Volume 17, Number 1 â€˘ Summer 2015
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Transforming Human & Animal Health
Dean’s Message As we approach our 100-year celebration, we remain united by a common desire to make the world a better place. Our vibrant exchange of ideas, diverse environments, compelling programs, and exceptional research drive us forward and fuel our passion to move with excitement into the year ahead. Our mission to train exceptional leaders and generate new ideas spurs us on as we provide solutions to our most challenging global health problems. We are inspired by the words of the master of successful programming, Mr. Walt Disney, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” We are committed to continuing to be and train the very best leaders, while transforming our students’ educational experience through multidisciplinary and experiential learning. We are working to modernize and expand our campus and to evoke intellectual ideas that have real world applications. Our work crosses all boundaries of disciplines, research, and practice. Our accomplishments, our dreams, and our ability to do more to solve the critical problems facing the health of animals and people around the world are unmatched. If you are an alumnus, alumna, or supporter, as you read through this magazine, browse our website, or visit our campus, you will witness the impact your ideas, actions, and resources have had on our college. When you have thoughts about new opportunities to promote service, training, or solutions, I hope you will let us know, because we believe working together is the answer to promoting research opportunities, solving global problems, and building healthier communities. When I see the contributions our faculty, staff, and students are making, and when I am consumed by the intense energy that permeates the hallways, as the dean of this great college, I am humbled. There is more—there will always be more—to see, to do, and to imagine. We are headed in the right direction, and we invite you to join us on this journey.
Eleanor M. Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP The Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine 2•
• Summer 2015
Contents 18 Biomedical Sciences Spotlight
A successful Aggie leader—Ryan Trantham: MSCC President, winner of the Brown-Rudder Outstanding Student Award BIMS Aggies riding tall in the saddle BIMS student presents cancer research in Brazil: Darin Garrett hoping to make an impact in neurology
22 Hospital Spotlight
A second chance at barrel racing: Charley and Codybelle
24 Outreach Spotlight
Serving the Texas agriculture industry: From college to career…
28 One Health Spotlight
Texas A&M professors collaborate to take up fight against emerging zoonotic disease One Health learning community provides high-impact educational opportunities
32 International Spotlight
The Texas A&M Biosciences Semester Germany study abroad program
34 Student Spotlight
Veterinary practice workshop provides students with practical experience In their own words—VOICE Leaders Student leaders ready to host national event: Pride in new facilities, educational opportunities provide inspiration for task ahead Graduate student & postdoctoral research: Highlights from the 2015 Symposium
44 Faculty/Staff Spotlight
Andersson reveals evolution of Darwin’s finches through genome sequencing Welsh shares wisdom at the WISE symposium
48 Research Spotlight
Taking caring to another level: A collaborative effort
Advancing translational cancer research
Working to create healthier environments
56 In the Spotlight
Associate dean keeps an eye on the future: Focused on excellence, promoting education, encouraging diversity—impacting lives
Making room for transformative teaching
62 Leadership Spotlight
65 Development Spotlight
Diversity in veterinary medicine…It is the right thing to do!
Reveille VIII settles into her new home at the Stevenson Center Peace of mind for pet owners: Texas A&M supporters found love, compassion at Stevenson Center A passion for animals, a love for all: The Stevensons continue to give…
72 Alumni Spotlight
Communicating complexity and transforming interdisciplinary research
Paying it forward: Dr. Orlando Garza ’79, DVM ’82 Aggie veterinarians serving Texans every day
A visual link to human & veterinary medicine
2 4 64 77 88 100 102 106 109 111 112
Dean’s Message College Information College Hallmarks Honor Roll College News Facilities Update Development News Alumni News In Memoriam Continuing Education Schedule Parting Shot
Summer 2015 •
College Information College Administration Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Eleanor M. Green Associate Dean, Professional Programs Dr. Kenita S. Rogers ’86
Dr. Megan Palsa ’08
Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education & Dept. Head, Veterinary Integrative Biosciences Dr. Evelyn Tiffany-Castiglioni
CVM Today Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University 4461 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4461
Christina B. Sumners ’11
Angela Clendenin ’91
Jaleesia Amos ’17 Roberto Molar Candanosa ’13 Jennie L. Lamb Caroline Neal ’15 Dr. Dan Posey ’82 Heather Quiram L.M. Rey Claire Ronner ’15 Jessica Scarfuto ’14 Dr. Guy Sheppard ’78 Kelly Tucker ’14 Micah J. Waltz Michelle Yeoman ’13
Assistant Dean, Undergraduate Education Dr. Elizabeth Crouch ’91 Interim Assistant Dean, One Health Dr. Rosina “Tammi” Krecek
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 email@example.com. A reader survey is available online at: tx.ag/cvmtodaysurvey.
VeLisa Ward Bayer Jennie L. Lamb
Permission is granted to use all or part of any article published in this magazine, provided no endorsement of a commercial product is stated or implied. Appropriate credit and a tear sheet are requested.
Graphic Designers: Allison Blakley ’16 Audrey Bratton ’15 Sydney Sund ’18
Photographers: Tim Stephenson Larry Wadsworth
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University 4461 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4461 vetmed.tamu.edu Dean’s Office/Administration 979.845.5051 Admissions Office 979.845.5051 Development and Alumni Relations Office 979.845.9043 Continuing Education Office 979.845.9102 Public Relations Office 979.862.4216 4•
Associate Dean, Research & Graduate Studies Dr. Robert C. Burghardt
• Summer 2015
Assistant Dean, Finance Ms. Belinda Hale ’92 Interim Dept. Head, Veterinary Pathobiology Dr. Roger Smith III ’76 Interim Dept. Head, Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology Dr. John N. Stallone Dept. Head, Large Animal Clinical Sciences Dr. Allen Roussel Dept. Head, Small Animal Clinical Sciences Dr. Jonathan Levine Assistant Vice President of Development & Alumni Relations (Texas A&M Foundation) Dr. O. J. “Bubba” Woytek ’65 Chief of Staff Ms. Misty Skaggs ’93 Director, Texas Institute for Preclinical Studies Dr. Joe Kornegay ’72 Interim Director, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital Dr. David A. Nelson ’78 Executive Director, Communications, Media, & Public Relations Dr. Megan Palsa ’08
Biomedical Sciences Undergraduate Advising Office 979.845.4941
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences 979.845.9053
Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences 979.845.2828
Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences 979.845.9127
Department of Veterinary Pathobiology 979.845.5941 Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology 979.845.7261
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital Administration 979.845.9026 Small Animal Hospital 979.845.2351 Large Animal Hospital 979.845.3541
CVM Earns #6 Ranking Worldwide, #3 Ranking in United States The piece was co-published with Texas Veterinarian magazine.
All Aggies know that Texas A&M University and its College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) are top notch…but does the rest of the world know? Apparently so. In May 2015, we received the 2015 rankings for veterinary schools worldwide by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), an educational services firm that has rated the top 50 veterinary medicine schools globally. Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) is ranked No. 6 in the world and No. 3 in the United States. Texas A&M, Cornell, and University of California–Davis are the only United States veterinary colleges to rank in the top 10, with five other American veterinary programs listed in the top 20. The University of California–Davis is rated the top veterinary school in the world by the ranking group, followed by Cornell University. Next are the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London (No. 3), the University of Guelph in Canada (No. 4), and Utrecht University in The Netherlands at No. 5. The rankings by QS are based on several factors, including academic reputation, employer reputation, and academic citations in research papers. QS combines multiple, well-respected university data sources in this, their first ever survey including veterinary medicine. QS, founded in 1990, has offices in 50 countries. It is described as one of the more credible organizations ranking academic institutions. Of particular note is its inclusion of input from academicians, employers of graduates, and solid research metrics, such as how often publications are cited by others, suggesting importance of the work. This ranking is significant as it acknowledges our innovative, collaborative, and transformative work in all of our missions (education, research, service, outreach), making a difference locally, nationally, and globally. Because education is so important to the CVM, including employer feedback is notable in determining ratings. Much is happening in professional programs, such as constant curricular review and modification, curricular mapping, outcomes assessment, revised admissions procedures (MMIs—multiple mini interviews), new positions dedicated to instructional excellence, a Center for Educational Technology, leadership training, business training, high impact, hands-on learning experiences, and much more. Surely our reputation is also positively influenced by the commitment by Texas A&M and CVM to develop leaders of character dedicated to serving the greater good and to hold strong to the six core values—excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service. These core values are certain to have appeal to employers. The CVM also boasts research signature programs, those disciplines in which it has world class strengths. Examples include genomics, infectious disease, toxicology, reproductive biology, neuroscience, cardiovascular sciences, and clinical medicine. The CVM researchers in these disciplines and others have formed teams across campus and beyond to contribute to multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary research which finds the answers to some of the world’s most pressing questions.
The Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital provides service at the highest level to veterinarians, animals, and clients in all of Texas and to the majority of the nation’s states. The level of sophistication of care is constantly evolving with new discoveries and the emergence of new disciplines. The Veterinary Emergency Team, arguably the largest and most sophisticated veterinary emergency response team in the nation, offers support throughout Texas, as needed. “I’m new to Texas A&M, but I’ve long been aware of the extraordinary teaching, research, and service reputation of our program in veterinary medicine—a program that for decades has accounted for a large number of our nation’s veterinarians, many of whom have helped train the next generation of veterinarians, and who have been in the vanguard in medical research that has benefitted both mankind and animals,” noted Texas A&M President Michael K. Young. “Thus, I’m not surprised by this well-deserved assessment of our College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and I’m delighted for this to be one of my first opportunities to comment publicly on what’s transpiring here at Texas A&M.” Established in 1916, the CVM is the only veterinary school in Texas and is one of the country’s largest. Many of its programs are nationally ranked. The CVM has awarded more than 7,100 DVM degrees. Its graduates include outstanding leaders within the profession, such as those who have served as presidents of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Veterinary Specialty Organizations, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, the World Veterinary Association, the World Equine Veterinary Association, and other national veterinary organizations. The recent ranking of CVM as No. 6 in the world and No. 3 in the nation stands solidly on the shoulders of the excellent faculty, staff, students, and graduates. To read more about the QS rankings, please go to http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings-articles/ university-subject-rankings/new-ranking-worlds-top-veterinaryschools. Summer 2015 •
by Roberto Molar Candanosa
Nina Pham, Dr. Eleanor M. Green, Bentley, and Pham’s mother, Diana
Taking Caring to Another Level: A Collaborative Effort When Nina Pham was infected with Ebola, she was fighting for her life while also worrying about the life of her dog, Bentley. “After I was diagnosed with Ebola, I didn’t know what would happen to Bentley or if he would have the virus,” Pham said during a recent panel discussion at Texas A&M University. “I was frightened that I could possibly not know what would happen to one of my best friends.” Now that they are together and doing well, it can be difficult to remember the fear and uncertainty of those days in October 2014, but it is a good time to remember the hard work that went into that happy ending. 6•
• Summer 2015
Scientists face many uncertainties about Ebola and dogs, although most agree that there is not evidence dogs develop clinical disease. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say no cases have been reported of dogs becoming infected and shedding Ebola to humans—even in West Africa. However, a study in the March 2005 issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases suggests dogs can contract the virus and do develop antibodies. Due to their fear of the virus spreading throughout Europe, Madrid authorities euthanized the dog of Madrid Ebola patient Teresa Romero Ramos. A week after the events in Madrid, nurse Nina Pham contracted Ebola while caring for a patient in Dallas, and authorities in Texas had to decide what to do with Pham’s dog, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Bentley. Experts came together to make decisions and assemble the right team. Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University, was part of a collaboration that included the CDC, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Emergency Operations Center (EOC),
the Governor’s Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, Dallas Animal Services, the City of Dallas, and the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and its Veterinary Emergency Team (VET). The decision was made to have the VET deploy to Dallas to care for Bentley during his 21-day isolation—the incubation period of Ebola. Dr. Tammy Beckham, who at the time was director of the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, or IIAD, a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, took the first shift caring for Bentley until members of the VET arrived. Dr. Wesley Bissett, founder and director of the VET, and Dr. Deb Zoran, VET chief medical officer, left for Dallas without hesitation. They knew caring for Bentley would be stressful and complicated, but as leaders of the largest and most sophisticated veterinary medical disaster response team in the country, they were confident they could do the job safely. The support Bissett and Zoran received from colleagues in the VET, the CVM, and Texas A&M epitomized Aggie Spirit. When Bissett first discussed the deployment with Green, her first reaction was to ask him about his wife’s opinion. “I’m 53 years old, and I’ve done a lot of different things,” said Bissett, who used to work in the oil field, away from home and doing dangerous work. “But I have not once had anybody that was sending me into those situations ask me, ‘What did your wife say?’ and to me that was a big deal.”
Caring for Bentley The team worked inside a small room of an empty 1920s-era house in a decommissioned military complex near Dallas. Zoran was covered head to toe, wearing a bright yellow hazmat suit, a powered air-purifying respirator, and protective boots and gloves. In the room, plastic wrapping protected the floor. Reporters filmed and shot pictures through a glass window, but the members of the VET were among the few who entered the house. “We are an all-hazard response team, and we have the equipment, the training, and the expertise,” Bissett said. “We can build a very powerful response in a community affected by disaster—whether that’s an Ebola case, a fertilizer plant explosion, a historic wildfire, a tornado, or a hurricane.” Still, before seeing Bentley, Bissett and Zoran knew little about Ebola in dogs. “Our testing protocol was totally based on the human protocol, because we don’t know what happens with dogs,” Zoran said. Getting infected was a potential risk. “Had [Bentley] been positive, when we came back we would have been in quarantine—and that was going to have an impact,” Zoran continued. Bissett and Zoran had arrived at the house-turned-quarantinefacility on October 16. They stayed there for about two weeks, collecting and sending blood, urine, and stool samples twice (on days eight and 16) to a laboratory for diagnostic tests. To reduce stress due to isolation, Zoran often played with Bentley. Bentley stayed in a room that was previously the kitchen of the house. That room was designated “the hot zone,” or the zone with most potential for exposure, Zoran said. A door connected with the dining room, which was designated the “warm zone,” where Bissett and Zoran removed their personal protective equipment. Going in and out of the hot zone, they both checked each other to ensure all equipment was properly worn and the protocol was strictly followed without cutting corners or taking shortcuts. “I depended on her, and she depended on me,” Bissett said.
An Extraordinary Deployment Bissett and Zoran were concerned with the possibility of Bentley testing positive. “I don’t know what the decision would have been,” Bissett said. “Certainly euthanasia was one of the things on the table.” He explained, however, he would have proposed continuing testing until clearing the disease. Zoran nodded in full agreement: “There would have been a huge opportunity to answer some questions, but we had no idea of what would have happened because there was a lot of pressure, different arguments for risk, and all kinds of issues.” Although Bentley tested negative for the virus, unanswered questions remain about Ebola in dogs. “It would have been nice to learn more, but maybe Bentley was not even exposed,” Bissett said. He added, “Maybe he was exposed and dogs don’t shed the virus—or maybe he was exposed and he shed the virus at an earlier time.” Further, studying Bentley would have required extremely secure biosafety level (BSL) 4 facilities. And once an animal enters a BSL 4 facility, it can never leave, Zoran explained. Despite the complexity of Bentley’s case, Bissett and Zoran said the most important aspect was reuniting Bentley with Pham. “The number of days we were away, the amount of time we got behind in our jobs, the number of people we disappointed because we weren’t at their defenses or at their lectures—those were the downsides,” Zoran said. Still, they both said it was well worth it. Pham left the hospital on October 24. Both virus-free, Bentley and Pham reunited on November 1, 2014. Pham grinned from cheek to cheek as she hugged Bentley, and he jumped and wagged his tail in excitement. “It feels like Christmas, literally,” Pham said in an interview with ABC News. “It’s just such a joyous occasion and one step closer to my feeling whole again during this recovery process.” “This has really been quite an extraordinary deployment,” said Bissett. “In all honesty, this is one that I would have never imagined. I know there are only two of us who are physically here, but the reality is that we are all here. We have all worked toward this very point where we are today. We are all standing behind Nina and Bentley.”
Dr. Wesley Bissett, Dr. Deb Zoran, and Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine, were part of an Ebola panel at The 65th Annual James Steel Conference on Diseases in Nature Transmissible to Man. The panel included representatives from many of the organizations involved in managing Bentley’s case, such as the CDC, Texas Animal Health Commission, Dallas Animal Services, and the CVM. Summer 2015 •
Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles in her lab
by Dr. Megan Palsa
ADVANCING translational cancer research Finding out a loved one has cancer is devastating, whether that loved one is canine or human. Dogs do get cancer just like people do, and canine cancer is very similar to pediatric cancers. Therefore, research being done at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) may lead to better treatment of cancer in both animals and humans. 8•
• Summer 2015
A Veterinarian from the Beginning
Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles has known since she was a young child that she wanted to work with animals. “In kindergarten,” she said, “I had the teacher help me spell ‘veterinarian.’ I’ve never wanted to do anything else.” Born and raised in Memphis, it was only natural that Wilson-Robles’ journey to fulfill her dreams would begin at the University of Tennessee, where she received her doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVM). With her DVM in hand, she accepted an internship at the University of Minnesota. Following her internship, Wilson-Robles went on to complete a residency in veterinary oncology at the University of Wisconsin-Mad-
ison (UWM). While at UWM, she met the love of her life, Dr. Juan Carlos (JC) Robles Emanuelli. In 2007, they both accepted positions at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), and shortly thereafter married. “We decided that after Minnesota and Wisconsin, anything below the Mason-Dixon line would be fine with us,” joked Wilson-Robles. Wilson-Robles has since made a name for herself as one of the major players in veterinary oncology. She currently serves as associate professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS) and has been named the first Dr. Fred A. and Vola N. Palmer Chair in Comparative Oncology. Her husband, JC, recently lost his battle with cancer. To read more about JC, please turn to page 109.
Inspiration to Study Medicine
Along with her life-long desire to work with animals, WilsonRobles was also inspired to study medicine during her early days in Catholic grade school in Memphis. “My school had a connection with Le Bonheur, the children’s cancer center in Memphis,” Wilson-Robles explained. “A lot of kids would come from all over the world and they were able to go to school there, free of tuition while they were undergoing treatment at Le Bonheur.” Having many classmates undergo cancer treatments gave Wilson-Robles early insight into cancer and terminal illness. With first-hand exposure to pediatric oncology, Wilson-Robles became interested in the various treatments her classmates underwent. “I watched what a lot of the kids in my class went through—and some of them died—and I thought there’s got to be something better we can do.” Despite her interest in improving oncology care for children, Wilson-Robles knew she was better suited to a career in veterinary medicine. “I knew I could never do pediatric oncology,” she said. “I just don’t have the stomach for it. It takes a special kind of person.” Notwithstanding her reluctance to pursue a career in pediatric oncology, Wilson-Robles would embark on a career that would provide invaluable research and medical discoveries to those children suffering from pediatric cancers. She would go about it in an unorthodox way but would come to realize that her patients—the canine ones—were immensely useful in the treatment of children with cancer. Clinical trials are research studies that test drugs, procedures, or devices to determine if they are effective and safe. The trials are conducted with an eye to the future, in hopes of finding better methods to screen for, prevent, diagnose, or treat a variety of diseases. Wilson-Robles’ work is called translational because she takes her benchtop research in a laboratory and applies it to actual patients in a clinical trial.
Two Kinds of Research In her research at Texas A&M, Wilson-Robles draws a distinction between the two different foci of her work. Splitting her time between benchtop and clinical research she is able to work on both sides of veterinary medical research. She describes her benchtop research as “working with cell lines, working with mice, signaling pathways, and a lot of work with genetics.” Largely
Baylor College of Medicine, along with the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, are joint recipients of a Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) grant to study the use of T-cells to treat osteosarcoma (bone cancer). CPRIT’s goal is to expedite innovation in cancer research and product development and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs throughout the state. responsible for creating proofs-of-concept for a variety of drug therapies and genetic studies, Wilson-Robles’ benchtop research often consists of “cells growing in a flask in media so it looks like pink soup. They’re growing in there and I’ll throw some drug in there and see what happens.” Despite her cavalier description, Wilson-Robles’ benchtop work is exacting and crucially important to the success of her clinical trials. She is ever aware that the “pink soup” she’s testing for genetic anomalies may hold the key for a new treatment for a type of cancer. Constantly vigilant and on the lookout for potential new uses for drugs, Wilson-Robles works with drugs and drug companies to test pharmaceuticals in various clinical situations to determine their effectiveness in animals. Her benchtop research informs the clinical research. Having experience in both types of investigative techniques makes Wilson-Robles a premier scientist of veterinary oncology with an exceptionally comprehensive research background. Expounding on the differences between benchtop research and clinical research, Wilson-Robles explained that laboratory work allows the researcher to tweak experiments and try new approaches based on results. “But in a clinical protocol,” she cautioned, “you follow it to a T.” The strictness of clinical protocol leaves very little room for experimentation or improvisation, which is why scientists like Wilson- Robles who are experienced in both benchtop and clinical research are particularly valuable. “There is always a place for discovery,” Wilson-Robles said, addressing the importance of benchtop research. She went on to say, “There are tons of people doing discovery on the human side and veterinary side. But there aren’t many people—a handful of us nationally—that do the clinical trials to the level that we do here at Texas A&M.” This combination of research skills allows for a more cohesive research study and perhaps a more successful clinical trial. It is important to Wilson-Robles that her research at either end of the spectrum informs the rest of her work. “I do the initial benchtop work to figure out if a certain drug will block a pathway to make a difference,” Wilson-Robles explained. “And if it does, the next step is a clinical patient.” The patients Wilson-Robles uses for her clinical trials are nearly all client-owned dogs with naturally occurring cancers, and the research aims to treat their disease and prolong their lives. Much of Wilson-Robles’ work focuses on tumor-initiating cells. She describes tumor-initiating cells as “the worst of the worst” by explaining that all cancer cells are not created equal. Summer 2015 •
C URING The tumor-initiating cells are those that survive chemotherapy and radiation and continue to proliferate. It is these cells and their uniqueness that make cancers so difficult to treat. “These cells are drug resistant, radiation resistant, and they don’t replicate as quickly as the other cells do, so they’re much less sensitive to other factors,” Wilson-Robles explained. Her work in dogs harkens back to her early interest in pediatric oncology because, as she said, “Dogs get pediatric cancers.” Working with dogs in clinical trials has allowed Wilson-Robles to contribute to important research in the human pediatric oncology field as well. “Heather is an amazing scientist and clinician whose work will change the way oncologic diseases are treated in domestic animals and people,” said Dr. Jonathan Levine, head of VSCS. “More importantly, she is an amazing person who understands that excellence is about character and perseverance.”
Mentors Making a Difference Focused on a course of study in veterinary medicine, WilsonRobles met Dr. Alfred Legendre, professor of medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee, during her senior year there. Legendre quickly became a mentor for WilsonRobles and offered important advice when it came time for her to choose her next step. “He helped me set the path I needed to take and I helped him with some research projects,” WilsonRobles recalled. “He introduced me to clinical research and that’s really where it started.” Still working at the University of Tennessee despite being retired, Legendre remains an important influence in Wilson-Robles’ career. “He’s one of the loveliest men you’ll ever meet,” she said. “He’s supposed to be retired now, but he can still be found wandering the halls and helping out at the University of Tennessee.” Though most of what she has accomplished in the veterinary oncology field is due to hard work and dedication, Wilson-Robles does acknowledge the importance of serendipity in her career. “One of the best things that ever happened to me was the match at the UWM, for an oncology residency,” Wilson-Robles stated. Through that match, she met Dr. David Vail, professor of mediDr. Heather Wilson-Robles
• Summer 2015
cal oncology at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, one of the “father figures of modern veterinary oncology.” Through Vail, Wilson-Robles was introduced to clinical trials and gained an understanding of how the research and discovery in these trials could translate to human medicine. “He’s a mentor, but he’s also a very good friend,” said Wilson-Robles of Vail. The two still keep in touch and Wilson-Robles noted that even after she left the UWM, she continually asks Vail for advice on upcoming clinical trials. “He and my husband played basketball together,” Wilson-Robles said of Vail, underscoring their close connection and mutual respect and support. Another important influence on Wilson-Robles while at UWM was Dr. David Argyle, the William Dick Chair of Veterinary Clinical Studies and the head of the school and dean of veterinary medicine at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He mentored her in laboratory research and taught her how to take new targets from the benchtop to the bedside. “He was instrumental in my decision to be an academician,” Wilson-Robles said. “It has been a great privilege in my career to train and mentor the next generation of academicians,” Argyle said. “I knew when Heather joined my team all those years ago that she would go on to have a great career as an academic oncologist.”
Future of Veterinary and Human Medicine Understanding the ways in which dogs contract and react to cancer cells and clinical drug trials gives Wilson-Robles a greater understanding—and hope for—future treatment across the patient spectrum. “We’re all mammals,” she said, explaining that the more species that react positively to a treatment, the more likely it is that the treatment will be a successful therapy for humans. “It’s not just a dog thing,” Wilson-Robles explained, “If I can show that a treatment works in a mouse and a dog and a rat, then it probably also works in a human. The more species it works for, the more valuable your results.” Because of the complexity of cancer cells and cell growth, dogs are an excellent metric for trials of possible pediatric cancer treatments. Certain breeds of dogs have extremely high
Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles with Logan
From her childhood and adolescence in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles followed a path through the University of Tennessee to the University of Minnesota and eventually to the University of Wisconsin. Following a residency in medical oncology, she settled at Texas A&M University where she serves as an associate professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS). Wilson-Robles is at the forefront of translational cancer research in which dogs with cancer serve as a model for human disease.
likelihoods of developing cancer. Golden retrievers have an 80 percent chance of developing cancer in their lifetimes, while boxers have an 86 percent chance. In fact, cancer is the number one cause of death in dogs over three years of age, and 25 percent of all dogs will get cancer at some point. While numbers like these are staggering, they are useful to Wilson-Robles who, through her research, has been given the opportunity to perform clinical trials with a number of different breeds of dogs. Such broad research bodes well for eventual human cancer treatment. Cancer in dogs tends to be akin to the most aggressive form of pediatric disease, and so, Wilson-Robles explained, “if we can get something to work on dogs, it will probably work on kids.” However, Wilson-Robles cautioned, there is a danger in treating cancer—regardless of the species—as a singular disease. “As far as the future is concerned, I think the biggest thing is to acknowledge that there’s never going to be a magic bullet for cancer,” she said. “There’s never going to be one thing that cures cancer. Cancer is a group of diseases, and it is a genetic disease.” Underscoring the importance of personalized medicine, WilsonRobles has praise for institutions like Baylor College of Medicine that run genetic profiles on tumors in order to better understand and treat specific cases using personalized drug and treat-
ment recommendations. Chemotherapy, the current “catch all” method for cancer treatment, is “fighting fire with fire.” Wilson-Robles warned of the indiscriminate nature of some forms of treatment, but said, “In many cases, this is still the best option for treatment available.”
Ultimately, the goal for Wilson-Robles and her colleagues in veterinary oncology is to perform research on dogs with an eye toward informing treatment of human subjects. However, Wilson-Robles finds her work with animals rewarding on its own merits. “Now,” she explained, “we’re in negotiations with T-gen, Colorado State, Ohio State, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to do a large national multi-institutional trial looking at drugs given to dogs with osteosarcoma, which would hopefully then lead to approval for the drug for humans.” Ever passionate about her research and clinical work, WilsonRobles has found a home at Texas A&M. At the top of her profession—and leading the way in research for veterinary oncology and veterinary medicine— she stands poised to make important, perhaps groundbreaking, discoveries in the years to come. Summer 2015 •
Artist’s rendering of new classroom space
by Christina B. Sumners
for Transformative Teaching When the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences moves into its new complex in 2016, the space will be larger, modern, and full of light. More importantly, it will fundamentally change the way professors teach and students learn. The new facilities will foster learning rather than constraining it. “We spend a lot of time and energy trying to work around our facilities right now,” said Dr. Shannon Washburn, who teaches physiology courses. “Now we’ll have the freedom to think how we can use our facilities instead of having to work around them.” Washburn also mentioned that those little distractions that can impede learning—such as poor lighting and acoustics, unpredictable temperature, and uncomfortable seats—will all be greatly alleviated in the new building. “Every little thing that we can do to make learning easier for the students is good,” she said.
Classroom Layout and Space
The classrooms intended for lectures will each be large enough to comfortably accommodate a class of 250 people and their laptop computers—which is especially important as more and more classes move to computerized testing. The classrooms also will have a flexible layout. Several professors mentioned their excitement about this aspect. Dr. Virginia Fajt, who currently teaches a lecture-based pharma12 •
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cology course in a classroom with stadium seating, said that the aisles keep students from interacting with each other and with her. In the new classrooms, she can arrange the seating without aisles—or in any other configuration that suits her. Washburn agreed that it can be challenging to engage with students when teaching a large class in traditional lecture-style seats. “You’re standing up there talking,” she said. “We want to teach, not just talk.” “The possibilities that exist in the new building include the option to include more collaborative and team-based approaches to teaching in a classroom,” Fajt continued. “The new building is going to really let us do that because some of the physical spaces are different from what we have now.” Those physical spaces include collapsible seating in which the lecture-type seats can be folded up into the wall with the touch of a button. Chairs and tables can then be brought out of the adjoining closet and arranged in clusters for small group discussion, with room for the instructor to walk around and interact with each group. This sort of peer-topeer learning is extremely useful for helping students engage with the material and with each other. “And the more they engage, the better they learn,” Washburn said. Fajt agreed that the new approaches help focus the educational process on the students themselves. “Instead of talking about teaching,” she sad, “we’re talking about learning.”
Artist’s rendering of new classroom space
Lab Time and Space Space for small groups to gather will be available during laboratory time as well. “That will give the basic science instructors, myself included, the ability to do more small group discussion and more case studies, where it’s not practical to do it in the big laboratories right now,” said Dr. Anton Hoffman, who teaches anatomy. “It’s definitely preparatory for their transition into third and fourth year, where they’re always working in small groups as they’re on their rotations.” The teaching laboratories themselves will be larger, with room for 100 students. This would allow for future growth for decades to come. Currently there are two lab sections, but the students in each section are in two adjoining rooms, and the instructor must run back and forth between them. The new building will have labs large enough for all of the students in a section to be together, which will allow for more student engagement with their classmates and interaction with the instructor. For Dr. Tamy Frank-Cannon, who also teaches anatomy, a major advantage will be storage space. In the current building, she moves anatomic models into the laboratories to show the students and then moves them out again after the class or lab time is over. There is no designated space to store the items for the next time they’re needed. “We see what’s happened to my office here,” she said, gesturing to the models scattered on every spare surface of the room. Dr. Louise Abbott, whose teaching includes large-animal gross anatomy, is also excited about the increased storage capacity. “What we currently have now is really haphazard,” she said. “We have stuff stored wherever we can fit it, and it’s often very inaccessible.”
The new building has storage and other support facilities built specifically for each major teaching lab. The storage space will allow for more efficient use of class time. “Now the students have to go get their microscopes, bring them to the table, get them set up, get them plugged in, and get everything organized,” Hoffman said. In the new building, he said, the microscopes will be on a hidden rail system, so they can slide into place for use.
In the new building, Frank-Cannon looks forward to more use of models on which students can practice clinical procedures. She currently is reengineering a stuffed animal for this purpose. “Right now, he’s just got stuffing and a fake bladder in him,” she said. “What I want to do is put in other organs, so that the students have to try to sort out what they’re feeling to make sure that they’ve actually got bladder before they actually shove the needle into them.”
Model dog with bladder Summer 2015 •
C REATING Frank-Cannon said. “They don’t have access to practice or study or doing anything outside of class.” She said she hopes that in the dedicated space in the new building, the students can use the models outside of class time and perhaps even check them out to take home. Abbott agreed that it would be extremely helpful for students to use the models outside of the official class or laboratory sessions. “I know in small animal [anatomy] they get a box of bones they can carry around with them, but they don’t have that capability in large animal because the bones are too big,” she said. “They have to actually do their studying from the specimens that are in the laboratory. Again, I think having good models they can take home will allow them a lot more flexibility for accessing information.”
Using Electronic Technology
Top left: Dr. Louise Abbott; Top Right: Dr. Tamy Frank-Cannon; Middle Left: Dr. Virginia Fajt; Middle Right: Dr. Anton Hoffman; Bottom: Dr. Shannon Washburn
Frank-Cannon uses different types of silicone to simulate muscles, bones, skin, and other organs. She said the process entails a good deal of trial and error as she tries to make each model anatomically correct. “There are a number of drafts involved, as you go step-by-step, trying to get the feel as close to the real thing as you can,” Frank-Cannon said. “For me, I take all of my anatomy skills and try to incorporate that into the models.” “With the new building, one of the things that’s going to be really nice is dedicated space, or a space that’s really set up for this type of teaching,” Frank-Cannon continued. “Right now, we’re just making do with where we can find things to fit.” Both Frank-Cannon and Abbott are excited about having a lab in the new building where they can make plastinated models. In these models, the tissue in specimens is replaced with polymers, resulting in long-lasting versions to use for study. “They get used after a number of years, and they eventually fall apart because the students handle them so much,” Abbott said. “We need to replace specimens, and we need to add specimens. That’s something that’s going to be very useful in this new building that we really don’t have the capability of doing right now.” The new building will also allow students to study and practice on both plastinated and silicone models outside of class time, for which there isn’t currently space. “Right now, students have access when I bring them to use in teaching,” 14 •
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Instructors are also excited about other planned technology in the new classrooms and labs. Better computers and projection systems will allow for more multi-media use in lectures, which professors agree will facilitate demonstrating dynamic processes in real time. Some are also excited about the ability to expand digital testing capabilities, especially for laboratory portions of an exam. Labs themselves will have more technology as well. “Right now in our current anatomy lab, if you need to make an announcement or talk to the students, you’re yelling,” Hoffman said. “There’s no microphone, there’s no PA.” The new labs, however, will have built-in sound systems. The labs will also have monitors scattered at the various workstations so that students can access information. Those screens will also be able to project images from a mobile camera planned for the anatomy lab. “If we see something really awesome, it’s just going to be a matter of wheeling the camera over and saying to the students, ‘Hey, take a look at your monitors,’ and in two or three minutes, everybody gets it at the same time,” Hoffman continued. “It’s going to be a much more efficient use of laboratory time than it is now.” Abbott looks forward to the anatomy labs’ having tablet computers on which students can consult dissection guides and access other information while they’re working with specimens. “I see that as sort of an adjunct to the computer screens that will be there,” she said.
