narrowly focused; teaching keeps you fresh and honest by having to know the breadth of your discipline and not just the narrower focus of your research area,” he said. He said he is more drawn to the solitary work of research, punctuated by interactions with his colleagues. “According to my Meyers Briggs INTJ [introversion, intuition, thinking, judgement] personality, I’m only allowed five close friends at a time anyway,” Scott said, poking fun at his self-proclaimed introversion and then pointing to his wife. “So, she’s number one.” Their unique accomplishments have been made possible by their mutual support and their taste for new experiences, such as when the couple completed a 23,000-kilometer (that’s almost 14,300 miles, for us Americans) around-theworld bicycling expedition in 1999/2000. “It changed us both forever,” Herman marveled. “You spend nearly 14 months with all your belongings on a bicycle, and then you come home and ask yourself, ‘is all this stuff really necessary?’” This perspective shift was solidified when their house was
“According to my Meyers Briggs INTJ [introversion, intuition, thinking, judgement] personality, I’m only allowed five friends at a time anyway. So, she’s number one.”
—Dr. Morgan Scott
Scott in the lab burglarized during their excursion. “At that point, we realized we really didn’t care that much about the stuff,” Scott said, with a shrug. The trip of a lifetime was good for their marriage, their world view, and, apparently, Scott’s research. “I did my best thinking on that bike,” he said. “You have a lot of time to think, and it’s not easy when you’re riding in traffic in new Delhi.” “Or,” Herman added with a shake of her head, “when it’s pouring rain in Germany nonstop. It is an experience we would have again if we don’t retire too late.” Both are self-described perfectionists about their work which makes it easier to understand each other’s commitments. “It helps that we have similar schedules,” Herman explained. “I think it’s more difficult for couples when one person doesn’t really get the time commitment.” While their different, and rigorous, professional paths have been possible because of their mutual support for each other’s ambitions and their unique interests, they also believe their differences complement each other and make them ideally suited for their respective professions. Above all, it is their shared value of open communication that has reinforced their lifelong companionship. “We’re best friends,” they said, smiling at each other. Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 57
Drs. Jon and Gwen Levine
Live from NEW YORK! by Dr. Megan Palsa
Have you ever met a couple and you knew that being friends with them would be the “coolest” thing? Well, then, meet the Drs. Levine—Gwen and Jon. Oh, and let’s not forget their gregarious son, George! Named after his grandfather and as spirited, smart, and funny as his parents, George adds another dimension to their lives. If you haven’t met them, you’re about to. 58 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
Although Dr. Gwendolyn Levine and Dr. Jonathan M. Levine first met at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), the CVM is not the first school they had in common. The couple met at a party on the second night of Gwen’s orientation as a new student in the DVM program in 2002. Jon, then a new resident in neurology, had only been at the CVM for six weeks. “My mentor told me to go because she could tell I was an introvert and I needed to get out,” Gwen recalled. “I was standing in the garage talking with some of my newfound friends. Jon had said that he had completed veterinary school at Cornell, and one of my friends said ‘Oh my gosh, this girl in our class went to Cornell; you have to meet her.’ And the way they tell it, he shoved them out of the way so he could come over and talk to me.” Jon’s road to the CVM had begun years earlier in his home state of New York as an undergrad at Cornell University. He began attending medical school at State University of New York at Buffalo after completing his bachelor’s degree in biology but decided after a year that a career in human medicine was not what he actually wanted, so he took a research job at Harvard. There, he realized that veterinary medicine better aligned with his interests in biomedical research. He returned to Cornell to begin his veterinary education and earned his DVM degree in 2001. Along the way, he discovered his passion for neurology, which took him to Colorado State University for an internship in 2002 before moving to College Station to begin his residency.
“One of my friends said ‘Oh my gosh, this girl in our class went to Cornell; you have to meet her.’ And the way they tell it, he [Jon] shoved them out of the way so he could come over and talk to me.