Room to Dream
The professors also recognize that the space’s flexibility will give them options that they haven’t even considered yet, especially as they start to work in the new building and discover its capacities. “We’re now going to have the freedom to try new things,” Washburn said. Fajt finds that the new building has served as an impetus for discussions among professors about new ideas and possibilities. “It’s on everyone’s mind, how we can improve,” she said. Hoffman is excited about how he can put his teaching ideas into practice in the new building, without being confined by the physical space. “Being here 25-plus years, you get to the point where you get a little stifled,” Hoffman said. “In the new building, I think we’re going to be able to dream, to imagine new ways of doing things. It’s like I can do whatever I want now. I’m looking forward to it.”
Dr. Robert Chapkin (left) collaborates with Dr. Ivan Ivanov (right).
by Angela Clendenin
and Transforming Interdisciplinary Research Although innovative research has contributed much to our understanding of cancer, the rapid advance of technology has added complexity to the search for cures. The ability to share information and perspectives across disciplines is transforming collaboration by bringing together investigators from various institutions with different scientific backgrounds. When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, the first questions that often come to mind are, “why did this happen to them,” and “what can I do.” Faced with this very situation, Dr. Ivan Ivanov, clinical associate professor in bioinformatics at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), began a journey helping advance research that one day may be able to answer those questions. To create new knowledge in this multidisciplinary environment requires the ability to ask questions and design
studies that are based on scientific principles, and communicating that complexity requires a common foundation—a foundation Ivanov is helping to build. However, it was more than an interest in collaboration and complex systems that led Ivanov to his research in cancer biology; it was a series of life events.
The Journey Begins
When Ivanov was a middle school student in the former communist country of Bulgaria, his teacher suggested he apply to a national high school that specialized in mathematics. After speaking with his mother, he decided to apply and was accepted after taking two required entrance exams. “From there, I went to the university, and I was successful because the teachers I had at the high school were not ordinary teachers,” Ivanov said. “They were Sofia University professors. They ignited one’s curiosity, and that was very exciting.” While still a mathematics student at the university, Ivanov’s former father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and he deteriorated quickly. “I was thinking how he could be such a great man, a nonsmoker, a good father and husband, Summer 2015 •
C OMMUNICATING a hard worker—he does everything right, and then he’s hit by this disease,” said Ivanov. “He died after two months. I carried him around in my hands because he lost 50 percent of his weight. I wondered how this could be helped. I was just a mathematician, a mathematics student. I didn’t know anything about biology, and it was very complicated to me.” Years passed after his former father-in-law’s death and Ivanov left Bulgaria, finished his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of South Florida, and, after a one-year postdoctoral position at Syracuse University, arrived at Texas A&M University for a postdoctoral fellowship in the mathematics department. Once at Texas A&M, Dr. Edward R. Dougherty, a distinguished professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, asked Ivanov if he would be interested in doing some work in cancer biology. Still asking himself, “Why did this happen to my father-in-law, and what can I do about it?” Ivonov began his journey with Dougherty. Dougherty, who also has a Ph.D. in mathematics, explained some of the problems that cancer investigators were working to solve. He asked Ivanov to write a brief paper involving the Probabilistic Boolean Network modeling of genomic regulation. As a result, Ivanov earned a postdoctoral position in the Training Program in Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, Nutrition, and Cancer led by Dr. Raymond J. Carroll—a distinguished professor in the statistics department at Texas A&M. For the next two and a half years, Ivanov began to learn more and more about biology and biological systems. It was during this time he was invited to work on a project with Dr. Robert Chapkin—a distinguished professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science. Through that collaborative effort, Ivanov was soon invited to consider a
position at the CVM. After giving a talk to the faculty of the interdisciplinary program in toxicology, Ivanov spoke with Dr. Glen Laine, former head of the veterinary physiology and pharmacology department. “Dr. Laine, who has a background in physics, understood the importance of the mathematics behind my presentation, and he offered me a position,” said Ivanov. “Totally by accident, or by fate, I ended up in the veterinary school, and then things started blossoming. I began collaborating with people from the college and other places. Now, in collaboration with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, we are taking part in a human trial about the potential benefit of lignan food supplementation in promoting colon health that may have direct application to cancer prevention. So, by coincidence, all of this is one big circle, supported by the foundation of mathematics.”
From Computers to Cancer
Engineers, according to Ivanov, have long examined mathematical models to help control complex systems like airplanes, cars, and computers. Following in the footsteps of other disciplines such as physics and chemistry, these advances underline the importance of the scientific approach: from experimental design, to developing a predictive mathematical model, validating the model with additional experiments, and ultimately controlling or influencing the system in question. “It is now time when biology begins to evolve into a mathematically founded discipline,” said Ivanov. “Every time you investigate areas like molecular biology and cancer, you begin to see complex systems. Gene (dis)regulation, for example, is a current focus in cancer research. In many aspects this process could be modeled after a computer’s architecture and logic. It [gene regulation] is a network. A computer is essentially what is known as a Turing machine, so things that are developed already by mathematicians and engineers—like logical gates and circuits—could be applied directly to biology, especially in cases where complex biological systems are faced with choices, and decisions are made by their regulatory elements.” From Ivanov’s perspective, without having a systems approach to biology there would be less progress, because scientists would be missing a great part of the picture. Where many would see a wall between the sciences, Ivanov sees opportunity. Mathematical modeling, for him, has gone beyond just a discipline. It is becoming that common foundation, that common language that brings disciplines together. “If we don’t speak a common language, we will never do anything together,” said Ivanov. “Engineers will keep working on circuits and computers, and biologists will just do what Darwin used to do, which is categorizing all the different observed cases and trying to comprehend and explain huge degrees of variation. This is impossible for a human brain to do without a proper foundation.”
From Theory to Application
Dr. Ivan Ivanov 16 •
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“The current understanding is that cancer is a molecular disease, which means it’s based on genes and their regulatory interactions within the cell. These genes are not alone, they communicate via different pathways with other genes
and external to the cell stimuli,” explained Ivanov. “In this way, they form a communication network. Focusing on an individual gene might not lead to the desired result, because if you hit that gene with a drug, the cancer cell often has the capability to re-route its regulatory activity and still reach a proliferative state that causes the cancer to metastasize.” “What is needed is to model the entire network or pathway of how the genes are communicating with each other,” said Ivanov. “Using these models, we can predict which genes are ‘turned on’ or highly expressed or ‘turned off’ or down regulated. You have to look beyond just the one gene and target the network if you want to control cancer.” Ivanov explains that using mathematical models in biology has led to the concept of master-slave gene regulatory networks where one “master” gene controls the activity of a large number of “slave” genes. The thought is that if you can control the masters or some of the intermediate genes, you actually control the entire system. But this can be a tricky and difficult task. “You have to discover them [the master genes], and usually they are well-hidden because they are not usually highly up or down regulated,” said Ivanov. “What is highly up or down regulated are the slave genes, because they are controlled by the masters. You have to figure out which one of the entire section is the master gene and then develop a model-based strategy to control it.” Ivanov is quick to admit that the potential of this approach is not going to immediately result in a cure for cancer, but it could lead to the ability to control the cancer and stop it from spreading in the body. In addition to his ongoing work in developing mathematical models for cancer biology, Ivanov also continues to collaborate with his colleagues in the food and nutrition sciences department. A recent study that used his mathematical models involved examining the microbiota that naturally live in the digestive tract and how they react with gut epithelial cells. The study found that babies fed a certain type of formula develop genetic signatures similar to babies born prematurely. “This is an exciting finding and is important because people know if a baby is premature, it has a much higher risk of developing some kind of immunological problem in the future; therefore, babies who are fed that particular type of formula might have that same risk,” said Ivanov. “Babies who are breastfed showed the same kind of gene expression variations we would expect in a normal population.” The research team determined that such gene expression signatures are strongly related to the composition of the gut microbiome, which suggests that there exists a certain epigenetic “programming” through the interactions of the nutrients, microbiota, and the epithelial cells in the digestive tract. “These interactions represent a very complex system,” said Ivanov. “We have so many microbes naturally living in our digestive system, and many different cell types. We had to develop a way to model that interaction. That’s very exciting.” Ivanov’s expertise in abstract mathematics and mathematical modeling of complex systems enables him to serve as a bridge among diverse scientific fields. He aids leading edge research by developing theoretical approaches to controlling complex systems, finding applied methods for controlling cancer initiation and progression, and understanding how
microbes in the digestive system influence human development from a very early stage of an infant’s life. Ivanov engages investigators through his work in the Center for Translational Environmental Health Research (CTEHR). The CTEHR, a collaboration among Texas A&M University, Baylor College of Medicine, and the University of Houston, has a mission to “improve human environmental health by integrating advances in basic, biomedical, and engineering research across translational boundaries from the laboratory to the clinic and to the community and back.” Here, Ivanov directs the CTEHR’s Quantitative Biology Core, which provides investigators with genomic, bioinformatics, and statistical and computational biological support services for their studies. This also includes helping to develop mathematical models.
Mentoring and Modeling
Even though Ivanov has played an integral role in bridging the gap between scientific disciplines, he says his greatest accomplishment is the success of the graduate students he mentors. “One of my best students, Jason Knight, just successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, and I’m very proud of him,” said Ivanov. “His work was focused on developing modelbased frameworks for classification, finding gene signatures for any kind of condition—not just cancer. In mentoring students like Jason, I can bring in colleagues from many different fields, experts, to create a unique and meaningful graduate experience.” In addition to his work with colleagues and mentoring graduate students, Ivanov is passionate about his work and the potential it has to impact cancer prevention and treatment, and perhaps other chronic conditions. “I am trying to find ways to reduce the complexity of these mathematical models of gene regulation,” said Ivanov. “We know that we can never model a thirty thousand gene network. It might be possible only with a supercomputer, but even then the computations that predict the dynamic behavior of the system would not be finished until after human beings are long gone. I’m trying to figure out how we can start with a large gene regulatory network model and reduce it to the most important twenty to fifty genes. Of course, we lose information, but maybe the larger regulatory system or a portion of it can still be controlled sufficiently well so that a new drug or other treatment can be developed to control cancer or some other chronic condition. In other words, the goal is to prevent or control a complex disease and keep it from progressing.” Consequently, Ivanov views his work through the lens of complex systems. When asked the best part of his job, Ivanov replied, “It’s getting my hands on a model and finding a way to simplify it, it’s watching students develop that understanding of the complexity of the world around them, and it’s learning from my colleagues. It’s all of the above. Those things, in a way, form a network that induces my curiosity. I learn from my students and I learn from my colleagues because they have different perspectives. Then I go into my own world and I rethink all of those interactions and what I learn from them. What I take from them shows me how I should proceed. It’s great.” Summer 2015 •
B IOMEDIC AL
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by Claire Ronner
A Successful Aggie Leader—Ryan Trantham MSCC President, Winner of the Brown-Rudder Outstanding Student Award
Ryan Trantham with Mr. Michael K. Young, president of Texas A&M University Ryan Trantham plans to become U.S. Surgeon General one day. In the meantime, he’s been interviewing for medical schools, tackling classes, and enjoying his last year as an undergraduate on Texas A&M’s campus—all while managing the Memorial Student Center’s (MSC) $7 million budget as the Memorial Student Center Council (MSCC) president. This work helped to earn him one of the three highest honors the university presents to graduating seniors: the Brown Foundation–Earl Rudder Memorial Outstanding Student Award. This prize, which includes a cash gift of $5,000, honors top students who exemplify the leadership and related traits of the late Gen. Earl Rudder, a World War II hero who served as president of Texas A&M from 1959 until his death in 1970. Trantham, a biomedical sciences major from Allen, Texas, with a minor in Spanish and another in business administration, is responsible for supervising the MSC’s 16 programming committees and 1,300 student leaders. He approves budgets, creates evaluations, considers the human resources processes of the MSC, and oversees a staff that supports MSC operations. In addition, Trantham partners with the student body president, the corps commander, and other 18 •
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student leaders on campus to advocate for student interests to administration. “It’s an exciting time to be involved with the MSC,” Trantham said. “We’re updating and rebranding our student programs to be as vibrant as the new building.” Trantham first heard about the MSCC when he participated in a study abroad trip to Italy for incoming freshmen honor students in the summer of 2011. The group spent two and a half weeks attending cultural and leadership seminars around the country and visiting cities, including Castiglion, Fiorentino, Tuscany, Rome, and Venice. Upperclassmen leaders accompanied the freshmen on the trip, which was organized jointly through the honors program and the MSC. They highly encouraged Trantham and his classmates to get involved in campus organizations. When he arrived in College Station, Trantham decided to volunteer with the Jordan Institute for International Awareness, an organization under the umbrella of the MSCC. According to its mission statement, the Jordan Institute “is dedicated to providing Texas A&M University and the surrounding community with international exposure through programming and travel abroad opportunities.” Trantham enjoyed the experience and continued to volunteer with the MSCC, serving as a vice chair his sophomore year and as the vice president of programs his junior year. He assumed his presidential duties during the 2014 Muster. “Ryan is one of the most intelligent, resourceful, and gracious students I have worked with over the past 20 years,” said Raye Leigh Stone, program coordinator with the MSC, who has worked with Trantham over the past few years. “He is passionate about helping others and is a unique student leader with proven leadership skills and remarkable integrity.” Trantham says his experiences interacting with individuals from all walks of life at Texas A&M have prepared him for the diverse group of people he’ll encounter as a primary care physician. “During the Italy trip, we talked about how to be a leader in a global society,” he said. “It’s definitely applicable to my work with the MSCC and as a pre-med major. In medical school, I’ll be interacting with people from different backgrounds, and I need to be culturally sensitive and aware of different religious beliefs and psychosocial behaviors that might affect the way an individual approaches medicine.” Although he initially intended to major in biomedical engineering en route to medical school, Trantham liked the flexibility that Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) offers when it comes to electives. He was able to take additional physiology classes because he was interested in the subject, and he studied histology, knowing it would better prepare him for medical school classwork. One particular strength of BIMS is that many classes require students to work on a One Health team
with others who have varied professional goals, Trantham noted. “My teammates have been pre-dental, pre-vet, prenursing, pre-PA (physician’s assistant)—a whole variety of specialties,” he said. “It’s good practice for the team environment of medicine in real life.” Trantham hopes to work on the policy side of healthcare in Texas, but he understands the value of research after spending time working on projects with professors in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). He briefly spent time working for Dr. Jane Welsh on a project studying virus-induced myelitis in mice, exploring how the myelitis correlated with multiple sclerosis in human patients. Trantham also worked in Dr. Geoffrey Kapler’s lab at the College of Medicine by monitoring a public wiki on gene annotation. “It’s helpful to learn what goes into these findings that affect how we approach medicine,” Trantham said. “I want to know how we can explain research findings at the bench to enact change in actual care.” Trantham says he ultimately wants to analyze policy and see how it affects patient access to care. “Many students come to Texas A&M with the goal to receive an education, gather some good memories and then find a quality job,” said James Herman, clinical professor at the CVM. “Some, like Ryan, are impacted by the Aggie Spirit and Core Values and become more deeply involved in the community that is Texas A&M. Ryan Trantham invested his years at Texas A&M in the service of his fellow students, enhancing others’ time here through his efforts.” Trantham was accepted to five Texas medical schools but he chose to attend Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He’s currently interested in pursuing a specialty that allows him to interact with patients on a daily basis, such as family practice or gastroenterology. The key to success for BIMS undergrads, Trantham says, is to make the most of their experience at Texas A&M—both in the classroom and out of it. Every day he writes down things that absolutely must get done on that day and he
doesn’t let himself drive home until everything is completed. For his own sanity, Trantham schedules time for studying, classes, and his social life. He knows that college is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy yourself and learn about who you are as a human being—and Texas A&M is the perfect place for that discovery. “There’s an emphasis at A&M on the learning that happens outside of the classroom,” he said. “The ‘second education’ spirit of our student body makes you want to get involved and stay involved. At Texas A&M we do an especially good job of understanding that the outside stuff teaches you something, too.” Ryan Trantham
Texas A&M Memorial Student Center
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B IOMEDIC AL
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by Caroline Neal
BIMS Aggies Riding Tall in the Saddle to my first trail riding camp the summer before third grade and then began taking English riding lessons.” Both students described that being on the Aggie Equestrian Team and in the BIMS program has been an important and incredibly rewarding experience in their college career thus far. “Horses have shaped my life for the better,” said Cook. “They’ve taught me not only discipline and sportsmanship but also dedication, trust, and passion.” With the knowledge and experiences gained from the equestrian team and in the BIMS program, they have big plans for the future. “As of now, I am planning on attending medical school,” said Cook. “I love medicine and I want to be able to help people in need, as well as work with and maybe even develop some of the cutting-edge technology that is available to medical professionals.” “During my next four years at Texas A&M, I plan to get as much out of the education and opportunities being given to me through the BIMS major and through the Aggie Equestrian team,” DeVoglaer said. “My future goals are to use what I learn in my time here to pursue a career in wildlife biology and to do my best to research and help ensure that our wild populations are sustained for generations to come.”
Kai DeVoglaer and Moose
Bailey Cook and Maggie
For Texas A&M University students Bailey Cook and Kai DeVoglaer, pursuing their love of science doesn’t mean giving up their passion for horses. Enrolled in the Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) program at Texas A&M, as well as being active members in the Aggie Equestrian Team, Cook and DeVoglaer are eager to use their skills and experiences to make important contributions in their futures. “I chose BIMS because I love science,” said Cook. “My mom is an equine veterinarian, and I have always been fascinated with the medical procedures and tools that she uses everyday; she has given me a love for not only horses but also medicine.” It comes as no surprise that Cook and DeVoglaer have such a profound interest in horses. Both have spent the majority of their lives interacting with them. “My dad worked for Colorado State University’s equine reproduction lab for a number of years while my mom was attending veterinary school at CSU,” said Cook. “They then started a business, Royal Vista Equine Inc., specializing in equine reproduction and embryo transfers, where they have since owned and raced primarily quarter horses. So, I grew up around the lab and spent all my time as a child there.” DeVoglaer has had a similar infatuation with horses. “When I was little, my dad would take me to a local barn on the weekends to watch the lessons and feed the horses treats,” said DeVoglaer. “I fell in love with horses and went 20 •
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by Micah J. Waltz
BIMS student presents cancer research in Brazil Darin Garrett hoping to make an impact in neurology “I was nervous at first, being the youngest there,” said Darin Garrett, a first-year undergraduate at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), of his experience presenting research at a major international conference. “I just didn’t want to leave with any regrets.” The conference, Cell Death Signaling in Cancer and the Immune System, was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in November 2014. At the meeting, Garrett presented a poster titled “Interfering with Glioblastoma Multiforme Metabolism to Complement the Therapeutic Effects of Temozolomide.” This poster detailed research he had done under the guidance of Dr. Martha K. Newell Rogers, a professor in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. He began working for Newell Rogers the summer after he enrolled in the Texas Bioscience Institute, a program that enables high school juniors and seniors to dual enroll at Temple College (a community college in Temple, Texas) and earn an associate degree. “He was very interested in doing some work with the lab,” Newell Rogers said. “As a high school student, he just threw himself into the lab.” Research in the lab focused on understanding the differences between tumor and regular cells. Garrett compared a new cancer drug with conventional treatments. He found that a novel combination chemotherapy using a sequence of three drugs worked better than current combination therapy. Garrett presented this research at the regional Intel science fair and won. “He showed a lot of initiative presenting his work,” Newell Rogers said. As one of the regional winners, Garrett earned a ticket to the international Intel Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles. While there, Garrett learned about several other opportunities to present Darin Garrett
his research, including a conference in Brazil. Upon his return, he approached Newell Rogers about this Keystone Symposia conference in Brazil. She encouraged Garrett to submit an abstract. The abstract was accepted, and Garrett was soon on his way to Brazil—by himself. “The culture shock hit me right away.” While still on the plane, Garrett said everyone was saying, “Saída,” which means exit in Portuguese. While on the bus to the conference, Garrett began to make friends. He chatted with graduate students and others from universities from around the United States. During his time in Brazil, he also had the opportunity to share meals and dialogue with researchers from many different renowned institutions. Although unable to speak the local language, Garrett spent a day exploring the Guarujá region of Sao Paulo. “The culture is more laid-back in Brazil,” Garrett noted. “Even the stray dogs are more laid-back.” Garret remembers one of the presenters at the conference stating, “What you observe depends on how you look at the problem.” He said this notion profoundly affected on him. Garret is now asking why things are happening, rather than focusing simply on what has occurred. “There has to be some deeper reason behind why some cells become cancerous,” he said. Since his return from Brazil, Garrett has continued to do research. Now, he is looking for previously undiscovered viruses in bird genomes with Dr. Ian Tizard, a distinguished professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at the CVM. “These viruses are integrated into the bird’s own genetic material,” Tizard said. “The viruses probably did this millions of years ago and have since evolved with the birds. The project thus requires extensive computer analysis of bird genomes, and we’re excited to have such a dedicated young researcher on the project.” Summer 2015 •
H OS P I TA L
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by Caroline Neal
A Second Chance at Barrel Racing Charley and Codybelle Without Dr. Leslie Easterwood and the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science’s Large Animal Hospital (LAH), the success story of one horse and a ten-year-old girl named Codybelle wouldn’t have happened. “Charley is one of those horses we run across every now and then that’s just different,” said Terry Smith of the horse, Charley. “He definitely has some quirks, but with those come extraordinary abilities that you don’t see too often.” Charley, who belonged to Smith’s brother-in-law at the time, badly injured his eye in the pasture one day. With the eye in terrible condition and a fear that vision might be lost, Smith and his brother loaded Charley up in the trailer and took him to a veterinarian in Seguin, Texas. “When we originally took him to the veterinarian in Seguin, he said they would need to take the eyeball out. It was in really bad condition and they didn’t think they could save it,” said Smith. “When I asked what other options we had, the veterinarian said to take him to Dr. Easterwood at Texas A&M.” Smith kept Charley at his place to try and treat the eye some more before taking him to the LAH. When Charley arrived to see Dr. Easterwood, Smith feared there was no hope in saving Charley’s eye or vision. “After Dr. Easterwood examined the eye, I asked her, ‘So what do you think?’ She responded, ‘Oh, I think we’re going to save this one,’” said Smith. “That’s when I knew we had made the right choice.” “When I first saw Charley, his pupil was constricted tightly and there were inflammatory proteins in the eye that might have kept the pupil from dilating if they had remained there,” said Easterwood, who is a clinical assistant professor at the college. “Despite appropriate diagnosis and treatment by the referring DVM from Seguin, his eye needed medication to get that fibrin out of the anterior chamber so that the pupil could dilate.” Easterwood performed the necessary procedure, and Charley’s eye responded well. Within 24 hours of his hospitalization, the pupil began to dilate. “We continued topical treatments for the original fungal infection that was present within the layers of his cornea, and he has had a complete recovery,” said Easterwood. “We’ve rechecked him several times and his eye has recovered very well!” Smith was nothing less than ecstatic that the procedure was so effective. “I know the hospital does tons of surgeries, but that was the best I had ever been associated with,” said Smith. “Without the help from Dr. Easterwood and her team, Charley wouldn’t be where he is today. It sure made me a believer.“
Before his eye injury, Charley had been trained for barrel racing by Kay Blanford, a friend of Smith’s, who has been at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) several times and is well known throughout the area. With a loss of vision in his eye, barrel racing would have been difficult for Charley, and he would never have met Codybelle. “I have this strange thing that I don’t like selling any of my horses, but I end up giving them away because I like the people,” said Smith. “This is essentially how he came into Codybelle’s hands.” Friends of Smith’s called one day explaining that one of their horses got hurt, and they were in need of another for their daughter, Codybelle, to ride and run barrels with. “This adorable little ten-year-old comes over and asks me, ‘Can we be partners?’ She was as cute as can be,” said Smith. “Of course I said yes, but I explained that I had never seen this horse run barrels in my life.” Smith, unsure if Charley was right for Codybelle, was hesitant to give him up. However, the two formed an immediate bond. “The very first time Codybelle rode him, Charley just absolutely fell in love with her,” said Smith. “She even took the saddle and reins off of him in the yard, and Charley just followed her around; everywhere Codybelle went, Charley went.” It wasn’t long before Codybelle and Charley were winning everything. Placing in the top three or four at almost every barrel racing competition, the two were a match made in heaven. “If Dr. Easterwood hadn’t saved his eye, this would be a completely different story, and Charley wouldn’t be the way he is today,” said Smith. “You can tell that Dr. Easterwood has a passion for what she does and loves these animals. That means everything in the world to us.” Terry Smith and Dr. Leslie Easterwood (right) with Charley
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Kneeling, from left: Fara Flados and Stephanie Coleman; Standing, from left: Kelsey Doty, Hannah Black, Dr. Sara Lawhon, Sadie Zapalac, Justin Box, Dr. Virginia Fajt, Greg Hoyt, Teresa Meier, Stephanie Grissom, and Katie Comerford
by Angela Clendenin
Serving the Texas agriculture industry From college to career… Texas is not only the largest of the 48 contiguous United States, but also the nation’s leading producer of beef. In 2012, the beef cattle industry accounted for just over half of the $20 billion in America’s agricultural cash receipts at $10.5 billion. Beef cattle production also accounted for $855 million in exports to foreign countries in the same year. Protecting and ensuring the health and welfare of beef cattle as part of the food supply and as an economic driver in Texas presents a challenge and an opportunity for the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), the only college of veterinary medicine in the state.
A Productive Tour Cognizant of their responsibility to educate the next generation of veterinary practitioners to serve the state of Texas and the animal agriculture industry, faculty members at the CVM began developing new and innovative ways to expose interested students to production veterinary medicine. One of the ongoing challenges in providing new experiences for students is the constraints of an already packed four-year 24 •
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curriculum. In 2008, Dr. Virgina Fajt, clinical associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology, and Dr. Dan Posey, director of student affairs and clinical associate professor in the Department of Large Animal medicine, found a solution that extended the reach of the CVM across Texas and helped form partnerships that directly influence the animal agriculture industry. That effort, the Food Animal Production Tour, a one-credit elective for first and second-year veterinary students, has been critical in demonstrating career options that students may not have known were available. “We recognized that there are populations of food animals that are close to the veterinary school the students get to see, like cow/calf and some stocker operations, a few small swine operations, and certainly harvest facilities,” said Fajt. “However, the majority of the large operations are in the Texas Panhandle. We are trying to look for ways to attract students who have an interest in food animal, but aren’t getting exposed to those types of production units in the local area.”
The elective tour takes 10–11 students with two faculty members to the Texas Panhandle and into Oklahoma. Over the course of the week-long trip, the group visits veterinary practices in the region that service the production industry. These veterinarians also host the students at their clients’ enterprises, demonstrating to the students the relationship between the producer and the producer’s veterinarian. “We have worked every year with practices focused on food animal,” said Fajt. “These are production-oriented practices. We have, in the past, showered into a swine facility and learned about biosecurity from their perspective. We try to visit a harvest facility of some kind. We have also had the opportunity to visit with the Texas Cattle Feeders Association in Amarillo, so the students get to see the organized industry side of things in addition to just the production side of things. Students get the full breadth of where veterinarians get involved and what food animal production looks like from the beginning to the end.” Recent data have shown that while there may not a shortage of food animal veterinarians, there will always be a need to develop the next generation of veterinarians who have the passion and skills for working in the production industry. Posey noted that the average age of veterinarians working in production medicine is between the mid-50s to early 60s, indicating a need for a whole new group of veterinarians to serve the food animal industry. However, one of the most interesting opportunities, from Posey’s perspective, is watching the progression of students from the classroom to the feedlot consultation. “It’s really interesting,” said Posey, “when you start looking at most of the veterinarians who are in the feedlot industry. They actually start out as mixed animal practitioners, and some of them still have those practices in addition to serving the large producers in their area. Their careers actually started here in the college and they end up in industry because of what they have learned in rural practice, and then they go on. So it often has to be a progression from practice “As a student interested in strictly food animal medicine, this tour gave me great insight into the vast array of opportunities I have as a clinician,” said Lauren Thompson, a veterinary student in the class of 2018. “I now have a more in-depth viewpoint on the many aspects of production agriculture that rely on a veterinarian. I think it is becoming more and more evident that producers want to hear from veterinarians, but we, as food animal practitioners, must keep in mind the management and economic restraints put on operations. There are a multitude of factors that play a role in allowing us to produce safe, wholesome, and affordable products for consumers, and each of these require managers, workers, and veterinarians to collaborate to achieve the overall goals for the entire production process.”
Texas is the nation’s leading producer of beef.
to production, because it takes a really deep skill set to be a feedlot veterinarian.” The Food Animal Production Tour elective is able to accommodate only 10–11 students due to cost and to avoid disrupting the operations and practices they visit. At the end of the elective, the students have to do a project that enables them to extend what they learned on the tour and to share it with the rest of their class of veterinary students. Posey and Fajt said these projects have taken the form of posters, presentations, and even workshops with guest speakers. The projects are not necessarily large, but they emphasize to the students on the tour the importance of sharing knowledge and providing insight into the production industry that others may not have. “We had one group of students who attended a presentation at a feedlot on low-stress handling of cattle,” said Posey. “Tom Noffsinger, a veterinarian in Nebraska, was presenting a seminar to feedlot employees. Our students turned around and had him come to Texas A&M to expose all the other students to his message, about how we need to handle cattle differently than the way most of us were trained.” Close to 132 students attended that seminar to watch him talk about how cattle think when moving in a structure, how to keep them in a chute, and how to handle them in a safe and stress-free way. In conjunction with this presentation, the students organized a beef quality assurance workshop for those that attended. Over the years, the number of students who have expressed interest in food animal medicine has been relatively low. Posey stated that out of a class of veterinary students at Texas A&M, only about 35–40 students will choose to go into mixed animal practice, with the majority of those being companion animal oriented practices versus food animal practices. The Food Animal Production Tour helps to show Summer 2015 •
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these students who are leaning toward mixed or food animal practice, that there are a number of career options available.
Growing Relationships In addition to being an important educational opportunity for students, the tour has become a significant part of the CVM’s outreach efforts to provide ongoing and improved support of the animal agricultural industry. These efforts have created valuable partnerships that reach across the state. “We continue to develop relationships across the entire state of Texas,” said Fajt. “Veterinary medicine covers the entire state of Texas. We may be some distance away from the large production facilities, but we want to address whatever their needs are; we want to know what they need. We continue to talk to each other about issues. We can’t do things in isolation, so we need to continue the conversations.” One of the partners that has contributed to the tour is Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA). Fajt and Posey acknowledged that many students, even those interested in food animal medicine, are not aware of this organization, or of how they support the production industry, the kind of education they provide for members, and the legislative agenda they advocate on behalf of the beef industry. “We actually take our students to TCFA so they see the things that TCFA does for the industry, like the welfare audits offered to their members,” said Posey. “It’s a really, really important part in the beef industry to understand that part of it, because most of our students have never been exposed to that side, the non-medical side, and it’s opening their eyes to the possibility of a job somewhere to serve the state of Texas.” The relationship between the CVM and the food production industry began over 100 years ago, as the CVM was born out of the Texas cattle industry. The Food Animal Production Tour helps maintain that relationship, while enriching the CVM curriculum. The faculty within the food animal section of the CVM recognize the need to include more information about production medicine into already established courses.
“On this tour, I was able to speak with the manager/owner/veterinarian directly involved in the [production] operation, and it helped put more of the pieces together with what I had already learned in school,” said Lori Horn, a veterinary student in the class of 2017. “The most meaningful part for me throughout the whole entire tour was the dedication everyone had for the welfare of their animals.” “We have faculty members who are both members of and serve on committees and boards of organizations like the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, and similar organizations,” said Dr. Meredyth Jones, assistant professor in food animal field service at the CVM. “Their meetings and conferences are centered around dealing with the most current issues that are impacting their industry. By having a presence at these meetings and serving on these committees, we are aware of those issues most important to the producer and to the beef industry as a whole. We can then bring this back to share with other faculty and our students, so they become more aware of what is happening in this field that could potentially impact them as practitioners.” Jones noted that producers have often viewed veterinarians as doctors who fix broken animals and who are concerned only with sick animals. By engaging producers and industry leaders, Jones said, the CVM can be a leader in changing that opinion and showing that veterinarians possess the skills to understand production animal health concerns and contribute to solutions in individual operations and the entire industry. “We, as a faculty, feel it’s very important not only to expose our students to the current trends in the food animal industry, but also to let industry know that we are interested
From left: Jason Banta (AgriLife Beef Extension), Amanda Lust, Vanessa Armbruster, Adelaide Green, and Dr. Darryl Kinnard 26 •
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From left: A technician from Cross Timbers, Dr. Arn Anderson, Melissa Appel, Rae Ann Hovanetz, Bonita Burnham, Jayton Bailey, Dr. Amy Swinburn (from TVMDL), Bradley Haas, Leslie Wagner, Bryan Weaver, Amanda Martinez, Byron Norton, Katie Lee, Dr. Dan Posey, Samantha Pohl, Dr. Greg Myers (from Cross Timbers), Dr. Virginia Fajt, and Matthew Stetson in more than just the individual animal,” said Jones. “We do understand that there is a population out there and an industry that goes along with that ‘sick cow’ that we’ve traditionally dealt with.” As part of growing the relationship with the food animal industry, the faculty within the CVM have committed to being leaders. In addition to attending industry meetings, Jones said it is important for the CVM to take a lead role in bringing information back to producers that impacts the way they do business and in disseminating information to students, producers, and ranchers. “While students are still here in college,” said Jones, “they tend to focus on their own veterinary world. It’s our job to keep reminding them of the end goal—that we are going to teach you a lot of anatomy, physiology, and treatment, but you need to understand the industry you are going to serve.” According to Jones, the Food Animal Production Tour has been a great step in building that understanding for students. It provides that opportunity to take students out of this geographic area and show them the industries that have the largest impact on the Texas economy. However, she also notes that students would benefit more from longer-term educational opportunities, and that is what the CVM is working to develop. “Other things we have looked at and are working on are more long-term educational experiences, where we would
be able to send students to other parts of the state to work in large-scale production facilities for a longer period of time,” said Jones. “An example would be sending a student to live in the Panhandle anywhere from a few weeks to perhaps the whole summer. This would allow them to experience the different areas of working within the production industry from merchandising to feeding to feed manufacturing to animal health. They could also interact with the veterinary diagnostic lab located in Amarillo and experience the different aspects of that operation.” Although the Food Animal Production Tour and these additional educational experiences have been valuable to both students and the industry, they come at a cost. The expense to provide students with these opportunities is not insignificant. The faculty work continuously to identify partners and funding sources from industry and the veterinary profession that are able to offer this type of programming. “We have some unique opportunities here,” said Jones. “We’ve got a lot of diversity in Texas and a lot of different agriculture groups that we can serve. We’re interested in finding ways to identify students who are most likely to serve those industries and get them involved as early as possible so they’re picking up really practical knowledge. We want them to have a real understanding of the industry to enhance what we believe is a really outstanding veterinary education.” Summer 2015 •
O N E H E A LT H
by Christina B. Sumners
Texas A&M professors collaborate to take up fight against emerging zoonotic disease A disease most people have never heard of, which has come to the Americas only in the last year, may soon become a major public health issue in the United States. Chikungunya (pronunciation: \chik-en-gun-ye) virus has been recognized as the cause of periodic epidemics in Africa and Asia since the 1950s and has now spread to all but six countries in the Americas, with over 1.4 million suspected cases since first arriving in the Caribbean in late 2013. There have been 11 cases thus far reported in Florida where the patient had not reported any recent travel. “We have local transmission in the United States,” said Dr. Rosina “Tammi” Krecek, a visiting professor and interim assistant dean of One Health at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “We also have imported transmission. An example of local transmission is ‘I didn’t leave home, a mosquito bit me, and Dr. Rosina “Tammi” Krecek and Dr. Christine Budke
• Summer 2015
I became infected.’ Imported transmission is ‘I flew to an endemic country, a mosquito bit me, and I became infected and returned with the infection.’” The virus is spread among humans by the bite of either of two species of mosquitoes: Aedes aegypti (“yellow fever mosquito”) and, less commonly, Aedes albopictus (“tiger mosquito”). When the mosquito bites an infected person and then subsequently bites a healthy individual, the virus can be transferred to that second person. Aedes aegypti can be found in the southeastern United States from Texas to South Carolina, while Aedes albopictus can be found as far north as New York City. “In some parts of the country, there’s really no risk of initiating transmission, but anywhere in the southeast, there is a risk, especially during the summer,” said Dr. Scott C. Weaver, director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immu-
nity at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, who collaborates with Krecek and others at Texas A&M on this disease. One worry the scientists have is that if the virus were to mutate to make it more easily spread by Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, a much larger percentage of the United States population could be affected. Health officials in the Caribbean are urging businesses and individuals to eliminate standing water and take other precautionary measures against mosquitoes. Unfortunately, these kinds of mosquitoes tend to thrive in urban areas, including inside buildings, so simply fumigating the outside areas with insecticide is unlikely to have much effect. Therefore, travelers must take it upon themselves to exercise reasonable precautions, including wearing mosquito repellent and sleeping in rooms with screened windows, air conditioning, or mosquito netting. As there is no treatment or vaccine for the chikungunya virus, preventing mosquito bites remains the only defense. Chikungunya virus comprises a clear example of One Health defined as the inextricable link between animal, human, and environmental health. Because animals and the environment are considered important factors in human disease, the best way to combat a virus like chikungunya is a One Health approach. Furthermore, humans are not the only ones who can become infected. “There is some evidence that animals—including non-human primates, small mammals, and birds—may act as reservoirs for the virus,” said Dr. Christine Budke, an associate professor at the CVM. “However, because it’s a new virus to this part of the world, there’s very little information on non-human reservoirs in the Americas.” “There is a risk that the virus could use non-human reservoirs in South and Central America, where there are plenty of wild primates, but we simply don’t know if those species are competent to serve as reservoir hosts,” Weaver said. “We also don’t know if the mosquitoes that are present in the forest habitats where those monkeys live would be competent to transmit in a monkey/mosquito cycle, like exists in Africa.” Other factors affecting the transmission of the virus may include movement of people and animals as well as changes in climate, but how that works is also largely unknown. “We don’t fully understand the role of the mosquito or the role of climate in the disease cycle,” Krecek said. “We don’t know how the mosquito is influenced by the environment. For example, what leads to a more, or less hospitable habitat for the vector?” As of January 1, 2015, chikungunya is a reportable disease, meaning doctors must tell the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of any cases. Although this move demonstrates the CDC’s concern about this virus, experts say it is unlikely to result in increased numbers of cases reported, as doctors already generally report any cases they see of this unusual virus. An issue is that this disease mimics other, more common diseases. Symptoms typically begin, three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, with a sudden high fever and joint pain, often followed by headaches, muscle pain, coughing, joint swelling, and/or a rash. Although the
disease is rarely life threatening and symptoms subside in many people within a few weeks, for some of those with the disease (estimated at up to 60 percent by some studies), the joint pain may last for months or even years and can be so debilitating they are unable to go about their normal lives. “I’ve received emails from a lot of people here in the United States who have become infected, travelers mostly,” Weaver said. “They’re a month or two out after their infection, and they’re still experiencing severe arthralgia and asking about experimental treatments, or anything else that they can do. Unfortunately, there’s not much other than our typical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that you would take for pain and swelling for people with chikungunya.”
Get the Facts How many Americans have been infected? Already more than 10,000 people in Puerto Rico and at least 11 in mainland Florida have been infected at home, plus thousands who were infected while travelling. How many Texans have been infected? Although a number of Texans returning from endemic areas have been diagnosed with chikungunya, so far there have been no cases of people being infected in the state. A mosquito in Harris County, Texas, that had initially tested positive for the virus in August, has since been shown not to be infected after all. Are mosquitoes the only way the virus can be transmitted? Very rarely, a mother who gives birth while infected with the disease can transfer the virus to her newborn, but this is thought to be the only way the virus can be transmitted without the involvement of mosquitoes. What work is currently being done to combat the virus? Scientists at Texas A&M University are collaborating with Dr. Scott Weaver and his team at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. They are working on a chikungunya vaccine, but any use of such a vaccine would likely be years away. Summer 2015 •
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One Health Learning Community members pose with faculty members from the antimicrobial resistance panel. (Photo by Katelyn Kuhl)
by Micah J. Waltz
One Health learning community provides high-impact educational opportunities “It has shown me that everything influences health,” said Katelyn Franck, an animal science major at Texas A&M University. She was talking about the One Health learning community, a non-credit course experience for first-year students majoring in any of a variety of fields. It introduces them to the concept of One Health: the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain sustainable optimal health for the ecosystem. The goal of the One Health learning community is to “allow students to have the opportunity to see One Health in action,” said Merrideth Holub, the One Health program coordinator. This community, which is for college freshmen and occasional sophomores at Texas A&M, is being offered for the third time. Since its inception, this community has hosted over 50 students. Lectures, field trips, and other 30 •
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activities show how humans, animals, and the environment are interdependent. Holub, who earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Texas A&M, was hired in part to develop educational programs in One Health, including the learning community. Students don’t pay or get academic credit for participating, but the course does appear on their transcripts. The learning experiences for the community cover a diverse array of topics illustrating One Health. These topics include antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic diseases, and architecture influencing health. Students visit the Clinical Learning Resource Center at the Texas A&M Health Science Center to see the birthing station and participate in taking vital signs. They also talk with the Veterinary Emergency Team about field preparation and deployment. “These
“These hands-on experiences help solidify relationships between the students. The students are inquisitive and engaged. It’s after normal class hours; they really want to be there.”
~ Dr. Christine Budke hands-on experiences help solidify relationships between the students,” said Dr. Christine Budke, associate professor in Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “The students are inquisitive and engaged. It’s after normal class hours; they really want to be there.” Students learn the importance of the environment through a variety of case studies. For example, in a neighborhood just east of downtown Austin, people can walk from their homes to destinations such as grocery stores, theaters, and shopping areas. Therefore, the design of the community helps to ensure residents incorporate exercise into their daily routines. The area is reclaimed from the site of the old Austin airport in a “sustainable, economically viable way,” said Dr. Xuemei Zhu, associate professor of architecture at Texas A&M. The first event for spring 2015 was a panel of experts discussing antimicrobial resistance. Students dressed professionally because they were interacting with members of the panel. Ashley Vargas, a member of the learning community, said, “It was a little intimidating, but it was really neat to be exposed to that right off the bat.” Franck, another community member, said, “It was really cool to see professors enthusiastic and so into their work.” Students from the learning community are challenged to “incorporate One Health throughout their education,” Holub said. Previous learning community members have said they plan to apply the principles of One Health in their careers. Melodie Raese, in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, hopes to become a military veterinarian and take the One Health initiative with her when she accepts a commission. Beyond the weekly meetings, community members are talking with one another and other students. Taylor states the students “have a willingness and excitement to talk to their cohort members and classmates about these issues outside the learning community.” Vargas said, “If I see a face I know then I’m like ‘Oh! Hi, I know you. You’re in my community.’ I can start conversations that way.” Holub publicizes the learning community to students in a variety of ways. For example, the entire Texas A&M firstyear class is emailed about it. In addition, Holub speaks to introductory classes in architecture, biomedical sciences, en-
vironmental sciences, and geosciences. Both Holub and Dr. Matthew Taylor, associate professor of animal science and the faculty advisor for the One Health learning community, talk about the community in animal science courses. The learning community is still growing and developing. Eventually, it may be offered to multiple groups of freshmen and sophomores. In addition, a more intense experience may be offered to juniors and seniors, including those previously in the learning community. “It would be a wonderful way to reconnect with the students and find out where they have gone,” Taylor said. Students indicate that being in the One Health learning community has transformed their perspective about their career plans. For example, Franck said she has learned there are other ways to use a veterinary medicine degree besides clinical work. “Being in the learning community has really shown me different options that are out there.”
Learning community students practice taking blood pressure. Summer 2015 •
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The Biosciences Semester study abroad group in Berlin, Germany
by Michelle Yeoman
The Texas A&M Biosciences Semester Germany study abroad program Four biomedical sciences students offer their perspectives on their semester abroad in Bonn, Germany. This program, which includes students from the biomedical sciences and bioengineering departments, prepares students to live and work in a global community. “A global citizen is someone who experiences different cultures and gains a respect for the differences that make us human,” said Kristin Vosbeck, coordinator for the Biosci32 •
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ences Study Abroad program, who experienced a cultural transformation when she herself studied abroad. “All of these experiences changed me as a person,” she continued. “With each place I visited, I grew as a person and flourished into a global citizen.” One of the main goals of this program is to help students become Weltbürgers, citizens of the world. “Study abroad is a transformative experience that cannot be simulated,” said Dr. Jeremy S. Wasser, program director. “My students (over 400 now since 2004) have all returned from their time abroad changed in positive and fundamentally important ways. They see themselves, other people, and their chosen careers in a different, more expansive light.”
Students’ perspectives Study, Travel, Explore, Repeat by Cameron Holmes
Unconventional Thinking in Germany by Amy Westwick
I’m a native-born Texan and have experienced only this culture—marked by friendly people, large trucks, and delicious barbeque. My goals in joining the study abroad program were to broaden my perspective, experience different cultures, and learn what it means to be a global citizen. I’ve learned how quickly the culture changes from one place to another, and in a brief period of time, I’ve been able to meet people of various backgrounds and encounter a wide variety of food, customs, and architecture. For example, a friend and I visited Hamburg, a major port city in Germany. Our first night there, we ate at a restaurant where a simple dinner turned into a more than four-hour conversation with the owners and their son. I often forget how enormous the world is as I settle into my daily routine, but I try to seek experiences that break that routine and remind me of my experiences as a global citizen. With each of the nine countries and 15 cities I have visited, I learned more about the world and about myself. For more information about Cameron’s experience please see http://tx.ag/holmes.
Not often can an undergraduate boast of helping to design a transformative medical device, but I did just that as a student in this program. Enmodes is a German company that designs medical devices. It invited biosciences students to participate in designing a connector for left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), which aid failing hearts. Although LVADs have existed since the mid-1990s, the surgery to connect them to living tissue is not optimized. Suturing the feed-in tube, or graft, to the aorta can take hours, depending on the surgeon’s skill. The goal of the Texas A&M team and Enmodes was to design a mechanical connector that can fuse the LVAD’s outflow graft onto the aorta with minimal dependence on a surgeon—in effect, bypassing the need for sutures. The LVAD design project was a unique challenge for us because there was no “right answer.” Generally, undergraduate design assignments have rigid requirements and quantifiably correct solutions, but this real-world project didn’t. There were guidelines but no answer key. And to add to the chaos, the device is structurally complex! Fortunately, everyone was encouraged to think outside the norms; there was no such thing as a “bad idea” during our brainstorming. Enmodes had not previously worked with an undergraduate team, but it welcomed our ideas. For more information about Amy’s experience please see http:// tx.ag/westwick.
Home in a Foreign Land by Ana Segura Studying abroad is one of the most exciting and lifechanging experiences one can have as an undergraduate. Through this incredible program, I’ve met a wonderful host family who welcomed me and made me feel at home. One special day with my host family was my host dad’s birthday. I was invited to dine with them at the China-shiff Restaurant, where we were served delicious Chinese cuisine. The restaurant is a boat on the Rhine, which I thought was really unique. I also enjoy taking part in our large family dinners, at which we discuss our day and random topics; waking up to the sound of a cello playing downstairs; and hearing kids playing in their rooms. The atmosphere in my host family’s house is the complete opposite from mine—I could probably hear a pin drop in my house. Although the change is drastic, I enjoy the company. The relationship between host families and students is mutually beneficial, with students learning how to function in a foreign environment while host families learn to accommodate an international student and have a chance to practice their English. For more information about Ana’s experience please see http:// tx.ag/segura. The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences offers a number of study abroad experiences for both biomedical sciences and DVM students. To find out more, please visit http://vetmed.tamu.edu/international-programs.
Expanding Horizons by Yi Gu I decided to study abroad because I’ve always wanted to travel to Europe, and I thought this was a great opportunity to see more of the world besides America and China. I was born in China and moved to the United States when I was 9 years old. When I first moved here, I didn’t really connect with Western culture. Even now, I still feel a little disconnected from American culture and a little limited in my viewpoint. Because many of my friends have similar backgrounds, I worried that I was limiting my perspective. I was also excited about this study abroad program because I would have a chance to learn about veterinary medicine in another country. I was able to visit an equine surgery clinic in Germany and speak with one of the surgeons. I learned that, unlike American veterinary students, European veterinary students begin professional schooling after high school. One reason I chose to study abroad is to discover how independent I can be. Through this study abroad program, I’ve gained a better understanding of myself and how much I can achieve on my own. For more information about Yi’s experience please see http://tx.ag/ guyeoman.
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by Angela Clendenin
Veterinary practice workshop provides students with practical experience
Participants practice interview skills at the workshop. Practicing veterinary medicine after graduating can be one of the most exciting times for veterinary students, and it can also be one of the most difficult. For four years, veterinary students spend most of their time focused on developing important clinical competencies needed to be a successful practitioner. However, that does not leave much time and opportunity to develop the skills needed to be successful in business, leaving many veterinary graduates to navigate the business side of veterinary medicine on their own. The faculty and staff of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) have recognized this need. They have diligently worked to provide guidance and support, incorporating additional skills such as leadership, communication, and multicultural awareness into the four-year curriculum to make the transition from classroom to clinic easier for graduates.
A Pathway for Success
The challenge for the CVM is determining how to incorporate this additional material into an already full curriculum and effectively assess the outcomes. One answer is in the growing number of student organizations and special interest clubs within the CVM, which provide opportunities outside the curriculum to develop these critical business skills. Recognizing this need, the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA) launched a professional development workshop in 2014. Workshop participants provided such excellent reviews that the program was held for a second year in February 2015. Organizer of the event, third-year veterinary student Sarah Hawkins, said, “These skills are not necessarily in 34 •
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our current curriculum, and I know that many students during the fourth year are overwhelmed with the thought of job searching, negotiating contracts, becoming part of a team, and being looked to for answers. We wanted to offer an event that would allow students to learn how to be better applicants and give them confidence in these types of nonclinical skills.” The half-day workshop, attended by 90 students from the CVM, included sessions covering interview skills with practice sessions, legislative topics, employment negotiation, finding the perfect job, and practice ownership. In addition, participants could attend clinical sessions on feline friendly practices, survival tactics for food animal veterinarians, emergency medicine, and basic exotic medicine. Funding for the event came through sponsorship by the ALL for Students Fund (a joint effort between the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Student AVMA, AVMA Professional Liability and Trust, and the AVMA Group Health & Life Insurance), which provides $8500 in direct financial support for local SCAVMA organizations for use on professional development activities. In addition to ALL for Students, additional sponsorship was received from Zoetis and the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation.
As in the previous year, session facilitators included members of the CVM faculty. Dr. Glennon Mays, clinical associate professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (VLCS), participated in the mock interview sessions. This is the second year for Mays to help with this workshop. “It’s important for veterinary students to have this type of experience,” Mays said, “because it affords them exactly that—experience. I believe programs like this help our students to continually become better prepared for interacting with people—not just clients, but also potential employers, professional colleagues, and local community members.” In his first year participating in this event, Dr. James Barr, assistant professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS), led a session on emergency medicine. The session did not cover treatment, diagnostics, and other clinical skills; it focused on the reality of managing stressful emergency situations. “The everyday challenges of practice are much different than the medical challenges,” said Barr. “When we train veterinarians, we equip them with the means to handle all of the medical challenges, but the management and financial realities are just as important in successful practice.” Barr’s session focused on how veterinarians discuss treatment options and prognosis with clients in an emotionally charged situation. “The establishment of rapport with a client and having frank discussions are skills that young vet-
“Having these sessions as part of this event was important to provide students with practice and balanced feedback for the real thing,” said Eckman. “It is amazing to see how impactful this program is to the students and how appreciative they are about our participation. They were so receptive to our feedback and advice. This was my first year to participate, and I am in awe of how well run this event is by the students who put in so much effort to provide this workshop.”
Expanding to Meet a Growing Need
Sarah Hawkins, third-year veterinary student and event organizer erinarians feel they need before graduation. Practice during this workshop provides valuable experiences.” Participating for a second year, Dr. Brandon Dominguez, clinical assistant professor in VLCS, agreed that the workshop is a good way to address concerns students have about the business side of veterinary medicine. “As a mentor, I feel that it is good to see the concerns students have about being successful and the care they take to learn all they can to improve themselves,” said Dominguez. “This is a great opportunity for students to learn some of the business aspects of veterinary medicine and to interact with private practitioners who have learned how to pair veterinary medicine with good business practices for a successful career.” Due to strong interest and the need to provide individualized feedback, multiple sessions on interview skills and mock interviews were included. Dr. Stacy Eckman, clinical associate professor in VSCS, participated in the interview sessions.
Although the workshop focused on skill sets for postgraduation, students from every class participated and found something valuable to take away from the experience. “This seminar gave me an opportunity to sit down one-onone with a veterinarian and practice my job interview skills,” said Stephanie Cheshier, a third-year veterinary student. “I also received feedback on my resume as well as having the opportunity to listen to lectures from outside business consultants about what employers are looking for in potential employees. I learned how to improve my active listening skills and how to manage private practice finances—all of which, in part, contribute to being a successful practitioner.” Cheshier also noted that many of the veterinary students will become practice owners, and although students take a practice management class as part of their educational experience at the CVM, it is one small part of the curriculum. To fully understand the business side of veterinary medicine is something that could take years. As the student leader tasked with developing this program, Hawkins notes that interest in the workshop continues to grow and there is increasing opportunity for other student organizations within the CVM to contribute by hosting sessions relevant to their specific interest. “The SCAVMA Executive Council, as well as a few students from other organizations were involved,” said Hawkins. “In this, its second year, we had 90 attendees—all from Texas A&M. With the growing interest in developing these additional skill sets, we plan to open the workshop up to veterinary students from other universities next year.”
Some of the approximately 90 students attending the workshop Summer 2015 •
In their own words—VOICE Leaders Angela Harrington and Erin Black, DVM students at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), are leaders in the organization Veterinary Students as One In Culture and Ethnicity (VOICE). They were both elected to their current posts (see sidebars) at the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) Symposium in March 2015. What follows is an edited conversation about the group, their roles in it, and what they hope to accomplish. Angela Harrington (left) and Erin Black (right)
Angela Harrington ’17 Role in VOICE in 2015–2016: National VOICE president and CVM local chapter VOICE president Hometown: Norman, Oklahoma Undergraduate school: Carleton College in Minnesota Plan post-veterinary school: To go into small animal practice and/or possibly apply for an internship or residency in Emergency/Critical Care
What is VOICE? VOICE is a student-run organization that focuses on different ways of raising awareness about culture and ethnic36 •
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ity, and we have different events that are free and open to veterinary students, just to bring some education and, as I said, awareness. VOICE started at Cornell in the early 2000s and the various schools opened their own chapters. I became involved because I realized that the veterinary profession was lacking diversity, so I found organizations here that were working to improve that. How do we improve inclusiveness in the veterinary profession? I think practicing veterinarians actually have the most influence on who is applying to veterinary school because students are inspired by working with veterinarians or going to veterinarians when they were little. So just branching out to families and having that inclusive environment and being open to everyone, that’s what’s going to change the field the most. We, the students, are already here, so we’re not going to be able to change the enrollment statistics in our class. All we can do here is raise our awareness, and that’s something that I want all the students to do. As professionals, we need to have that level of awareness and be open to everyone in our communities, because we are part of businesses and we are serving the public and we need to be leaders in that aspect. I think having that cultural competency awareness is just necessary, not only to be a successful veterinarian, but also to be a successful human being. What attracted you to become a veterinarian? My mother is a veterinarian, so I grew up in the profession. So, that’s how I’ve always known, but I know that’s not how it is for everyone. How can we advance VOICE? I think one of the things we need to do with VOICE is bring in more alumni, because after you graduate, there are not a lot of organizations. One of the biggest issues with VOICE is students don’t realize that they are already automatically members. They don’t have to pay dues. They feel like, “I can’t come to the events,” or they don’t know that it exists, even. So that’s one of the biggest things we’re trying to do at Texas A&M and on the national level—just to say who we are, what we do, and get people involved and to come to our events and raise that awareness. Where do you get support for VOICE? Zoetis does a lot of funding for us, so students don’t have to pay dues. And the dean’s office, they help fund us too. We don’t want to forget to thank them. Also, Dr. Kenita Rogers and Dr. Dan Posey have been very supportive of VOICE and the LGBT group. The ideas they come up with are so exciting, and they love coming to our events and meetings, so it’s nice to have that support.
Are we advancing our mission to recruit diverse populations of students? I went to the Iverson Bell symposium in Washington, D.C., this year, and it was amazing to hear about all the steps that Texas A&M is actually taking, compared to other veterinary schools, to improve the diversity problem, even just with how they do the multiple mini-interview format now and how they try to be aware of all the issues that can come up and focus on making things better for all students. And a lot of schools haven’t even done that. A lot of schools don’t have things like VOICE, and having the diversity-cultural competencies that we have in our curriculum. So, Texas A&M is doing a lot in that respect, and it has a lot to do with the work of Dr. Rogers and Dean Eleanor Green.
Erin Black ’17 Role in VOICE in 2015–2016: SAVMA liaison for the national SAVMA organization Hometown: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Undergraduate school: Texas A&M University in College Station Plan post-veterinary school: To either go into the public health sector, such as CDC or USDA-APHIS, or pursue emergency medicine
Erin’s Perspective What do we need to do to advance diversity initiatives? At the SAVMA Symposium, we had a forum, and it focused on seeing what everybody thought that diversity meant, and a lot of people had different perceptions of what it was. They thought it was only about ethnicity, not disabilities or different backgrounds, and so first of all we need education on what diversity encompasses, and then go from there. How many VOICE chapters are there in the U.S.? The chapter at Texas A&M started about three years ago now, and there are only about 16 active chapters at the other veterinary schools, although some are in the process of starting new VOICE chapters. They just need help to do so, so the national organization is trying to help them. What are some of your VOICE goals? Coming from the African-American background, I know the percentage of us in veterinary school is not representative of the country’s population, so I would like to improve that and also allow people who often don’t feel included in things to feel included. I think that’s important at our school and also nationally, where we’re trying to push all of the different student-run organizations across the veterinary schools, keep everybody on track, and see what everybody is doing and where we are struggling and how we can get better. This year we are focusing on getting diversity pushed to the forefront of issues within the veterinary profession, and we will be working closely with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) and also with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). We’re really excited about that. I’ve already made contacts with Dr.
Andrew Maccabe of AAVMC. He’s willing to help, along with the AVMA. What more can we do as individuals to increase diversity? If you come from a diverse cultural background, it is so important to be able to affect the younger generation. It’s not starting at the undergraduate level, or even necessarily the high school level, but elementary and middle school level. If you’re Asian, or black, or have a disability, or whatever, and the kids see you and think, “Oh wow, they can be veterinarians! That didn’t hinder them, so it shouldn’t hinder me.” We just need to reach out and have a bigger influence on our communities. What influenced you to become a veterinarian, and how do you hope to inspire others? I grew up going to the Boys & Girls Club of Collin County as a young child, and they always brought in speakers. They never brought in actual veterinarians, but they brought in lots of people who dealt with animals, and I’ve always loved animals, so the most logical step was to become a veterinarian. From there, I realized the lack of diversity and how it is not as common for African-Americans to go to veterinary school, so I have found veterinarians who mentored me, some with backgrounds similar to mine, some with other backgrounds. I do see the importance of reaching out, especially to the younger kids, and we have started doing that. We went to Neal Elementary in Bryan, which—although we did not realize it before we visited—is mostly underrepresented minorities, and a lot of them were just like, “Whoa, we’ve never had anything like this before!” You could just see the excitement. We talked to them about rabies and animals—not necessarily trying to get them all to become veterinarians, but just to expose them to some of these ideas. What are some of the steps we can take to increase awareness? Right now, Rachel Caesar, who works with the USDA APHIS Animal Care, is in the midst of forming a professional group, and hopefully we’ll help build something for people to continue on and have affiliations and be working on the issues, where you can easily find something to join and stay in touch, have speakers, and find more information. I hope to be able to influence—or at least connect with people who have more influence—making people more aware. I think the first steps are awareness and education. From there, we could increase awareness of barriers, known or unforeseen, in our application process. I know Dr. Kenita Rogers and I and Ashton Richardson have worked together to figure out some of the barriers in admissions at Texas A&M. We’re reaching out to A&M University Prairie View to try to prepare them for Texas A&M’s rigorous application process and things that always slipped through the cracks. That’s where a lot of my efforts are focused right now. Is support key to your organization’s success? Some schools might be held back by the dean’s office not being supportive, but we have a huge supportive team. I think Texas A&M, at the veterinary college especially, is very much aware of the lack of diversity, and I feel like we are trying to take steps that way. It’s a long hard road, and right now we are not representative of our diverse population, but we have efforts in place as we attempt to improve that. Join! Join VOICE! Summer 2015 •
Veterinary students and SAVMA delegates Mike McEntire (left) and Caitlin Conner (right)
by Dr. Megan Palsa
Student leaders ready to host national event Pride in new facilities, educational opportunities provide inspiration for task ahead Veterinary students Mike McEntire and Caitlin Conner are the senior and junior Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) delegates, respectively, to the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA). Due to their dedication and willingness to tackle a challenge, Texas A&M will be the host campus of the 2017 SAVMA National Symposium. Pride in their campus and the new education building played a huge role in their pursuit. They can’t wait to extend a “Howdy” to the 1,200 students likely to attend the conference. The successful bid began with Ricci Karkula CVM ’15. Karkula was the president of the national SAVMA organization and on the board of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). When she was the junior delegate, she approached Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine, about hosting the SAVMA National Symposium. Although Green and other members of the administration were in favor of hosting, they wanted to wait 38 •
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until the opening of our new Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex. “Dr. Green approached me at the 2014 symposium and said they wanted us to put in a bid for 2017,” McEntire said. “They wanted us to host the symposium in the new building. The new building was actually a big part of our bid and a big part of why we got it. We’re really excited about it.” McEntire and Conner will be in charge of event planning, but they’ll have a lot of help. “We will oversee most of it,” Conner said. “There are general manager positions, a treasurer, and a fundraising chair…they’ll be doing most of the planning work, organizing everything, but we will oversee it.” Knowing Texas A&M will be the host this far in advance has its advantages. Both CVM students are on the SAVMA Symposium Committee and are working with those who planned the last symposium, which should make for a smooth transition. The 2016 symposium will be in Iowa, and they’ll be involved with planning that event as well.
Opening CVM’s doors At this point in the planning process, McEntire and Conner are meeting with professors and studying the new building plans. This will be a departure from previous symposia that were not held on the host school’s campus. “When you go to symposium, you want to experience the school, but most of the time you don’t get to,” McEntire noted, adding that, with the exception of the occasional campus-hosted wet lab, events are usually held in a convention center or large hotel. The size and layout of the new facilities will lend themselves, however, to multiple activities being held right in the heart of Texas A&M. Describing the finished space and how it may be utilized for the symposium, McEntire said that upon entering the main front building, there will be four large lecture halls that seat 250 people each. “Collapsible walls can be removed to combine two of the rooms into one large exhibit hall which will give us the room we need to accommodate everyone.” “The other two will be our equine lectures and our small animal lectures,” McEntire said. “There are also three smaller classrooms that seat about 100 students each. They’ll probably be our food animal and wildlife exotics lecture locations. One of them will host the House of Delegates.”
Experience Texas The second building will have offices and multiple smaller classrooms. Small lectures for special-team medicine groups on topics such as crisis management and research opportunities will likely be held there. The third building is the lab building, where up to nine wet labs can be hosted simultaneously. The size of the group will necessitate alternate locations for some of the larger gatherings, such as the gala and social events. They’re considering the Memorial Student Center or even the Zone at Kyle Field. For the welcoming Friday night event, McEntire and Conner are working on a gather-
ing they’ll call “Experience Texas.” “That’s going to be out in the Thomas G. Hildebrand, DVM ‘56 Equine Complex,” Conner said. “We’re hoping to contact all the local barbecue vendors to have a ‘BBQ Taste-Off.’ Everybody will get a good taste of Texas barbecue—you don’t get that everywhere!” There may also be a mechanical bull; another activity probably not offered at other host campuses. Green suggested the symposium include a formation performance by A&M’s mounted cavalry unit, and the Aggie Wranglers country-and-western dance team may perform and teach lessons “so that people from New York can learn how to two-step!” Conner said. “That’s probably the thing I’m most looking forward to.”
Aggie pride Although the two veterinary students have a lot of work ahead of them as the 2017 SAVMA National Symposium approaches, they’re ready and motivated to share the CVM, Texas A&M, and College Station with the country. “I’m so proud of this school, and I’m so proud of my place in this school,” Conner said. “I’m just excited for people from other universities to be able to come here and experience that, the amazing new facilities we’re going to have, and the world-class education that we can provide.”
About the delegates McEntire is from Sandy, Utah, and came to veterinary school because of his long-time love of animals. He’s worked at zoos and aquariums, and likes the idea of combining medicine with conservation. “Working with the veterinarians at the zoos and aquariums has been really rewarding,” McEntire said. He’d like to continue in that field after graduation. Conner is from Forney, Texas, east of Dallas. She has always wanted to be a veterinarian and grew up around animals. Her grandmother owned horses and was a chairperson for DFW Lab Rescue, a major Labrador retriever rescue group where her passion originated.
Mike McEntire and Caitlin Conner present the bid to host the 2017 SAVMA National Symposium. Summer 2015 •
Students present their posters in the academic mall during the 2015 Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Symposium.
by L.M. Rey, Jessica Scarfuto, & Christina B. Sumners
Graduate Student & Postdoctoral Research Highlights from the 2015 Symposium The 2015 Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Research Symposium at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), which was held on January 29, 2015, featured 60 platform and poster presentations. Seven graduate students won awards for these presentations.