—Dr. Gwen Levine
Gwen Levine with her horse, Live from New York Photo by Frankie Wylie Gwen’s professional path also began on the East Coast, but she had entered Cornell already knowing she wanted to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. She had shadowed and later worked at a veterinary clinic in her hometown in Connecticut during her high school years, and one of the clinic’s veterinarians suggested she apply to Cornell for her undergraduate degree. After completing her bachelor’s degree in biology in 2001, she applied to eight veterinary schools and moved to College Station in the fall of 2002 to begin her DVM education. The meeting at the party proved to be serendipitous. Although Jon briefly left the CVM to finish his residency at the University of Missouri, the couple married during Gwen’s third year in the DVM program. Jon returned to the CVM to join the faculty in 2005, and Gwen earned her DVM in 2006 and went on to do her internship and residency at the CVM. Gwen now serves as chair of the selections committee and is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB). Jon is the department head, a professor, and the Helen McWhorter Chair in Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS). Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 59
Balancing their roles as leaders in the CVM with raising their 5-year-old son, George, and having a healthy work-life balance is no easy task for the Levines. Their partnership is unique, and the partnerships they have established over the years both here and around the world are, too.
“She’s an amazing
Jon’s work on gliomas and Gwen’s work on intervertebral disk herniation in Dachshunds and cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers have led to them collaborate on multiple levels.
so many different
Currently, one of Jon’s major research collaborations is with Dr. Amy Heimberger, a neurosurgeon at MD Anderson. Dr. Heimberger’s research explores possible treatments based on directing a patient’s immune system to attack gliomas (a glioma is a type of tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord). “We take her early stage therapies and trial them in dogs,” he explained. “We have a new one that we’re about to get rolling on that’s really exciting. And we’ve also worked with her to characterize the genetics of these tumors, with the goal being not to just describe that, but to actually understand what’s happening biologically within the tumor, immunologically, so that we can better target these cancers with therapies.” Gwen’s research interests include the use of technology in assessing gait through the application of force platforms and motion-capture systems. This technology has been used to complete a research project evaluating how Dachshunds recover their walking ability after a spinal cord injury and to support research by clinicians in orthopedics. She also is interested in biomarkers in neurologic and orthopedic disease. The Levines’ first project together was a paper for the Journal for the American Veterinary Medical Association
partner in respects, whether we’re talking about someone to give you ideas, someone to empathize, someone to listen. And she’s an incredible mom.”
—Dr. Jon Levine (JAVMA); they also worked together on a neurology teaching CD-ROM several years ago. “I did the programming for it, and he wrote up all the cases,” Gwen said. “We’ve collaborated on grants. We both have an interest in spinal cord injury; for example, I love dachshunds, so we’ve done a lot of papers on that topic.” Because of their shared interests, talks about work often carry over after hours, especially as their professional responsibilities and research projects diverge. “We’ll kind of walk through our day a little bit and discuss what we accomplished,” Gwen said of how she and Jon discuss their work with each other. “Sometimes, because we have different perspectives about our work, talking with Jon will help me get more perspective on a situation. I think I can do that for him sometimes, too. We bounce things off each other.” “For me, it helps to have a partner in my life,” Jon added. “She’s an amazing partner in so many different respects, whether we’re talking about someone to give you ideas, someone to empathize, someone to listen. And she’s an incredible mom; she’s responsible for so much of George’s success, I think—everything from discipline to understanding how to help him be the best he can be.”
Jon Levine 60 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
The Levines also have very different decision-making processes. Gwen likes to make a decision, move forward, and not agonize over it, whereas Jon likes to talk about his decision-making process.
“You should see us pick out furniture,” said Gwen. “A simple dining table involves many days of deliberation and discussion.” “I’m an INFJ on Myers Briggs, and Jon is an ENTJ,” Gwen explained. “I make quick decisions with my gut, and Jon gets numerous opinions and contemplates the buy before he moves forward. It actually works well for us.” “I think we have the right things in common,” Jon added. Seeking each other’s opinions and feedback is reflective of how they approach leadership in their roles at the CVM. “I like to present options to the selections committee because I need and value their perspective,” said Gwen. “I’m just one person; the reason we have a committee is to get all these people’s critical input on what we’re considering and make sure that we make the best decision.” “The best thing about being a department head is helping people,” said Jon. “The absolute best thing is seeing people be able to get to their fullest potential. It’s just amazingly rewarding. You have to be comfortable with yourself and who you are and what your strengths are. You have to listen to people and hear what they want. You have to know what the unit or the college needs, because those things have to
be in synergy. And then you just help folks put it together.” The family part of the Levines’ collaboration equation requires synergy, as well. Perhaps the most significant task that Gwen and Jon must collaborate on each and every day is raising their son, George. “Parenting is a lot of work; I would say it’s just another layer of responsibilities,” Gwen said. “But he’s so fun; it’s great. It’s funny because when he was a baby, Jon would say, ‘Oh I can’t wait till he can do this—I can’t wait until he can walk; I can’t wait until he can talk.’ And now when the two of them are in the car with me, I’m just like, ‘Really can one of you guys stop talking now?’ They’re both extroverts, and sometimes I need a break because it feels like Jon and George are trying to see who can say the most words.” George, who is 5 now, acts like a little lawyer—always negotiating and trying to figure things out. He also loves Legos and math. “We can usually entertain him by giving him math problems,” Gwen said. The Levines wake up at 5:50 in the morning, get ready for work, and wake George. Gwen or Jon make George breakfast and lunch. They drop George off at his daycare Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 61
Gwen Levine (left) works with technicians and a patient.
and do the whole morning routine, and the evening routine,” Jon said. “One day, when Gwen was away and George and I were on the way to drop him off at daycare, he looked at me and said, ‘You know, Daddy, when it’s just Mommy, I get to have breakfast at the table; I don’t have to eat in the car.’” Outside of work and George, the Levines have individual hobbies; they trade off days for Gwen to ride her horse, named Live From New York, which she rides twice each week after work, and for Jon to run one night each week. Some of their routine will change soon, as Gwen will be preparing for a non-traditional residency in radiology that will take four years. She plans to fit it in with all of her “other” responsibilities. “I have always been interested in radiology,” she said. “I think what I’m looking forward to is having more of a connection with the clinicians and getting to see the front end of samples and appreciate the ultrasounds—kind of bringing more of a pathology perspective to my work.” George Levine before 7, because school doesn’t open until 7:30, and they like to be at work early so they can get their days started before everyone else arrives at work. Their days also depend on if they’re working clinics or not, which might change Gwen’s hours to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Jon’s hours might be even longer. “Clinical pathology clinics are fairly straightforward because I sit behind a microscope and look at whatever samples come in,” Gwen said. “I don’t have to interact with patients; I don’t have to do surgeries on emergency cases. I get to train residents and talk to clinicians about their samples, so I really enjoy it because it’s not as stressful as the role I had as a clinician when I was an intern.” Jon, now in an administrative role, doesn’t get to work clinics as much as he used to, but he does still see patients, perform operations, read reports, and consult with clients. “You know, one of my philosophies is if you don’t do what your team does or have a way to be boots-on-the-ground a little bit, it becomes really hard to connect with them,” Jon said. “By being in clinics, even only six weeks, I maintain that connection. It’s a very hard thing to manage sometimes, with everything else that’s going on, and, yet, I see it as being of high importance to me and to my team.” While the emergency aspect of clinics can create longer days for Jon when combined with his administrative duties, the rest of the year is a bit more regulated. “But I travel a lot,” he said. “I have done 50 air flight legs this year (2017).” “Gwen is a rock star when it comes to taking care of George and stepping up. When she travels, I take care of him 62 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
Fitting vacations into that packed agenda can be difficult, and a “pure vacation” that isn’t tied to a conference or some other work-related activity is a true challenge. But dreams do come true, and, fittingly, did so a few years ago when the family took a trip to Disneyland in California. For George, the dream just turned out to be very specific. “There’s this one ride, Goofy’s Sky School, that George was finally tall enough to go on, but he had been talking about going on all year,” Gwen recalled. “So we go on the ride and
“I’m an INFJ on Myers Briggs, and Jon is an ENTJ. I make quick decisions with my gut, and Jon gets numerous opinions and contemplates the buy before he moves forward. It actually works well for us.”