Miranda Bertram Miranda Bertram, a graduate student researcher and veterinarian in Dr. Sarah Hamer’s lab in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, received third place in the Graduate Student Platform awards for her research studying the presence of the parasite Eimeria in the AransasWood Buffalo population of whooping cranes. She aims to establish a baseline of what parasites are present in this population, and ultimately, what effect these could be having on individual birds and on population growth within the species. 40 •
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The Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane is the last wild, migratory flock of this species. Although there are a number of these birds being studied in captive and reintroduced programs, Bertram’s research for the symposium focuses specifically on the wild population, which has about 300 individuals. “No one has really looked at disease in this one wild population,” she said. “We’re trying to lay a groundwork and say ‘what parasites are in this population,’ to then say which of these could be having an effect on population growth.” Eimeria is a small protozoan parasite that is known to cause coccidiosis, which is a severe disease found in captive populations that often leads to death in young cranes. Because Bertram’s focus is on the wild population, she faces some unique constraints. “We want to minimize disturbance so we collect fecal samples,” she said. “Unfortunately that means we don’t have a great way of saying which fecal sample
Miranda Bertram and Dr. Robert Burghardt
came from which bird.” To account for this Bertram used number of fecal samples as a baseline instead of number of birds. She found that about 25 percent of samples have the coccidian, which is fairly high. “So it’s tough to say what effect the disease is having, but the parasite is present in the population,” she said. Management of the spread of coccidiosis in whooping cranes is still a few years away, but Bertram aims for this to be the end result of increased studies on wild populations. “The key will be finding those areas where much transmission occurs and then applying some sort of intervention there to stop the transmission cycle,” she said. “These parasites are transmitted by a fecal-oral rout, so you could look at managements to sort of clean up that environment.” The whooping crane, which is endangered and nearly went extinct in the 1940s, still has a long way to go in its recovery. By establishing a baseline in the wild population Bertram aims to tie into the work going on in captive and reintroduced populations. “The hope is that down the road we can start asking those questions of ‘What is the effect?’ and ultimately, ‘What can we do about it?’” Bertram would like to thank her funding sources: the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Region 2, Division of Migratory Birds; Avian Health and Disease Program; and American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Wild Animal Health Fund for their generous contributions to her research. She has also been funded by a CVM Graduate Merit Fellowship. She conducts her fieldwork each winter when the birds migrate to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Erika Downey Erika Downey, a Ph.D. candidate, won second place in the graduate student poster awards for her research showing bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) vaccination is effective and that there is a genetic component to whether or not cattle become sick from the virus when exposed. “For the most part, my research is intertwined,” Downey said. “The idea behind the fellowship was to study things like zoonotic diseases. I don’t study a specific disease, but the
genetics we can use to improve animal health.” Dr. Loren Skow, Downey’s mentor in the CVM, is a professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences whose research focuses on the comparative genomics of mammals. Downey’s research, which was related to her U.S. Department of Agriculture National Needs Fellowship through the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center for Excellence at Texas A&M, began with a question about vaccination: Does BVDV vaccination affect cattle response to exposure to the virus? To answer this question, she and Dr. Andy Herring, of the Department of Animal Science, used a group of bos indicus, or zebu, crossbred cattle that were never vaccinated for BVDV, but each received the same exposure to the virus. Half the cattle became ill and the other half stayed healthy. “We think that’s really valuable because the environment is the same—they didn’t receive a vaccination, but they all received the same pathogen load,” Downey said. “We know bos indicus cattle don’t get sick as often, so we were wanting to see if we could find a genetic model or a genetic variant that then is associated with this ability to prevent illness, or to a variant that can then decrease disease susceptibility.” Erika Downey and Dr. Robert Burghardt
In examining the cattle’s genetics, Downey found a variation that may make cattle more—or less—immune to the virus, but is under further investigation.The next step in her research is to see if there’s a relationship between genetics and effective vaccination. The potential results of her research are the ability to genetically select healthier cattle or cattle that will respond better to BVDV vaccination.
Erik Hedrick Erik Hedrick tied for third place for his poster at the symposium, and his research might help treat rhabdomyosarcoma—the most common soft tissue sarcoma in children. Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), a skeletal muscle-derived tumor, affects multiple tissues and the survival rate from some forms of RMS is less than 10 percent. Current treatments Summer 2015 •
Erik Hedrick and Dr. Robert Burghardt
include surgeries, radiotherapies, and drug combinations that target both normal and cancerous cells. Hedrick’s new treatment specifically targets rhabdomyosarcoma cells and has little effect on normal muscle cells. These treatments are promising nontoxic alternatives for chemotherapy or in conjunction with existing chemotherapy treatments. Hedrick’s research, carried out at the CVM under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Safe of the Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP), began in July 2014 in collaboration with Drs. Corrine Linardic and Lisa Crose, both of Duke University Medical Center. The research team used panobinostat, a drug in clinical trials for several types of cancer, and vorinostat (SAHA), an FDA approved drug for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Both drugs are classified as Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi). Both drugs inhibited RMS cell growth and studies with panobinostat demonstrated in vivo inhibition of RMS tumors. The mechanisms of these effects involved induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS), suggesting that other ROS inducers may also be effective. “We would also like to test other classes of HDACi to see if this is a general HDACi phenomemnon or if panobinostat and vorinostat are unique,” Hedrick said. “It is one of my favorite and exciting projects, and one I am certainly most proud of.”
David Morris David Morris, a graduate student researcher in Dr. Gonzalo Rivera’s lab in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at the CVM, received second place in the Graduate Student Platform awards for his research studying the effects of Nck-dependent actin remodeling on breast cancer cell metastasis. He aims to look at how cell structure enables breast cancer invasion and metastasis, and ultimately, how to disrupt this process. Cancer cell metastasis, or the cancer’s ability to move away from the primary tumor to other parts of the body, 42 •
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is influenced by the cells’ ability to move and respond to their surroundings. In his project, Morris focused on Nck1, a protein heavily involved in the process of cytoskeleton remodeling and studied its effect on cancer cell metastasis. “What we did is knock it down so it’s not expressed as much and we were observing what the cells did without it,” he said. “Essentially what we found is when we reduced the amount of this protein, the cells weren’t as invasive.” To test the influence of Nck1 silencing on breast cancer cells, Morris looked at 3-D cell cultures and compared Nck1silenced cancer cells to normal cancer cells. “Normal cells would just stay in a sphere and proliferate,” he said. “Invasive cells, if you give them the right surroundings, take off and form these protrusions.” He found that invasion was not as pronounced in cells with lower amounts of the Nck1 protein, as this lack decreases their ability to invade the surrounding matrix. Translated into a broader context, the long-term goal is to better understand how Nck1 regulates the cell’s ability to move and how this might be helpful in identifying targets for therapies. “Our hope is that this protein is one of those David Morris and Dr. Robert Burghardt
fundamental proteins that has a role in multiple aspects [of metastasis],” said Morris of the impact these findings might have on cancer research. “So if this pans out, the goal down the road will be to say, ‘Okay, can we target this? And then what happens if we target it? Are we able to slow down this process?’”
Dr. Canaan Whitfield-Cargile Research for Dr. Canaan Whitfield-Cargile’s presentation, which won first place for a graduate student platform, involved studying the effects of a novel bacterial metabolite on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) enteropathy. Whitfield, who earned his DVM degree from University of Georgia and completed his residency training in large animal surgery at Texas A&M University, focuses on possible avenues for decreasing the severity of gastrointestinal dam-
Dr. Canaan Whitfield-Cargile and Dr. Robert Burghardt
lege of Agriculture and Life Sciences; and Dr. Arul Jayaraman, a professor in the College of Engineering, showed that co-administration of NSAIDs and a novel metabolite derived from the microbes in the GI tract can decrease the severity of NSAID-induced gastrointestinal damage in mice. Whitfield will repeat studies to determine how and under what circumstances indole provides its beneficial effects.
Poster winners Caitlin Curry, whose mentor is Dr. James Derr, won first place for her poster, and more information about her research may be found on page 86 of the previous edition (Winter 2014) of this magazine. In addition, Yasushi Minamoto, whose mentor is Dr. Jan Suchodolski, tied for third place for his poster.
Dr. Doris A. Taylor delivers keynote
age caused by NSAIDs, which include drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin. Bacteria, including those that reside in the gastrointestinal tract, produce metabolites from the breakdown of various nutrients in their environment. Some of these metabolites can have beneficial effects on the host (person or animal in which these microbes live). NSAID enteropathy is an intestinal disease that can result from short- or long-term use of drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin—drugs that can damage gastrointestinal tracts in both people and animals. “Because of the high frequency of use of these types of medications, the numbers of people and animals affected are actually alarmingly high,” Whitfield said. “In fact, NSAIDs account for the number one reported drug-related complications in veterinary medicine and 100,000 people are hospitalized each year with 16,500 deaths due to the effects of NSAIDs on the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract.” About 17 million people take NSAIDs daily in the US. Although similar statistics are not available for animals, NSAIDs are second to anthelmintics (dewormers) and parasiticides among medications dispensed by veterinarians. NSAIDs are the third most common toxin for dogs and the fifth for cats, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. Previously healthy people’s risk of intestinal damage increased between 55 to 75 percent when they took NSAIDs, according to Lim and Yang’s study published in 2012 in Clinical Endoscopy. Emerging diagnostic modalities have brought attention to NSAID-induced enteropathy. NSAIDs impact the entire GI system. Ulceration often occurs in the GI tract without symptoms because of analgesic effect of NSAIDs, which can mask abdominal symptoms. Whitfield’s research, under the mentorship of Dr. Noah Cohen, a professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences; Dr. Robert Alaniz, a professor in the College of Medicine; Dr. Robb Chapkin, a professor in the Col-
The symposium concluded with a banquet at the Thomas G. Hildebrand, DVM ’56, Equine Complex, during which Dr. Doris A. Taylor gave a keynote presentation titled “Building Solutions for Cardiovascular Disease.” In addition to being the director of Regenerative Medicine Research at the Texas Heart Institute (THI), Taylor is the director of the Center for Cell and Organ Biotechnology, a collaboration between THI and the CVM, and an adjunct professor in VTPP at the CVM. “We would like to thank everyone for participating in the 2015 CVM Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Research Symposium,” said Dr. Robert Burghardt, associate dean for research and graduate studies at the CVM. “We are proud of the exceptional work that is being done here in the college.” Dr. Doris A. Taylor and Dr. Eleanor M. Green
Summer 2015 •
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Medium ground finch (Geospiza fortis) on Daphne Major island, Galápagos (Photo by B.R. Grant)
by Christina B. Sumners
Andersson reveals evolution of Darwin’s finches through genome sequencing Inhabiting the Galápagos archipelago and Cocos Island, Darwin’s finches are an iconic model for studies in speciation and evolution. Dr. Leif Andersson of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and Uppsala University in Sweden led an international team of scientists to shed new light on the evolutionary history of these birds. They have identified a gene that explains the variation in beak shape within and among species. The study was published in the journal Nature on Feb. 11, 2015—the day before the 206th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. Andersson is a Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study Faculty Fellow—one of the nationally and internationally renowned scholars invited by the Institute to come to the campus for extended stays to teach, conduct research, and interact with Texas A&M students and faculty. The finches on the Galápagos Islands were a major influence on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection. The birds’ common ancestor arrived on the islands about two million years ago. Since then the finches have evolved into 15 recognized species differing in body size, beak shape, song, and feeding behavior. Changes in the size and shape of the beak have enabled different species to 44 •
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utilize different food resources such as insects, seeds, nectar, and even blood from iguanas. “We have now sequenced 120 birds including all known species of Darwin’s finches, as well as two closely related species in order to study their evolutionary history,” said Sangeet Lamichhaney, a Ph.D. student at Uppsala University and shared first author on the paper. “Multiple individuals of each species were analyzed and for some species birds from up to six different islands were sampled to study variation within and between islands.” The detailed genetic analysis revealed to researchers that the 15 recognized species should be reclassified to 18. The study also showed that gene flow between species has played a prominent role throughout the evolutionary history of Darwin’s finches. The scientists could trace clear signs of hybridization between a warbler finch and the common ancestor of tree and ground finches that must have occurred about a million years ago. “During our field work on the Galápagos we have observed many examples of hybridization between species of Darwin’s finches, but the long-term evolutionary effects of these hybridizations have been unknown,” said Peter and
The finches on the Galápagos Islands were a major influence on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection. The birds’ common ancestor arrived on the Galápagos about two million years ago, and since that time the finches have evolved into 15 recognized species differing in body size, beak shape, song, and feeding behavior.
Dr. Leif Andersson (Photo by Lars Wallin) Rosemary Grant of Princeton University, who are the world’s experts on the biology of Darwin’s finches after working in the Galápagos for 40 years. “Now we can safely conclude that interspecies hybridization has played a critical role in the evolution of the finches and has contributed to maintaining their genetic diversity,” Peter Grant continued. The most striking phenotypic diversity among Darwin’s finches is the variation in the size and shape of their beaks. Charles Darwin was struck by this diversity and documented his comparsions with familiar European birds such as hawfinchs, chaffinchs, and warblers in his book, “The Voyage of The Beagle.” Andersson’s team investigated the genetic basis for variation in beak shape by comparing two species with blunt beaks and two species with pointed beaks. Fifteen regions of the genome stood out as being very different in this contrast, and as many as six of these contained genes that previously have been associated with craniofacial and/ or beak development. One of those genes, called ALX1, was shown to be especially important. The variation in this gene is strongly correlated with the shape of the bird’s beak. “The most thrilling and significant finding was that genetic variation in the ALX1 gene is associated with variation in beak shape not only between species of Darwin’s finches but also among individuals of one of them, the medium ground finch,” Andersson said. The ALX1 gene codes for a transcription factor (a type of protein) that has a crucial role for normal craniofacial development in vertebrates, including humans. Genetic mutations that inactivate ALX1 are known to cause severe birth defects in people. “This is a very exciting discovery for us since we have previously shown that beak shape in the medium ground finch
has undergone a rapid evolution in response to environmental changes,” Rosemary Grant said. “Now we know that hybridization mixes the different variants of an important gene, ALX1.” The ALX1 variants present in the finches have mild effects on ALX1 function, but not the sort of devastating effects that cause human disorders. The ALX1 polymorphism in finches is adaptive. It has contributed to diversifying beak shapes among Darwin’s finches, thereby, expanding utilization of food resources on the Galápagos. “This is an interesting example where mild mutations in a gene that is critical for normal development leads to phenotypic evolution,” Andersson said. “I would not be surprised if it turns out that mutations with minor or minute effects on ALX1 function or expression contribute to the bewildering facial diversity among humans.”
Large ground finch (Geospiza magnirostris) on Daphne Major island, Galápagos (Photo by K.T. Grant) Summer 2015 •
FAC U LT Y/S TA FF
Dr. Jane Welsh
by Jaleesia Amos
Welsh shares wisdom at the WISE symposium Dr. Jane Welsh, professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences and assistant dean for graduate studies, represented the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) as an invited speaker at the 23rd Annual Susan M. Arseven ’75 Conference for Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) in February 2015. The WISE organization was founded by Texas A&M University chemistry graduate students who wished to encourage women to complete their graduate studies. The goals of this organization are to help female graduate students connect with each other and overcome the obstacles in science and engineering fields that are unique to women. This year’s symposium proves that WISE continues to uphold its purpose: attendees described the symposium as “inspiring” and “energizing.” Conference speakers included Dr. Alveda Williams from the Dow Chemical Company and Dr. Anne Schauer-Gimenez, co-founder of Mango Materials. Each session crackled with a different energy as speakers 46 •
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provided inspiration and wisdom while discussing their journeys pursuing a science career. Laughter was often heard during Welsh’s talk “From the Minority to the Majority: The Changing Landscape of Biomedical Sciences,” in which she discussed how growing numbers of women in biosciences have advanced the field for both men and women. “This session’s going to get rude, okay,” Welsh said, intriguing her audience. “So if anybody’s readily shocked, now would be a good time to leave.” The audience met her smile with nervous laughter, and nobody left.
“Remember your history” “Do your own thing” has been the ethos of Welsh’s life and one of the mantras she asked her audience to remember. Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Welsh’s family came from Newcastle, England, before relocating to London and then to Tunbridge Wells, a town in Kent. During the session, she described her childhood in London in the 1960s,
a city still recovering from the German bombings of World War II. Due to the United Kingdom’s evolving educational system, Welsh experienced both the old and new educational infrastructure. According to the older tripartite educational organization, students were required to take an exam, called the 11-plus exam. Scores on this test determined the type of secondary school children would attend. After Jane took the exam, her headmistress told her parents, “Jane might be able to work in a shop, but then nothing more than that.” Welsh’s passion for school blossomed after being exposed to science, particularly evolution and dinosaurs. At Tonbridge Technical High School, Welsh showed her rebellious personality. Shocked by her peers’ ignorance on the “facts of life,” Welsh started holding sex education lessons under a tree, where she began her career as an educator. Her family then moved to London, where Welsh began attending Eltham Green Comprehensive, a school under the new ideology that combined students of different test rankings. Welsh became the only girl at the school taking A-level physics and chemistry classes. “All the other girls were not going the science route,” she said. Welsh then transferred to Queen’s College in London, which was the first academic institution for women in Great Britain. Queen’s College changed her perspective, forcing her to revere the past lives that made her career in science feasible. “Remember your history,” Welsh advised. “Don’t forget that people have had difficult lives to make your life easier.” After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in microbiology, Welsh worked for Dr. Alan Ebringer. “[My first year] nothing worked. I set fire to the lab and buggered up a really expensive piece of machinery,” she said. Welsh overcame these setbacks and graduated with her doctorate from London University. She then interviewed for a postdoctoral position with Professor R.R.A. Coombs at Cambridge University where her husband, Dr. Colin Young, was working. She first met Young while a student at London University. Welsh later worked for Dr. Tony Nash in the Pathology Department with Professor Wildy as the head. Wildy was a man who, she said, “treated everyone the same…When the Queen and her husband came to visit the lab, he introduced everyone by their nickname.” Welsh’s experience with Professor Wildy taught her to “look at the head of the organization [because] they set the tone.” Welsh and Young joined the CVM in 1989; now Welsh chairs the Texas A&M Institute for Neuroscience and researches multiple sclerosis. Interacting with students and the multiple sclerosis patients continues to drive her when things get tough.
Advancing science through diversity “I think the more diverse we are, the better, because we have such different backgrounds and ways of thinking,” Welsh said. “When you’re presented with a certain problem, you see it from a different perspective and come up with ideas that other people might not. [We] come up with a better plan.”
Being an international professor provides Welsh with a perspective on the benefits of increasing gender diversity— which not only improves the lives of both men and woman, but also advances the study of science. She has seen the changes that evolving ideologies on gender diversity in the workplace have brought to society. Welsh also discussed university partner placement policies, which recognize the significance of couples with dual careers. “People tend to marry people they meet in graduate school,” she said. Both partners must be content with their positions in order for the university to retain them. The economic climate has also increased the number of women in science, as it has become necessary for both partners to work. Gender diversity has made the work environment amicable to families by allowing male and female professors to “stop the tenure clock” due to childbirth and other life events. International and ethnic diversity among tenured faculty rejuvenates academia by allowing professors to contribute ideas on how to educate students. “I went through a different educational system,” Welsh said. “A blending of the [educational systems] is very good.” Nationality diversity also leads to an exclusive set of issues international professors must face. Since Dr. Welsh moved to Texas A&M after completing her doctorate and postdoctoral positions, she has had to reconstruct her network. “On the other hand, when you come from a different country, people always want to know about that country,” she said. “People are always asking me about the queen, and so I have to keep up with what’s going on with the royal family.” Going through graduate school in the United Kingdom has made Welsh passionate about graduate studies. “When I was a graduate student, I was treated like a junior faculty member,” she said. “I try to promote that type of climate here and get people together to talk to each other, because I think that’s so important in science [as] the lab works as a team.”
Upholding the legacy of WISE WISE organizers chose an invigorating panel of scientists and engineers to speak with Texas A&M graduate students. At the end of the symposium, an open panel was held with all the speakers. When a conference participant asked how to deal with negative experiences, panelists advised turning it into a learning experience. Although a career path in science and engineering is much easier for current female students than a generation past, women are still confronted with unique obstacles that make outreach programs like WISE necessary. “The only thing lacking is that [WISE] should be promoted more,” said Megha Bijalwan, a Ph.D. student in the CVM. Dr. Welsh’s formula for a successful career involves “doing service” for something that you’re passionate about outside of teaching and research: “I decided to focus on graduate students and the best thing that happened is that in 2012 I received the Texas A&M University’s Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award for Graduate Mentoring, and I was so proud.” Summer 2015 •
R ESE A RC H
by Roberto Molar Candanosa
Working to Create Healthier Environments No one knows for sure, but experts estimate there are between a couple of thousand and a couple of tens of thousands of commodity chemicals in the environment. These chemicals satisfy global markets. They are mass produced to manufacture a myriad of end-use products, such as clothes, laundry detergents, and plastics. Commodity chemicals are ubiquitous in the environment, and exposures to some of them have clear effects on human health. “The vast majority of the chemicals that we encounter in our daily life have not been tested for safety,” said Dr. Ivan Rusyn, professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS) in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and member of the Texas A&M University Interdisciplinary Faculty of Toxicology. Moreover, until recently even chemicals already tested for possible adverse health effects have been studied only from a chemical perspective. That means studies generally have left out the factor of human genetic variability. But, these chemicals in the environment only function in the context of genetics, said Dr. David W. Threadgill, a professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at the CVM, a professor and the holder of the Tom and Jean McMullin Chair of Genetics in the Department of Molecular & Cellular
Medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, the director of the Texas A&M Institute for Genome Sciences and Society, and a recently named University Distinguished Professor. In light of possible health risks due to commodity chemicals and genetic variability, Rusyn and Threadgill collaborate to study how genetics influence health effects related to exposures to single chemicals and other mixtures, like pesticides or petroleum-based substances. “By understanding how the genetics and the environment are interacting, we should have a much better understanding of what actually drives disease processes,” Threadgill said. Rusyn and Threadgill also work with VIBS professor Dr. Weihsueh A. Chiu, a quantitative risk scientist and former branch chief at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Chiu integrates experimental data to provide quantitative risk assessments that can be then used for better regulatory decision making. “This partnership between understanding genetics and understanding toxicology is really how the science should be done today—it’s interdisciplinary,” Rusyn said. “The data that [Threadgill] and my lab generate are exactly what [Chiu] needs to inform regulators much better about human health risks and environmental exposures.”
Living in the Chemical World
Dr. Ivan Rusyn
Rusyn, a toxicologist by training, focuses on people’s variability in their response to chemicals. That means studying not only how exposures to chemicals in the environment can lead to human disease, but also how different individuals might respond differently when exposed to the same chemicals. Rusyn says understanding variability is a key question in regulatory decision making, especially given the lack of experimental evidence. “When you’re trying to protect humans from exposure to a chemical,” he said, “you need to be protecting not just an average person, but also some of the most vulnerable or genetically susceptible.” Rusyn explained that the EPA establishes safe exposure levels to chemicals. Typically, these are the highest exposures to which a person could be exposed during their lifetime without adverse health effects. The EPA establishes these parameters using laboratory animals that have been exposed to various doses of a particular chemical. However, this approach uses default assumptions to account for individual variability. “What [Threadgill and I] are trying to do in the lab is provide scientific information for each chemical,” Rusyn said. “Then what [Chiu] is trying to do is create new ways in which these data can be incorporated into quantitative risk assessment for regulatory decision making.” 48 •
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To shed light on how human variability affects adverse responses to chemicals in the environment, Rusyn, formerly at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, collaborated with scientists from the National Institutes of Health and geneticists at UNC–Chapel Hill. They conducted the first large-scale experiment to test effects of environmental exposures on cells from a wide range of human populations. In the study, they tried to capture as much genetic diversity as exists in human population. Over 1,000 individuals provided cell lines representing populations from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and the United States. Then, these cells were exposed to 180 chemicals. “We wanted to really combine these two dimensions: genetic variability and chemical variability,” Rusyn said. One of the practical applications of this study was that it showed for the first time on such a large scale the limitations of using default assumptions in assessing chemicals’ effects on human health. The study also showed that more experiments could be done to provide chemical-specific information in the nexus between chemistry, genetics, and the environment. “Right now we are regulated by ‘one size fits all,’” Rusyn said. However, some chemicals might need stricter regulations, while for other chemicals the same protection could be provided with less regulation. “We cannot eliminate chemicals,” he said. “This is important so we can help the chemical industry, regulators, and the public to live in the chemical world.”
Considering Genetic Variability Severity and frequency of health effects due to chemicals in the environment vary from individual to individual. Numerous factors, including heritable traits, life stage, age, health history, nutrition, and psychosocial stress, affect human variability. And different responses to the environment result from the interactions of these and other factors. So, how can scientists begin to understand the connection between human variability and adverse health effects due to chemical exposures? Threadgill said the first step is to validate the models he has been developing in collaboration with Rusyn, so that the scientific community begins using them. These models will allow scientists to better understand how mammalian systems are programmed. Ultimately, this will determine how genetic networks drive or prevent disease processes, how genetic variations alter these networks, and the role of the environment in altering them. Threadgill, a geneticist by training, creates animal- and cell-based models to understand how human genetic variability intersects with disease processes influenced by chemicals in the environment. His models are then exposed to chemicals to determine toxicity. “Considering genetic variability as a new parameter, we can clearly show—and have shown—that the variability in response to toxicants or drugs is far greater than what studies with a lack of a genetics angle have shown.” His studies with Rusyn on the toxicological effects of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, have shown that individuals respond differently to it. Even at recommended daily dosing, Threadgill explained, some individuals develop clinical indicators of potential liver damage due to their genotype.
Dr. David W. Threadgill
Translating Data Results from basic discoveries in mouse genetics and experiments in toxicology must be translated to humans before they affect regulation and public health protection. To do that, Chiu uses data generated in Rusyn and Threadgill’s labs to estimate possible adverse health effects under various scenarios. Chiu specializes in dose response assessment, quantitative statistical modeling, and pharmacokinetics, the science of a chemical’s fate as it enters and eventually leaves the organism. The body breaks down chemicals into different compounds. Analyzing those breakdowns is important, Chiu explained, because those breakdown products might be more toxic than the chemicals to which an individual was originally exposed. To study that, Chiu uses physiologically based pharmacokinetic modeling, a mathematical model that allows him to understand how blood carries chemicals throughout different tissues in the body. Computer-based models allow Chiu to learn what happens to chemicals inside the body. And to study what chemicals are doing to cells in the body, animal-based and cell-based experiments like those by Rusyn and Threadgill are helpful. These experiments together help to measure different biomedical parameters, like whether an organ is being damaged by certain chemical exposures. “I don’t actually do the experiments, but I take those data and I analyze them mathematically to see what the increase in severity of effects is as you increase exposure,” Chiu said. For example, Chiu and Rusyn have studied chemicals like trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent commonly used in the electronics industry and detectable in over a Summer 2015 •
R ESE A RC H
Spotlight Dr. Weihsueh A. Chiu
thousand superfund and hazardous waste sites across the United States. They also have studied perchloroethylene, the main chemical used for dry cleaning. In their studies, they concluded that trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, both ubiquitous environmental pollutants, are likely to be carcinogenic to humans. Threadgill, who reached similar conclusions about trichloroethylene in collaboration with Rusyn, followed up with another study to analyze why some individuals seem to be uniquely sensitive to the chemical. That information, Threadgill said, can ultimately be used to help inform other human studies and regulators.
Better Decision Making Communicating those health-related risks to the public and decision-makers isn’t always an easy task. One of the big challenges, Chiu said, is incorporating new data and modern animal- and cell-based techniques. Rusyn agreed. Because it is impossible to test thousands of chemicals on all human variations, he said non-traditional techniques are the only way to understand human variation and safety of chemicals. Therefore, Chiu’s role is critical, since regulators typically struggle to digest this kind of information. “I take those [data] into computational analysis and translate them into something that a regulator or someone in a state agency can use to help inform their decisions,” he said. “It’s translating data into something that actually will have an impact in society at large to improve protection and public health.” Another challenge, according to Threadgill, is to encourage the public and decision-makers to appreciate the power of modern techniques in genomics to improve health. “It’s a challenge in a day and age when there seems to be a lot of public resistance to scientific education and really making decisions on scientific facts rather than beliefs or presumptions,” he said. 50 •
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Further, regulatory decision making faces an urgent need for modernization. United States laws classify chemicals as drugs, pesticides, and commodity chemicals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the EPA have strict regulations for the first two classifications. But commodity chemicals—which make up most of the chemicals in the environment—are a different story. Those chemicals are regulated under the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. “Chemicals are chemicals in all of those three categories,” Rusyn said. “Because of how laws are written, the regulatory environments are completely different, even though it could be the same structure if it’s a drug, a pesticide, or something that will be used in a plastic.” Under TSCA, chemical companies aren’t required to provide detailed information sets about a chemical’s safety. That is, unless the EPA requires them to do so, in which case the EPA needs to explain why chemical companies need to provide more data. Thus, the burden of proof is on the regulators. On the contrary, other laws, like the European Union’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, enacted in 2006, require manufacturers to prove their chemicals safe for humans and the environment. In other words, the burden of proof is on the chemical company. Rusyn, Threadgill, and Chiu’s research aims to contribute to a nationwide collaboration to modernize United States regulations. The EPA and the National Institutes of Health alone screen thousands of chemicals. In this massive effort, Rusyn, Threadgill, and Chiu’s research on human variability will be crucial. “We are the only ones trying to fill this very critical step in the regulatory process, which is understanding or defining how much variability there is in individuals,” Rusyn said.
Collaborating across Disciplines With this interdisciplinary research in toxicology, genetics, and quantitative health risk assessment, Threadgill believes Texas A&M is poised to become an international player in the fields of toxicology and risk assessment. Rusyn, who also emphasizes their collaboration’s importance, said they rely on each other to tackle this highly complex problem in public health protection and environmental health. “That’s the concept of the One Health initiative, where you really build a team across different spaces to then solve complex problems,” Rusyn said. Chiu said working across disciplines is an opportunity to make a different kind of impact on public policy. “From academia you can make an impact by providing new methods and data that can be disseminated and used more widely.” He also highlighted the potential for training future practitioners. “Whether it is in the EPA or a state agency, in industry, or in consulting— it’s important to give people a firm foundation not only on fundamental research, but also on how to translate that into actionable information.” Rusyn, Threadgill, and Chiu recently joined the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences as High-Profile Faculty Hires supported by the President’s Senior Hires Initiative and the Chancellor’s Research Initiative. To learn more about them, visit http://vetmed.tamu.edu/about-us/crih.
COMING SOON…A CELEBRATION OF
A Visual Link to Human & Veterinary Medicine
CVM historical archive photo
by Kelly Tucker, Christina B. Sumners, and Dr. Megan Palsa Images are an important component of the human experience. What we see—or can’t see—can shape how we interpret and explain the world around us. For human and veterinary medicine, images and the information they provide can be the difference between a medical mystery and a diagnosis with a treatment plan. At the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), modern medical imaging technology and techniques have transformed how researchers and doctors view and interpret cells and tissues. The CVM has assembled an unparalleled collection of advanced imaging technologies that are being used in basic, clinical, and translational research as well as diagnostic imaging and therapeutic intervention. The high resolution images generated from these technologies range from single molecules at the nanometer-size scale to whole organ functional imaging on the meter scale. These images, in turn, have advanced research and treatment of a number of diseases and conditions, especially cancer.
Microscopy started with two pieces of glass in a Dutch spectacle-maker’s workshop in the 1590s. Hans Jansen and his son, Zacharias, experimented with lenses in a tube and found their invention created a magnified image of any object viewed through it. The invention, a compound microscope, was used by Robert Hooke to view and draw various life specimens for his book, “Micrographia,” published in 1665. Inspired by Hooke’s drawings and observations, Anton van Leeuwenhoek, later known as the father of Microbiology, improved the microscope to pursue his own studies. His improvements allowed him to be the first person to see and 52 •
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write about single-celled organisms, blood vessels, bacteria, and other microscopic biological entities. Innovation in microscopy technology stalled for two centuries. Then, in the 1850s, Carl Zeiss, an engineer who manufactured microscopes, began tweaking the lenses. He employed glass specialist Otto Schott to improve the lens quality and Ernst Abbe to refine the manufacturing process. The collaboration of the three men produced the modern compound microscope found in labs and classrooms around the world today. Other forms of viewing patients and their biological samples were developed later. X-rays were discovered in 1895, and contrast agents followed a decade later. By the 1950s, radiation technology had been sufficiently developed for the initial uses of nuclear medicine to begin. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques became available in the 1970s. Over time, these innovative technologies have revolutionized how physicians and researchers are able to study, diagnose, and treat conditions. In the modern era, all of these imaging modalities and more have found a place at the CVM and continue to improve medical science and research.
Image Analysis Laboratory
The Image Analysis Laboratory (IAL) began as an electron microscope (EM) facility in 1987. EM continues to be an important tool for research and diagnostics. This aspect of the laboratory is managed by Dr. Ross Payne, associate research scientist in veterinary pathobiology, who provides a wide range of EM techniques, data analysis, and training for CVM scientists. The first confocal microscope joined the ranks in 1990. “Around this time, there was a renaissance in light microscopy technology due to the integration of laser light sources,
Dr. Robert Burghardt & Dr. Roula Mouneimne
computers, and sensitive camera systems with microscopes along, with the new field of biophotonics,” said Dr. Robert Burghardt, director of the IAL and associate dean for research and graduate studies. The development of biophotonics, a set of optical techniques for studying biological samples, gave the lab even more ways to examine cells. “This technology, when it was integrated, allowed us to ask new questions and look into cells in a noninvasive way to eavesdrop on a variety of different functions, cell behaviors, and basic homeostatic mechanisms,” said Burghardt. “We could ask questions about how cells respond to an incredible number of environmental factors, such as exposure to hormones, growth factors, mechanical forces, and environmental chemicals.” With these advancements in the available technology, Burghardt realized having someone with an engineering background would bring much needed scientific knowledge and mathematics expertise and a fresh viewpoint to IAL. He hired Dr. Roula Mouneimne, associate director of IAL, in 1990 to bring those attributes to the lab. “He had a vision,” Mouneimne said of Burghardt hiring her. “In 1990, not many people were looking to integrate engineering principles in biological applications.” “With her expertise as an engineer, she can help investigators from many disciplines to integrate the acquisition and processing of the data with high-end computational methods and statistical approaches,” Burghardt said. IAL grew further. The lab now supports the Texas A&M System as an Advanced Imaging Core Facility for the Center for Translational Environmental Health Research (CTEHR). Funding for the CTEHR is provided by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS). In this role, the core supports the center’s goal to “improve human environmental health by integrating advances in basic, biomedical, and engineering research across translational boundaries from the laboratory to the clinic and to the community
and back.” In addition, IAL acts as a core for the Center for Organ and Cell Biotechnology, a joint effort of the Texas Heart Institute (THI) and the CVM that seeks to create and eventually market disruptive cell and organ biotechnologies and molecular tools for the next generation of medicine. “We also provide services to a large cross-section of the campus,” said Burghardt. “Our lab has been a core facility for interdisciplinary grants. There have been people working on reproductive biology, toxicology, biochemistry, neuroscience, chemical biology, cell signaling, and cancer biology. We support scientists with experimental design, data collection, and analysis that lead to new knowledge in their particular disciplines. Acting in so many capacities requires the laboratory to have adapted to the many interdisciplinary needs of the groups that utilize it. The lab’s imaging capabilities have grown from electron microscopy to noninvasive live-cell imaging tools that can visualize processes at the tissue and cell level to the single molecule level. The wide range of microscopic technologies acquired by the lab are available to researchers allowing them visualize cells in greater detail and investigate new research areas. “Over the last 30 years, we have been able to ask more complex questions,” said Burghardt. “Neuroscientists, reproductive biologists, toxicologists, and scientists from other disciplines of modern biology are realizing that functional
IAL Imaging Technologies •
Confocal microscopy provides three-dimensional imaging of molecules and their quantitation within cells with high resolution.
Multiphoton microscopy provides deeper live cell and tissue imaging than confocal microscopy with minimal interference of cell function.
Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Microscopy (FLIM) reveals information about changes in molecules within cells under normal and pathological conditions by measuring the lifetime of fluorescently tagged molecules.
The Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) Microscope analyzes fluorescently tagged molecules present at the cell’s plasma membrane.
Super Resolution Microscopy is a new generation technology that extends optical resolution from the micrometer scale to the nanometer scale.
Transmission electron microscopy sends a beam of electrons through a thin slice of a fixed tissue. The interactions between the electrons and the sample create an image that can be magnified up to 100,000 times. Summer 2015 •
imaging is a way to understand basic biological phenomena and processes.” One example of a major imaging technique used in IAL is multiphoton fluorescence microscopy. With the application of a special laser, select molecules can be illuminated. Based on the spectral pattern fluoresced by the sample, one class of common lipid soluble carcinogenic molecules, produced in grilled food and other products of combustion, can be identified as they are forming in living cells. Identification of these molecules has led to development of treatments that eliminate the formation of these carcinogenic molecules. Besides cellular imaging research support, graduate training in the theory and practice of optical microscopy technologies is a major emphasis of the IAL. For example, students are trained to use different microscopes while applying techniques such as co-localization of two molecules or transient protein-protein interactions and image processing. Students learn how to apply computational approaches to determine with confidence the outcomes of their experiments. Workshops and individual consultations provide additional avenues for students and faculty members to utilize the expertise of the lab as well as its tools.
Diagnostic Imaging & Cancer Treatment Center
The Diagnostic Imaging & Cancer Treatment Center (DICTC) was formed in 2011 when the CVM gained a 3-Tesla MRI. This powerful tool allowed researchers and clinicians at the CVM to quickly capture detailed images of tissues and cells in small and large animals. “When the MRI was commissioned for clinical use, it was one of three in all of Texas. That includes human facilities,” said Dr. Michael Deveau, clinical assistant professor in oncolDr. Michael Deveau
• Summer 2015
ogy. “We have a veterinary facility with technology that most of the state of Texas didn’t have access to at the time, including human patients and clinicians.” The center’s capabilities are not limited to MRI. Other imaging modalities include small and large animal radiology, small animal ultrasound, CT scans, and nuclear medicine. Utilizing multiple types of imaging technology improves the ability of the clinicians to provide an accurate diagnosis and create a treatment plan. “The literature supports no single modality as superior to any of the others,” Deveau said of the various imaging options available at the center. “They all have their strengths and weaknesses. When you put the information that you acquire from all of them together, that’s when you see a tremendous benefit, as compared to any single modality by itself.” DICTC has two primary goals. First, it aims to advance veterinary healthcare by providing options and solutions for conditions that animal patients face. Second, it fulfills part of the One Health Initiative. “The facility was built in part to answer the Initiative,” said Deveau. “It was a huge intellectual and financial investment by Texas A&M University, the CVM, and the donors. The facility helps utilize veterinary companion animals as representative translational models for human conditions.” Both goals are broad and cover a wide range of fields and research studies. “I think imaging is quite a large topic. It has its fingers in practically every aspect in medicine,” said Deveau of the breadth of the center’s abilities. One example Deveau gave of how the center’s equipment can be applied involved creating a 3-D model of a patient’s gut. The virtual model, constructed from CT scans of the patient’s digestive system, can be used to understand how a piece of food travels through and is processed by the patient’s gut. Such a model, of any system or organ or even a section of tissue, can have multiple applications for both research and clinical practice. Additional imaging technologies can also be utilized for the same patient to add greater depth to the diagnostic picture, but at a cost. In addition to the financial expense associated with testing, animal patients also have special considerations, as many types of imaging require the animal to be under general anesthesia to ensure they remain motionless. “When you start talking about doing multi-modality imaging, it adds up quickly,” explained Deveau. “Even if you combine it all under one round of anesthesia, you still have the cost that comes out of pocket for the tests and the anesthesia.” Still, being able to use multiple tests to develop a comprehensive understanding of a patient’s unique needs can be invaluable for conditions such as cancer. Precise imaging is particularly important when using targeted radiation therapy, as it is essential to know exactly where the cancer
cells are before you can attack them. In addition to revealing location, imaging also allows doctors to monitor tumors during therapy. Being aware of changes in a tumor’s size or the presence of additional tumors can help doctors know if a therapy is working or if it needs to be modified. “The more modalities you use, the more information you get,” said Deveau. “Having more information will potentially set you up for a more optimal therapy.”
From left: Dr. Jack Guo; Rachel Johnson, TIPS imaging technologist; Dr. Joe Kornegay; and Mandy Bettis, veterinary technician
Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies
Just as the IAL supports researchers who apply imaging techniques at the cellular and subcellular level, the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS) performs imaging studies on whole animals involved in research projects. Established by the Texas A&M Board of Regents in 2007 and opened in 2009, TIPS is an administrative unit of the CVM. Research at TIPS is done in collaboration with Texas A&M faculty and investigators from private companies who wish to establish efficacy of new drugs or medical devices before moving them to human use. From its inception, TIPS has heavily emphasized biomedical imaging. Indeed, imaging methods and equipment at TIPS—extending from conventional radiography to a 3-Tesla MRI machine—largely parallel those used through the DICTC. Dr. Joe Kornegay, TIPS director, said, “The availability of similar instrumentation in the hospital and at TIPS provides a remarkable opportunity for collaboration, whereby studies done in each unit can inform and complement the other.” One such example is a specialized imaging technique at TIPS called positron emission tomography–computed tomography (PET-CT). This combines the anatomical detail gained by CT with information on organ function provided by PET scans. Through a collaboration involving Deveau and a veterinary oncologist, Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles, TIPS is conducting PET-CT scans on animal cancer patients to determine the extent of tumor metastasis. This allows oncologists to better plan treatment for the affected animal and, at the same time, give owners a more accurate prognosis. Kornegay has used specialized imaging in his own research involving a canine model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In fact, when he relocated to Texas A&M from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill three years ago, Kornegay immediately started working with the TIPS imaging group to conduct MRIs on dystrophic dogs involved in research studies. A veterinary neurologist by training, Kornegay began using CT and MRI in the 1980s to diagnose
disease in animal patients while on the faculty at North Carolina State University. These initial studies were done at Duke University Medical Center before CT and MRI were widely available in veterinary schools. “It’s not an overstatement to say that sophisticated imaging modalities have truly revolutionized medicine,” Kornegay stressed. “For the diagnosis of brain disease, much of the guesswork inherent to other imaging methods is removed by the anatomical detail provided first by CT and later by MRI.” Kornegay sees many of the same advantages when these techniques are applied in a research setting. “By definition, imaging is largely noninvasive and, beyond the ‘pretty pictures’ themselves, provides quantitative data that can be collected at multiple time points and compared statistically,” he said. “This is extremely powerful from a research perspective.”
We’ve come a long way since Robert Hooke peered through an early version of the microscope and observed tiny organisms in detail previously unavailable to scientific inquiry. How imaging will continue to evolve and adapt is uncertain, but it will continue to affect how we view, perceive, and respond to conditions not visible to the naked eye. “Imaging serves different purposes depending on whom you speak to,” said Deveau. “I think the biggest thing from a discovery perspective is that, with the level of technology we have, it is bringing to life different changes in the information that we get from imaging, and that dictates or directs how we manage the patient.” Summer 2015 •
Dr. Kenita Rogers (center) with her daughters, Callie (left) and Hayley (right), and their standard poodle, Niko
by Dr. Megan Palsa
Associate dean keeps an eye on the future Focused on excellence, promoting education, encouraging diversity—impacting lives Retracing her steps She calls it serendipity; some might call it fate. But whatever brought Dr. Kenita Rogers to Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences—where she now serves as associate dean for professional programs—it was a big win for the college and its students. 56 •
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Rogers calls herself a “West Virginian through and through.” She was born in Huntington and grew up in Milton, West Virginia, spending many days volunteering in the local community with her mother. Her mother’s passion to give back and assist those less fortunate provided a solid foundation for Rogers’ future goals. She has passed that same passion on to her own two daughters, Hayley and Callie (see pages 58 and 60). Rogers earned her undergraduate degree from West Virginia University (WVU) in 1979. But before her college years, an event occurred that set her on a path to College Station: her mother married a game warden. “I was 10 years old and my younger brother [Dr. Gary Brown] was eight when our biological father died,” Rogers said. “A few years later our mother was remarried to a gentle-
man who happened to be a game warden and was interested in farming. That’s when we started learning about cattle, horses, dogs, cats, and wildlife. We had a farm and raised polled Hereford cattle, lived on a game preserve in the summer and rode horses all day, and took in every stray and orphaned animal that showed up.” Rogers and her brother were surrounded with animals of all shapes and sizes, so it seemed natural for her to go off to college after her high school graduation and study animal science at WVU. Two years later her brother joined her there—even though he thought he was headed in a different direction. “He wanted to be a truck driver. He loved mechanical things, he still does. He rides motorcycles, has a helicopter and a plane, but growing up all he ever talked about was wanting to drive a big rig. He didn’t really want to go to college. “Our mother basically made him go,” said Rogers. “I filled out his registration forms and told him what classes to take, and so today, he’s a veterinarian too.” Today, Brown owns two practices, one in southern West Virginia and one in Virginia. He has been vice president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and currently serves on the organization’s executive board. “I take great credit for his success as a veterinarian,” his sister said with obvious affection. Her own post-graduate path led to Louisiana State University (LSU), and she admits that the climate was a big factor in her decision. “I may be the only person in the whole world who chose where to go to veterinary school based upon not enjoying cold weather. At that time, West Virginia had contracts with Ohio State University and LSU for its residents to attend veterinary school. I chose to go south. I was at LSU for four years and absolutely loved it. I loved the people, I loved the food, I loved the warm weather: I loved everything about it. Rogers graduated first in her class and accepted a rotating internship at the University of Georgia, with plans to pursue a residency in small animal surgery. During this internship, she met a mentor that was pivotal in shaping her career plans, Dr. Jeanne Barsanti. “Dr. Barsanti was not only a wonderful small animal internist, she was an extraordinarily kind and patient teacher who was always true to herself. I wanted to be just like her and during that year, shifted my career emphasis to internal medicine.” Rogers’ husband had already accepted a position in Houston, so she was only able to apply for one internal medicine residency, at Texas A&M University. “I was so lucky to get this residency opportunity. I arrived in the middle of August in 1983, and I just never left,” she said.
Another inspiring mentor During Rogers’ residency, she acquired a passion for veterinary oncology while working alongside Dr. Claudia Barton, the only veterinary oncologist in the state of Texas at that time. “She was an unbelievable mentor,” Rogers said, adding that, Barton got “every consult” in Texas. As this was the era before computers and e-mail, she communicated with colleagues via telephone. Rogers remembers her mentor’s
white lab coat with “both pockets filled to the brim with pink notes” carrying the contact information that she would need to reach her veterinary colleagues that were requesting consultations. Rogers saw the opportunity to help Dr. Barton in her work. “She taught me, and I ended up staying on as an internist and oncologist, mainly because of her,” Rogers said. “We were the only two oncologists here for 27 years.” Rogers passed her internal medicine boards and then took the oncology board examination in only the second year that it was offered. Since coming to Texas A&M in 1983, she has completed a three-year internal medicine residency, was in a lecturer position for one year, then went through each rank in the tenure-track process as an internist and oncologist. She came to the dean’s office in 2006, where she has spent the last nine years as the associate dean for professional programs. She “handed off” to two great oncologists who now serve in the hospital alongside Barton, Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles and Dr. Jesse Grayton. “I have said many times that I was really unhappy when Dr. Debbie Kochevar, currently dean at Tufts University, left Texas A&M,” Rogers said. “In retrospect, I can now see that this event allowed me to move into the dean’s office and make way for the hire of Dr. Wilson-Robles, who has made a huge impact on Texas A&M oncology. I give kudos to all three of the current oncologists; they are not only wonderful people but really talented doctors, quite adept at utilizing the diagnostic tools, imaging, and treatments that define an outstanding cancer center including chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and experimental treatments through clinical trials.” She noted the Diagnostic Imaging and Cancer Treatment Center at Texas A&M is a state-of-the-art facility with diagnostic and treatment capabilities never before possible in one location. “The center is outstanding and I believe that Dr. Mike Deveau, who oversees the center, is one of the best radiation oncologists in the country.”
From faculty to administration Rogers has been in the dean’s office for almost nine years, and her responsibilities have increased over that time, something of which she is proud. She oversees everything that pertains to veterinary students, from admissions to graduation. “We are in the midst of a substantial curriculum review, are continuously upgrading our selections process, and have our next accreditation visit in the fall,” she said. “Life is busy, exciting, overwhelming, and fun all at the same time.” There were some impactful personal attitude shifts as she transitioned from faculty to administration. As a faculty member, she was certainly mindful of her students’ needs, but she also had to keep her own career progress moving forward. As an administrator, however, her focus has altered. “I believe the best administrators switch totally away from that; it can’t be about my career anymore, it needs to be about everybody that I’m working with—it needs to be about their careers, not mine.” She said she tries to make sure her main goal every day is to elevate everyone around her. “I have been so lucky to work with an incredible team in the Professional Programs Office. They are truly dedicated to serving the college, and are Summer 2015 •
Spotlight Hayley Rogers: Texas A&M medical student passionate about diversity, One Health
“I’ve never felt very defined by my gender, because I’ve never felt that it was something that held me back. I think that’s probably because my mom has done so much.” ~ Hayley Rogers, about her mom, Dr. Kenita Rogers Dr. Kenita Rogers’ older daughter, Hayley, age 22, was born in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bryan and has lived in College Station her whole life. She graduated from A&M Consolidated High School and, with a veterinarian mom, grew up with a house full of pets. However, her mother also impacted her life in a variety of ways other than just introducing her to four-legged friends. “I got to come to the veterinary school and see that environment. I’ve always wanted to do something medical…throughout high school I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. When I was a senior in high school, I participated in a blood drive, and I realized my passion for human medicine!” In college, she studied entomology and vector-borne diseases and learned about the One Health program, which, she said, “shaped her career interests.” “I’m very interested in vector-borne disease, infectious disease, and the connections of both humans and animals in health. I hope to work within the intersection of those diseases.” Hayley views One Health as a collaboration across all spectra of professionals, enabling them to help everyone rather than a very specific few. She graduated from Texas A&M University in December 2014 with a double major in biomedical sciences and ento58 •
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mology. She’s been accepted to the MD program at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston. Her educational plans include a master’s degree in public health along with her MD. Hayley was also impacted by her mom’s attitude toward diversity and her work with that initiative at Texas A&M. A proponent of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) rights in high school, Hayley notes that the conservative attitudes in College Station could have had a negative impact on her development, but it did not. “I’ve never felt very defined by my gender, because I’ve never felt that it was something that held me back,” Hayley said. “I think that’s probably because my mom has done so much. I never felt like I couldn’t do anything because I was a woman. I think that was very important growing up and shaping who I am today.” She’s continued to promote diversity by her work with ERASE (Encouraging Race Acceptance & Support through Education), an on-campus residence life organization whose members conduct in-hall diversity programming, and by participating in the Council for Diversity and Professionalism within the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. She also participated in the Spring Leadership Exchange Program, which took her to Qatar, where she gained valuable insight into the commonality between American and Middle Eastern students. An accomplished musician, Hayley was involved in high school band and has continued playing clarinet as an artistic outlet through the Texas A&M Symphonic Winds. She credits band for the beginning of her leadership experience (she was band president) and gives back by teaching clarinet lessons to young people. She also plays with the Northgate Philharmonic, a local community orchestra. As she reflects on her mom’s influence throughout her life, she notes one important aspect. “My mom is really big on lifelong learning. She never gave us a talk like ‘lifelong learning is good’ or anything. She always showed us by example.” “I think that’s been a really big part of my academic life,” she continued. “I’ve been successful academically because I’ve always been really interested in learning. I’m glad my mother taught me that important lesson, because that’s a skill that I will use and enjoy forever.”
some of the most creative, kind, and hard-working folks that I know,” Rogers said.
Continuing in the classroom “I am often asked if I miss working in the clinic,” Rogers said. “I really love what I do now, but I do miss some very specific things: the level and intensity of the teaching, working with really gifted colleagues in the hospital, both faculty and staff, and the truly wonderful clients that appreciate everything.” Rogers still contributes directly to the education of Texas A&M veterinary students; she taught the oncology elective until this year, and she continues to lecture on a variety of topics. She recalled a time last year when she and Barton put together a three-day cytology wet lab for the first time in a decade. “It was a lot of fun to revisit that,” she said, noting that it all came back, like riding a bicycle. “As much as I am drawn to oncology, however, my main focus at this point is looking at the 10,000-foot view of our curriculum and making sure that it prepares our students to be some of the best veterinarians in the world,” she said. “We are so fortunate to be able to provide our students with hands-on opportunities that are unique to our program, including rotations at the Houston SPCA and Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Being open to new teaching opportunities is one of the best parts of my job.”
Presidential pups Although Rogers serves in an administrative capacity now, she does occasionally see clinical patients—and some are VIPs. Rogers is still the veterinarian for President George and Barbara Bush’s dogs. More serendipity was involved. “In the old days, we did not have an emergency service. All of the internal medicine services were responsible for one Friday per month. [The Bushes] happened to have an emergency with one of their dogs on a Friday, and it happened to be my Friday. That’s how I met them.” That dog was the Bush’s last springer spaniel. They now have two smaller dogs, which they bring in for their annual physical examinations, vaccinations and other healthcare needs. With the help of her colleagues in the Small Animal Hospital, Rogers still cares for them, and she wouldn’t want it any other way.
Tasks and perks A major curricular review is currently underway, in parallel with the accreditation process that will culminate just after Thanksgiving. “The entire focus is ensuring that our curriculum is second to none in preparing students to be excellent veterinarians with strong Day One skills, regardless of their chosen career path,” Rogers said. “Our curriculum committee has developed a thoughtful and dynamic set of New Graduate Outcomes that are customized for Texas A&M and are being mapped throughout the entire curriculum. We’re really looking at how we teach, what we are teaching, and how to take advantage of the exciting opportunities that the new teaching complex will bring to the college in 2016. I think that we are instituting some very cutting-edge improvements to the curriculum right now, and this is an
Rogers (center) with Hayley (left) and Callie (right) extremely exciting time to be a faculty member in a program that is so dedicated to teaching and learning.” As for honors associated with her current position, she feels really fortunate. She was thrilled when she was chosen as a Fish Camp namesake in the summer of 2014, in what became Doctor Rogers’ Neighborhood, #Rogerthat. “It was truly a fantastic, once in a lifetime experience!” she said. Led by upperclassmen for incoming freshmen, Fish Camp is a four-day orientation program with a goal of making their first year at Texas A&M a success. She said she was honored to be included in the incredible Aggie tradition. She was also honored in 2013 with the Association of Former Student’s University-level Outstanding Achievement Award for Student Relations. Finally, she and her daughter Hayley received their Aggie rings on the same day. “I earned my MS degree in 1986, but was waiting for just the right moment to get my Aggie ring. It was really special to share that moment with her,” Rogers said. She also served on the search committee to select the next Reveille and noted that it was quite a process. All of the dogs were wonderful, she said, but the decision makers were looking for a specific personality. “It had to be a dog with a special outlook, one that loved people and would be comfortable and happy in this environment. We saw some really cool, beautiful dogs, including the dog chosen to be Reveille IX,” she said.
Looking ahead Rogers, devoted to fostering servant leadership in her students, looks forward to continuing on the board of directors for the Veterinary Leadership Institute (VLI), the group that runs VLE (Veterinary Leadership Experience), a camp for DVM students and faculty in Idaho each year that Rogers calls “truly impactful.” Through her work with the VLI and Summer 2015 •
Spotlight Callie Rogers: Biomedical sciences major embraces leadership, volunteerism
“She’s been strongly supportive of my career choice and gives me a lot of good advice about how I need to get there.” ~Callie Rogers, about her mom, Dr. Kenita Rogers Callie Rogers, two years younger than her sister, Hayley, was also born at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bryan. Callie’s earliest memories involve going to work with her mother and having her first look at the world of veterinary medicine. “As a veterinarian, my mom was able to give me insight into the field, which was key to my understanding of what being in healthcare is really like,” Callie said. “With her guidance and advice, I have been able to grow in my appreciation for veterinary medicine and how I want to impact the field.” Now a biomedical sciences major at Colorado State University (CSU), Callie works as a volunteer in the Laboratory of Comparative Musculoskeletal Oncology and Traumatology at the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in the Animal Cancer Center. “This has been an incredible experience and has given me a huge appreciation for the difficult work research scientists do,” she said. 60 •
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Like the other women in her family, Callie embraces servant leadership, a concept she learned in A&M Consolidated High School marching band where she was flute section leader. “Being in band has been invaluable,” she said. “I met so many great people through it, and playing an instrument has definitely shown me the value of dedication and discipline.” Continuing the culture of volunteerism, she participates in community cleanup programs in Fort Collins, Colorado, through her school, including Fall Cleanup and CSUnity, which she compared to the Big Event at Texas A&M. She also has journeyed back to College Station to volunteer at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences during school breaks. Callie is also a member of the pre-veterinary club at CSU, the College of Veterinary Medicine’s College Council, Honors Student Association, and a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) scholar group that reviews the research of fellow scholars at CSU. She’s also a resident assistant, which keeps her “pretty busy” but is an “incredibly rewarding experience as well.” She said she has a keen affection for animals, missing her own pets when she’s away, and appreciates the amount of responsibility it takes to care for another living thing. In addition to introducing Callie to the world of veterinary medicine, Dr. Rogers has continued to be a guiding influence in her daughter’s education and career. “She has played a huge role in the path I’ve chosen so far,” Callie said. “She’s been strongly supportive of my career choice and gives me a lot of good advice about how I need to get there.” She noted, however, that her mother has given her and her sister Hayley a “tremendous amount of freedom” and encouraged them to make their own decisions, which has provided opportunities for growth. Callie is in her second year at CSU, but her accumulated hours put her into an upperclassman category. She’ll soon begin applying to veterinary schools, including Texas A&M, and said she’ll be happy to go wherever she is accepted. She’d like to earn her DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) degree and then become a specialist, possibly in internal medicine. “The excitement of doing something I love for the rest of my life makes my pulse go a little faster when I think about it.”
other organizations, she’s had the opportunity to “make change, be creative, and have a real impact on the profession,” something that she would like to continue. Rogers said the CVM has an ongoing focus on developing student leaders, both by providing great role models, such as Dean Eleanor Green and other faculty and staff, and also by providing the climate and culture for being an authentic leader and “being the person that people want to look up to and follow.” She’s also been appointed the director for climate and diversity for the college, a focus that has escalated in recent years. “The campus decided, in very meaningful ways, to show that diversity, climate, and equity were really important to Texas A&M. Every college and unit has been tasked with emphasizing and improving in this area on a yearly basis. Each year, we provide a report, and every other year, we do a presentation on what has been accomplished at our college or unit.” She said the university has backed the program financially and, because of that support, the opportunities for progress in diversity have been many. Also unique to this campus is its broader definition of diversity. “We think about race and gender, but it’s so much more,” Rogers said. “It’s about experience, it’s about socioeconomic status. It’s a lot of different attributes and parameters. It’s about visible and invisible disabilities. How do we handle all of that and make sure that everyone is successful?” Also key is the emphasis on university climate. “Does everyone feel welcome here? Is this an environment where everybody looks forward to coming in to work every day, whether they are faculty, staff, or students? “Do we tolerate things that shouldn’t be happening or do we address them? How do we role model ‘doing the right thing’? I think we’ve done really well with the climate because of the intentional leadership of the college and the strong belief at all levels in fairness and respect.” Another concept receiving appropriate focus, Rogers said, is equity. “A lot of people think that just means salary. We have worked hard on salary, so that we’re competitive and can get the very best faculty and staff. But equity also means opportunity. Is there opportunity for advancement? Opportunity to grow? We’ve really provided a great deal of support for faculty, staff, and students in this area.” One of the initiatives that she is most proud of is the ongoing mediation training within the college. We now have a total of 53 individuals that have completed the 40-hour mediation course. I am so proud of the faculty and staff that have fully engaged
Rogers enjoys kayaking. in this training and grown in their ability to manage and address conflict. She said part of managing the campus climate is knowing how to handle conflict. Noting that there will always be conflict, she said she and her colleagues are working to have a common language for dealing with any issues that arise, including the ability to listen to both sides of any story and be respectful to differing viewpoints.
Fun and family Rogers jokes that she’s “not very good at anything” in terms of sports or physical activity, but she has embraced kayaking and owns a hot pink kayak. She’s also taken up cycling and participated with 16 others in a bike trip to Northern Italy in September. They flew into Venice and ended up in Verona, taking in the beautiful countryside and weather as they pedaled a total of 53 miles on the last day. “I may never be able to ride that far again,” she said, “but I would sure like to try.” She also considers herself a voracious reader and nurtured the love of books in her two daughters, Hayley and Callie. “I am not sure that I did this in the right way, but every time that they would behave well in times of stress, such as getting a vaccination or other medical procedure, I would buy them any book that they wanted at Barnes & Noble. I have probably spent thousands of dollars at Barnes & Noble, but it was worth it,” she said. (For more about Rogers’ daughters, see pages 58 and 60.) Of course the family owns dogs; an “old-and-gray” golden retriever named Hank, a standard poodle named Niko, and Harriet, an Italian greyhound
‘A positive place to be’ While it is hard to predict what the future will hold, for now she is happy to be contributing to the student and patient experience at CVM. “I just think it’s a very positive place to be, a place where people look to the future and think we can do anything,” Rogers said. “There is an atmosphere of looking for opportunities, for possibilities, dreaming and then accomplishing.” Summer 2015 •
L E A D E R SH I P
by Dr. Dan Posey
Diversity in Veterinary Medicine… It Is the Right Thing to Do! I was fortunate as a youth to spend part of my childhood in El Paso, Texas. My father was managing a poultry operation, dairy, and dryland cotton farm near the city of Clint. My brothers and I were able to go to work with him and spend our childhood days playing with other children on the farm. I remember my father’s comment as we watched his farm hands walk home one day, “No sabe hasta que camina en sus zapatos,” which translates as, “You won’t know them until you walk in their shoes.” I asked why one of the men carried two cinder block bricks on a broomstick over his shoulders. My father in his great wisdom said, “They were easier to carry that way. The man was building his family’s brick home.” In today’s business climate, that farm hand would be called an innovative (or creative) problem solver. Growing up in the diverse environment of that small border farm town shaped me. It opened my eyes to how people look at things differently.
Why is DIVERSITY important for your organization? Diversity and inclusion are very important issues in the veterinary profession. You do not have to look very deep to see numerous initiatives and programs that address the lack of diversity. Our profession is an ever-changing society; we must continue to understand the importance of diversity, inclusiveness, and cultural competency to remain relevant and to serve society well. “The demographics of our profession don’t reflect the United States’ population,” is a quote from Dr. Ronnie Elmore, Kansas State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, associate dean for academic programs, admissions, and diversity. In his article “Diversity in Veterinary Medicine: A Professional Imperative: Reasons for the Lack Dr. Dan Posey of Racial Diversity in Veterinary Medicine,” he discusses the sharp contrast in the veterinary professional demographics. Approximately 91 percent of all veterinarians are white, whereas only 5 percent are Hispanic, 2 percent are black, 1 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, and less than 1 percent are American Indian/ Alaska Native. In the 2010 United States census, 63 percent of U.S. 62 •
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residents are white, 17.1 percent are Hispanic, 13.2 percent are black, 5.5 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1.2 percent are American Indian/Alaska Native. There is no doubt that these numbers strongly indicate the veterinary profession does not reflect the United States racial population. These demographic trends also suggest that we are heading toward greater diversity within America (e.g. racial, ethnic, cultural, and language). Demographers predict that over 50 percent of the United States population will be ethnic minorities by the year 2050. Why does this matter? Diversity matters because it is about people, and people are important to veterinary medicine. Veterinarians are in the people business, and we are living in a time of great demographic change. Our profession should embrace the great promise of diversity and inclusiveness that comes with living in a global society. Maximizing diversity not only is a business imperative but also is important in maintaining social relevance. This is a business vantage point, and if we want to serve our society well, we must align our profession with societal demographics. There are negative effects to a profession’s lack of cultural competency. Politicians, industry, and charitable organizations will be less prone to engage with a profession whose membership doesn’t reflect society. Our profession’s lack of attention to the important issues of diversity, inclusiveness, and cultural competence has the potential to negatively impact our effectiveness when interacting with our clients and helping to care for their animals’ wellness. Cultural competence can directly improve a veterinarian’s ability to deliver care to their patients. Our profession’s understanding of diversity and inclusiveness could assist in the removal of barriers that cause people to not seek veterinary care for their pets and livestock. Finally, we need to continue to attract the best and brightest minds. Our ability to hire veterinarians who are aware of their own cultural competency and are willing to make a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness will increase the public acceptance and confidence in veterinary care. Our profession needs to embrace the ideals of developing a veterinary workforce that reflects the rich and diverse tapestry of ethnic, racial, and underrepresented groups; this is an imperative of inclusiveness.
How to invest in the power of diversity and inclusiveness in your practice or organization Creating diversity, inclusiveness, and cultural competency in your workplace can be achieved in two basic ways: through the physical makeup of your practice or organization’s employees and by your business’ reputation regarding diversity and inclusiveness. It is important to incorporate diversity, inclusiveness, and culture competency into your
business’ “brand.” Branding is what identifies and differentiates your business from others. You need to make diversity part of your business’ identity. You can achieve a presence of diversity in your business through establishing a diverse structure of staff, clients, business partners, and community alliances. Taking a hard look at your business structure and services will help you identify empty or missing areas that could be addressed. Investing in staff and business partners who represent the diverse makeup of our environment can be one of the easiest ways to fulfill this need. This direction has the added benefit of bringing in new cultural perspectives to your business. Diversity increases creativity. People from different backgrounds have unique skills and experiences to approach situations from different viewpoints. Charles Gray of Egon Zehner Financial services said, “To unleash the full promise of diversity, make better decisions, and drive innovation, organizations must learn to appreciate and mine the knowledge and experience of individuals with different backgrounds and viewpoints.” It was evident during my career shift from private veterinary practice to academia that I approached things differently than my academic co-workers did. I had a different perspective when viewing my environment, which resulted in more innovation and creativity in problem solving. There were numerous times in my early academic career that I heard, “Dan, you are thinking like a practitioner, not an academician.” I always took that statement as a compliment. I like to think one of my most positive contributions to the academic environment was my ability to see the practitioner’s side of the issue and use it to find a unique and innovative solution. Not every practice is in a position to hire diversity into its structure. In those cases, branding through reputation is the answer. By establishing a business climate that delivers services in a welcoming, accepting, and encouraging way to all people can brand your business as culturally inclusive. This can be accomplished by taking a hard look at your business’ structure and services. What is your business known for? Do you welcome individuals from diverse backgrounds into your business? What qualities do you want associated with your company? Are you achieving a presence of diversity in your business through establishing diverse structures with clients, business partners, and community alliances? Mandating an atmosphere of respect and inclusiveness as not just goals, but business expectations in encounters with clients, staff, and in all aspects of the profession, will allow your business or organization to thrive across all cultures. The veterinary profession’s diversity is a major focus in America these days. With population growth projections showing substantial increases in the minority populations, the current lack of diversity within the veterinary field is an important issue that needs to be addressed. Diversity, inclusiveness, and culture competency are not things our profession should fear or dread; they are things we should embrace. The veterinary profession has always been about people and the animals with whom they live. What greater tool than diversity to aid in that goal? Diversity, inclusiveness, and culture competency allow us to better communicate and connect with our client base and staff. Diversity inspires creative solutions to business problems. For a veterinary organization to have full access to all the solutions that allow us to thrive, we must embrace diversity. We must acknowledge and leverage our similarities and differences in finding innovative
What are FIVE things that your practice can do to enhance inclusiveness? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Respect everyone Practice active listening Think before speaking or acting Practice good manners Invest time to get to know your peers
and different approaches. This increases our likelihood of finding viable solutions. All businesses should encourage personal growth initiatives for their employees. Increasing their cultural competence helps employees become at ease within their diverse community. Cultural competencies increase employee capability to relate and serve clients better. This enhances a business’ ability to deliver high quality care to patients. For this great profession of veterinary medicine to remain relevant, it is imperative that we address these issues. Increasing the ideals of diversity, inclusiveness, and culture competency within our organizations or practices is not only an imperative for the veterinary profession, but it is the right thing to do.
What is DIVERSITY? The Texas A&M University definition of diversity*: the inclusion, welcome, and support of individuals from all groups, encompassing the various characteristics of persons in our community. The characteristics can include, but are not limited to, age, background, citizenship, disability, education, ethnicity, family status, gender, gender identity/expression, geographical location, language, military experience, political views, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and work experience.
What is INCLUSIVENESS? Inclusiveness is a word that is used in tandem with diversity. Inclusiveness focuses on the environment of your organization: cultural, structural, and behavioral. Dr. Arin Reeves, Nextions LLC stated, “Inclusiveness is to establish a workplace or organization that attracts talent from all backgrounds, as well as the equal opportunity for each person to succeed in a way that works for them. Inclusiveness makes room, not for different people to take a shot at the same definition of success, but for different people to actually create different definitions of success.”
What is CULTURAL COMPETENCY? Cultural competence is defined as attaining knowledge about specific groups (such as history, values, and beliefs) that fosters positive attitudes and relationships toward an increasingly diverse client base. These positive attitudes and relationships develop into meaningful policies and practices that assist in providing high quality veterinary services.** *Adapted from the Texas A&M University Office of Diversity ** Cultural Competency derived from a definition provided by the American Dental Association Summer 2015 •
Texas A&M University Rankings and Recognition • • • • • • • •
25th among public schools, 68th among national universities (U.S. News & World Report, 2015) 5th in the nation among public universities in “Best Value Schools” (U.S. News & World Report, 2015) 8th in the nation for high return on investment (ROI) for in-state tuition among public universities (PayScale, 2015) 7th among U.S. universities with an endowment of more than $5 billion (Forbes, 2014) 4th in nation among universities based on “contribution to the public good” (Washington Monthly, 2014) 1st in Texas in student retention and graduation rates—overall and for minorities (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2014) Top 20 in the nation among research universities (National Science Foundation, 2013) Thirty-four faculty with membership in the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Law Institute, or the American Academy of Nursing Member of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization of North America’s best 63 research institutions
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) Hallmarks • • • • • • • • • •
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Established in 1916 to serve the Texas agriculture, livestock, and cattle industry; the only college of veterinary medicine in Texas Ranked No. 6 in the world and No. 3 in the United States by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), an educational services firm that has rated the top 50 veterinary medicine schools globally One of the largest colleges of veterinary medicine nationally with over 527 DVM students (entering freshmen classes of approximately 132 students) In 2014, the CVM with Texas A&M AgriLife, dedicated phase I, a $33 million component of the $80 million Thomas G. Hildebrand, DVM ’56 Equine Complex. The CVM broke ground on a new $120 million Veterinary Medicine Building on April 30, 2014. Another major initiative involves the planned renovation of the receiving, lobby, and pharmacy area for the Small Animal Hospital. As of May 2013, the CVM has graduated 7,100 DVMs which comprises over 7% of veterinarians nationally. The undergraduate Biomedical Sciences Program (BIMS) is the largest degree granting undergraduate program at Texas A&M University, with a student enrollment exceeding 2,050. BIMS students make up a large portion of Aggie students admitted to Texas medical (29%), dental (26%), and veterinary schools (51%). The BIMS program has partnered with 13 Texas junior colleges to create 2+2 admissions agreements that facilitate the admission and academic transfer of qualified students from these junior colleges into the BIMS program. The CVM’s Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS) is home to many collaborative research efforts which incorporate the use of spontaneous animal models into clinical trials of new drugs and devices. It is one of the few good laboratory practice (GLP) large animal facilities in the nation. TIPS’ imaging capabilities are among the best in the world. CVM researchers have cloned more species than anywhere else in the world (cat, cow, deer, horse, goat, and pig). The first cloned horse in North America was born at Texas A&M University. Home to the Michael E. DeBakey Institute for Cardiovascular Sciences, the CVM is a national leader in cardiac device research. In collaboration with the Texas Heart Institute, the CVM launched the $14 million Center for Cell and Organ Biotechnology, which included a $3 million matching state investment through the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. • Summer 2015
Reveille VIII with student residents Melissa Pawlowski, DVM Class of ’19, (left) and Hana Huff, DVM Class of ’18, (right)
settles into her new home at the Stevenson Center Summer 2015 •
D E V E LO P M E N T
Dr. Sonny Presnal with Reveille VIII
“Reveille seems to be adapting to the center nicely. She’s very curious to explore her new surroundings and appears to be quite content. She’s been eating all of her meals without hesitation and resting peacefully in between being visited by all those who are so excited to have her.” ~ Melissa Pawlowski, student resident at the Stevenson Center
Ellie Greenbaum with Reveille VIII
Dr. Eleanor M. Green with Reveille VIII
Reveille mementos at the Stevenson Center
“Miss Reveille and I are both new to the Stevenson Center, but I have already been impressed by the level of personal attention each resident receives and how happy they all are. I know the former First Lady of Aggieland will enjoy her new home just as much as the other residents and I do.”~ Hanna Huff, student resident at the Stevenson Center 66 •
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Reveille VIII, the beloved former Texas A&M mascot, arrived at her new home, the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science’s Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center, on the morning of Monday, May 11, 2015. There, she will continue to be cared for and pampered by the center’s doting students, staff, and faculty. “All of our Stevenson Center full-time staff and some of our student workers were on hand to make Reveille VIII feel especially welcome in her new home with her new family,” said Ellie Greenbaum, associate director of the center. “We are giving Reveille VIII all of the space she requires to feel at home and to acclimate to her new surroundings, new human caretakers, and new four-legged friends.” The Stevenson Center, located adjacent to the college, is known for providing for the physical, emotional, and medical needs of companion animals whose owners find themselves no longer able to do so. Whether they are entering a retirement home, being hospitalized for an extended period of time, or predeceasing a pet, the owners can take assurance in the fact that their beloved pets are being well cared for at the center. In addition to Reveille VIII, the center is home to 15 dogs, 18 cats, and a llama. “The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center is honored that Interim President Dr. Mark Hussey asked us to provide Reveille VIII’s retirement home and that President Michael Young supports Dr. Hussey’s idea,” said Dr. Sonny Presnal, director of the center. “We believe the Stevenson Center is a unique program to provide her care. With four veterinary students living at the center and an experienced and dedicated staff, our facility and staff are positioned to provide Reveille VIII a relaxed home-like environment with social interaction with our other pet residents and to closely monitor her health. Reveille VIII will be allowed to set her own schedule and involvement and will have immediate ac-
cess to exceptional veterinary medical care at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, should it be needed.” Reveille VIII has her own bedroom for now, but a roommate will be chosen after an introductory period in which she is slowly introduced to the other residents, Presnal said. “However, we anticipate that she will spend her evenings with one of the veterinary student residents in their rooms as many of our resident pets currently do,” Presnal continued. While living at the Stevenson Center, Reveille VIII will be able to interact with the other animals living at the center, as well as the Aggie community. “Reveille VIII has already become a special member of the Stevenson Center family made up of special pet residents,” said Presnal. “She is spending time enjoying her housemates and the center staff, and also serves alongside our other ‘official greeters’ to greet visitors at the front door.” “All of us are already in love with our retired First Lady of Aggieland, and we are honored to provide her care in retirement,” Greenbaum said. “The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center is an ideal home for Reveille VIII,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “She will continue to live on campus in a home-like environment surrounded by the other residents, including four veterinary students. She can see Kyle Field from her window and hear Aggie game day excitement. She is also in next door to the Texas A&M University Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, where she receives the best health care possible. Her health care team includes her regular veterinarians for preventive health care, her own veterinary dentist, and veterinary specialists ready to provide the most advanced care for any problem she may experience—for the rest of her life. In essence she will receive royal treatment befitting the retired first lady of Aggieland!” Summer 2015 •
D E V E LO P M E N T
Steve and Kaye Horn with their dogs, Winston, Buffett, and Diego
by Dr. Megan Palsa
Peace of mind for pet owners Texas A&M supporters found love, compassion at Stevenson Center The Horns are a couple engaged in helping students, caring for pets, and supporting Texas A&M University at many levels. Their gifts to the university have impacted the lives of many and will impact thousands more in the years ahead. Although it’s never pleasant to make final arrangements for the end of one’s life, perhaps the toughest aspect of such planning is realizing there will be those left behind that still require care. Wills are made, endowments are established, guardians are appointed—but what if those who remain are not children or spouses, but cherished pets that have been loyal companions? 68 •
• Summer 2015
Kaye and Steve Horn of Houston have peace of mind knowing that their daughter, Marcella, and their three other “children,” Winston, Buffett, and Diego—officially dogs, but also beloved members of the family, will be cared for in the event of their passing. If something happens to the Horns, their pets will live out their days at Texas A&M’s Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center, the privately funded, state-of-the-art animal care program that provides personalized, compassionate care in an environment that is very similar to the homes the animals must leave. “I remember we were about to have our wills done. We have only one daughter, Marcella, and she was still a little girl then. We’ve always had at least three dogs, and we’ve had as many as four. We’re what’s known as ‘dog crazy,’ because they are like members of our family. It troubled me to think that we could be on a trip and be in a plane crash or
whatever happens, and we have this little girl who would be left with four dogs to take care of—which is a lot for a little person!” said Kaye. Marcella would live with her godmother, Mary Sue, in Omaha, Nebraska, but no one seemed to know what would happen with “the pups.” “Mary Sue doesn’t care for dogs,” Kaye said, since she had been bitten in the face as a girl. “She tolerates our dogs, but she doesn’t like them.” One day the Horns read about the Stevenson Center in Texas Aggie Magazine, a Texas A&M University former students publication, and were charmed and impressed when they visited the center. “We actually dropped in unannounced on [Aggie football] game day several years ago and banged on the door,” Kaye continued. “A vet student came to let us in. The dogs and cats were all very happy, and no one knew we were coming. That tells you something.” “The most appealing [thing to me] was that the animals live in a home, a very nice brick home, similar to where they live with us. I love the fact that the veterinary students live with them at night, because a lot of the animals there are elderly, and they need special care.” That special care is important to the Horns, because some of their animals have needs that might not be respected in a less caring setting. “We take very good care of our pets,” Kaye said. “It makes me feel guilty sometimes, because Winston gets allergy shots every week. I mean, he gets better medical care then most humans. My pets are members of our family and we have to take good care of them.” Kaye was drawn to the obvious love the students and staff at the Stevenson Center have for their four-legged friends, noting that whenever a pet does die, they post a notice in the magazine or other publication, expressing their grief. “They’re genuinely sad the pet has passed away because they get attached just like we get attached to any pet that we love,” Kaye said. “That’s what I like about Stevenson: they do care about who lives there.” She noted the center is far enough away from the busiest part of College Station that the animals have land on which to run, that the whole facility is extremely clean, and all the food is kept separately, catering to the specific needs of each kind of animal and each individual pet. Kaye is relieved she doesn’t have to rely on loved ones to continue her pets’ care. In some cases, those inheriting an estate may not be as dedicated to animals as the deceased owners. “It can be a burden just to say, ‘Oh, you’re my best friend…here, take care of my kitty cats.’ It’s better to go ahead and provide for them to go to Stevenson Center, because, as I tell my friends, it’s just a problem solved, and you don’t have to worry about it.”
Paying it back, forward The Horns were both academically excellent students. Steve is a 1979 summa cum laude petroleum engineering graduate from Texas A&M and Kaye received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas Christian University. Even though she is not an Aggie graduate, Kaye has a great love of Aggie traditions, and they share a special affinity for Aggie football. “We both went to college on scholarship,” Kaye said. “I think now we’re paying it back, but also paying it forward.
Kaye Horn with Buffett Anything we give to the Texas A&M Foundation helps all classes of Texans get an education.” She noted that, although requirements for admission to Texas A&M are getting increasingly stringent, students do get accepted, graduate, and pursue careers in veterinary medicine. She also noted the strong and large Aggie alumni base in Houston. “Aggie former students in Houston take care of each other, and so we hope to sponsor more students in the next 20 to 25 years. And we’ll always be involved with the Stevenson Center.”
Easily arranged peace of mind Kaye found making arrangements with the Stevenson Center extremely stress free. The Texas A&M Foundation coordinated and provided the necessary forms to their estate-planning lawyer. The completed forms were attached to their will, providing peace of mind that, no matter who manages the estate, the animals’ care is predetermined. Their attorneys will contact the Stevenson Center, and help the dogs make “a very easy transition.” The Horns know the quality of their pets’ lives will continue to be top notch. “The Stevenson Center is like home, and that’s where they deserve to live if something happens to us,” Kaye said.
About the Stevenson Center The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center was established by the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in 1993 at the suggestion of Dr. E.W. “Ned” Ellett, former head of the Small Animal Clinic at Texas A&M. Dr. Ellett’s dream was realized due to generous donations from the Luse Foundation and Mrs. Madlin Stevenson. Mrs. Stevenson said she chose to support the center because animals are especially important to the elderly. She died in September 2000, leaving behind four cats, seven dogs, a pony, and a llama, all of which were re-homed at the center. Summer 2015 •
D E V E LO P M E N T
by Dr. Megan Palsa
A Passion for Animals, a Love for all The Stevensons continue to give… Keith Stevenson and his wife, Mattie, share both a name and a passion for animals with their aunt Madlin Stevenson, an early donor to the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Keith and Mattie Stevenson both began their lifelong fondness for four-legged friends at young ages. Now, they have nine cats ranging from a six-month-old kitten to a
22-year-old “senior citizen.” The cats enjoy the area of their home that Keith calls the “Catatorium.” Its brightly colored rooms have been outfitted with ramps and cubbyholes for climbing, window seats from which to view the world, and large open areas for play. Some of the cats don’t appreciate dogs, so the Catatorium is a dog-free zone. The cats’ canine “sister” is 12-year-old Bella, who was only about a year old when the Stevensons spotted her at a busy Houston intersection during rush hour. The rescue attempt was precarious, to say the least, and Bella was missing a foot, but she was eventually corralled, Mattie said. Over the years the shape of Bella’s stub has changed, so the Stevensons have provided her with several different prosthetic devices. Bella’s current “shoe” is the best one she has ever had. Bill Bickley of Houston made this prosthesis of carbon fiber, so it is lightweight, but strong. “It’s very high tech. It looks like one that an athlete would wear,” Mattie said. “She’s got a nice step, bounce, and roll. Bella is a four-legged dog when she has her shoe on.” Like her aunt, Mattie says all of the animals she has known have added to the quality of her life. She has met some of her best friends while out walking her dogs. “The animals enrich my life very much,” she said. “The friends I have met and the pets we love mean so much to me.”
Remembering Aunt Madlin
Mattie Stevenson with two of her cats in the “Catatorium” 70 •
• Summer 2015
The Stevensons said Madlin was a remarkable lady, full of life, energy, compassion, and determination. She faced every day of her 96 years with gusto and humor. “Nothing ever, ever worried her or bothered her,” Mattie said, “except for one thing: What would happen to her beloved pets, or her ‘kids,’ as she called them, when she passed on?” Madlin had 13 dogs, several cats, a pony, and a llama. In the early 1990s, she heard about a proposal to start the building of a facility on the campus at Texas A&M University. “This facility would be a place where people could send their pets to live forever in home-like comfort when they were no longer able to care for them,” Mattie said. “Such a place was the answer to Madlin’s prayers.” Mattie said her aunt, an interior designer, jumped right in and was involved with the center while it was still a drawing on paper. Mattie noted that she and her aunt frequently visited the center in the early days to see what items might be needed. Madlin donated much of the original furniture and many decorative items still in use at the center. Being encouraged to participate in the planning process brought “so much comfort” to Madlin, her niece said. Madlin knew that her rescued animals would be safe and loved for the rest of their lives. “It has been a wonderful experience watching the center grow,” Mattie said. “It was a privilege meeting Dr. Ned Ellet, who dreamed of building the companion animal center at the CVM.” Ellet and Dr. Bubba Woytek, assistant vice
tor’s desk or curled up in a student’s lap while they’re studying,” Mattie said. “You don’t really have to say anything once you’ve actually visited the center. Once you’ve seen it—you get it.” The Stevensons have always found the staff and students to be caring, dedicated, and extremely professional. “It’s truly a labor of love,” Mattie said, noting the sadness the staff members exhibit when a resident pet dies. “The animals are dearly, dearly missed by the people who work there. The pets spend their final days just enveloped by love [in] a beautiful, peaceful environment.” Mattie enjoys visiting the center with friends who may be considering enrolling their pets, and she is proud to show off the building. After two expansions, the structure is “very impressive,” she said, and the guests have a glimpse of the comfortable, compassionate world their pets may inhabit. Of particular interest to her aunt, Mattie remembered, was the role pets played in the lives of the elderly. “The older you get, the smaller your circle of friends becomes,” she noted. “If you know your pets will be cared for when you are no longer able to care for them, you’re not afraid to bring a new cat or dog into your home.”
A gift that keeps on giving Mattie said it is a “win-win” situation when a pet owner enrolls his or her animal at the Stevenson Center. The pets come in with an endowment, and the income from that money provides for pets while they’re living at the center, paying for their care, maintenance, and any veterinary bills. Once the pet has passed on, the endowment’s income can be used in a number of ways, according to the wishes of the animal’s owner: it can stay at the Stevenson Center and be used for the next building project or maintenance, go toward scholarships, or help support a variety of other educational or research projects at the CVM. “You can be confident that the pets you love will have the finest care possible for the rest of their lives,” Mattie said, “and you can specify exactly how those funds will be used.”
Proximity to excellent medical care Mattie Stevenson with Bella president of development at the college, first visited with Madlin about the center over 20 years ago. “Ever since that first visit, every promise they made to Madlin has been kept, and then some!” Mattie said.
A utopia for pets The Stevenson Center is a “bit of a utopia for the pets that are there,” as Mattie puts it. For the resident pets, the days are filled with people coming and going, lots of playtime, and supervising their humans performing chores. The evenings are spent lounging with the other animals and cuddling with the resident veterinary students. The animals come from all manner of environments; in some homes they were one of several pets, and in others they were the only animal. However, they are able to adjust at the center and live in harmony with the other residents, due in large part to the compassion and patience shown to them by the staff. “All you have to do is walk through that door…tail-wagging dogs race to greet you. Then you see cats lounging on the direc-
Another advantage of the center is that it’s adjacent to the CVM on the campus of Texas A&M, the Stevensons said. Mattie visits the Small Animal Hospital with her pets and sees pets from the center at the hospital for their regular checkups. All the pet residents at the center are guaranteed the finest veterinary care and the doctors at the CVM immediately deal with any medical need that may arise. Before enrolled pets even move into the center, their first stop is the animal hospital for evaluation and a complete physical. The veterinarians both determine the pet’s unique medical and dietary needs and develop individual health maintenance programs. “I wish Dr. Ellet and Madlin were here to see the wonderful reality of their dream,” Mattie said. “I know they would be so pleased and grateful to everyone who has helped to make the center the wonderful home that it is.” The Stevensons want what their aunt wanted for their companion animals. “Since none of us knows the future,” Mattie said, “we love knowing that should something happen to us while our pets are still alive, there will always be a wonderful place on the campus of Texas A&M University waiting to welcome them home.” Summer 2015 •
A LU M N I
Dr. Orlando Garza with a canine patient
by Michelle Yeoman
Paying it Forward: Dr. Orlando Garza ’79, DVM ’82 One of Dr. Orlando Garza’s greatest career rewards is knowing how far he’s come: he started his practice in 1986 when he converted an empty laundromat into a veterinary clinic. His one employee at the time worked as both secretary and veterinary assistant—and both Garza and his employee cleaned the kennels. Garza recently opened a new veterinary clinic and hospital in El Paso, Texas. With a glittering two-story glass front and a warm interior with stone accents and tiled floors, the new building is quite impressive. Now he employs 25 staff members and five veterinarians in his new facility. “To see your practice blossom, to see what you’ve created,” he said, “is extremely rewarding.” Growing up in east El Paso, Garza had many pets: dogs, cats, reptiles, and some exotic animals, but he didn’t consider becoming a veterinarian until he began spending time with his father after school while helping to care for his father’s racehorses. By his freshman or sophomore year in 72 •
• Summer 2015
high school, Garza knew that he wanted to be a veterinarian. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and veterinary science at Texas A&M University, and then applied to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). However, Garza wasn’t offered an interview when he first applied to veterinary school. More than forty years later, Garza still vividly remembers sitting in his undergraduate genetics class when he opened the rejection letter. With tears streaming down his face, Garza thought to himself, “They will never say ‘no’ to me again.” He increased his GRE scores, applied again, and was accepted into the program. “If it’s really in your heart, you’ll take that ‘no’ as a challenge and do what you need to get it done,” he said. After graduating with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree in 1982, Garza began his veterinary career in Hobbs, New Mexico, in a practice that predominantly treated small animals. Although he enjoyed his work and
was grateful for the experience, he always knew that he wished to return to El Paso. “El Paso is just home,” he said. “My family lives here.” After one year in New Mexico, Garza returned to El Paso to work as an associate in a mixed practice that emphasized dairy work. While he enjoyed working with cows, he still wanted to maintain practice with small animals. Garza worked evenings in an emergency care center so that he could “practice [small animal medicine] on a daily basis, hitting veins and performing surgeries. If you don’t use it, you lose it.” In El Paso, Garza planned to begin his own practice. Luckily, his mother and son found the perfect location for his clinic. While visiting Dairy Queen for ice cream treats called blizzards, they spotted an empty laundromat. Garza bought the building and converted the interior into a veterinary clinic. For the first two years, Garza had one employee; he later hired a veterinary technician. He also continued to renovate his clinic, adding to the building until it reached 3000 square feet. Two years ago, he had the building torn down to make room for his new practice. He and his staff worked out of a doublewide trailer during construction. The new facility is 5000 square feet. “This is a veterinary clinic and hospital,” Garza said, “the previous place was a building that had been converted into a clinic—there’s a big, big, difference.” Garza’s greatest challenge now that he owns his own clinic and hospital is staff management. When hiring a veterinarian, Garza looks for hardworking individuals who are also gifted communicators. “You can be the world’s best doctor, but if you don’t communicate, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I think the biggest problem with clients who aren’t satisfied is just lack of communication.” But strong communication doesn’t end at the clinic door: Garza has called clients within 48 hours after a visit to check up on a patient. Often, clients are pleasantly surprised by this considerate action and thank Garza, telling him, “Thank you so much for calling. My own physician would never do that.” What’s most important to remember when communicating with a client? Smile. “No matter how bad your day was,” Garza recommends, “when you walk into that exam room, have the biggest smile on your face that you possibly can.” Although clients may be concerned and worried for their pets, seeing a big smile instantly breaks the ice and fosters trust. Another aspect of strong communication is being able to speak in the client’s native language. Practicing in El Paso, Garza finds being bilingual tremendously useful, especially because he is the only veterinarian in his clinic who speaks Spanish. While speaking Spanish isn’t critical, he says, it’s certainly a big help: “If Hispanic clients can speak to you in their native tongue, they automatically trust you more, just because they can communicate with you.”
As a Hispanic veterinarian in Texas, Garza is in a significant minority: of the 5,728 practicing veterinarians in this state, only 84 are Hispanic as of 2010, according to the Texas Tribune. Diversity in the profession is important, Garza says, because the profession should mirror the demographics of its clients. However, medical-minded minority students tend to favor human medicine rather than veterinary medicine—possibly because of a lack of Hispanic role models to promote the profession. As more Hispanics become veterinarians, Garza says, perhaps more students will choose to pursue veterinary medicine. However, not all Hispanic students choose human medicine because of a lack of role models. One of Garza’s two daughters recently started her pediatric residency in Charleston, South Carolina. But Garza’s not disappointed, even though her career choice is an ongoing joke in the family. “If you’re going to work with little animals who don’t want to talk to you,” Garza told her, “then you should have become a veterinarian instead of a pediatrician.” For Garza, who previously served as president of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, service is a key component of the veterinary profession. “We live as individuals but when we speak as a community, we have a lot more power— whether at a local, state, or national level,” he said. He also encourages his employees to give back to the profession and is proud that one of his associates is now president of the El Paso Veterinary Medical Association. Garza also gives back to his profession by mentoring the next generation of veterinarians. “I’m at a point right now in my life where it’s about paying it forward,” he said. He enjoys giving students opportunities to engage in veterinary work in his practice. “In spite of all that success that I’ve personally had, seeing these young adults work for me, having me guide them a bit, then seeing them get into professional school—for me, that’s amazing.”
Dr. Garza with an equine patient Summer 2015 •
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Dr. Cleveland Manley and Dr. Dana Johnson next to a painting of former dean Dr. George C. Shelton
by Dr. Megan Palsa
Aggie veterinarians serving Texans every day “I knew when I was nine years old that I wanted to be a veterinarian. The first influence I had was with my grandmother. She was a great lady and my interests were the same as hers, taking care of animals,” said Johnson. Her grandmother didn’t have the opportunity to become a veterinarian, but she wanted her granddaughter to have the chance. Early years Dr. Dana Johnson developed a fascination with animals during visits to her grandmother’s small farm, while growing up in Lubbock, Texas. “I loved collecting eggs and just being around animals. [My grandmother] was the same way and said that if she had lived in a different time, she would want to be a veterinarian,” Johnson said. “I asked her what that was and she told me. I kind of felt like I was geared to do that because of her influence.” Johnson’s grandmother wasn’t the only person who inspired her as a child. The local veterinarian, Dr. John 74 •
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Key, also encouraged her to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. “The veterinarian in Lubbock who took care of our animals was very influential too,” Johnson said. “He was a very good person, and whenever we would take our pets in, he knew that I was interested and he would take the time to show me X-rays and ask me what I thought. I remember that vividly, and that piqued my interest even more to want to do this.” Meanwhile, across the country in Sudbury, Massachusetts, Dr. Cleveland Manley grew up in a rural neighborhood raising animals, including rabbits, chickens, and dogs.
“Being around animals was a natural thing for me,” Manley said. “I had really passionate advanced biology teachers. I was lucky enough to have a teacher to inspire me and really fascinate me with science and anatomy and physiology.” Manley grew up in a working class family, and he wanted to do well in his undergraduate program so that his transition to professional school would be smooth. Texas A&M University had a well-respected undergraduate animal science program and offered him a scholarship, so he came to Texas.
Dr. John Key
Headed to College Station Manley’s transition to College Station was not easy. “It was a pretty big culture shock to go from the northeast to a university that culturally and ethnically was very different in 1978,” he said. “I adapted by finding people that were receptive of my differences. I made friends here that were like my family.” In the 1980s, Johnson’s and Manley’s paths converged at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). As the only African-Americans in the college, they supported each other while navigating the rigorous academic challenges and the unique social challenges due to their ethnicity. “We spent a lot of time together. That’s how our courtship kind of grew,” Johnson recalls. “Wherever he was, I was. Wherever I was, he was.” One of their biggest influencers at the CVM was the college dean, Dr. George C. Shelton. “The dean had an open-door policy, and any time we needed to talk, if we were having a hard time or feeling stressed out for various reasons, we could go and talk to him,” Manley said. “He was there to listen to us.” “I think he played matchmaker too,” Johnson said. “I remember after my interview a lady came to me and said, ‘Dean Shelton would like to see you.’ I was wondering why, and I soon realized that he was wanting me to meet Cleveland Manley.” The relationship blossomed into marriage for the two young veterinarians in 1990, three years after they both received their veterinary medicine degrees. Johnson was the first African-American woman to graduate with a DVM from Texas A&M. Now living in Wiley, Texas, a northern suburb of Dallas, both doctors are respected veterans in their field and are raising three sons, Isaiah, Elias, and Xavier, ages 16 to 23. “We feed off each other, and we come home and talk about cases and new ideas,” Johnson said. “I realize now that the dean had a plan. He was a good man, the dean.”
Lasting influence Johnson works at a full-service clinic, East Plano Murphy Pet Hospital, in the Dallas suburb of Murphy, Texas, seeing primarily dogs and cats. Manley is medical director for the VCA Pet Doctor Animal Hospital in Richardson, Texas, a position that involves not only staying abreast of the latest veterinary medicine practices but mentoring associate doctors. Manley remembers the support he received from Dr. Alice Wolf, now retired from the CVM, who encouraged him to continue learning and not become complacent. “She made
“I knew Dana as a child in elementary school and through her teen years and from time to time while she was at Angelo State. Her father, Heenan, served on the Lubbock City County Health Board with me. I was proud to endorse Dana’s admission to CVM. We were glad to have the opportunity to have Dana join our veterinary team. She was a great fit with our clients and co-workers. She quickly picked up both medical and surgical skills. I think her teamwork and spirit made her a hit from the start. My wife, Nita, and I attended Dana and Cleveland’s wedding and had a wonderful evening. Dana called me shortly after she moved to Dallas to report that she had done a diaphragmatic hernia surgery and that new clinic staff had been surprised that she could do that at their office. We continue to have contact with Dana and the Johnson family, who have been an important part of our lives. Cleveland also worked for us at the Lubbock Small Animal Emergency Clinic. He was productive and well-received by both the clients and staff. From time to time clients would call to see if that nice doctor was working—they liked the way he cared for their pets and had confidence when he was there. We were very sorry to lose them from the Lubbock community, but we lost them to the city lights.” ~ Dr. John Key Summer 2015 •
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me feel like, okay, she wants me to succeed, so I’m going to do my best to succeed,” he said. Dr. Mike Herron, who is now a veterinarian at the Wellborn Road Veterinary Medical Center, and Dr. Gregory Troy were other important influences who left a positive, lasting impression on the two. “There are people like them who stand out,” Johnson said, “professors who made you feel welcome, like a real person.” “I have always thought that students deserve respect, and I have always attempted to treat them as future colleagues,” said Troy, now a professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the Virginia–Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. “I hope I had a small part in providing an inclusive environment for Dana and Cleveland during their time at Texas A&M.” “Even though we had some bad experiences, the good far outweighed the bad,” Johnson said. “It’s just that sometimes those things stick with you a little bit longer, but when you think about the whole realm of things, it was a good place to come to school. We enjoyed it here; we met here. There are lots of good people in that class. There were lots of good professors here that did make us feel welcome.”
Growing up in a house with two veterinarians, the Manley boys have learned a lot about veterinary medicine from spending time at clinics, listening to their parents discussions, and even helping care for the occasional pet patient that their parents have brought home for short stays. “They talk about work all the time, think about work all the time,” Xavier said. “They have a passion for what they do, and it’s apparent.” Manley and Johnson are happy for their children to follow their own interests. “Where their passion takes them is the most important thing to us,” Manley said. “You’ve got to do what you love and hope everything works out.” Xavier studied journalism at Texas Tech University, Elias is enrolled in the college of architecture at Texas A&M, while Isaiah is still in high school. Both Johnson and Manley are happy that Elias gave Texas A&M a chance. “I have a lot of clients that come in and ask me, ‘What school did you go to?’” Johnson said. “A lot of times they went to A&M and they’re like, ‘Whoop!’ They’ve still got that atmosphere and pride of being here.”
Drs. Johnson and Manley with their sons, Xavier (left), Elias, and Isaiah (right) 76 •
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Honor Roll Dr. Claudia Barton recognized as Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Dr. Claudia Barton, a longtime faculty member in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), was named a Texas A&M Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence. Barton received the honor at the DVM Commencement Ceremony on May 13, 2015. After receiving her DVM degree from the University of Missouri in 1973, Barton arrived at Texas A&M University to complete a residency in clinical pathology, which she completed in 1976. She returned to Texas A&M in 1978, joining the faculty of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS) as an associate professor. It did not take long for Barton to begin earning accolades as an exceptional teacher. She was recognized as the Clinical Educator of the Year by the Texas Academy of Veterinary Practice in 1981 and 1982. She received the Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching at the college level from the Association of Former Students in both 1982 and 2004. She also received the same award at the university level in 2006. Barton is also a two-time recipient of the John H. Milliff Veterinary Faculty Award in 2007 and 2011, and she was awarded the Pfizer Carl J. Norden Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006. “Dr. Claudia Barton embodies everything that the Presidential Teaching Award is about,” said Dr. Sharon Kerwin, former interim head of VSCS. “She is innovative, she is a compassionate and wise mentor, she has inspired and influenced generations of educators in the veterinary profession, she has a lengthy track record of teaching awards and honors, and she has the complete respect, admiration, and gratitude of her current students, former students, and her colleagues.” As a founding member of the specialty of veterinary oncology, Barton built the nationally recognized oncology service at Texas A&M. Her two-week rotation in oncology for fourth-year veterinary students is one of the most highly regarded by students. In teaching both third-year and fourthyear veterinary students, as well as numerous residents and interns, Barton developed an engaging teaching style instilling
From left: Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine; Dr. Karan L. Watson, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs; Dr. Claudia Barton, presidential professor for teaching excellence; and Mr. Michael K. Young, president, Texas A&M University in each one of them a passion for cytology and “making the diagnosis.” “I think the process of making the diagnosis can be just as exciting as the treatment of the patient, if not more so,” said Barton. “My challenge has been to make each student want to become the ‘Sherlock Holmes of medicine,’ with clues from history and physical examination that can lead them to the ultimate diagnosis and thus to effective treatment if available. I am in this business because I deeply love students, I love the process of learning, and I love to help students love it too.” Dr. Barton’s nomination for this award included tremendous support from current and former students, peers, and colleagues—each recognizing her for her commitment to lifelong learning and brining the latest knowledge in her field to her students. “Dr. Barton’s classroom is one that draws you in,” said a student of Barton’s. “When the door to the classroom is open, her voice spills out into the hallway and all of the experience, enthusiasm, and storytelling makes you want to slip in and take a back seat. Her presentations take you into the world of a master teacher and oncologist: mostly images, a combination of pictures of patients from the beginning of her career and from yesterday’s
appointments, art depicting the influence and significance of cancer in human and animal life from all over the world, and up-to-the-minute research from human and veterinary journals. She leads her students through a discovery of cancer from ancient times to present day in an incredibly entertaining, engaging way that also challenges the students to think critically.” “Dr. Barton is a leader in veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “She began teaching when there were very few women in academic veterinary medicine; she pioneered the discipline of veterinary oncology, and through her excellence in teaching, serves as both mentor and role model for colleagues and students alike. We congratulate Dr. Barton on this well-deserved honor that recognizes her for her exceptional contributions to veterinary medicine that begin in the classroom and make long-lasting impacts on the profession.” Recipients of the Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence receive a one-time, after-tax stipend of $25,000 in addition to their salary, and bear the designation of Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence for the remainder of their careers.
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From left: Dr. Michael Benedik, dean of faculties and associate provost; Dr. Karan L. Watson, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs; Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine; and Mr. Porter S. Garner III, president and CEO of The Association of Former Students
Dr. Eleanor Green honored with University-Level
Distinguished Achievement Award in Administration The Texas A&M Association of Former Students (AFS) awarded Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) a University-Level Distinguished Achievement Award in Administration, one of the highest honors presented by the AFS. Green, who arrived at the CVM in 2009 as its first woman dean in its near 100-year history, has been recognized as an exceptional leader, collaborator, and innovator. Under her leadership, the CVM was designated as the lead college for Texas A&M University’s One Health Initiative—a transdisciplinary effort bringing multiple colleges within the university together to address the challenges of improving the health and welfare of animals, humans, and the environment. In addition, she has 78 •
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led university-level and national-level initiatives directed at improving diversity and climate within the academic setting and the veterinary profession. Outside the walls of the CVM, Green has contributed significantly to the growth of the veterinary profession, veterinary medical education, and mentorship and opportunities for women. She is a recognized trailblazer, having served as the first woman president for three different national organizations: the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians, and the American Association of Equine Practitioners. In addition, she was the first veterinarian inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Currently, she serves as president-elect of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and is helping
to shape the future of veterinary education. “The impact that Dean Green has already made on the veterinary industry at the national, state, and local level is more than most people accomplish in a lifetime,” said Dr. Kenita Rogers, associate dean for professional programs in the CVM, in her nomination letter. “She has brought about positive, enduring change to our college, as well as to the university and her profession.” Each honoree received a framed certificate from the AFS along with a $4,000 monetary award. The awards, begun in 1955, recognize outstanding members of Texas A&M’s faculty and staff for their commitment, performance, and positive impact on Aggie students, Texas citizens, and the world around them.
Honor Roll Dr. Mark Westhusin honored with University-Level
Distinguished Achievement Award in Research The Texas A&M Association of Former Students (AFS) honored Dr. Mark Westhusin of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) faculty with a University-Level Distinguished Achievement Award in Research, one of the highest honors presented by the AFS. Westhusin, a professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP) at the CVM, focuses his research on animal cloning. His laboratory group has successfully cloned more different species (cow, goat, pig, horse, cat, and white-tailed deer) than any other institution in the world, including the first cat and first white-tailed deer. “Dr. Westhusin has been an outstanding member of our faculty for
many years, and his contributions to veterinary science and the progress he has made in the advancement of animal and human health are immeasurable,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “We are indebted to him for his unsurpassed excellence in animal cloning and congratulate him for being a recipient of this award.” Westhusin’s most recent work has advanced the knowledge of the role genes play in disease resistance and protein synthesis. The results of his research will lead to improving the quality of protein sources available in developing countries and the safety of the food supply and to the ability to protect populations of people from devastating insect-borne diseases.
“He is one of the finest and most productive faculty members whom we have had the privilege to work with in our department and college,” said Dr. John N. Stallone, interim head of VTPP. “He is a most worthy recipient of an Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Research.” Each honoree will receive a framed certificate from the AFS along with a $4,000 monetary award. The awards, begun in 1955, recognize outstanding members of Texas A&M’s faculty and staff for their commitment, performance, and positive impact on Aggie students, Texas citizens, and the world around them.
From left: Dr. Michael Benedik, dean of faculties and associate provost; Dr. Karan L. Watson, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs; Dr. Mark Westhusin, professor of veterinary physiology and pharmacology; and Mr. Porter S. Garner III, president and CEO of The Association of Former Students Summer 2015 •
Honor Roll Dr. David W. Threadgill named Distinguished Professor Dr. David W. Threadgill, professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB), professor and holder of the Tom and Jean McMullin Chair of Genetics in the Department of Molecular & Cellular Medicine in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, and director of the Texas A&M Institute for Genome Sciences and Society, was named a University Distinguished Professor by a six-person awards committee of previously named Distinguished Professors. This title is the highest faculty honor bestowed by Texas A&M University and means the professor has made at least one seminal contribution to, is pre-eminent in, and has made a major impact on his discipline. Threadgill arrived at Texas A&M recognized as a scholar in the discipline of systems genomics—the study of the differences in genomes across individuals and species. An often-cited expert, his articles in the discipline clearly qualify him as one of the leaders in the field and well deserving of the honor. “Dr. Threadgill’s contributions are recognized around the world,” said Dr. Roger Smith, interim head of VTPB. “Threadgill immediately made an impact upon his arrival at Texas A&M through the development of multiple interdisciplinary collaborations that advance the One Health concept.” Threadgill’s current research activities include focusing on colorectal and breast cancer to identify environmental factors and genetic polymorphisms contributing to differential susceptibility to the development and progression of cancer. His team developed new experimental technologies and approaches to support integrative analysis of disease etiology and are exploiting these advances to prevent or delay cancer as well as to identify new therapies. “Dr. Threadgill is the embodiment of a distinguished professor,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “Genomic medicine is the future pathway for discovering novel therapies and cures for diseases in both humans and animals. The impact of Dr. Threadgill’s work is being felt around the globe.” “The innovative research led by Threadgill is leading the way in medicine to address real-world issues,” said 80 •
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Dr. David W. Threadgill
Paul Ogden, M.D., interim dean of the College of Medicine. “Genomic medicine will blaze the trail to advancements in personalized medicine, and serve the changing needs of health care.” Threadgill noted that “Many individuals contributed to get to this point, especially students and colleagues that provided invaluable support and stimu-
lating discussions over the years.” He also recognized those who took their time to coordinate the nomination process for the award. Threadgill received his Ph.D. in genetics from Texas A&M working under the mentorship of another CVM University Distinguished Professor, Dr. James Womack.
“The innovative research led by Threadgill is leading the way in medicine to address real-world issues. Genomic medicine will blaze the trail to advancements in personalized medicine, and serve the changing needs of health care.”
~Dr. Paul Ogden
Honor Roll Dr. Barbara Gastel honored with Bush Excellence Award for Faculty in Public Service Dr. Barbara Gastel, a professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS) at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) was honored with the Bush Excellence Award for Faculty in Public Service. The Bush Excellence Award for Faculty in Public Service is given annually by the Bush Presidential Library Foundation to recognize a Texas A&M University faculty member who makes outstanding contributions to public service, defined as a sustained longterm application of a faculty member’s disciplinary expertise to the public or non-profit sector in local, state, national, or international arenas. “Dr. Gastel is contributing a unique public service through national and international outreach and professional development in science communication,” said Dr. Evelyn TiffanyCastiglioni, department head of VIBS. “She has accomplished more in the realm of science communication that supports global scientific literacy than nearly any other person.” Gastel has pioneered programs that teach science writing and editing to researchers and medical professionals in
China, Mexico, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Ghana, and other developing and emerging countries. One of these programs was the China Medical Board Program in Biomedical Writing (1996–2007). Gastel co-led this project, which included yearly delivery of a two-semester course in biomedical writing at multiple leading health science centers in Asia, throughout its duration. Also, since its inception in 2007, she has been a member of the leadership team of AuthorAID, a project to help researchers in developing countries to write about and publish their work. For the past seven summers, Gastel has also given an intensive three-week course at the CVM in research writing, mainly for researchers from Mexico and other countries. “When Dr. Gastel arrived at our college, she brought with her an international reputation for science and technology journalism,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “As part of our faculty, she offers us the opportunity to provide unique educational experiences to all students. We are so proud that she is being recognized with this prestigious award for her support of
excellence in science writing and her instrumental impact in developing countries.” Gastel’s previous prestigious honors include the 2012 Texas A&M Association of Former Students Award in Extension, Outreach, Continuing Education & Professional Development and the 2010 John P. McGovern Science and Society Award, which is given by the international research society Sigma Xi. The McGovern Award recognizes individuals who are prominent spokespersons for the public understanding and appreciation of science, and other past winners include Condoleezza Rice and Norman E. Borlaug. “Public service through promoting effective science communication has long been a major part of my activity as a faculty member,” Gastel said. “Having completed more than a quarter century of such service, I am happy to be observing its long-term impact and especially to be seeing the impact amplified by those I have mentored or trained. Although such service is its own reward, I am honored to win the Bush Excellence Award for Faculty in Public Service.”
From left: Dr. Mark Hussey, Texas A&M University interim president; Dr. Barbara Gastel, winner of the Bush Excellence Award for Faculty in Public Service; Dr. Evelyn Tiffany-Castiglioni, associate dean for undergraduate education and head of the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at the CVM; Dr. Linda Logan, head of international programs at the CVM; and Mr. Fred McClure, CEO of the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation Summer 2015 •
Honor Roll Dr. Michael Willard recognized with Prestigious Bourgelat Award Dr. Michael Willard of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) earned recognition for his outstanding contributions to the field of small animal practice as a recipient of the prestigious Bourgelat Award. The Bourgelat, given by the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, was first awarded in 1965, and its awardees include some of the most noteworthy names in veterinary medicine. Willard, currently serving as a professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS), joins current and former members of the CVM faculty—Drs. Alice Wolf, Joerg Steiner, and Joe Kornegay—as Bourgelat honorees. “Dr. Willard has a world-wide reputation as an outstanding teacher and as a leader in clinical research,” said Dr. Sharon Kerwin, professor and former interim head of VSCS. “Although he has broad general expertise in small animal internal medicine, he has published and lectured extensively in gastrointestinal (GI) disease and has, in many ways, pioneered the ap-
plication of small animal endoscopy. He is well known not only within the specialist community, but also broadly through his many continuing education efforts.” It was at one of his continuing education (CE) lectures that Willard learned of the award. “I was giving a CE course in Bogor, Indonesia for the European School for Advanced Veterinary Studies,” said Willard. “It was a genuine shock. I had no idea I was even considered for this award. I am really honored that colleagues in Europe have even noticed my work,” he said. Willard has served on the CVM faculty since 1988 and earned his DVM from Texas A&M in 1975. Kerwin noted having a clinician, educator, and researcher of Dr. Willard’s caliber elevates the entire faculty. “We are all pushed harder,” Kerwin said, “the bar is higher, and as a result we are able to recruit and retain faculty who share the same goals and purpose: to provide outstanding education for future veterinarians while delivering
cutting edge patient care that is driven by evidence-based research.” Highlights of Willard’s career include working with the World Small Animal Veterinary Association to develop standards for GI endoscopy and histologic interpretation of GI biopsies, and working with Dr. Mike Davis on the GI ulceration in Alaskan sled dogs. However, Willard is quick to point out that he most appreciates the privilege of teaching veterinary students. “Dr. Willard is exceptional,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “He is an exceptional teacher, clinician, and researcher. Not only has he advanced the field of small animal medicine with his work on gastrointestinal disease, but he has also challenged students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills and has supported veterinarians from around the state of Texas and around the world in the treatment of difficult cases. We are proud of Dr. Willard and this well-deserved recognition of his contributions to veterinary medicine.”
Dr. Michael Willard earned recognition for his contributions to small animal practice as a recipient of the Bourgelat Award. 82 •
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Honor Roll Dr. L. Garry Adams earns AAVMC Leadership in Public Policy award The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) announced today that Dr. L. Garry Adams, a professor from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, is the recipient of the 2015 Senator John Melcher, DVM Leadership in Public Policy Award. The award, established in 2007, is presented to current or former faculty, staff, or students at an AAVMC member institution to recognize leadership in public policy that advances veterinary medical education and success in advocating for veterinary medical education on a national or international scale. “I am honored and awed to receive the 2015 Senator John Melcher, DVM Leadership in Public Policy Award,” Adams said. “Senator Melcher is a man of wisdom, high integrity and unselfish service to mankind. He spent his years in the senate working to make life better for people and animals alike, so to receive an award bearing his name is a significant honor for me. I am humbled and thankful to him and to everyone who walked along side me on this journey.” He received the award during the AAVMC’s 2015 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday, March 13, before more than 200 conference attendees, including veterinary college deans, faculty, and associated dignitaries from throughout the United States and the world. “In my 10 years of experience in the AAVMC, I consistently found the AAVMC to provide an environment where the education of our profession was objectively analyzed for strengths and weakness as well as for formulating new pathways for enhancing veterinary medical education with the vision of improving animal health and well-being,” Adams said. “Now once again, I look forward to the annual AAVMC meeting and receiving the awesome award of a lifetime!” Adams has provided leadership on many boards and scientific committees, including the American Veterinary Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences. He has testified before many congressional hearings that helped shape
national policy, including presenting invited testimony for the U.S. Congressional House Select Committee’s “Bioshield: Countering the Bioterrorist Threat” panel. Adams served as chair of the brucellosis and the tuberculosis scientific advisory committees of the United States Animal Health Association, providing guidance on the scientific basis for implementing rules impacting international trade policies with Mexico and Canada. He also served as the scientific leader of biologic systems research for the Department of Homeland Security and the National Center of Excellence for Foreign and Zoonotic Disease Defense, developing countermeasures against exotic diseases that could erode the nation’s food security. “Dr. Garry Adams has dedicated his career to the advancement of veterinary medicine and education,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. “He has achieved international recognition for his excellence in research and is now honored for his advocacy on behalf of our profession and veterinary education. It is especially fitting that Dr. Adams is recognized by the Senator John Melcher, DVM Leadership in Public Policy Award, because of all Dr. Melcher meant to veterinary medicine, especially through the impacts of his advocacy. We thank the AAVMC for offering this award to deserving recipients, like Dr. Adams.” In nominating Adams for the award, Dr. Linda Logan, professor and then-head of Texas A&M’s Depart-
ment of Veterinary Pathobiology, wrote that Adams is “iconic in his discipline. He is well respected for his professional competence. His standards have always been high, and his integrity and ethics are unquestionable.” She also described him as well liked, approachable, engaging, and “a great role model and advocate for veterinary medical education on both a national and international scale.” In addition, his long-standing commitment to his students and post-docs, which includes mentoring 69 post-graduate students from 13 countries, “is a daily example of quality science, the value of veterinary education, and the need for veterinarians to be engaged in research and public policy,” she said. Adams earned his bachelor’s degree in animal science, DVM, and doctorate in veterinary pathology, all from Texas A&M University.
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Dr. L. Garry Adams
Honor Roll Dr. Jan Suchodolski named fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association Dr. Jan Suchodolski was named Fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), the nation’s oldest medical society dedicated to disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Through the fellowship program, the AGA honors superior professional achievement in clinical private or academic practice and in basic or clinical research. Fellowships are awarded to AGA members whose accomplishments and contributions demonstrate personal commitment to the field of gastroenterology. “Out of the eight veterinarians recognized as fellows of the AGA, only three work at veterinary schools while the other five are at medical schools,” said Suchodolski, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “It is rewarding to know that the research we have conducted in the GI Lab at the CVM is recognized not only for improving the health and well-being of dogs and cats, but also for serving as a translational model to address GI problems common in humans.” The GI Lab at the CVM is an internationally known research program that has developed many of the diagnostic tools that veterinarians around the world use in their clinical practice. In addition to Suchodolski, Dr. Jörg Steiner, who serves as the director of the GI Lab, is a current AGA fellow. Suchodolski and Steiner oversee the research component of the laboratory as well as a vibrant clinical pathology referral service. “Achieving fellowship status in the American Gastroenterological Association is a superior achievement and it is very unusual for a veterinarian to be honored in this way,” said Dr. Sharon Kerwin, former interim head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. “Dr. Suchodolski’s research has a very important impact on human and animal health, and it’s gratifying to see it recognized by such a prestigious organization.” The mission of the AGA is to promote the science and practice of gastroenterology through the support
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Dr. Jan Suchodolski
of research, education, advocacy, and practice. “AGA acknowledges our members with superior professional achievement in the field of gastroenterology with fellowship within our organization,” said John I. Allen, MD, MBA, AGAF, and
AGA Institute President. “We are proud to announce the 2015 inductees for the AGA Fellowship Program who have been recognized by their peers and community as being at the forefront of our field.”
“Dr. Suchodolski’s research has a very important impact on human and animal health, and it’s gratifying to see it recognized by such a prestigious organization.”
~Dr. Sharon Kerwin
Dr. Johnson works with K-12 students through the PEER youth STEM promotion program.
Dr. Larry Johnson receives Sigma Xi’s National Ferguson Award Dr. Larry Johnson has been awarded the 2015 National Ferguson Award for Service from the scientific research society Sigma Xi at Texas A&M University. In addition to serving as president of the Texas A&M Sigma Xi Chapter in 1999, Johnson has also served as executive director of the Texas A&M chapter, chair of the Award Committee, and a member of both the Youth Science Promotion Committee and the Executive Committee. He has also attended several national meetings as the Texas A&M chapter delegate and has tied the Sigma Xi mission to the college’s Part-
nerships for Environmental Education and Rural Health (PEER) youth STEM promotion program. “As president, I initiated the youth Science Promotion Committee as a standing committee, the undergraduate-scientist expo, and the youth STEM promotion drawing and essay contest for middle school students to match the Sigma Xi banquet theme for 10 years,” Johnson said. As the international honor society of science and engineering, Sigma Xi’s mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in
science and engineering, and promote the public’s understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. The society’s main program areas include ethics, education, diversity, international science, health of the research enterprise, and the public understanding of science. “It is always rewarding to be recognized for one’s efforts, and even better for the recognition to be at the national level,” Johnson said. “It also is humbling, as I know that it is the efforts of many others that really made my efforts successful.” Summer 2015 •
Honor Roll Dr. Fabian Grimm recognized as a leader in field of toxicological research The Society of Toxicology (SOT), the world’s largest and preeminent association representing the field of toxicology, recognized the field’s top researchers and scientists through the announcement of recipients of 2015 SOT Awards. The awards honor individuals who are advancing the field of toxicology. One of those honored is Dr. Fabian A. Grimm, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS) at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). He is being honored with the 2015 SOT Colgate-Palmolive Postdoctoral Fellowship Award in In Vitro Toxicology. This award, which includes a stipend and research-related costs of up to $44,000 for one year, is designed to help postdoctoral trainees advance the development of alternatives to animal testing in toxicological research. “As toxicologists, we are always striving to find better, quicker, more accurate strategies for assessing chemical safety, which is why we are proud to support Dr. Fabian Grimm’s research in this field through the 2015 SOT Colgate-Palmolive Postdoctoral Fellowship Award in In Vitro Toxicology,” said Dr. Norbert E. Kaminski, SOT president 2014–2015. “Dr. Grimm’s proposal to evaluate the feasibility of using biological data-based evaluations to assess the toxic hazard of complex substances, such as petrochemicals, represents the type of work that can only make the field of toxicology stronger.” The field of toxicology and toxicologists are responsible for aiding human, animal, and environmental health and safety through the study of the adverse effects of chemicals and other biological agents. “The society is committed to discovering the best methods for evaluating the safety of diverse biological agents, which includes finding alternative methods to traditional animal testing,” Kaminski continued. “With the generous support of Colgate-Palmolive, SOT is able to support research into alternative testing methods through a number of grants and awards each year, and 86 •
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this year’s award recipients have proposed projects that will hopefully further the efficiency and effectiveness of these tests.” Colgate-Palmolive has been supporting SOT Awards dedicated to the development of alternative testing methods that reduce, replace, or refine the use of animals in toxicological research since 1988. “Dr. Grimm is a remarkably talented young investigator who joined Dr. Ivan Rusyn’s laboratory this past summer,” said Dr. Evelyn Tiffany-Castiglioni, department head of VIBS. “We are very proud of him for this recognition. He brings a powerful set of complementary skills to his studies, which integrate molecular biology, cell imaging, protein characterization, and quantitative analysis. The award provided by SOT will help Dr. Grimm pursue his innovative approaches to better understand the effects of chemical hazards on health.”
“It is rare that students or postdocs try to move beyond the simple exercise of developing a model, or collecting new information,” said Dr. Ivan Rusyn, SOT Councilor 2012–2015 and professor at the CVM. “I am most excited about his true determination to implement change, to interact with the industry and regulators, and to find meaningful solutions that can be readily implemented tomorrow, rather than in 10 years.” “I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be part of a highly collaborative project that will potentially advance non-animal based predictive toxicity assessments in both industry and academia,” said Grimm. “Being supported by the Society of Toxicology and through the 2015 Colgate-Palmolive Postdoctoral Fellowship Award is not just an affirmation of the quality of our research but also a great honor for me as an aspiring toxicologist.”
Dr. Fabian A. Grimm
Honor Roll Communications team honored with IABC Bronze Quill awards Members of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) Communications, Media, and Public Relations team were honored with seven awards by the Brazos Valley chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) at their annual Bronze Quill event on May 7, 2015. Communications team members listed on the awards included: Dr. Megan Palsa, executive director of communications, media, and public relations; Angela Clendenin, communication manager; Christina B. Sumners, communication specialist; Leo Pardo, web and information designer; VeLisa Ward Bayer, graphic designer; Jennie L. Lamb, graphic designer; Tim Stephenson, medical photographer; and Larry Wadsworth, medical photographer (retired). “I’m excited everyday to work with a team of such diversely talented communication professionals,” said Palsa. “We are proud to receive these awards as validation from our peers of the quality of the communications we produce for the CVM.” The Bronze Quill awards are held at the chapter level and entries are judged on their own merit by other chapters from across the United States. Awards of Merit are presented to entries receiving an average score between 5 and 5.24, out of a possible 7, and Awards of Excellence are presented to entries receiving an average score of 5.25 or more. The “Best of the Brazos” is awarded to the entry that receives the highest average score overall for the competition. This year, IABC/ Brazos Valley received 26 entries and 18 of those were honored with awards. Winners are encouraged to take judges’ feedback into consideration and submit the entries to the Silver Quill awards held by IABC/Southern Region. The Gold Quill awards are held at the international level. IABC is a learning community of professionals committed to improving organizational effectiveness through strategic communication. The organization is dedicated to advancing the
2015 CVM Bronze Quill Awards “One Day, Two Events” Materials Award of Excellence & Best of the Brazos Category: Other Graphic Design; Winners: Bayer, Lamb, & Palsa
CVM Today—Summer & Winter 2014 Award of Excellence
Volume 16, Number 1 • Summer 2014
Category: Publications; Winners: Bayer, Clendenin, Lamb, Palsa, Sumners, & Wadsworth
Award of Merit Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC)
Innovative • Collaborative • Transformative
Category: Publication Design Winners: Bayer & Lamb
One Health Grand Challenge Research Video Press Releases Award of Excellence Category: Audio Visual; Winners: Clendenin, Lamb, Palsa, Pardo, & Sumners
2014 CVM Annual Report Award of Excellence Innovative • Collaborative • Transformative
2014 Annual Report
Category: Publications; Winners: Bayer, Clendenin, Lamb, Palsa, Stephenson, Sumners, & Wadsworth
Award of Excellence Category: Publication Design; Winner: Lamb
communication profession and organizational communication internationally. Membership includes more than 13,000 communicators in more than 52 countries. The entire communications team and Eliana Mijangos, alumni and events manager at the CVM, are members of IABC/Brazos Valley and regularly attend professional development and networking events held by the chapter. Most of the members from the CVM attended the awards event
held at the New Republic Brewery in College Station. Dinner was provided by Chef Tai and entertainment by the band Ride the Panda. Lamb also received two other Awards of Excellence for her pro bono volunteer work and her family’s radio show on KAMU-FM. She has served on the chapter’s board of directors since 2011, first as awards chair and now as vice president of finance. She is also the president-elect and will assume the position of president on July 1, 2015. Summer 2015 •
College News CVM co-sponsors Veterinary Legislative Day
The college’s delegation for Veterinary Legislative Day The purpose of Veterinary Legislative Day in Austin at the Texas Capitol, held February 12, 2015, is to raise awareness of issues of importance to veterinarians, small business owners, and veterinary education. Veterinary Legislative Day is co-sponsored by the college and Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA). The following joined Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM): Kenita Rogers, Dan Posey, Guy Sheppard, Misty Skaggs, and Eliana Mijangos; faculty members Allen Roussel, Wesley Bissett, Deb Zoran, Brandon Dominguez, Murl Bailey, and Cheryl Ellis; as well as students Michelle Curran, Emily Dany, Suzanne Li, Cameron Ratliff, and Taylor Smithee. Michael O’Quinn, vice president for government relations for Texas A&M University, scheduled and accompanied the CVM team on visits with legislators and their staff. With outstanding knowledge of legislative process and rapport with all involved, he is an excellent resource and advocate for Texas A&M. “Dr. Green is an excellent advocate for the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, which helps position Texas A&M for funding and support,” said Michael O’Quinn, Vice President for Government Relations. “Legislators are bombarded with requests, but our legislators care about our needs and want to know how they can help.” At 10:00 a.m., Green, Rogers, Dr. Sam Miller, and Dr. Russell Ueckert, president of the TVMA, were on the floor for a reading of Texas House 88 •
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Resolution 467, “Commemorating the Centennial of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences,” which celebrated the college’s upcoming centennial in 2016, when the legislature is not is session. Representative John Raney of the Texas House of Representatives read the resolution. “TVMA is exceedingly proud of the working relationship we have with the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and appreciate the partnership in Legislative Day,” Ueckert said. “When we are visiting with legislators we are frequently asked what TVMA’s position is on the requests being made by the CVM. It is always easy to answer that we fully support the CVM’s requests and know that TVMA’s positions are supported likewise.” A TVMA-CVM reception for legislators and staff was held at Texas A&M’s Hirshfeld-Moore House. Two of the
college’s veterinary graduates and CVM Outstanding Alumni, Representative Jimmie Don Aycock and Representative Charles “Doc” Anderson, are members of the Texas House of Representatives and both were at the reception. The Texas A&M System priorities for the 84th Legislative Session directly related to CVM and Texas A&M University included: • Base/Formula Funding to provide additional funding for highquality teaching and support services for growing student populations and for student workforce preparation • Capital projects including a biocontainment facility • Research, especially the Competitive Knowledge Fund The college submitted to Texas A&M a special item to fund the Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) and targeted collaborations with Texas A&M System members to better serve and reach all of Texas. In visits with legislators and their staff members, faculty and administration emphasized support of the Texas A&M System priorities and discussed the importance of this special item as members expressed interest. “I sincerely thank all who took the time to advance the college, Texas A&M, TVMA, and the veterinary profession by supporting Veterinary Legislative Day,” Green said. “As always, our students represented us extremely well.”
Dr. Sam Miller, Dr. Russell Ueckert, Dr. Kenita Rogers, and Dr. Eleanor M. Green on the floor of the House for the reading of the resolution commemorating the upcoming CVM Centennial
College News Dexter the Dachshund retires from therapy work After 13 years of helping others, Dexter is planning for a well-deserved retirement. But that retirement will likely involve more treats and naps than travel or fishing. Dexter is a long-haired
“People will respond in a positive way to Dexter when they don’t respond to other people. He’s just very special.”
Dachshund, one of the first animals to join Aggieland Pets with a Purpose (APWAP), a nonprofit organization launched in 2002 that provides animalassisted therapy for rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, elementary schools, and other organizations in which people can benefit from a furry friend. Dexter’s owner, Kit Darling, has had him since he was a small puppy—only eight weeks old. Darling, the infection prevention coordinator at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, is also president of APWAP. The group has more than 60 animal members—mostly dogs, but also including one cat and one miniature horse. Dexter, however, is especially beloved. When Darling was a foster parent in the early 2000s, Dexter would help ease that difficult transition for the child
into a new environment. “Dexter was always good when a new child would come to the home, they would be really afraid and he’d come over and sit with them until they felt like they were okay,” she said. “He just had a real sense about that.” It’s that sense that has made Dexter a good therapy dog for the past 13 years. During that time, he has helped people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities reminisce about their own pets, he has encouraged children in elementary schools to practice reading by acting as the ultimate non-judgmental audience, and he has helped college students relax as they study for final exams. “People will respond in a positive way to Dexter when they don’t respond to other people,” Darling said. “He’s just very special.”
Kit Darling with Dexter and Daschle
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Dr. Jonathan Levine
Dr. Jonathan Levine named department head of Small Animal Clinical Sciences Dr. Jonathan Levine has accepted the position of head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS) in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) after a national search. He officially assumed the position on May 1, 2015. Dr. Sharon Kerwin, former VSCS interim department head and a highly recognized educator in neurosurgery and orthopedics, has returned to her role as a professor in VSCS. “We are grateful to Dr. Kerwin for her exceptional service and thank her for stepping in as interim department head,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “Dr. Kerwin proved to be a gifted administrator. She was a valuable addition to the administrative team of the 90 •
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college and lead VSCS forward noticeably,” said Green. Levine is currently an associate professor in neurology at the CVM and the Helen McWhorter Chair in Small Animal Medicine. He has built high-impact collaborations with his colleagues in human medicine in an effort to improve the health of both animals and people. “Without a doubt Dr. Levine is an outstanding member of our team,” Green said. “He has formed impactful relationships at our university, in the state, and around the world. His work in spinal cord injuries is collaborative and innovative, as he works with people and institutions from various disciplines, agencies, and universities. He is gathering valuable data from his work to improve the lives of dogs that can be used in future human clinical trials.”
“The transformation from faculty to administration is always a challenge, but he is embracing this opportunity with passion and fervor. We look forward to working with Dr. Levine in his new role as VSCS department head,” Green said. Levine received his DVM degree from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2001. He completed an internship in small animal surgery at Colorado State University in 2002 and a residency in neurology/ neurosurgery at Texas A&M in 2005. He is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (neurology). His special interests include neurology/neurosurgery, spinal cord injury, intervertebral disk herniation, and neuro-oncology.
College News Dr. Tammi Krecek named interim assistant dean of One Health Dr. Rosina “Tammi” Krecek has been named the interim assistant dean of One Health at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). She steps into the position most recently held by Dr. Michael Chaddock, the first assistant dean to serve in this role. Krecek, who has a doctorate in zoology and an MBA from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, has long had an interest in international health and creating sustainable solutions for prevention and management of diseases in developing communities in Africa and the Caribbean. Her research has focused on parasitology, especially those organisms that can affect humans and animals. “Dr. Krecek brings international experience and perspective to the One Health Initiative,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “She has proven success in building strategic partnerships with international and regional organizations in the area of One Health research and training programs.” One Health is the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain sustainable optimal health for a biological community of living organisms (humans, animals, plants, and microbes) and their physical environment interacting as a system. One Health is a cultural and behavioral concept driven by agents of change with socioeconomic elements and impacts. The One Health Initiative, housed in the CVM, was developed to help advance the university-wide One Health Grand Challenge that involves the entire campus. “Without exception we are individually affected by, and responsible for One Health,” Krecek said. “My new role provides opportunities to connect colleagues across disciplines to address One Health priorities. I am passionate about building teams, partnerships, collaborations and identifying synergies. Bringing One Health into the classroom and into the community through research, education, and outreach is one of my overarching goals. I look forward to working with colleagues throughout Texas A&M to harness the strengths of this university to address this global opportunity with its challenges.”
Dr. Rosina “Tammi” Krecek
“[Krecek] has proven success in building strategic partnerships with international and regional organizations in the area of One Health research and training programs.”
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College News Veritas offers exciting, novel online veterinary education The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) is known throughout the world for the valued techniques and educational practices offered to its veterinary students. In order to keep up with the vast expansion of knowledge for veterinary education, the CVM, after combining efforts with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and Zoetis, launched Veritas, a groundbreaking continuing education initiative, in 2012. Veritas represents an exciting, novel approach to online veterinary education. Designed to blend the best practices of industry and academia, this unique program will benefit the next generation of veterinary students by integrating cutting edge technology into the curriculum. “Research shows that interactive case studies improve learning outcomes. Whether it’s students in the classroom or veterinarians in practice, case studies allow learners to immediately bridge the gap between theory and practice, speeding up the learning process,” said Dr. Jodi Korich, the director of The Center for Educational Technologies (CET), who leads the Veritas effort at the CVM. Veritas offers a variety of media-rich and highly interactive educational resources ranging from case studies to procedural training videos and CET staff
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Veritas booth at a trade show self-paced learning modules. Since its initial launch in 2012, Veritas has introduced various new modules designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of practicing veterinarians and technicians. Recently released were two procedural video-based courses, “Feline Dental Extractions,” by Dr. Johnathon “Bert” Dodd, and “Enteral Nutrition: Feeding Tube Placement,” by Dr. Medora Pashmakova. “While Veritas courses are primarily designed for a continuing education
audience, we have found these materials integrate beautifully into the Texas A&M curriculum,” said Korich. “It turns out that the same principals we use to design time-efficient courses for busy veterinarians also allow us to deliver medical education more efficiently to our students.” Veritas modules have recently contributed to a wide array of curriculum used by participating faculty members. For example, Dr. Audrey Cook utilized the hematology case studies as a teaching tool in her small animal medicine II, a third-year veterinary course, and Dr. Ashley Saunders utilized the cardiology case studies for the second year in a row in her 3VM cardiology elective. Two parasitology case studies were also used as supplemental material for Drs. Rosina “Tammi” Kreeck and Karen Snowden’s second-year veterinary parasitology courses. In addition to the updated modules, the CET has expanded the case study library. Most recently, the CET completed the hematology case study set, consisting of six case studies, as well as adding equine medicine. With its innovative blend of interactive learning and advanced technologies, Veritas holds endless possibilities for the future of veterinary education and practice. To learn more about Veritas, visit Veritasdvm.com.
College News Equine Initiative organizes trip to Kentucky Derby
On May 1 and 2, 2015, a group of about 55 equine enthusiasts gathered in Kentucky to tour historic Thoroughbred breeding farms and attend the Kentucky Derby. Organized by the Texas A&M Equine Initiative, the trip allowed the group of program supporters behind-the-scenes access to farms with rich racing histories and that stand some of the most valuable stallions in the world. Drawing on their personal networks, Dean Eleanor M. Green and Dr. Jim Heird worked to create an itinerary that included visits to Manchester Farm, WinStar Farm, Spendthrift Farm, Gainesway, Claiborne Farm, Keeneland, and—of course—Churchill Downs. The trip culminated in “the greatest two minutes in sports,” as the group cheered the field on and applauded American Pharoah’s hard-won victory in the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby.
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College News Faculty & Staff Retirements Dr. William Moyer After 22 years of service, Dr. William Moyer, professor and former head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), retired on March 30, 2015. Moyer arrived at the CVM in 1993, and played significant roles in the development of The Link Equine Research
Endowment and the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team. In addition to his leadership in the CVM, Moyer’s leadership has impacted equine veterinary medicine on a national scale through his service as president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).
Dr. William Moyer
Dr. Eleanor M. Green, Dr. William Moyer, Leslie Moyer, & Dr. Allen Roussel
Larry Wadsworth After more than 20 years at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), Larry Wadsworth, medical photographer, retired on May 1, 2015. Prior to working at the CVM, Wadsworth was a photographer at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. For over two decades, Wadsworth’s photographs captured the professionalism and compassion at the heart of the college’s teaching, research, service, and outreach missions. A gifted photographer and master of photo manipulation, his real strength lay in his ability to make strong connections with both animals and their human companions, and these connections shine through in his photographs. Larry Wadsworth & Dr. Duane Kraemer 94 •
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While everyone leaves their mark on the college, whether it be through groundbreaking research, animal care, or student support, Wadsworth’s gift has been the legacy of the CVM itself—through his photographs of the animals and the people who make it such a uniquely rewarding place to work, practice, and educate.
Dr. Bonnie Beaver, Larry Wadsworth, & Dr. James McCrady
College News W. Terry Stiles At the end of March 2015, Mr. W. Terry Stiles, the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital director, retired after 40 years of service to Texas A&M University. As hospital director, Stiles has provided visionary leadership and maintained open communication between administration, faculty, staff, practitioners, and clientele, and his commitment and dedication has not gone W. Terry Stiles unrecognized.
Stiles looks forward to relaxing with his wife, Maxine, on their ranch, which overlooks the Brazos River. He’ll have opportunities to garden, raise cattle, hunt for fossils along the river, and spend time with their children and grandchildren.
W. Terry Stiles & Dr. Eleanor M. Green
In 1999, Stiles was nominated for the President’s Meritorious Service Award. He also received the Dean’s Impact award in 2007 and the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) Pearl Enfield Leadership Award in 2012. Still, Stiles is most proud of his hospital staff, which consists of uniquely trained, passionate individuals who contribute to the hospital’s success every day. Having such a talented and hardworking staff has made Stiles’ job much easier. “I’ve always felt that my primary role has been to attract and keep good people, and then to continue trying to meet their needs,” he said.
Beth Hammock & Marilyn Snell Beth Hammock, coordinator for continuing education at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), retired April 30, 2015. Marilyn Snell, office associate in continuing education at the CVM, retired May 22, 2015. During their time at the CVM, they have been responsible for more than 100 CE programs, which offer CE hours for veterinarians and veterinary technicians on a wide scope of veterinary medical specialty topics. Working with CVM faculty members, they helped increase attendance at existing CE sessions and worked to engage with new audiences by offering CE programs on new topics each year. In addition, they coordinated the CVM exhibit for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and managed the CVM’s in-house gift shop, which included clothing and gift items featuring CVM graphics. Through their efforts, the CVM has not only provided an important service to the veterinary profession, but also served as an important outreach program for the college.
Marilyn Snell & Beth Hammock
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College News White Coat Ceremony April 10, 2015
Honors Convocation April 10, 2015
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Vet School Open House April 25, 2015
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College News 2015 DVM Commencement Ceremony The college held its commencement for professional students on May 13, 2015, and 128 students received their DVM degrees. Clinton Lewis Jr., executive vice president and president of International Operations at Zoetis, was the commencement speaker.
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College Picnic May 22, 2015
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Artist’s rendering of new VBEC
by Caroline Neal & Heather Quiram
VBEC construction continues The new Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science (CVM) is marching quickly toward its scheduled completion date of May 2016, just in time to open its doors to the class of 2020 and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the college. “The new facility represents a tremendous opportunity to bring the latest in teaching technology to the CVM and to Texas A&M University,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “We remain grateful to the Board of Regents, Chancellor Sharp, and the administration of Texas A&M Univer100 •
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sity for deciding to invest in the future of our college, our faculty, and our students.” Comprised of three buildings, the complex is set to house state-of-the-art classroom and teaching laboratory space that will enhance the learning environment for students. These new facilities will provide opportunities for innovations in teaching and will nurture collaboration and creativity. In addition, they are expected to be a notable factor in recruiting the best faculty, staff, and students. The Permanent University Fund (PUF), which was established in the Texas Constitution of 1876 as a public endowment contributing to the sup-
port of the institutions of the Texas A&M and University of Texas Systems, is solely funding the $120 million for the project. Upon receipt of funding from PUF in 2012, Green charged the office of the director of facilities with becoming a liaison between the college and the architects designing the building. This responsibility meant gathering requirements, wants and wish lists from everyone, including student body representatives, staff and faculty members, the custodial and facility maintenance teams, and many more. This information was used to design a 329,262 square-foot teaching facility meant to meet the current curriculum needs of the College of Veterinary
Facilities Update Medicine & Biomedical Sciences as well as the needs of the college for the next 75 years. Green noted that the opportunity to launch a construction project such as this is once in a lifetime, and it was important to the planning team to look across the country at not only the current trends in classroom innovation and teaching technology, but also what new advances may be on the horizon. Many factors were taken into account when working to design a ‘futureproof’ building. The first piece was how the delivery and receipt of education has evolved. Faculty and students alike voiced their desire to be able to teach and learn through paradigms other than a single instructor on a stage lecturing to a large group of students. To make this possible, spaces of varying sizes and shapes have been incorporated into the building. Seating capacities range from 8 students in the smaller classrooms to 250 students in the largest rooms; the larger rooms also have retractable walls to create a single room that can accommodate up to 500 people at a time. Several of the larger rooms have a retractable stadium-type seating system as well. This system offers tremendous flexibility by allowing faculty to transition a 250-seat room from a traditional lecture theater to a flat classroom with the push of a button. The flat room can then accommodate any type of furniture configuration: break-out active learning configurations, conferencestyle seating, banquet events requiring round tables, or anything else desired. Designing a building meant to serve the college for 75 years without committing to quickly outdated information technology and audiovisual technology meant planning for flexible infrastructure. Infrastructure to support power and data for future classroom equipment is built into the ceilings, walls, and floors of the VBEC. The ceilings are laid-in tile rather than hard ceilings, which allow access to the space above classrooms. The walls are full of vacant conduit meant to accommodate wiring for equipment that will directly support all teaching styles, particularly active learning, as it tends to be more technology dense. Lastly, the floors of many of the classrooms are elevated, allowing for tremendous flexibility in terms of positioning equipment in the center of rooms rather
Top: Artist’s rendering of the courtyard area of the new VBEC Bottom: VBEC construction in progress than along the walls. All four of the 4,000-square-foot teaching laboratories have elevated flooring systems to enable those spaces to be easily modified as the curriculum evolves. The building is planned in such a way that there are recurring areas that offer opportunities to relax and enjoy the built environment. Seating throughout the building is a combination of traditional classroom chairs mixed with areas of soft seating meant to encourage a moment of rest and rejuvenation between classes or meetings. Natural light was an absolute must for everyone questioned about the new building. Tall windows and transoms above the interior door are incorporated throughout the complex to pull light into the interiorof the
rooms. The complex itself consists of three buildings that form a ‘U’ around a large courtyard. The courtyard gave the architects the opportunity to add wide, covered sidewalks and porches to the courtyard-facing side of the buildings to create scenic views and to encourage students, staff, and faculty to enjoy the exterior of the building as well as the interior. Skanska, the contractor coordinating the construction of VBEC, assisted in the installation of two construction cameras for the public to keep up with their progress. By visiting http:// vetmed.tamu.edu/constructioncams, you can follow the entire construction process and take part in this tremendous transformation.
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Development News Centennial festivities to coincide with new facilities completion The concrete and steel are rising from the ground on the new Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex. The new space to replace the 1950s era classroom buildings is on schedule for completion in the summer of 2016, and as you know, this will also be the centennial year for the college. This is a very exciting time for the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and for our graduates and friends. We are planning a number of events to celebrate our history and to dedicate our new facilities to the future of veterinary medicine, and we hope that each of you will make time to join us. As we approach completion of new classroom and education space, we turn our attention to the next area of
critical importance, the Small Animal Hospital project. Phase 1 of the threephase project has been completed and has addressed the needs for space, convenience, and safety for our clients and patients. Completion of Phase 1 now lets us focus on the next phase of the $30 million project: the addition of desperately needed surgical and other hospital space. We are actively seeking partners in this project, and we would love to discuss the naming and other opportunities that are available. The members of the Centennial Class of 2016 have also taken their places as the senior class in the clinics and in the other rotations, and they demonstrate daily their pride in bearing this title. This class made a commitment in their first year of
veterinary school to completely endow their class scholarship by the time they graduate. Although these students have made tremendous progress toward that commendable goal, they could still use a little help. If you have an interest in supporting the Centennial Class, please let us know, and we will be happy to help. Finally, as we celebrate a notable mark of maturity for the college, it can create a time of personal reflection. This time of reflection can cause one to consider the role that the CVM has played in our lives, and elicit thoughts of how to leave a legacy in support of the institution that has given us so much. We would like for you to know that there are many methods to accomplish this goal while also benefitting your family and minimizing your tax burden. The development team welcomes any questions that you might have, and we would very much like to show you some of the options available to you. Thank you for your interest in, and support of, the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. As always, please let us know if we may be of service to you, and please stop by to visit us whenever you are in town.
O. J. “Bubba” Woytek, DVM ’65
Asst. Vice President for Development
Chastity Carrigan ’15
Senior Director of Development
Guy A. Sheppard, DVM ’78 Director of Development
Chastity Carrigan, Dr. O.J. “Bubba” Woytek, Dr. Guy Sheppard, and Noell Vance 102 •
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Development News Peyton A. James Endowed
Scholarship in Veterinary Medicine Peyton A. James
Kindness and compassion: not only are these characteristics important in society today, but they also describe a very courageous young boy who was fascinated by animals of all species and dreamed of becoming a veterinarian one day so he could take care of them. Kindness, compassion, and Peyton James’ love of animals are also the driving force behind the initiative established in his honor, Kindness Matters, which is creating a scholarship for veterinary students at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Peyton’s life had many challenges from the very beginning, as he was born nine weeks premature, weighing only 2.5 pounds and requiring his first days to be spent in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The pure oxygen he received in the NICU led to discolored enamel on his teeth, but Peyton was still a handsome young
man with beautiful red hair and a striking smile. He wore glasses and was diagnosed with ADHD, and perhaps due to this combination of characteristics, became the target of bullying from other children. Peyton and his mother, Jackie, spent much of his childhood exploring the world around him, reading, playing video games, and watching YouTube videos, but none of these activities equaled the passion he had for animals—especially cats. His connection to animals ran deep, possibly because animals do not judge or bully. This unconditional acceptance and love of humans by animals was very important to Peyton. He was also a huge fan of the University of Texas Longhorns and was a little disappointed to learn that to become a veterinarian and study in Texas, he would have to attend Texas A&M University—home to the only college of veterinary medicine in the state.
However, after attending a Vet School Open House at the CVM in 2013, Peyton found a place he could call home. Peyton and his mother discovered the excellent reputation the CVM established for being warm, welcoming, and accepting to everyone, which was very important to both of them. After Peyton’s death, his mother was determined to spread the message that meant so much to Peyton: kindness matters. She began a foundation of the same name and developed a weekly Kindness Matters Challenge that offers an easy, specific task for people to complete in an effort to make the world a better, kinder place. The scholarship established at the CVM also honors Peyton’s special fondness for cats and the Longhorns. Students eligible for scholarship funds should be members of the Student Chapter of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and should have an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas. Just as Kindness Matters is working to change the dialogue between people and to increase awareness of the negative impact of bullying, it is also hoping to make a difference in the lives of students who will one day care for animals as much as Peyton.
Peyton A. James Summer 2015 •
Lance Corporal Colton Rusk with Eli
by Christina B. Sumners
Eli’s Fund supports America’s heroes When Sgt. William Cole returned from serving his country in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he was haunted by nightmares and depression. Traditional therapy and medications failed to heal Cole, but soon a new friend, a Labrador retriever named Hank, would help Cole find peace. Just as Hank was helping Cole get his life back, the young dog fell victim to a car accident after escaping from his backyard, leaving him with severe, life-threatening injuries. Fortunately for Hank, he was brought to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH), where highly trained veterinarians worked as a team to address Hank’s injuries. After initial treatment and surgeries, Cole was told the prognosis 104 •
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was not good for Hank to survive. Lifethreatening injuries required a 16-day stay in intensive care. However, the early intervention and care he received at the VMTH have given Hank a second chance, and for Cole, that was the biggest gift of all. Due to Cole’s circumstances, the VMTH was able to use money from two sources to reduce Hank’s more than $11,500 bill significantly. Established to provide financial support for special cases, and in recognition of the special bond between humans and animals, the Capper and Chris Save the Animals Fund was used to help offset the cost of Hank’s care. Notable former Texas A&M University student Lowry Mays ’57 also stepped in to help, covering the remainder of Hank’s bill.
In response to Hank’s story, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) development council member Dr. Mike Moore ’79 of Corpus Christi, Texas, has established Eli’s Fund, a source of financial support for active duty service men and women, medically retired veterans’ service dogs, and retired military dogs with veterinary bills at the CVM. Moore’s original $5,000 gift to the Texas A&M Foundation to create Eli’s Fund honored Colton Rusk, of Orange Grove, Texas, and his military working dog, Eli, whose family Moore knows well through his work on behalf of wounded warriors and their families. After Rusk’s death in active duty in 2010, Eli refused to work or even move from Rusk’s cot at their base, so he
Development News Hank & William Cole
was released to retire in Orange Grove with Rusk’s family. At that time, Eli was only the second dog in United States history to be granted this honor. The Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation LCPL Colton Rusk
Colton Rusk & Eli
(TVMF) has pledged to cover all of Eli’s veterinary care for the rest of his life. Moore had a number of counter top donation boxes built and volunteered Eli at Colton’s grave
to place these in veterinary hospitals and other businesses around the state in order to attract donations from patrons. A number of veterinary hospitals requested these boxes, and donations received as of the end of February 2015 totaled $18,829.
How You Can Help With a contribution to Eli’s Fund, you have the opportunity to help active duty service men and women, veterans, and retired military animals. Animals play a special role in the lives of their owners, and continued support will ensure that animals in need and their owners will have access to life-saving care. To learn more about how to support the funds or create an endowment through the Texas A&M Foundation for the benefit of the CVM, or to request a donation box for your hospital or business, please contact the college development office at 979-845-9043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Alumni News by Caroline Neal
College honors 2015 Outstanding Alumni, Rising Star recipients during Homecoming The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) honored six of its alumni at a dinner held on April 10, 2015 at the Miramont Country Club. The recipients of the 2015 Rising Star Award and the 2015 Outstanding Alumni Awards are all leaders in the veterinary profession, and the awards recognize them for their contributions and service. “Recognizing our former students and the impact of their contributions on our college, our state, our nation, and the world is an honor and privilege,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “These incredible veterinarians are outstanding ambassadors for the CVM and our profession. We are proud of their ongoing commitments to serve, lead, and educate.”
Rising Star Award Dr. Nancy Turner, of Dallas, Texas, graduated with her B.S. in 2002 and her DVM in 2007 from Texas A&M University. She has already accomplished a great deal in the veterinary profession during her relatively short career. During professional school, Turner served as the student representative to the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) board of directors. Turner has worked for seven years in small animal medicine and surgery
Dr. Eleanor M. Green & Dr. Nancy Turner 106 •
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at various practices in Dallas, such as Love Field Pet Hospital and Bent Tree Animal Hospital. She has also worked in relief and emergency veterinary practices since 2010. Turner is still an active member of the TVMA, where she has served as a committee member on the Governmental Relations Committee, Animal Welfare Committee, and Student/ Recent Graduate Committee. In 2009, she became the Dallas County district director. She also previously served on the Council on Veterinary Service for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Turner was awarded both the Recent Graduate of the Year in 2011 and the President’s Award in 2013 from the TVMA. Turner currently serves on the TVMA Strategic Planning Council and chairs the TVMA Task Force on Governance Review. She was a science fellow for the United States House Committee on Agriculture in Washington, D.C., in 2006 and is a United States Department of Education grant recipient for the improvement of post-secondary education in Brazil and Italy. As a freelance media spokesperson, Turner has given multiple media interviews with various outlets since 2010, including NBC 5 and CBS 11. She was a co-host of the radio program “Animals on the Air” for 660 AM in Dallas during 2012. On the program she discussed animal news and care with multiple guests. She is also an author. Her article “German Shorthairs: How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” was published as part of 101 Publishing: Pet Series for Demand Media. Turner enjoys being involved and serving her community in any way that she can. As a community educator, Turner has presented educational programs on responsible pet ownership and veterinary practice to various schools, Girl Scout troops, and community groups. In 2013 and 2014, Turner assisted the TVMA in organizing two community outreach programs: the Dallas Heartworm Event and the Heat stroke Awareness Event.
Dr. Eleanor M. Green & Dr. Floron Faries
Outstanding Alumni Awards Floron C. “Buddy” Faries Jr. graduated from Texas A&M with a B.S. in veterinary science in 1964, and earned his DVM from Texas A&M in 1965. He obtained his certificate in acarology from The Ohio State University in 1967, and an M.S. in veterinary parasitology from Oklahoma State University in 1968. Faries has spent 50 years as a practicing veterinarian and educator. With a special focus in beef cattle production and horse health management, public health, and foreign animal and zoonotic disease defense, Faries’ research, experience, influence, and contributions have been varied and widespread. From risk assessment and animal emergency management procedures to controlling parasites in livestock and preventing the spread of infectious diseases of economic and public health significance, his expertise and advice have set a standard in care and management of livestock herds. Faries has been involved in and received recognition from many agricultural agencies and associations, including Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas 4-H, Texas and National Future Farmers of America, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and the Independent Cattlemen’s Association. Through his membership and
Alumni News association with these varied groups, he has been influential in promoting food safety through preventing drug and pesticide residue in livestock production. Since 1984, Faries has led the Veterinary Medicine Program Unit of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Through AgriLife Extension, he has had the opportunity to impact countless youth and adults with presentations to 4-H and FFA groups as an extension educator. His Veterinary Science Certificate Program has impacted thousands of high school students through the educational curriculum and workforce training he developed. A tireless ambassador, Faries has been successful in bringing local veterinarians into the program to share their expertise. The program has been so successful that it has been adopted by 31 states. In addition, he continues to be in demand as an invitational lecturer. Faries has served as a role model to countless young people, and many of his former students attest to his influence in their decision to pursue careers in veterinary medicine. Dr. Fairies and his wife, Donna, reside in College Station, Texas. Since retiring from AgriLife Extension last September as professor and extension specialist emeritus, he enjoys participating in church ministry, studying Greek language, exercising, gardening, fishing, eating home-cooking, and piddling. Dr. James L. Forgason earned his DVM with honors from Texas A&M University in 1957, serving as the president of the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Associa-
Dr. Eleanor M. Green & Dr. James Forgason
tion during his fourth year. He holds membership in both the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA). Forgason was born and raised on a ranch in Hungerford, Texas, where he learned to handle horses and cattle at an early age. In high school, he was elected president of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) Wharton High School chapter. In 1951, he won the Texas State High School All-Around Cowboy Award and the National High School Cutting Horse Championship. After his graduation from the CVM, Forgason served as staff veterinarian at Winrock Farm, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller’s Santa Gertrudis cattle farm in Arkansas. His duties included herd health, fertility, and research. While there, he served a term as president of the Arkansas Veterinary Medical Association. At Winrock Farm, Forgason first met Gus Wortham and Sterling Evans, owners of the Nine Bar Ranch in Cypress, Texas, and was offered a position at the Wortham Research Laboratory upon his return to Texas. In 1963, Forgason was called home to manage the family division of J.D. Hudgins, Inc., founded by his greatgrandfather, J.D. Hudgins, in 1908. Having returned to Texas, Forgason joined Dr. R.O. Berry at the Wortham Research Laboratory to study reproduction in Santa Gertrudis, a breed developed by the King Ranch beginning in 1929 by crossing 500 Hudgins Brahman bulls with Shorthorn cows. Along with Berry, Forgason helped persuade the Texas Legislature to establish the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. Forgason served as secretary of J.D. Hudgins, Inc., for 23 years and president for 19 years, promoting the sale of Hudgins Brahman cattle and sharing his knowledge of cattle fertility and health around the world. Forgason and Joyce have been married for 62 years and live in Hungerford, Texas. He is actively involved in his church and served as the director of the Federal Land Bank for 31 years, eight of those as chairman. They have two sons, Burt and Mark, who are also Texas A&M graduates, and two grandchildren. Dr. Charles R. Pipes entered Texas A&M in 1972 as a proud member of the
Dr. Eleanor M. Green & Dr. Charles Pipes Corps of Cadets and a pre-veterinary student and earned his DVM in 1978. After working for South Oak Cliff Animal Hospital in Dallas, Charlie and his wife, Carolyn, along with Charlie’s parents, opened Country Brook Animal Hospital in Garland, Texas, in 1987. Since 1978, Pipes has been a continuous member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA), and the Dallas County Veterinary Medical Association. Pipes has Lifetime Members status with the TVMA. He is a 29-year diplomate, American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Having served on several TVMA committees during the last 33 years, his favorite committee has been the Historical Committee and its dedicated efforts towards the Mark Francis Museum of Veterinary History and the Texas Veterinary Heritage Practice Program. Pipes was nominated twice for TVMA’s Companion Animal Practitioner Award. He received the TVMA President’s Award in 2009, the TVMA Distinguished Career Achievement Award in 2014, and he is a Mark Francis Fellow. In addition to being consistent financial supporters of TVMA and the A&M Foundation, Pipes and his wife established the Carolyn and Dr. Charles Pipes ’78 Endowment in Veterinary Medicine in 2013. They are also committed to the Small Animal Hospital Construction Fund. Charlie and Carolyn Pipes are members of First Baptist Church and have three children and a grandson. Pipes has been involved with Boy Summer 2015 •
Alumni News Scouts, has held homeowners’ association positions, and has given numerous public school presentations. His practice strives to be available to clients through long work hours, a no-appointment-needed exam system, and accommodating payment arrangements for clients needing assistance. Dr. Sharon J. Spier graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.S. in 1981 and a DVM in 1983, after which she attended a large animal residency at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), where she earned her certification from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and completed her Ph.D. in comparative pathology in 1989. Spier was hired afterwards as a faculty member, eventually attaining the rank of professor in UC Davis’s Department of Medicine and Epidemiology. Spier’s special focus on equine medicine has led to a variety of leadership roles as a researcher, teacher, and clinician. She was appointed as an Emergency Treating Veterinarian for five Olympic games (1988–2008) and multiple World Equestrian Games and is active in a number of equine groups. Her extensive research, knowledge, and experience have led to worldwide speaking engagements and ongoing contributions to many research publications. One of Spier’s most important contributions to the field of equine medicine was her role in the research of hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) in Quarter Horses, and her subsequent role in the development of a genetic test for identifying horses that carry this potentially fatal gene mutation. Her collaborations and unique combination of focus, training, and experience as a veterinary internal medicine specialist enabled her to shed new light on the diagnosis, manifestation, progression, and management
Dr. Eleanor M. Green (center) with members of the DVM Class of ’65. 108 •
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Dr. Eleanor M. Green & Dr. Sharon Spier
Dr. Eleanor M. Green & Dr. James Ward
of this devastating disease. She was awarded the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Excellence in Equine Research Award for her contribution in this area. In addition to being an expert in HYPP, Spier is also considered an authority on Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis (Cptb), a bacterial disease of horses. Working for over 20 years in this area with her ongoing pursuit of a vaccine, testifies to her determination to improve the lives of horses. In the wake of a Texas outbreak of pigeon fever in 2011, Spier’s seminal research and experience with Cptb resulted in her invitation to return to the CVM to provide expert counsel to the equine community, which she did at a Texas Veterinary Medical Association conference. Spier resides in Winters, California, where she continues to educate and inspire the next generation of veterinary students and residents. Dr. James Edward (Jim) Ward Jr. graduated with his DVM from Texas A&M University in 1965. After graduation, he joined Dr. Buddy Smith at Bayshore Animal Hospital in Pasadena, Texas. In 1975, Ward and his brother, Mike, opened Ward Animal Hospital, in Nacogdoches, Texas, with Jim concentrating on equine reproduction. He practiced there until 1993 and now serves as a consultant. Ward also serves as a consultant and in a management role at Center Ranch and Center Veterinary & Reproductive Services in Centerville, Texas. In addition, Ward has owned and managed two commercial horse farms: Rio Medina Ranch in San Antonio and Pineywoods Stallion Station in Nacogdoches. He was the general
manager and resident veterinarian for McDermott Ranch, from 1993 to 2000. McDermott Ranch was the leading Thoroughbred breeding farm in Texas in 1999, as measured by progeny earnings. Ward managed leading Thoroughbred stallions The Prime Minister, Texas City, Ruhlmann, Smile, and Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck. Since 2000, Ward has been the Equine Management Consultant for Cargill, Inc., and a member of the national product development team and the Cargill Equine Enterprise Team. Through his career and his studies at Rio Medina Ranch and other ranches, Ward observed the devastation of colic on horses. This led him to develop the premium horse feed, SafeChoiceTM, which earned him the Innovation Award from Cargill’s Southwest District in 2004. Ward served as a director of the Texas Thoroughbred Association from 1998 through 2006, was Member of the Year in 2000 and president in 2001– 2002. He served as a board member for The Breeders’ Cup Limited in 2001– 2002. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, and the Texas Equine Veterinary Association. Currently serving as a member of the CVM Development Council and as an adjunct professor at the CVM, Ward uses his extensive knowledge and accomplished experience to educate both students and veterinarians on proper equine nutrition. Jim and his wife, Kathy, have been married for 45 years and reside in Nacogdoches, Texas. They have three children and four grandchildren.
In Memoriam Juan Carlos Robles Emanuelli, DVM (1978–2015) Juan Carlos Robles Emanuelli was born on June 16, 1978, to William Robles-Nevarez and Ivette Emanuelli-Bolius in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He attended University of Puerto Rico–Mayaguez Campus to study biology. He then went on to attend veterinary school at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and graduated in 2005. He completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery at Michigan State University in 2006. He then went to work on his Ph.D. in veterinary physiology at Texas A&M University. He joined the faculty there in 2013 as an assistant professor and taught in the Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology until his death on April 29, 2015. He was married to Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles and they have two sons, Noah and Liam.
Remembering JC… Jaci P. Christensen: “It is almost impossible to put into words what kind of man JC was. We all know that he was a devoted teacher, amazing father, and loving husband. We all know that his smile lit up the room and he could make anyone laugh. The special thing about JC was that it didn’t matter if he had known you for 10 minutes or 100 years—when you were in his presence, you were somebody, you were special.” Dr. Alison Diesel: “Mike [Deveau] and I have known JC and Heather since our residency days at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. They are a big reason why we are here in College Station. We’ve enjoyed many a dinner, movie, and game night with them. JC’s competitive nature ensured a humorous evening…whether it be Uno, Battle of the Sexes, or Cards Against Humanity. Watching basketball and football, especially the UW Badgers, was no less exciting and a highlight of the sports seasons. When the boys were born— Noah and then Liam—we watched as JC became an amazing father…not surprising given his strength as a loving husband and friend. With his cancer diagnosis, he remained positive and continued to fight, even when fighting was extremely difficult. He lived loud. He lived strong. He lived lovingly. He lived not long enough…but he lived.” Dr. Jim Herman: “We ask the candidates for our teaching positions to lecture to students as part of the interview process. We had two open teaching positions, and JC had applied for both. The search committee for
the other position was moving a little faster than we were and had already invited him to interview. I sat in on his lecture and knew, without a doubt, that I was going to have to steal him from the other search. He had everything we were looking for: energy, enthusiasm, pigs running on treadmills, and students paying attention to his every word. I cannot recall how exactly it happened, but I managed to get JC in my course. The energy and enthusiasm were not merely for his interview; he brought them to the classroom every day. His passion was knowledge and his mission field was students—not just his students, but all students. He would always include me in his latest discovery; every morning started with, ‘You have to see this!’ Sometimes it was videos of monkeys using robotic arms to eat apples, while other times it was articles about student learning. He shared freely so that everyone could experience the joy he felt when learning something new. His goal was to instill a sense of wonder and curiosity in his students (and his weary colleagues) so that all would love the pursuit of knowledge as he did. I think that JC just loved life and wanted to know everything about it. Fortunately, his enthusiasm was matched by his ability to communicate. His students received excellent instruction and exceptional motivation. He was open, fair, genuine, and sincere. JC left his mark on the course, our department, this college, and many students. We will preserve the zest that JC brought to the course and our lives. In his brief time with us, he achieved what many desire to do: he made a lasting impression and left our lives a little better because he had been there.” Dr. Kenita Rogers: “I have been reflecting a great deal over the past month about what JC has meant to this college, my family, and to me personally. For the college, the loss is tremendous. JC was an incredible and naturally gifted teacher. He implemented great ideas in the classroom and was a “teacher’s teacher.” He was very intellectually curious and instilled a contagious joy for learning in others. For my family, I can tell you that he was very special to both of my daughters. Both of them thought that he was a “really cool dude,” because of his kind-
Dr. Juan Carlos Robles Emanuelli
ness, smile, and how he treated them each and every time that he saw them. For me personally, he was my frequent companion to Aggie sporting events. He was always willing to go, was very knowledgeable, lots of fun, and most importantly, treated me like someone that knew a thing or two about sports. I will miss his smile, his friendship, his kindness, great conversations, and the pure joy that he brought into a room.” Dr. Sabina Sheppard: “The first thing that comes to mind when I remember JC is his creativity. He was always thinking of ways to reinvent something in his home or with his teaching. I used to pet sit Heather and JC’s family pets often. Literally almost every time I would come to their home, he would have re-wired their entire entertainment center. There would always be some new gadget or even a new handmade computer system that I would have to learn with each visit. It would make me smile, thinking of how he constantly found new ways to improve their home. Anyone who visited the Robles home has seen his impressive movie and entertainment room. Heather and JC had some fabulous Halloween parties; they were so elaborate, and the food was fantastic. You could tell that he and Heather really put a lot of thought into the details. JC was one of the warmest and most inviting people I had ever met. He made everyone he knew feel important. He was a caring friend and loved his family more than anything in the world. He will be dearly missed.” Summer 2015 •
Class of 1944 Coen Hollis “Dusty” Huddleston, 93, of Uvalde, Texas, died May 19, 2015. Class of 1948 Harold L. Gore, Sr., 89, of Fayetteville, Georgiam, died January 26, 2015. Class of 1950 Clifton H. Harrel, 87, died in 2009. Class of 1952 John L. Harper, 91, of Corsicana, Texas, died December 10, 2014.
Call for Nominations
Help us celebrate our Centennial by nominating graduates of the CVM for the 2016 Outstanding Alumni and Rising Star Awards! Recipients will be honored during our special Centennial Celebrations. A resume, or curriculum vitae, that summarizes major career accomplishments and two letters of support are required to nominate an alumnus or alumna. Additional information or letters may also be helpful to the selection committee. Nomination packets may be found online at http:// vetmed.tamu.edu/ or by contacting Noell Vance, Development and Alumni Relations Coordinator, at 979-8459043 or email@example.com. 110 •
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James Edgar Humphries, 88, of Yantis, Texas, died January 1, 2015. Class of 1954 William H. “Henry” Smith, 90, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, died January 17, 2015. Class of 1955 Bill R. Westbrook, 83, of Houston, Texas, died February 27, 2015. Class of 1956 Bobby Joe Payne, 83, died March 8, 2015. Class of 1958 Joe D. Loftis, 80, of Rockwall, Texas, died February 4, 2015. Derry David Magee, 80, of College Station, Texas, died June 3, 2015. Class of 1962 Richard Jens “Doc” Nelson, 77, of Seguin, Texas, died June 18, 2015. Class of 1964 Frank S. Moffett, 78, of Dilley, Texas, died February 21, 2015. Class of 1968 Gary Wilson Crouch, 71, of Los Fresnos, Texas, died December 29, 2014. Class of 1974 James “Jimmy” Smith, 72, of Winters, Texas, died March 9, 2015. Class of 1975 Jonn Brakebill, 69, of Sherman, Texas, died February 18, 2015. Please let us know what you think of CVM Today! Take the reader survey at: tx.ag/cvmtodaysurvey.
Continuing Education 2015–2016 Schedule*
August 7–9, 2015 Diagnostic Cytology Workshop Chair: Dr. Claudia Barton August 21–23, 2015 7th Annual Canine Conference Chair: Dr. Audrey Cook August 29, 2015 Annual Neurology Conference Chair: Dr. Jonathan Levine
Office of Continuing Education 4470 TAMU, Texas A&M University College Station, TX 77843-4470 Tel. 979.845.9102 | Fax 979.862.2832 vetmed.tamu.edu/ce
August 29, 2015 Ruminant Non-Reproductive & Reproductive Ultrasound Chairs: Drs. Philippa Sprake & Kevin Washburn October 4–17, 2015 3rd Annual Africa Wildlife Medicine Continuing Education: Chemical Immobilization Course (CIC) Chair: Dr. Jim Derr October 9–11, 2015 17th Annual Emergency Medicine & Critical Care Conference Chair: Dr. Stacy Eckman November 20–22, 2015 Anesthesia & Analgesia Conference Chair: Dr. Elizabeth Martinez March 5–6, 2016 22nd Annual Veterinary Technician Conference Chairs: Paula Plummer & Sheila Teague *All dates subject to change.
NON-PROFIT ORG. U.S. POSTAGE
Communications, Media, & Public Relations Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University, 4461 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4461
COLLEGE STATION TEXAS 77843 PERMIT NO. 215 CHANGE SERVICE REQUESTED
by Tim Stephenson
ONE WORLD, ONE FUTURE, ONE HEALTH
Looking forward to the next 100 years of health for all species