—Dr. Gwen Levine
“I asked him, ‘Where do you wanna go?’” Jon added. “He said, ‘Back to the hotel.’” “He was a bit task-oriented,” Gwen explained with a laugh. In 2014, the Levines (minus George) went on vacation to Moab, Utah, for their 10-year anniversary. They also took a trip without George to Germany, after they’d been invited to speak at the University of Hanover. After much convincing on Gwen’s part, they stayed two extra days enjoying Berlin. “Gwen has to twist my arm to take a vacation, but I’m always appreciative when I get there,” Jon said. “We enjoy hiking, being outside on nature walks together, and our families.” The Levines agree that there’s a balance when talking about work at home; they don’t want work to take over their home life. So, after George is sleeping, they allow 15 or 20 minutes to talk about something that may have happened in the day and then they put away their cellphones. They admit that is not easy, but they are finding it beneficial to their life balance. “One of our best vacations was where they didn’t have cellphone service during the day,” Gwen said. “Jon missed his phone, at first, but soon began to enjoy the time away from technology—for a little while, anyway.”
“Gwen has to twist my arm to take a vacation, but I’m always appreciative when I get there. We enjoy hiking, being outside on nature walks together, and our families.”
—Dr. Jon Levine The Levines are hoping to find time to take their next vacation this spring. As usual, their planning process is a collaboration. “We’re gonna argue about it,” said Gwen. “And then we’ll talk about it like 15 times.” “But then—it’ll get decided and we’ll both be happy with it,” Jon said.
Jon Levine with Dexter at the CVM’s Diagnostic Imaging & Cancer Treatment Center Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 63
he says, ‘OK, we can leave now.’ That was the one thing we did, the first thing, I made sure it was a priority, and he’s like, ‘Ok, we can go.’”
Honoring T. J. WITH A GIFT OF COMPASSION by Dr. Megan Palsa
Compassion translates in many different ways. For Patricia Gilmore-Hunter and her husband, Bobby, compassion means giving. After the tragic death of their beloved Border Collie, T.J., the Gilmores decided to establish the T.J. Hunter Oncology Endowment at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) to promote cancer research and treatment for dogs. Per their request, the Gilmores desire that their funds be used so that other pet owners don’t have to go through the trials they did with T.J. as he suffered with cancer. T.J. was seen as a part of the Gilmore family. Coming from a pedigree that included international champions on both sides of her family, T.J. became a Gilmore when she was 8 weeks old. When T.J. was taken in for a regular check-up one day, the veterinarian discovered she had swollen lymph nodes, a low white blood cell count, a urinary infection, and anemia. Gilmore-Hunter said it was heartbreaking news and very sudden. “She was just lying there,” Gilmore-Hunter said. “I couldn’t put her down—it was just too heartbreaking—but I knew she needed it.” Before they could do it, T.J. went on her own. Gilmore-Hunter said the loss of T.J. was hard, but she wanted to find a way to give to those who have experienced
“T.J. dog knew when it was time for her to take her pill. She’d stand there and she’d turn around and look at me and head for the kitchen like, ‘come on—you know what time it is, Mom.’ She was probably the smartest dog I’ve ever had in my life. She was my baby.”
Bobby Hunter and Patricia Gilmore-Hunter the same hurt and to give T.J.’s life purpose. The Gilmores decided the best way to do that was through a memorial tribute. “It was just the worst loss that I’ve ever experienced,” Gilmore-Hunter said. “I wanted to stop other people from having to experience this pain, so I did my own research and I came across the Texas A&M Teaching Hospital and their giving program.” Gilmore-Hunter’s connection to Texas A&M University dates back to her grandfather, who graduated with the class of 1897 in the electrical engineering program. She said he was also a member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band. “He was a sergeant in the Corps, Company D,” GilmoreHunter said. “He was in the band, and he played the coronet.” A frugal lifestyle enabled the Gilmores to save up enough to give what they have, while also continuing to support their grandchildren’s college educations. “We are interested in education,” Gilmore said. “That’s very important to us. It’s through work, savings, and living within our means that we have saved up enough money to make this donation.” Gilmore-Hunter said there were many opportunities to give, but this one seemed to strike her as the way she could make the greatest impact. “I just wanted to do something or help make a difference,” Gilmore-Hunter said. “Texas A&M is the type of place that makes a huge difference, and I am excited to be a part of it.” Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 65
Pete and Michelle Gerukos
by Dr. Megan Palsa Michelle and Pete Gerukos’ dog Shaker was one in a million. Always the happy-go-lucky, funny guy, the Golden Retriever lived like the entire world was his playground and, in the meantime, completely changed the way the Gerukoses lived their lives and beheld each day...with light hearts and TONS of laughter. Shaker embraced life full-on and was completely convinced that he could do anything a human could do— only better! “Every day was a game,” Pete said.
66 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
“Shaker lived his life with passion, joy, and love for everyone,” Michelle said. “He was a genuine gift to our family. He made us laugh, learn, and love—every single day.” Shaker came to the Gerukos home on Christmas Day 2006. They had waited literally years, fearing no dog could possibly “fill the paws” of Michelle’s three beloved Akitas that came before. The 8-week-old puppy immediately impressed the couple with his sparkling personality and his innate abilities to heel and to let them know when he needed to go outside to use the restroom.
But the Gerukos family took it all in stride. “The thing that we noticed the most was just how funny he was,” Michelle said. “He just brought sunshine and laughter into the house. The fact that he was so mischevious just cracked me up.” The Gerukoses’ ability to take Shaker in stride not only had them laughing but also taking the ups and downs in life in stride, as well. Shaker literally made them “stop and smell the roses” and simply not take life so seriously. In 2015, just before Shaker turned 9 years old, he was diagnosed with cancer. As he began treatments, he developed a fluid build-up in his chest and abdomen. Near the end of 2016, not knowing what the fluid was, Shaker was referred to Texas A&M’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH). In College Station, the couple met with Dr. Audrey Cook, an associate professor of internal medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Small Animal Hospital, who told the couple that Shaker’s condition wasn’t caused by cancer but by an idiopathic disease that resulted in a fluid build-up around his heart. “He went through some pretty drastic surgery for that and was here eight days,” Pete said. “We came up every day because we only had 20 minutes (to visit each day).” Shaker returned home, but the fluid persisted and, ultimately, the Gerukoses lost the love of their lives to complications with his condition. In looking back at the care Shaker
received, the couple wanted to memorialize both the pet they loved so much and also commemorate the care he received at the hands of Aggie veterinarians, both at Texas A&M and elsewhere throughout his life. They chose to do so by naming an examination room in the Small Animal Hospital in his honor. “Shaker’s Exam Room” was dedicated on Nov. 4, 2017. It brings his family much comfort knowing Shaker’s story will be shared with many other clients visiting the Small Animal Hospital; the couple also hopes it will bring comfort and confidence to those clients that they are receiving care from one of the best animal-care facilities in the nation, by compassionate veterinarians and staff who are also helping to train tomorrow’s future in veterinary medicine. With their gift, the Gerukoses will provide funds to remodel a place in the hospital for the C-Arm imaging machine that Cook and her team use on a daily basis, the very machine that helped Cook confirm her diagnosis of Shaker’s condition. “One of the reasons we wanted to do this was because of the confidence we have in A&M, but, also, spending time here, we wanted other people to have something beautiful. We wanted to give back, to hopefully add some humor and love like Shaker added to our lives. It’s something special for him, for our little boy,” Michelle said. Pete Gerukos, Chastity Carrigan, and Michelle Gerukos Throughout Shaker’s treatment, when the Gerukos family would get the dog ready to come to Texas A&M, he never hid or quavered, as if he knew he was getting the best care. “He had so many Aggie vets taking care of him, from the time he was just a puppy,” Michelle said. “When we would come to the hospital, he never lost that smile, that happiness. I know that’s because of the care he received. A deciding factor to live in Houston was to stay close to A&M because you know you have the best care, and that’s huge. We’re so fortunate to have that; we really, really are.” Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 67
“Literally, from day one when he arrived, he was super smart. Although we had already seen his brilliance in heeling and training, he quickly decided he could garner more attention when he was misbehaving,” Michelle said. “Thus, he was into everything. The more trouble he could find, the happier he was.”
Tears were shed and laughs were shared as the Texas A&M Veterinary Class of 2019 joined with College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) administrators, faculty, staff, and other students to remember and celebrate the life of third-year veterinary student Jacob Michael Cahoon, who died on Oct. 20, 2017. CVM executive associate dean Kenita Rogers and associate dean for professional programs Karen Cornell welcomed Cahoon’s family, including mother Laurie, father Michael, and brother Nathan, to the candlelight ceremony held in his honor on Oct. 23, 2017, on the front steps of the VENI Building. Other special guests included Cahoon’s family and friends Jimbo, Tonya, David, Jackie, and Rachel Moore; Marie Hossfeld; Ben Sunshine; and Ruth, Scott, and Aaron Wilkerson. “We are bound by being here tonight to celebrate the life of Jacob Cahoon, a son, a brother, a friend, a student, a colleague,” Rogers said. “He is one of us, and that is forever. We are proud of him, just as we are proud of each of you, and that is forever. “We celebrate the unique individual with which we shared this dream, and that is forever. He, of course, remains a part of his Salado family and also remains an integral part of this college family, and that is forever.” Cahoon’s classmates and friends shared their reflections of the person they loved, reaffirming the bond they shared through their love of veterinary medicine and painting a portrait of Cahoon through glimpses of their experiences with him. Classmate Ryan McKnight paid homage to Cahoon’s quick humor and sarcasm as he addressed the group with a game. “If you are a diehard (Chicago) Cubs fan but live in SouthCentral Texas, you might be Jacob Cahoon; if your first language is sarcasm, you might be Jacob Cahoon; if you live exclusively on frozen pizza, you might be Jacob Cahoon,” McKnight read, ending the list with, “If you’re a good friend who constantly makes your friends laugh, you might be Jacob Cahoon. 68 | CVM Today | Spring 2018
Jacob Michael Cahoon “Thank you for the impact you made on my life and the lives of everyone here; you were taken far too soon,” he said. Classmate Kari Means’ interactions with Cahoon were read by a peer. “Anyone who knew Jacob would say his humor was unparalleled, which left us with not a lot of appropriate stories to share at a vigil,” Means wrote. “I first thought of Jacob as a quiet, introverted guy who was probably afraid of my extroverted-ness, but I came to know him as a very caring person. He always tried to lighten the mood with jokes because he knew that we were stressed and nervous about everything. He knew every detail about what the surgeon was supposed to do, even when he was anesthetized.” Finally, Cornell shared the more serious side of a young man who said he was inspired to become a veterinarian by Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, by reading from his veterinary school application his goals following graduation, which included owning his own small-animal practice in a rural community like his hometown of Salado, Texas. “I envision creating a clinical environment similar to the one where I’ve enjoyed working for the last four years, a place where families and pets experience compassion and quality animal care,” Cahoon had written. “I will employ my leadership skills to give back to the community, as my own
COLLABORATING DURING TIMES OF GRIEF A memorial service was held for Cahoon at the CVM on Oct. 23. hometown has given to me. I will use my musical talents and experiences to develop projects that will nurture the youth with the same kind of richness that I experienced in school and community musical programs. “Through participation in musical programs I learned valuable skills that I want to share with others: listening, benefiting from the guidance of peers, encouraging others, and working cooperatively,” he had continued. “These are all attributes which I consider essential not only to the success of a veterinarian but to the vital being of a productive member of society.” The ceremony ended with the singing of “Amazing Grace” as candles were lit among the more than 200 in attendance,
followed by a time for silent prayer, reflection, and support. Books with personalized messages from attendees were given to Cahoon’s parents, as well as to his roommates Nicole Copeland and Alexandra Wahl, both also veterinary students. Services for Cahoon were held on Oct. 28 at the Salado United Methodist Church. The CVM provided group transportation to the funeral for those who wished to make the journey. The resounding condolences to his family and tributes to Cahoon can be summarized by the ending of Means’ written message: “Jacob was really loved, and he will be missed.”
“He is one of us, and that is forever. We are proud of him, just as we are proud of each of you, and that is forever. We celebrate the unique individual with which we shared this dream, and that is forever. He…remains an integral part of this college family, and that is forever.”
—Dr. Kenita Rogers Spring 2018 | CVM Today | 69
COLLABORATING DURING TIMES OF GRIEF
In Memoriam Softly call the Muster, let comrade answer, “Here!”
Class of 1943
Class of 1964
Robert E. Fahr, 100, of Paragould, Arkansas, died on Dec. 16, 2017.
Lelve Garland Gayle, 77, of College Station, Texas, died on Aug. 6, 2017.
Class of 1945
Class of 1969
Charles Boyd, 95, of College Station, Texas, died on Oct. 4, 2017.
John L. Scott, 72, of League City, Texas, died on Nov. 6, 2017.
A. Howard Palms, 97, of Denison, Texas, died on Dec. 31, 2017.
W.C. Wood, 71, of Paulden, Arizona, died on April 8, 2017.
Class of 1947 Thomas G. Murnane, 91, of Fort Worth, Texas, died on July 13, 2017.
Class of 1948 Arthur Benjamin Haws, 90, of Dripping Springs, Texas, died on Sept. 24, 2017.
Class of 1949 Andrew Jack Tickle, 92, of San Marcos, Texas, died on June 14, 2017.
Class of 1952 Edgar (Ed) H. Eckermann, 89, of Greenville, North Carolina, died on Jan. 20, 2018. W.M. “Bill” Lewis Sr., 90, of Decatur, Texas, died on Aug. 23, 2017.
Class of 1957 Clifford Sims Whitmore, 83, of Harrison, Arkansas, died on July 5, 2017.
Class of 1958 Grady Ross Kane, 84, of Rockport, Texas, died on Oct. 24, 2017. Robert A. “Bob” Lee, 83, of Atlanta, Georgia, died on Oct. 8, 2017.
Class of 1960 Otto Eugene Schroeder Jr., 87, of Arlington, Texas, died on Aug. 29, 2017. James E. Jordan, 85, of Marshall, Texas, died on Oct. 17, 2017.
Class of 1961 John Alvin Kirschke Jr., 80, of McKinney, Texas, died on Sept. 6, 2017.
Class of 1962 Daniel Nelson Kelley, 87, of Huntsville, Texas, died on Sept. 23, 2017.
70 | CVM TODAY | Spring 2018
Class of 1970 Class of 1972 Gary George Grote, 68, of Weatherford, Texas, died on Dec. 25, 2017. Samuel C. Spangler, 77, of Austin, Texas, died on Dec. 28, 2017.
Class of 1974 George Richard (Dick) Toups, 75, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, died on Dec. 9, 2017.
Class of 1975 Dale Edward Inman, 65, of Childress, Texas, died on Sept. 7, 2017.
Class of 1984 Vladimir de Jong, 60, of Dallas, Texas, died on Nov. 8, 2017.
Class of 1992 Clay Buck McCreary, 55, of Sugar Land, Texas, died on Jan. 15, 2018.
Class of 1995 Barry “Clay” Cockrill, 62, of Pine Grove, California, died on Dec. 23, 2017.
Class of 2006 Daniel Clayton Holt, 38, of Big Spring, Texas, died on Oct. 31, 2017.
Class of 2019 Jacob Michael Cahoon, 24, of Salado, Texas, died on Oct. 20, 2017.
Food Animal Conference June 8–9, 2018
Canine Conference August 24–26, 2018
Veterinary Technician Conference June 23–24, 2018
Emergency & Critical Care Conference October 20–21, 2018
Feline Forum July 28–29, 2018
Equine Gut Health October 27–28, 2018
UltraSound Conference December 7–8, 2018
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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 Apr 25, 2018
A semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical...