Volume 16, Number 2 â€˘ Winter 2014
Dean’s Message Howdy! Just one year away from our 100th anniversary, we are at an inflection point in our history. Opportunities have never been greater for our college as we focus on addressing global challenges and discovering the latest scientific and technological advances. As globalization makes the world smaller, faster, and more intricately linked, world health problems such as Ebola, antibiotic resistance, salmonella, and others make it necessary for us to “step up,” to reignite our passion, and to collaborate on a larger scale in our mission to transform lives. As our college continues to serve our clients and discover new cures, we identify problems and construct new paradigms that address the security of our food supply, emerging infectious diseases, and the health and well-being of an expanding global population. We will accomplish this by building dynamic and innovative collaborations that bring the very best minds together and by pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery. Drawing nearer to the 100-year mark also invokes the temptation to elevate consensus over progress and vision, but instead of choosing the path of least resistance, we have decided to meet the challenges head on. The college’s unsurpassed resources—human, physical, intellectual—demand that we seize this moment with focused boldness. To do anything less would be a missed opportunity. We will continue to make decisions that will be part of history, decades and even centuries from now. We will continue to discover, reinvent, design, build, and construct new ideas, new perspectives, new buildings, and new systems. Always focused on the fact that the work we do here, in research and development, enables us to identify complex problems and design solutions for a world where animals, humans, and the environment coexist. Our first 100 years is highlighted by the significant achievements of our faculty, staff, and students, and our future is filled with opportunity to build a better future through collaboration and cooperation. Together, we can!
Eleanor M. Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP The Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine 2•
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Contents 18 Biomedical Sciences Spotlight
Dr. Elizabeth Crouch: A new leader committed to biomedical science education BIMS graduate Jason Jennings named CEO of Scott & White Health, College Station BIMS graduates conquer dental school: Two top-ranking students have more in common than strong study prowess Biomedical Sciences Program funds students for fall enrollment In their own words: BIMS student autobiographical sketches
26 Hospital Spotlight
A boy and his horse: The Large Animal Hospital helps restore a special bond Love to the Max: Texas A&M veterinarians help a family through the pain of canine cancer
30 One Health Spotlight
A grand challenge: One Health research proposals funded One healthy village at a time: Changes in Ometepe, Nicaragua
36 International Spotlight
Students travel to Africa for study abroad
38 Student Spotlight
In their own words: International graduate student autobiographical sketches
Dr. Ken Muneoka: A pioneer of regenerative medicine Dr. H. Morgan Scott: Viewing epidemiology through a different lens
Budke focusing global attention on neglected tropical diseases Running for a cause: How putting Yucatán miniature pigs on treadmills helps fight heart disease Museum “crusties” foster collaboration between geneticists and Smithsonian Powerful collaborations work to solve multifactorial salmonella challenge
62 In The Spotlight
A pioneer: Dr. Duane Kraemer MS ’60, BS ’65, DVM ’66, PhD ’66
68 Leadership Spotlight
Agent for change
Collaboration, innovation key to team’s success
48 Research Spotlight
Collaboration on the front lines
44 Faculty/Staff Spotlight
Avian health complex complete
Texans help researchers map Lyme disease in Texas
A love of horses leads to a legacy of equine research
Collaborative leadership: TVMA & the CVM
2 4 5 70 71 82 96 105 107 108
Dean’s Message College Information Continuing Education Calendar Facilities Update Honor Roll College News Development News Alumni News In Memoriam Parting Shot
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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
Contributing Writers: Monika Blackwell Kristin Burlingame ’09 Clara Bush ’18 Caitlin Curry ’16 Bryan Demapan ’16 Jenny Fuentes Roberto Molar ’13 Caroline Neal ’15 Dr. Dan Posey ’82 Heather Quiram Claire Ronner ’15 Kelly Tucker ’14 Gina Marie Wadas ’15 Micah J. Waltz Michelle Yeoman ’13
Assistant Dean, Undergraduate Education Dr. Elizabeth Crouch ’91 Assistant Dean, One Health & Strategic Initiatives Dr. Michael Chaddock
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.
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.
VeLisa Ward Bayer Jennie L. Lamb
Graphic Designers: Audrey Bratton ’15 Sydney Sund ’18
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
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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 Interim Dept. Head, Small Animal Clinical Sciences Dr. Sharon Kerwin ’88 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 Director, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital Mr. W. Terry Stiles ’73 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
2015 Schedule* *All dates subject to change.
March 7–8, 2015 21st Annual Veterinary Technician Conference Chairs: Paula Plummer & Katrina LaCaze April 10–12, 2015 19th Annual Feline Forum Chair: Dr. Audrey Cook May 2–3, 2015 4th Annual Orthopedics Conference Chair: Dr. Laura Peycke June 5–7, 2015 Wildlife Health & Management Chair: Walter Cook June 12–14, 2015 24th Annual Food Animal Conference Chair: Drs. Gibbons, Hartnack, & Jones August 7–9, 2015 Diagnostic Cytology Workshop Chair: Dr. Claudia Barton August 21–23, 2015 7th Annual Canine Conference Chair: Dr. Audrey Cook
Office of Continuing Education 4470 TAMU Texas A&M University College Station, TX 77843-4470 Tel. 979.845.9102 Fax 979.862.2832
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
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Texas Task Force 1 brought together the University of Florida Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service and the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team for a four-day trainer certification course in Large Animal Technical Rescue.
by Angela Clendenin
COLLABORATION on the FRONT LINES When disaster strikes, animals and people are put in harm’s way, and a strong collaborative response effort must be launched to save lives and put families and communities on the road to recovery. Those called into action represent a wide scope of experience and expertise, including law enforcement, fire fighting, search and rescue teams, medical personnel, service and support organizations, government agencies, and, more recently, veterinary medicine. The diversity of response organizations and the disasters to which they respond have led to one of the nation’s most distinctive collaborative efforts, housed at Texas A&M University. Search and rescue teams working in Louisiana and the upper Texas coast in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 were faced with not only rescuing a significant number of stranded survivors, but also dealing with the animals that had been left behind or were stranded with their owners. As a further complication, the environmental conditions in which these special teams worked put additional stress on both the human team members and their canine partners. Following these two disasters, legislation was enacted that dictated companion animals must be considered and provided for in the event of a disaster. How this was to be accomplished was not defined and was left to individual jurisdictions to decide. “After Katrina, the PETS [Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act] legislation was passed stating that no one would be left behind because of a companion animal,” said Jeff Saunders, operations chief at Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1). “That is fine for the people who are home with their pets, but many times we find that the people have evacuated or couldn’t return to their residence because of a mandatory evacuation, but the animals are still there. In
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those cases, search and rescue teams, such as ours, are usually the first to locate these animals.” Hurricane Rita and, later, Hurricane Ike brought a large volume of evacuees from the coastal areas to Texas A&M seeking shelter from the storms. During Rita, the Large Animal Hospital at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) was turned into a human surge hospital within 72 hours of notice. Following that event, faculty, staff, and students from the college worked collaboratively with representatives from the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences to set up both a large animal shelter (at the Brazos County Expo Center) and a companion animal shelter at (Texas A&M’s Riverside Campus) to house pets and livestock evacuated from the coast in the face of Hurricane Ike. The need for veterinarians to play a role in disaster response was readily apparent. “The emphasis on pets and livestock impacted by these disasters underscored the need to include veterinarians in the response discussion,” said Dr. Wesley Bissett, associate professor in Large Animal Clinical Sciences and director of the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET). “As the only college of veterinary medicine in the state of Texas, and as a part of a land-grant university, it was our responsibility to find ways to be part of the solution to address animal issues in disaster.” Bissett didn’t have to turn far to find assistance in developing what has become one of the largest and most sophisticated veterinary emergency response organizations in the country. Immediately after Hurricane Ike, he began conversations with the world-renowned TX-TF1, a response agency that also calls Texas A&M home. From there, what began as a conversation has led to a collaborative effort that not only
addresses animals in disaster situations but also ensures the health and welfare of those animals that serve side by side with their human response partners. “First and foremost, the power of this collaboration, what makes it unique and special, is that it is the only one in the country that we know of,” said Saunders. “Other teams have veterinarians that deploy with their personnel, but nothing is as robust and effective as TX-TF1 and the VET. Now, as our teams come across stranded animals, we are able to GPS the location to local animal control or to the VET. This helps alleviate some of the loose or stranded pet issues by working as a team with other response groups, and we can still focus on our search and rescue efforts.” Saunders and his team recognized from their extensive deployment experience the need for veterinary support on the ground to assist in assessing loose and stranded animals and evacuating them to a shelter or veterinary hospital where they could be reunited with their owners. “Working in disaster situations requires an integrated response,” said Bissett. “From that perspective, as a response team, we have the veterinary expertise, but we also had much to learn about becoming a true response unit. We were fortunate to find a response partner the caliber of TX-TF1 to help guide us as we began to mature to the point where we are now.” While the PETS legislation placed the focus on loose and stranded companion animals, another member of TX-TF1 recognized the value of working with the VET, but for a different reason. Susann Brown, search team manager for TX-TF1, coordinates the training and deployment calls for the canine search and rescue teams that serve with TX-TF1. The hazardous environments in which these teams operate have always presented medical concerns for Brown and these special team members. Collaborating with the VET represented a new opportunity to further ensure the safety and well-being of these working dogs. Dr. Deb Zoran, medical operations chief for the VET, had been working with Brown since the late 1990s as the on-call veterinarian for pre-deployment exams for the search and rescue dogs. In addition, she provided first-aid lectures to the handlers during Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training weekends. “As the VET developed, and we created our fourth year rotation for veterinary medical students, we asked Susann about becoming their training partner and supporting the
handler/canine teams when they had their bimonthly training sessions at Disaster City,” Zoran said. “This step represented that continuing evolution of two groups of people who were committed to the idea and finally found a way to make things work.” Zoran added that most of the injuries from the training sessions come from the high drive of the working dogs, so it’s important to have that awareness and understanding of what the risks are, whether in a training rubble pile or on a deployment. The search and rescue dogs are asked to work in demanding and hazardous environments that are often contaminated, and while the handlers are able to wear personal protective equipment, the dogs cannot. “The two greatest medical concerns for our dogs are injury and heat stress, and we have had problems with both,” said Brown. “Most of the injuries we have seen have been minor scrapes and cuts, but even a minor pad injury can make it difficult for a search dog to continue working. Heat stress is a much more pervasive problem and can put a dog out of commission for multiple shifts. Prior to working more closely with the VET, we have worked with medical personnel on our team to address the medical needs for both human and canine task force members.” In 2011, most of Texas was experiencing some of the hottest and driest conditions recorded to date. Wildfires seemed to spring up in multiple places across the state, but the most memorable were the Bastrop Complex Wildfires. Started by what is believed to have been downed power lines sparking into the dried pine trees in the area, three separate fires burned together into one large blaze near the city of Bastrop, Texas, and destroyed more than 1500 homes. The canine search and rescue teams were asked to deploy and operate in this fiery environment, unlike any they had previously faced. In this deployment, the standard booties available to search and rescue dogs were uncomfortable, and most of the dogs were able to remove them during operation. However, the VET was able to develop a unique booting solution that enabled the dogs to continue working on the hot ground while still protecting the sensitive pads of their feet. Brown noted that solutions such as these are part of that depth of knowledge and expertise the members of the VET bring to the deployment. “Having the VET on scene with us has made a tremendous difference in our ability to keep our dogs healthy and work-
Working together, veterinarians and veterinary students from the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team coordinate with members of Texas Task Force 1 to rescue an equine training dummy from an overturned trailer as part of a training scenario.
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Dr. Deb Zoran (kneeling in maroon shirt) works with Texas Task Force 1 canine handlers to teach basic canine first aid to search and rescue dog handlers so they can be better prepared to take care of their dogs in the event of an emergency in the field. Also observing are veterinary technicians, veterinarians, and veterinary medical students from the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team working with Texas Task Force 1 at Disaster City.
ing during deployments. The members of the VET are able to quickly diagnose injuries and illness in our dogs, and can also provide recommendations concerning the risk of potential contaminants or hazards and possible ways to mitigate those risks.” Caring for the search and rescue dogs as part of the collaboration between the VET and TX-TF1 is no small task. According to Saunders, there are 15 canine handlers, ten of whom are certified Canine Search Team – Live Find (pairing of a handler with a dog) and five of which are certified Canine Search Team – Human Remains Detection. In addition, canine teams from all across the country representing 68 participating agencies bring their dogs to Disaster City in College Station for training and FEMA certification dates. “These canine/handler teams are very dedicated to their job,” Zoran said. “The selfless service they provide is awesome because this is not their ‘day job’; they all have other jobs and other lives. The amount of time and energy and money they give to become FEMA US&R [Urban Search and Rescue] certified handler/canine teams is unbelievable. They are special people with very special dogs. To be considered working with them and caring for their dogs is one of the most humbling and gratifying things I can imagine.” Because of the significant investment of time and training that each handler puts into getting a dog certified as a search and rescue dog, Brown emphasized the value of veterinary support for those training days as well as in the field. “Much of the incidental cost of getting a dog FEMA certified is the responsibility of the handler,” said Brown. “These handlers travel to College Station at least once a month for training, but will also travel to other locations to provide their dogs a variety of search areas to train in. It is difficult to put an exact figure on the handler’s training time and 8•
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expenses, but it is significant. Having a partnership that allows veterinary support during training at our location has become a great value to the team.” As the capacity and capabilities of the VET have evolved, the nature of the collaboration between these response partners has also grown to include the development of a Large Animal Technical Rescue training program designed to educate first responders and veterinarians on the tactics and skills necessary to safely rescue large animals in crisis. “The impact of disasters is not limited to people and pets,” said Bissett. “Texas is number one in the nation in the numbers of cattle and horses. There are also livestock concerns in other parts of the country as well. Working with our response partners at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), we have been able to certify trainers and to supplement the curriculum for a dynamic large animal rescue course that will ensure first responders and veterinarians will have access to the knowledge and skills needed to rescue large animals in a safe and humane manner.” Beginning with early efforts at Large Animal Technical Rescue training in 2008, the interest in and need for a more focused effort has been recognized. In 2012, the first class fully integrating veterinary medicine with first responders was presented by a team from the University of California at Davis led by Dr. John Madigan and coordinated by Dr. Leslie Easterwood, clinical assistant professor in Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the CVM and member of the VET. “Large Animal Technical Rescue is a chapter in the FEMA First Responder certification curriculum,” said Easterwood. “Our objective from the very beginning was to develop a team of instructors made up of VET and TEEX members that would be able to present the course to first responders and veterinarians.”
Members of the Veterinary Emergency Team and veterinary medical students examine a search and rescue dog working with Texas Task Force-1 after the dog completes its training mission. After the initial course in 2012, interest in certification grew. In 2014, John Haven, head of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and director of the Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service at the University of Florida, and assistant instructor Josh Fleming came to Texas A&M to provide instructor certification training to identified members of the VET and TEEX. The four-day course consisted of two days of instructor training followed by an additional two days where those being certified as instructors were given the opportunity to instruct others. “Attending the class and developing our instructional skills in the field together with our partners in TEEX gave us the opportunity to better understand the perspectives and expertise across disciplines,” said Christopher Mabry, logistics supervisor and graduate student. “Our team members benefitted from learning more about the safety and logistics needed for operating in the field from the first responders’ experience, while at the same time, the first responders learned more about the health and welfare concerns of animals that are needing to be rescued. According to Easterwood, approximately eight VET members attended the course. In addition, David Rosier, training coordinator for TEEX, noted that eight TEEX instructors were also certified. “The goal of this program was to bring together the rescue profession and the veterinary profession to provide safe
rescue of animals in need,” said Rosier. “The class was truly a joint effort that enabled both to give their expertise to the class. Our students in future sessions will be emergency services such as law enforcement, fire service, animal control, veterinarians, large animal facility operators, animal rescue groups, large animal transporters, and potentially large/ small animal owners. Combining rescue knowledge with animal care expertise will allow us to all work together during a rescue.” The first course in Large Animal Technical Rescue will be offered as part of the Spring Fire School that TEEX hosts every year, and the newly certified instructors from both TEEX and the VET will teach portions of the course. “This will allow for the strengths of both groups to be used to teach different parts of the course,” said Easterwood, “which makes the course relevant to both first responders and veterinarians.” Disasters, large or small, may strike at any time, and the animals and their owners feel the impact whether it’s a single pet or a large herd of cattle. With a mission of “serving our state and nation every day,” the leadership of the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team will continue to build productive collaborations and partnerships, which will enhance the ability to respond to those animals in need.
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C URING Members of the Guidwire Group, from left: Dr. Ashley Saunders, Dr. Jacqueline Davidson, Dr. James Barr, Dr. Jonathan Lidbury, Dr. Audrey Cook, Dr. Kelly Theiman Mankin, and Dr. Medora Pashmakova.
Collaboration, Innovation Key to Team’s Success
by Dr. Megan Palsa
The Guidewire Group brings multidisciplinary approach to animal care The Guidewire Group doesn’t believe in hopeless cases. Made up of practitioners from across the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) to evaluate rapidly evolving medical techniques and to collaborate on challenging veterinary cases, the group harnesses the diverse skills of its members to develop and provide new treatments for animals that might appear to be out of options. Formed in 2014, the group has members that include cardiologists, surgeons, criticalists, and internists. Their focus is on improving animal care through creativity, innovation, and—most of all—collaboration. “It’s an incredibly collaborative process, because it pulls skills from different specialties in this really integrated system,” said one of the team’s founders, Dr. Audrey Cook, internist and associate professor at the CVM. “We’ve got great facilities here and a great team, but this is the first time that we’ve sat down and thought, ‘Let’s actually get a formal group of people from different fields and with different areas of expertise to work together on challenging patient problems and be really integrated.’” This culture of collaboration is not only embraced for practitioners in the immediate area but also extends to veterinarians at training facilities or practicing in other states. 10 •
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The mission The practice of veterinary medicine evolves rapidly, and the Guidewire Group aims to be at the forefront of effective treatments for patients with seemingly little chance of survival and to lead the way in innovative animal care by providing help, hope, and a better quality of life. The group is offering solutions for kidney, bladder, liver, heart, and airway problems that were unmanageable as recently as 10 years ago. These new treatments can often make a huge difference, such as sparing the kidney in patients for which the only other option would have been removal of the organ. Many of the patients the Guidewire Group sees have been diagnosed with cancer. Cook points to the example of dogs with transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder, which often makes the animal unable to urinate. The Guidewire Group works together to insert a small device called a stent into a dog’s urethra to open a way for the urine to escape. “In the old days, we used to place tubes through the body wall into their bladders, and it was just awful,” Cook remembered. “Now, we put in these little tiny devices that hold the urinary tract open. The dogs go home, and they can enjoy
months of comfortable time that would otherwise not have been possible.” The work of the Guidewire Group is not just about treating cancer patients. They offer many new approaches for a variety of serious problems, such as a disease causing blood loss from the kidneys. In the past, veterinarians would have removed the kidney to stop the bleeding. However, for dogs with bleeding from both kidneys, removal is not an option. The Guidewire Group now has a solution. One day a young dog suffering from an invariably terminal kidney disease arrived at the hospital, and the Guidewire Group spent months developing a new approach to his treatment. “We tried this really novel procedure on the dog, where we placed catheters in and cauterized the kidneys. Six weeks later, he was completely cured,” Cook said. “A threeyear-old dog, given back his life. We were overjoyed with the results. He had a condition that was an absolute death sentence even four or five years ago. To have that kind of success is really, really exciting.”
An all-star team After graduating with distinction from the Royal School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1989, Cook held an internship in Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She then spent three years at the University of California at Davis College of Veterinary Medicine as a resident in small animal internal medicine. In 1994 she became a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, and in 1996 she was named a diplomate in the European College of Veterinary InternalMedicine. She spent 10 years in private practice in Newport News, Virginia, before joining the faculty at Texas A&M. The Guidewire Group’s all-star lineup is key to its success. Among them, the team has well over 100 years of experience in specialty veterinary care. Aside from Cook, other members of the core team include Dr. James Barr (criticalist), Dr. Jacqueline Davidson (surgeon), Dr. Sonya Gordon (cardiologist), Dr. Jonathan Lidbury (internist), Dr. Kelly Thieman Mankin (surgeon), Dr. David Nelson (emergency room doctor and surgeon), Dr. Medora Pashmakova (criticalist), and Dr. Ashley Saunders (cardiologist).
cardiac approaches to creatively treat non-cardiac organs. The Guidewire Group’s cardiologists, Drs. Gordon and Saunders, have been invaluable in bringing that knowledge to the table. Even though a patient might have a liver or urinary tract problem, some of the techniques of interventional cardiology can apply to the treatment. “It is a question of pulling skills from other areas,” Cook said. Some members of the group have worked with other leading veterinary medicine teams in their application of human medical methods to animals. A successful group in northeastern New York has been a pioneer in this practice, according to Cook. “They trained with human teams and then brought these methods to the veterinary world,” Cook said, adding that members of pioneering teams or their protégés have trained her and most of her team members in these techniques.
Spreading the word The team is eagerly working to spread the word about its research and welcomes emails, calls, and visits from veterinarians with questions about unusual or difficult cases. “That way, we can at least say, ‘Yes, we do this,’ or ‘No, we don’t, but we can make some calls and find out if anyone else can,’” Cook said. Cook said it’s always heartbreaking to learn about situations in which veterinarians were unaware of new treatment options for their patients and tried other treatments that are less successful—or worse, told their clients that nothing could be done. Getting the word out on new procedures is something about which the Guidewire Group is passionate. It’s been looking for ways to bring awareness of its new treatments. “I’ll bump into veterinarians and they’ll say, ‘I heard you did something cool on somebody else’s patient,’” Cook said. “They’ll say, ‘I had a dog like that six months ago. I didn’t even think to call.’” As veterinary treatments evolve rapidly, veterinarians— even recent graduates—need to be aware that techniques may be available that weren’t around when they were in school. “What we couldn’t do even five years ago, we can do
Drawing on other medical fields Cook said most of the group’s cutting-edge treatments actually had their start in human medicine. The techniques have to be scaled down, but they are based on philosophies developed in the human medical field. “Typically, people thought in terms of trying something first on an animal; if it works, you can use it on a person,” Cook said. “Here, we’re looking at human medicine success stories and using the same techniques on our animals. It’s tough. Things have to be scaled down and resized. In these cases, the human is the metaphorical guinea pig.” The team tweaks many procedures to fit patient needs by integrating its combined knowledge based on a “huge foundation” of medical research and practice already underway. For instance, Texas A&M’s cardiology team is known around the world for inventing devices and developing new procedures, and the Guidewire Group often uses these innovative
Dr. Jordan Vitt examines an echocardiogram after Newfoundland Rachel’s surgery.
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URING C today,” Cook said. “Even if you’ve never heard of it or ever seen it doesn’t mean that it’s not possible.” Cook said she hopes that all veterinarians will think that “nothing can be done” less often, even when that may have previously been the case, as the Guidewire Group could hold the key to a cure. “I hope they will say, ‘Let me call the Guidewire Group first,’” Cook said. “‘I want to make sure there’s not a method I’ve not heard of,’ before they say, ‘It’s hopeless. I’m sorry.’ I hope they will take two minutes to shoot us an email or pick up the phone and find out what options there might be.” The Guidewire Group has a short slide presentation that its members are eager to present to as many practitioners as possible. “If I’m going somewhere to talk about endocrine disease, for example, and everyone is just digging into their chicken and coleslaw, I’ll say, ‘Just for six minutes, I’m going to tell you something really cool that we’re now able to do,’” Cook said. If there are even a few veterinarians in a room for a continuing education event, for instance, Cook and her team members always speak to the coordinator and ask for five minutes. They show pictures of the procedures and beforeand-after shots. “We’re trying to catch people when they’re in a chair and they can’t get away,” Cook said. Ultimately, Cook and the rest of the team want veterinarians to know that advances in medicine are creating new options for patients that would have been considered hopeless in the past. “These techniques have solved problems,” Cook said. “We actually have solutions now for previously devastating diseases, and that is the best news for everyone.”
Reaching out To contact the Guidewire Group, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Small Animal Hospital at (979) 845-2351. Dr. Audrey Cook, Carol Layman, and Teddy after his second surgery
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Teddy’s Story Teddy, a Shih Tzu, was five years old when he was diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) bladder cancer in May 2014, and even though he was young, his primary veterinarian in Houston was rightfully pessimistic about his chances. The veterinarian sent Carol Layman, Teddy’s owner, and Teddy to a referral center. It just so happened that the oncologist at the referral center had done her residency at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “She strongly recommended that we come up to the CVM,” Layman said. “Because the tumor was growing in his bladder, Teddy was having trouble urinating, so Dr. Audrey Cook put in a urethral stent at the end of July.” After the urethral stent, Teddy seemed fine for several months. Then Layman noticed his symptoms were returning, and she took him back to her local veterinarian. Diagnosis: his cancer had progressed. “When we had the first stent put in, it was an overnight change,” said Layman. “He went from not being able to urinate at all, and going downhill fast, to the next day being back to his old self again. But we came back because we were noticing the symptoms returning.” Cook suggested placing a second stent, this one on the ureter, higher up in the urinary tract. “Dr. Cook thought that this second stent would increase his quality of life,” Layman said. “For her to be able to repeat that miracle with the ureteral stent, we consider it a real miracle, because his cancer is more advanced.” With his new ureteral stent, Teddy is in good spirits, despite his advanced stage cancer. He has also gained weight. After dropping to nine pounds at the time of his initial cancer diagnosis, Teddy is now heavier than ever at 12 pounds. “He has got his appetite back,” Layman said. “It all came back once we got the urine flowing again.” Now that he is feeling better, Teddy is also able to “run” the Layman house with his outsized personality. “He is like a little tyrant,” Layman said. “He is the boss over two other dogs and three cats.” His exposure to the cats has also taught Teddy how to groom himself, which Layman says makes caring for him easier. Extending Teddy’s life and making him comfortable have been well worth the drives to College Station and the expenses of the treatments, Layman said. “This is a really tough cancer to try to get rid of, so for Dr. Cook to just be able to come in like a miracle worker and open up the tunnel and give us some more happy days we are thrilled—we weren’t ready to say goodbye to him.”
Rachel’s Story Little Miss Rachel was a calm, beautiful Newfoundland as a newborn—the “keeper of the litter,” said Tracy Luber, a breeder from Flower Mound, Texas. But at 17 weeks old, a routine veterinary checkup revealed that Rachel had a heart murmur. It was the first sign that Rachel might have subaortic stenosis, or SAS, a congenital heart disease in which there is narrowing of the left ventricle of the heart. The health of both of Rachel’s parents were cleared (heart included) by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFFA), which is an open health database for dogs. Within a couple of days back home from the diagnosis, Luber had to rush Rachel to the emergency room after the puppy became disoriented. “Her eyes were fixed, and she appeared to be confused, and I thought, ‘Something is wrong.’ I got her in my lap and was feeling how quickly she was breathing,” Luber said. “We had just gotten the diagnosis that she had a heart murmur. We didn’t know it was SAS at that point, but I knew something wasn’t right.” After preliminary treatment at the veterinarian’s office in Flower Mound, Luber made an appointment at the Small Animal Hospital at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Dr. Jordan Vitt, Tracy Luber, and “I knew there was really no Rachel, whose heart disease was treated by the Guidewire Group better place for her to be than at A&M,” Luber said, “so we packed up and made the trip the next morning.” Dr. Sonya Gordon, an associate professor and cardiology specialist at Texas A&M, diagnosed Rachel with severe SAS and, two days later, notified Luber that Rachel was a prime candidate for a first-time procedure to treat the disease. The procedure involves inserting a special cutting balloon accross the narrowed stenotic area within the heart and then inflating the balloon, which causes blades on its outer edge to pop out and score the stenotic lesion. The cardiologist then replaces that cutting balloon with a larger high pressure balloon and inflates this balloon to gently dilate the area of stenosis. The cutting balloon allows the bigger balloon to work better. “I did give it a few days of thinking about it, researching what little has been done on this procedure,” Luber said. “I decided
that was really her only hope. We scheduled it, and we scheduled it for about six weeks out, which was really nerve-wracking.” When the time came in September, Luber took Rachel to College Station for the procedure. Rachel, who was five and a half months old at that point, made it through the surgery and spent about a week at the hospital in recovery. “If she had not had this procedure, she wouldn’t be here. She would not have survived,” Luber said. “I just can’t say enough good things about Dr. Gordon, Dr. Jordan Vitt (a second-year cardiology resident), and all of the other doctors and technicians who were involved. They really took good care of her while she was here. She was only going to be here two to three days after the procedure, and it ended up being a week. They wanted to make sure that she was doing well, and I received twice-daily updates by phone call, and everyone fell in love with her. I really felt like she was well taken care of.” Luber started breeding Newfoundlands 11 years ago and has raised grand champion show dogs. But she said she will not breed Rachel because of her heart condition. Luber also plans to keep Rachel out of any events. “She’ll never be shown. She probably won’t do any kind of working events just because we don’t want to stress the heart,” Luber said. “But I can see such a difference in her after the procedure. That was my fear: to go through all this—put her through all of it—and have her not be any better. I couldn’t have asked for better results. I love her to pieces, and I will keep her until her final days.”
“I have not met one person that wasn’t just the nicest, kindest, most helpful person. The bedside manner here and the way they treat the dogs is just phenomenal.” Winter 2014 •
C REATING The avian health complex
Avian Health Complex by Caroline Neal After years of planning and months of construction, the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) has a wonderful new teaching and research facility, the CVM Avian Health Complex. The new climate-controlled aviary, which celebrated its opening in October 2014, can house a population of 200–250 birds— many more than was possible in the previous facilities—in a comfortable and safe environment. Reaching approximately 11,000 square feet, it contains a functional hospital, a receiving area with quarantine capabilities, three isolation rooms, a Biosafety Level 2 laboratory for infectious disease research, separate areas for infected and healthy birds, teaching and classroom space, and an office. “Avian health is a notable area of excellence at the CVM,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “Our faculty have made substantial contributions to the health and welfare of birds and to the avian industry in terms of educating future and current veterinarians, providing the highest level of avian patient care, and advancing the knowledge edge. As leaders in avian medicine, we also train the next generation 14 •
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of veterinarians and scientists to continue this important mission. This facility will provide the laboratory, avian housing, and classroom space that will allow this program not only to continue to thrive, but also to grow.” The new facility will expand the capabilities of the Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center at the CVM, founded in 1987 by an endowment from Mr. Richard M. Schubot with matching funds provided by Texas A&M University. The center conducts research into all aspects of diseases in wild and captive birds, as well as avian genetics, genomics, nutrition, and behavior. The results of research at the center are already being applied to improve the health of birds kept by zoos, aviculturists, and individual pet owners, as well as conserving threatened avian species in the wild. “This is a beautiful facility that exemplifies the college’s commitment to exotic species and One of the bird exam to conservation in general,” said and treatment rooms Dr. Ian Tizard, the Richard M. Schubot Professor of Exotic Bird Health and Distinguished Professor of Immunology in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at the CVM. “It enhances our programs in environmental health and will be a magnificent resource for the whole college.”
The new center will provide better teaching facilities not only for undergraduates and DVM professional students, but for continuing education and other courses as well. The new building, with its dedicated teaching space, will better promote an understanding of avian diseases, husbandry, and conservation among current and future veterinarians. The enlarged and enhanced facilities will also provide space for specialized birds, such as raptors, for which the students can learn appropriate handling, care, and treatment. “With a newer, more modern aviary, we will be able to attract more interest across the university and the college, leading to more collaborative efforts and more student
involvement,” said Dr. Sharman M. Hoppes, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the CVM and a specialist in avian medicine. “Although the Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center is already known internationally in the avian world, many in our own university and community are unaware that we are here and what we have done or are doing in terms of both avian conservation and clinical diagnosis and treatment,” Hoppes said. “This new and improved aviary will increase our exposure and hopefully excite the community and encourage them to support our work in avian research and the care and management of our birds.”
The new complex features state-of-the-art bird housing. Winter 2014 •
C OMMUNICATING by Christina B. Sumners
Texans help researchers map Lyme disease in Texas In recent years increasing numbers of Lyme disease cases have been reported in Texas, a state that was once considered free of the disease, and researchers at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) have turned to the public for help. Dr. Maria D. Esteve-Gassent, an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB) at the CVM, and her lab seek ticks that Texans have found on either themselves or their pets. The researchers then test the ticks for bacteria, including those that cause Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a zoonotic, tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Each year, approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dogs, cats, horses, and cattle—in addition to humans—can all develop Lyme disease. Infected tick vectors transmit the bacteria while biting humans and susceptible domestic animal species. Although Lyme disease is effectively treated with antibiotics when diagnosed early, often people are found to have the disease only after numerous tests. Therefore, Esteve-Gassent encourages the public to send her any ticks they find. “We want to tell everyone who finds a tick to send it to us, don’t squish it or flush it,” said Esteve-Gassent. “We will be able to tell you if it is positive for the bacteria—which can help people have an early warning that they might have the disease—and for us it provides invaluable information about where and when people get in contact with these ticks, as well as which species of tick they are.” 16 •
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Esteve-Gassent and her team use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methods to find the bacteria’s DNA within each tick, thus giving them molecular evidence of the pathogens’ presence. In addition to Lyme disease, her lab also studies other diseases spread by ticks: • Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF) is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected soft ticks, which can be very difficult to find because they don’t attach to skin for more than a few seconds. Therefore, many people who are infected don’t have any known history of a tick bite. • Anaplasmosis is transmitted to humans by tick bites primarily from the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the northeastern and upper midwestern United States and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) along the Pacific coast. Although this disease— which can affect humans and dogs—is rarely seen in Texas, a closely related disease that affects cattle is present in the state. • Ehrlichiosis is transmitted to humans by the lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum), which is found primarily in the southcentral and eastern United States. One of the biggest goals of the project is to create an accurate map of where in Texas these different species of ticks are found. “When I first started the research, I was staring at a map of Texas, as I wasn’t sure where to even begin,”
The researchers determine which (if any) pathogens are carried by each tick. Esteve-Gassent said. “The trouble is that when you look at where most of the cases of Lyme disease are recorded, you have clusters around the major cities, but that doesn’t tell us much about where these people were infected. Most of the ticks are probably not going to be in developed urban areas.” The number of ticks in the environment changes from year to year, which makes such mapping efforts even more difficult. Variation depends strongly on rainfall, and more rain means more ticks. “The ticks are very sensitive to humidity,” said Esteve-Gassent. “The burst of ticks that people notice in years of heavier rainfall is normal.” To surmount some of these difficulties, the team has developed partnerships with Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL), USDA-ARS, the Brazos Valley Animal Shelter, hunters, the CVM parasitology lab, Lyme disease support groups in Houston and Austin, and local veterinarians. With the help of the public and their partners, the researchers are collecting a number of ticks. Texas Parks and Wildlife and private hunters help to collect ticks from deer, feral swine, and any other wild animals. The TVMDL, local shelters, and veterinarians submit ticks found on pets and other domestic animals. Lyme disease support groups and others in the public help spread the word about submitting ticks people find on themselves. Although these passive surveillance methods aren’t a perfect sampling, once they know where to look, the researchers can go out into the field and take samples the traditional way. “We have to depend on the public to help us with this research,” Esteve-Gassent said. “But they’ve been wonderful. The project started off slowly, but now we usually get at least one or two ticks a day.” If you find a tick on you or your pet anywhere in Texas, please send it to Esteve-Gassent at 4467 TAMU, College Station, Texas, 77843. The ticks should be sealed in a plastic bag with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. Please include the location (city or zip code) where the tick was found, the location on the body, and contact information so the researchers can send you the results.
Dr. Maria D. Esteve-Gassent examines a tick under a microscope.
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B IOMEDIC AL
S C I E N C ES
Dr. Elizabeth Crouch:
by Bryan Demapan
A new leader committed to biomedical science education Dr. Elizabeth Crouch was recently named the new assistant dean for undergraduate education at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), which means she is responsible for the undergraduate Biomedical Sciences Program (BIMS) within the college. Crouch is hardly new to Texas A&M University, however. She earned her bachelor’s degree in BIMS and her Ph.D. in genetics from Texas A&M before completing her postdoctoral fellowship in immunogenetics at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Crouch’s family first sparked her interest in biology and how it relates to health and disease. Her mother was a speech pathologist and her grandfather, Dr. Dan Roberts, and an uncle, Dr. Clifford Roberts, both earned their DVM degrees from Texas A&M. Consequently, Crouch became familiar with the Texas A&M campus and developed a strong interest in the university’s BIMS program. While taking electives such as advanced human genetics, molecular genetics, and immunology, coupled with some courses from the nowdefunct biotechnology option in the BIMS degree program, Crouch developed a passion for studying molecular genetics. “What fascinated me the most was the genetic component of disease process,” said Crouch. Crouch’s research has ranged from molecular biology— where she studied the changes of a protein involved in DNA synthesis between cancer transformed and aged cells—and the development and relationship between various cell types in the thymus. “The studies of normal development could then be applied to processes that lead to benign tumor growth,” Crouch said. “By defining the normal processes of cell division cycles and organogenesis, we can then look at abnormalities and learn about aging and cancer.” The ultimate goal of such research is to provide ways of therapeutic intervention. Currently, Crouch spends all of her time as assistant dean of BIMS. Her main duties include keeping in touch with undergraduate students and informing them of their progress in the program. She also arranges meetings with faculty, staff, or other deans on the campus regarding issues within the BIMS program. Dr. Skip Landis, who retired from the assistant dean position in May 2014, originally hired Crouch as an academic advisor in 2001. Under his mentorship, Crouch progressed through the ranks to the position of director before assuming her new position. “She was a top BIMS graduate, a good administrator, and a quick study, which made it an easy choice to select her for this position,” Landis said. “In all, the transition from an academic to an administrative position felt fairly seamless.”
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Dr. Elizabeth Crouch The experience of teaching helps Crouch navigate her administrative position. In the past, Crouch has taught several classes in the BIMS program and elsewhere such as at Boise State University, from introductory biomedical science to advanced biomedical genetics. She currently teaches an elective course called Introduction to Phenotypic Expression in the Context of Human Medicine. “I love being in a classroom with students,” Crouch said, “and I think that passion translates very nicely in running a program all about learning.” Students can easily see Crouch’s passion in helping them in the BIMS program. Jonathan Bravo, a student who has taken one of Crouch’s BIMS introductory classes, notes her excellence as a teacher. “She is able to relate to the students on a comfortable level and is always very prepared and
willing to take the time to help a student research options,” Bravo said. “My one piece of advice that I give students is this: Take your college career one step at a time,” said Crouch. “Enjoy the learning as much as the end goal, be stubborn in your pursuits, and—above all—follow your gifts, and you will always be happy.” One of Crouch’s main goals for BIMS is to increase its 2+2 Articulation Agreements. These agreements help more students from various Texas community colleges successfully transfer to the BIMS program at Texas A&M. “We are adding to our numbers of schools interested in the 2+2 Articulation Agreement between local community colleges and Texas A&M, and we have a record freshman class of BIMS students,” said Crouch. “The challenge associated with such successes is primarily managing such a large BIMS student body.” Through the 2+2 Articulation Agreement, the BIMS program reviews courses a student can take for an associate degree at a community college and suggests certain courses from the community college that fall within the curriculum for the BIMS program. This coordination makes it easier for students to transition into the BIMS program. “We want to maintain a challenging, engaging curriculum that successfully prepares students for professional and graduate school,” said Crouch.
Crouch’s experiences at Texas A&M led her to achieve many of her professional goals. She had a strong undergraduate degree on which to build her graduate studies. Her graduate program committee consisted of strong faculty mentors, such as her now-supervisor Dr. Evelyn Tiffany-Castiglioni, associate dean for undergraduate education, professor, and head of the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS). Other members of her committee were her chair, Dr. David Busbee, a now-retired professor in VIBS; Dr. Jane Welsh, professor in VIBS and assistant dean for graduate studies; and Dr. Van Wilson, professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine and vice dean for research and graduate studies. “Each of them is also a strong teacher, and therefore I gained a passion for teaching as well,” said Crouch. Texas A&M has also significantly impacted Crouch’s personal life. She met her husband, Dr. Wayne Crouch, who earned his DVM degree from the CVM in 2000. Crouch considers it a privilege to run the BIMS program for Texas A&M and gives it her full effort and commitment. “Dr. Crouch’s character, personal qualities, knowledge, and dedication make her an ideal assistant dean for undergraduate education,” said Tiffany-Castiglioni. “She makes it clear that her main responsibility and passion is helping students in their education.”
Dr. Elizabeth Crouch lecturing to students.
Winter 2014 •
B IOMEDIC AL
S C I E N C ES
by Caroline Neal
BIMS graduate Jason Jennings named CEO of Scott & White Hospital, College Station Jason Jennings, a ’95 graduate of the Texas A&M University biomedical sciences program, or BIMS, is currently serving as the chief executive officer for the Baylor Scott & White Hospital, College Station region, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in August 2014. “When the decision was made to build a new hospital in College Station, a team was made up of administrators, clinicians and others, and I,” said Jennings. “Shortly after we started the design of the hospital, I was awarded the position of Chief Executive Officer.” Prior to this appointment, Jennings served as the Chief Operating Officer for Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center (HBMC), one of 13 hospitals and hospital partners in the Scott & White Healthcare System. During this time, the hospital experienced double-digit growth in admissions, surgeries, births, and financial metrics. “Upon graduating from physical therapy school, I took a job as a staff physical therapist in Longview, Texas. However, after a short time period, I was promoted to oversee the rehab operation,” said Jennings. “As I continued to work in an administrative position, I realized that I needed more knowledge and understanding on the business/finance side of operations; therefore, I went back to school to earn an MBA.” After graduating from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences, Jennings earned his master’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston followed by a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas at Tyler. “The decision to move from physical therapy to administration was not made overnight. In fact, it was from a series of events in my professional career,” said Jennings. “Working my way up from a staff physical therapist to now a CEO, I think the experience of delivering care one-on-one to patients definitely benefits me in my current role.” Jennings is also board certified by the American College of Health Executives, a major professional achievement
“I continue to be impressed by our former students and the significant roles they play in shaping current and future healthcare.”
~ Dr. Elizabeth Crouch 20 •
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Jason Jennings (Photo courtesy of Baylor Scott & White Hospital, College Station) characterized by a commitment to ethics, continuous learning, helping others through mentoring and networking, and advancing the field through active participation in civic and community affairs. “I continue to be impressed by our former students and the significant roles they play in shaping current and future healthcare,” said Dr. Elizabeth Crouch, assistant dean for undergraduate education at the CVM, who runs the BIMS program. The BIMS program at Texas A&M intends to prepare students at the college level for productive futures and provides students with fundamental knowledge on which to build skills needed for successful vocational achievements. “The education that I received at Texas A&M through the BIMS program established a strong foundation for my postgraduate studies and thus a career in healthcare,” said Jennings. “My advice for BIMS students is to seek out a career that you have passion for and the passion will continue. We have the opportunity to touch and impact people’s lives in so many ways; I have truly been blessed.”
by Jenny Fuentes
BIMS graduates conquer dental school Two top-ranking students have more in common than strong study prowess Patrick and Austin Hodges graduated number three and number five, respectively, from Tascosa High School in Amarillo, Texas. So perhaps it is no surprise that the identical twins would graduate number one and number two in their dental class at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center in 2014. Before pursuing dental studies at Texas A&M University, the Hodges twins majored in biomedical sciences at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Both graduated with a 4.0 GPA, and in July both started the graduate orthodontics program at Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry. “If you ask anyone, it is obvious that Austin and I have a friendly competitiveness between us,” said Patrick. “This has definitely helped us to do as well in school and many Patrick and Austin Hodges (Photo courtesy of the Texas A&M Health Science Center) other things, whether it’s sports, first year as undergraduates and has worked with them on board games, or cards.” several occasions. “Every year someone is going to be top of The twins appear to be inseparable, but when it comes the class, second of the class. But what distinguishes them to studying they must retreat to separate rooms and only is they work really hard, and they’re just innately talented as take breaks to ask each other questions about the matewell,” said Spears. “Both of those young men help everybody. rial. “When they study, they’re focused,” said classmate and It’s almost like they’re instructors in the class—they’re that friend Anne Lindley. “No one can go over there and study good, that knowledgeable.” with them. I have to text both of them to ask questions.” Dr. Amp Miller, professor in restorative sciences, taught Back on campus, other classmates and faculty alike seek the twins for their input. “They are smart, naturally, but they the brothers fixed prosthodontics during clinical labs at the Health Science Center and now turns to them as a resource. have two brilliant minds to collaborate,” said Lindley. “They “I always have had a high regard for their perception of help students in our class all the time. They go above and things and the way they approach the whole educational beyond for other people.” process,” said Miller. Dr. Robert Spears, professor in biomedical sciences at The good news of the brothers’ graduating rank likely the CVM, was an instructor to the brothers during their didn’t come as a shock to their parents, who promptly took their sons to a celebratory steak dinner. “Our parents have “I always have had a high regard always supported us and have been our biggest fans throughout our academic career,” said Austin. for their perception of things and the way Many wonder what will be the next adventure for the Hodges twins after they complete their orthodontic studthey approach the whole educational process.” ies at Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry. Perhaps time will tell if a joint venture in Hodges & Hodges Orthodontics shows up in Amarillo.
~ Dr. Amp Miller
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B IOMEDIC AL
S C I E N C ES
BIMS New Student Conference
by Caroline Neal
Biomedical Sciences Program funds students for fall enrollment The Texas A&M biomedical sciences undergraduate program, or BIMS—which is the only undergraduate program fully within the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences—welcomed approximately 2,100 students for the 2014 fall semester’s enrollment, with 800 of them as incoming freshmen. “It is safe to estimate that approximately 70 percent of the incoming class of students in BIMS is from the top 10 percent of their graduating high school class,” said Dr. Elizabeth Crouch, head of BIMS. “And over 20 percent of our total enrolled students are first generation college attendees.” In addition to the large influx of new students for the fall semester, there has also been an increased number of scholarships awarded to BIMS students for the 2014–2015 school year. Thirty-two BIMS students were awarded approximately $50,000. The awardees received scholarships from the following funds: 1. Biomedical Sciences Association (BSA) Student Group–Student Association (16 students) 2. Raymond Dickson Foundation Scholarship (five students) 3. Biomedical Sciences Association (BSA) Parents’ Association Scholarship (four students) 4. Dr. Anne Marie Emshoff ’90, DVM ’94 Scholarship (four students) 5. Alison Lindorfer Scholarship (one student) 6. Garlyn Shelton Auto Group Scholarship (one student) 22 •
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7. Nancy M. and Brock D. Nelson ’90 Scholarship in Biomedical Sciences (one student) 8. Ralph Clark Dunn Scholarship (one student) 9. W. Dan Roberts, DVM ’38 Endowed Scholarship (one student) An additional 55 students received $1,000 each from designated tuition funds, and approximately eight transfer students will be given $16,000 from the provost. “I am so grateful to have been selected out of the many biomedical sciences students to be a recipient of the Nancy M. and Brock D. Nelson ’90 Scholarship,” said BIMS student and scholarship recipient David Westra. “This endowment has opened my eyes to the wonders of the Aggie family and how much it truly leans on each other for support. I hope to one day be a contributor just like Mr. and Mrs. Nelson.” Cynthia Giovannetti, a BIMS recipient of the Dr. Anne Marie Emshoff ’90, DVM ’94 Scholarship, also expressed her excitement and gratitude towards her selection. “Her generosity goes beyond aiding me financially through college; it demonstrates her confidence in me and her support of my future endeavors,” said Giovannetti. “To have Dr. Emshoff believe in my potential to succeed is the greatest compliment of all, one that is inspiring and motivating.”
In their own words:
BIMS student autobiographical sketches as told to Kristin Burlingame
Javier Cantu Not every college student knows exactly what he or she wants to do after graduation, but I do. Upon completion of my biomedical sciences (BIMS) degree, I want to go to veterinary school, specialize in large animal medicine, become board certified in equine medicine, and then work for Budweiser taking care of the Clydesdale horses. I may have ridden a horse only once in my entire life, but I find them fascinating, and the structure of a horse is much larger and easier to see than that of a dog. Veterinary medicine is so much more than cats and dogs, and I want to be involved in the other aspects of it. I am a sophomore BIMS student from Mission, a town located in the south tip of Texas. I decided to come to Texas A&M University because of my interest in veterinary medicine. Texas A&M is one of the best universities, and it has the only veterinary school in the state. I like the veterinary program, and it is one of the higher ranked institutions in the country. Plus, by staying in Texas for college, I can visit home more often so that my mom doesn’t miss me as much! Most people who decide to apply to veterinary school choose to receive their undergraduate degree in either animal science or through the BIMS program. I have heard people say that the animal science program is easier than the BIMS program, but I chose BIMS because I wanted to feel like I was being challenged and getting the best education I could in order to be prepared for veterinary school. There are also more opportunities for experience through research in the BIMS program. The animal science courses provide a lot of hands-on practice, but they do not go as deeply into detail as the experience I will be getting in research laboratories. My favorite class is organic chemistry because I feel very bright when I can name molecules! When I am not in class, I stay involved at school. I am a BIMS ambassador, a member of the Pre-Vet Society, and a member of the fraternity Theta Chi. I am also in the Aggie Recruitment Committee, a group that brings in junior and senior high school students to Texas A&M to show them what the university is like. My favorite part of being in the recruitment committee is turning Longhorn fans into Aggies. I hope to run for the student senate in the spring for BIMS, but I need to make sure first that I don’t overwhelm myself so that I can continue to keep my academics up. A collaborative effort at Texas A&M that has impressed me is that the university is always trying to find new people to help out in research. It doesn’t matter what major a student is pursuing; if he or she is willing to put in time and effort to help with projects, then the professors are happy to have the help. Through working at the welcome desk in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, I have had a
lot of opportunities to meet professors at the school who can provide me with opportunities to do research or help me to find veterinarians to shadow. I would love to work in a lab in the spring to start gaining experience. One of my favorite things about being an ambassador is getting to see the excitement on people’s faces when they walk through the hospitals. I gave a tour recently to a young student who was very interested in veterinary medicine, and I loved seeing how everything I talked about put a smile on her face. To see that spark was rewarding and a reminder of my own enthusiasm for the profession. Chinma Onyewuenyi, Javier Cantu, and Dr. Elizabeth Crouch
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B IOMEDIC AL
S C I E N C ES
Dr. Elizabeth Crouch, Chinma Onyewuenyi, Alyssa Palacios, and Javier Cantu
Chinma Onyewuenyi I am a senior biomedical sciences (BIMS) student graduating in December 2014. I chose Texas A&M University specifically for the BIMS program because it allowed me to take certain classes related to my interests while still meeting and integrating the prerequisites for medical school into the curriculum itself. Another deciding factor for me was my older brother was also at Texas A&M in the chemical engineering program. I’m from Katy, Texas, which is just outside of Houston, so my family lives fairly close to College Station, but it was fun to be on campus at the same time he was. As a pre-med student, I have taken many opportunities to gain experiences in international settings. I am involved with Global Medical Brigades and have traveled to Honduras, Panama, and Ghana, shadowing doctors and helping supply medical aid. I also spent the past summer in Spain as part of the Biomedical Sciences Barcelona Global Health Study Abroad program. It was fun to not only gain medical experience but also visit other places. While in Spain, my group was split between students interested in human medicine and students interested in veterinary medicine. We discussed the similarities between human and animal medicine and how each affected the other and determined that there is a need for a huge collaborative effort between the two. That is why it is exciting that Texas A&M is increasing its cooperative efforts through the One Health Initiative. I’ve had the opportunity to attend presentations by students in the various medical professions 24 •
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who went to Nicaragua this year for a service learning and research program, and it was interesting to hear how they studied human, animal, and environmental health with the focus being on nutrition in all areas. I’ll be visiting Nicaragua in January on a final Global Medical Brigades trip and am excited to see some of the things they mentioned. In addition to volunteering overseas, I am involved in the college’s ambassador program and Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity that I joined to meet people outside of the BIMS program. I generally meet and study with only BIMS students, and I wanted to get to know other people that I could hang out with in a non-medical setting. After graduation, I hope to attend medical school. I have applied to every school in the state, including Texas A&M’s medical school. I hope to be hearing back from them by the time this issue is published. I won’t decide on a specialty for medicine until later when I am in medical school and have begun my clinical rotations. I have already, however, decided on global health as my scholarly interest. It makes the residency process a little more complicated because there are some residencies specifically for global health and others that have global health as a fellowship instead, but I don’t have to worry about that for a few more years. Upon completion of medical school and my residency, I would like to work stateside but continue to volunteer abroad with Doctors Without Borders or Global Medical Brigades. However, this time it will be as a physician rather than as a student!
Alyssa Palacios I chose Texas A&M University because I love the environment. Everyone on campus is very friendly, we have fun Aggie traditions, and as students we get wonderful opportunities to network and make connections. Attending Texas A&M also gave me the chance to get out of my hometown of McAllen, Texas, and experience living on my own. What I love about College Station is that it is not too big of a city and therefore reminds me of home. I also chose Texas A&M because of the prestige of the university. I started here as a biology major, but I switched to the biomedical sciences (BIMS) program because I liked the curriculum. I think that it’s important, as a student, to like what you are studying. One of the main things I like about the BIMS curriculum is that it allows students to take directed electives that align with their interests in the sciences and health-related fields. In addition to being a junior in the BIMS program, I am currently working two jobs, one as a College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences ambassador and the other in the Medical Sciences Library. I am also a member of a co-ed service fraternity called Alpha Phi Omega. The fraternity’s focus is on friendship, leadership, and service. I have recently joined an organization called the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students that helps expose minority students to the healthcare field. After completing my BIMS degree, I want to start a master’s program in medical sciences at the University of North Texas (UNT). The program is a one-year course that gears students toward entering medical school, which is my goal. I have spoken with many Texas A&M medical students who completed the UNT program before getting into medical school and are now excelling in their courses. As a pre-med student, I get to take a lot of cool classes. One class that I am enjoying is public health practices, which highlights different options within public health. My favorite class is anatomy—it is the first class I have taken that has given me the opportunity to dissect anything. My freshman year of college I was involved with Global Medical Brigades and traveled to Honduras to an impoverished community in the mountains. I stayed there for a week, helping doctors offer medical aid and working as a translator. I would have loved to continue volunteering there, but I had to return because of work. Perhaps one day I will get to go back, for after finishing medical school someday, I want to practice as a general practitioner for two years and then join Doctors Without Borders so that I can be assigned to go on missions in countries needing aid.
In my classes several professors have talked to us about the collaborations at the university. Texas A&M is working on a cooperative effort to get all departments to work together for the One Health Initiative. Different departments in the liberal arts, engineering, and architecture colleges, for example, are all conducting research that can be combined together to increase our knowledge across the human, animal, and environmental medical fields. What I thought was interesting is that after the different professors in each college were introduced, they were astounded to discover the different resources that were available at the college, and everyone seemed willing to help out the other colleges for the One Health cause. I am excited to see what my role will be in the collaboration between the different medical fields as we make new discoveries thanks to the wealth of information becoming available from human doctors, veterinarians, and environmental scientists.
Alyssa Palacios, Javier Cantu, and Chinma Onyewuenyi Winter 2014 •
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Dr. Leslie Easterwood and Kaden Ramirez (front) with George, the horse, and his care team at the Large Animal Hospital
A Boy and His Horse:
by Caroline Neal
The Large Animal Hospital helps restore a special bond It is often said that dogs are man’s best friends, but sometimes a horse can be a boy’s best friend. Throughout history, humans and their horses have shared a unique bond. Drawn to their overwhelming power and mystique, they continue to be an integral part of our lives. Ten-year-old Kaden Ramirez and his horse, George, share a bond that is deeper than most. 26 •
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Growing up immersed in the rodeo culture, Kaden’s love for horses was almost predestined. However, it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with autism at the age of six that rodeoing became more than a hobby; it became his therapy. “It took almost two years for George to fully learn Kaden, which is a feat considering that the process of buying and training a horse for him is very intensive,” said Kimberly
Ramirez, Kaden’s mother. “People would stop me and say, ‘Wow, it looks like Kaden finally learned that horse,’ and I would say, ‘No, George finally learned him.’” The dynamic duo has been rodeoing together for a little over two years now and began excelling in barrel racing all over the region this past year, recently claiming the all-around title in La Grange. Not only has rodeoing with George brought Kaden extraordinary pleasure, doctors have confirmed that participation in rodeos has helped his symptoms. On the night of September 20, 2014, George had an accident and poked his eye with an unknown item in the pasture, resulting in an emergency trip to the veterinarian. After being treated by their referring veterinarian, the eye was not progressing as they had hoped, so George was sent to Dr. Leslie Easterwood at the Texas A&M Large Animal Hospital. “George came to the Large Animal Hospital with a five day history of a puncture to the left eye after showing little progression. Dr. Sam Williams, a Texas A&M graduate who had been treating George in Victoria, Texas, sent him for an injection into his eye that is not commonly done out in private practice,” said Easterwood. “He had some fibrin (inflammatory material) inside the anterior chamber of the eye that was preventing his pupil from opening. If the fibrin remained in the eye, the pupil would remain closed, and he would not be able to see once the puncture was healed.” Although a horse can typically function and perform various activities with the loss of sight in one eye, it would be dangerous for the duo to continue barrel racing unless George regained enough sight in the eye. The extensive veterinary procedures have led to costly medical bills. Easterwood and her team decided, however, that they would do all in their power to keep this duo together. “After hearing the story about the bond between George and Kaden, we were moved, and agreed to keep George in the hospital to help provide him with the best chance at sight. George would be a very good teaching case and could offer our students the opportunity to follow the case the whole way through and see the effects of our treatments,” Easterwood said. “Although the Ramirez family had not
“People would stop me and say, ‘Wow, it looks like Kaden finally learned the horse,’ and I would say, ‘No, George finally learned him.’”
~ Kimberly Ramirez
Dr. Easterwood and Kaden asked for any help, we were more than happy to provide it. The family’s friends also started a GoFundMe account to help with expenses from both our hospital and the charges from Dr. Williams.” Easterwood and her team kept George over the weekend, performing ultrasounds on the eye to monitor progress with the fibrin, and over time, the pupil opened and George became responsive to light. “These are both good signs that we will hopefully have a sighted eye once the corneal healing is over,” said Easterwood. An entire community waits anxiously for an update on George’s condition, but none more so than 10-year-old Kaden. Regardless of the outcome, this dynamic duo will stay strong. “The Texas A&M Large Animal Hospital is a wonderful and caring place,” said Ramirez. “Dr. Easterwood, her team of students, and all of the staff were very dedicated to not only George and Kaden but also us as a family. I feel they all went above and beyond the call of duty, and we will always have a special place in our hearts for this animal clinic. They have made Kaden a big Texas A&M fan, and he now keeps up with all of the football games and wants to get everything in maroon; A&M has made a friend for life.” Winter 2014 •
H OS P I TA L
The Bhatia family with Maxamillion (Photo by Gittings Photography)
Love to the Max:
by Monika Blackwell
Texas A&M veterinarians help a family through the pain of canine cancer Upon entering the Bhatia home in Houston, it’s apparent that the family dog, Maxamillion, is as much a thread in the fabric of the household as his human counterparts. With an energetic tail and a doggy smile, Max is the first to greet any guest. In nearly every framed photo in the home, he poses for the camera. And, as his mom Gina Bhatia will tell you, it is required that Max go on almost all family vacations within driving distance. For the past eight years, Max has been part of the family, beginning on the day Gina Bhatia and her husband, Devinder, bid on the black Labrador puppy at a school charity auction. “My husband kept on bidding until he was ours. I was dressed in a ball gown, and they handed over this precious pooch,” she laughed. “We had a new baby, a toddler, a fresh-
• Winter 2014
man in high school, and our house was under renovations. I looked at my husband like, ‘What did we just do?’” The Bhatias didn’t question their decision long. Max took hold of their hearts almost instantly. When Max was five years old, his health took a sudden turn. During a family vacation, one that Max didn’t go on, Bhatia received a call from the boarder. “They said that Max was not himself at all, that he had started limping and was acting lethargic,” Bhatia explained. So she ended the trip early and headed home in order to take Max to his local veterinarian, Dr. Alice Anne Dodge, in Houston. While there, she found out that Max was suffering from an autoimmune disease and polyarthritis. After weeks of tests and different medications, he was not getting any better. At that point, his
Mia and Drake with Max (Photo by Issac Dovalina)
veterinarian recommended that he be taken to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at Texas A&M University. “He had tons of blood tests, scans, X-rays—you name it, they did it,” said Bhatia. “He wasn’t walking, and his platelet levels dropped dangerously low.” The Texas A&M veterinarians figured out the plan of attack, giving Max a round of chemotherapy and a litany of other medications. Over the next six months, many visits to Texas A&M, and seven different medicines, Max’s condition improved tremendously. The Bhatias were overjoyed.
A dreaded diagnosis For years, Max showed no sign of his previous illness. Although his energy never returned to its original puppy-like volume, Max was back to being Max. Then, last April, Bhatia noticed Max limping. She returned to Dr. Dodge, where she left him to undergo a series of tests. For the entire day, Bhatia waited by the phone, nervous about the news she would receive. When she finally got the call at the end of the day to come pick up Max, she knew the news wasn’t good. “When I went in, I was sitting in the exam room with Max, and the doctor came in and said, ‘I hope I’m wrong, but I think he has osteosarcoma.’” With the overwhelming news of cancer, Bhatia left Dodge’s office heartbroken, afraid her days with her beloved pet were numbered. After consulting with her husband, a heart surgeon, Bhatia knew that the best course of action would once again involve Texas A&M. She drove Max back to College Station two days later, where Dr. Claudia Barton and the rest of the oncology team did more testing and a biopsy to confirm an aggressive form of cancer called osteosarcoma. Dr. Rita Ho, Dr. Megan Sutton, Dr. Kelly Theiman Mankin, and Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles, together with Barton, gave her several treatment options. One option was to amputate Max’s front left leg and administer six rounds of chemotherapy, and another treatment option would allow him to keep his leg and undergo radiation. The former option meant drastic
changes for Max’s future but a longer life, while the latter option was less invasive but wouldn’t completely eliminate his pain. “It took me a good week to figure out what to do,” Bhatia said. “I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. In my mind, the thought of amputation was such an aggressive approach. The thing that kept me going was that they do this surgery a lot, that it’s fairly common with big dogs. Plus, the veterinarians assured me that Max has such a great spirit, they knew that he would do fantastic. Once I discussed it again with my husband and children, we knew he was going to be a survivor.” With encouragement from the veterinarians at Texas A&M, Bhatia made peace with her decision to move forward with the amputation. They were careful to explain every scenario to Bhatia—“the good, the bad, and the ugly.” She felt that all of the veterinarians and students formed a bond with Max that assured her he was in good hands. “Before I got him home, on the night of his surgery, they called me, and I was just blown away. They told me he was doing great and that he was already walking!” Within two weeks, Max had completely adapted to his new body. Bhatia’s children, Mia and Drake, were able to play with their dog in the backyard, just like old times. “Max is just the best gift from God. He gives us so much,” Bhatia said. “If you have a sick pet and are considering the veterinarian school at Texas A&M, don’t think twice about it. Get in your car and go right now. They are the best, and I’m forever grateful.” Editor’s note: As this issue was going to print, Max lost his battle with cancer. However, the Bhatia family is still very grateful for the extra time they were able to spend with their beloved dog.
Gina, Mia, and Drake with Max (Photo by Isaac Dovalina) Winter 2014 •
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Spotlight Kissing bugs carry Chagas disease.
A Grand Challenge:
One Health research proposals funded by Angela Clendenin, Dr. Megan Palsa, & Christina B. Sumners The One Health Initiative was formally started at Texas A&M University in 2011 to be a collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain sustainable optimal health. The initiative is dedicated to the discovery, development, communication, and application of knowledge in a wide range of academic and professional fields, providing the highest quality undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs to prepare students to assume roles in leadership, responsibility, and service to society. It builds on the strength of the university and the state of Texas from discovery to application and commercialization allowing for the discovery, learning, and applied research to meet societal needs. The One Health Grand Challenge increases opportunities for Texas A&M faculty members to plan and implement multidisciplinary, collaborative approaches improving the lives of all species—human and animal—by addressing health as well as the connections between health and both natural and manmade environments. 30 •
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The One Health Campus Council, made up of faculty representatives from all colleges across campus, identified four major One Health research themes—Global Health & Security, Accessible & Affordable Quality Healthcare, Safe & Available Food and Water, and Chronic Diseases & Conditions—and implemented a plan to bring together teams to propose research initiatives under these themes. “These proposals represent well what the One Health Grand Challenge at Texas A&M is all about,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “Facilitated by Dr. Michael Chaddock, assistant dean for One Health, investigators came together from across campus to form research teams dedicated to finding extraordinary solutions for diseases of importance to Texas and beyond. Equally impressive is the funding of this project, which was also a team approach. Dr. Glen Laine, vice president for research at Texas A&M, matched voluntary contributions from the involved colleges to fully fund this research challenge proposal.”
Global Health & Security A Texas A&M team of researchers plans to approach research on Chagas disease from an ecological perspective. They will look at how environmental factors, such as climate and land cover, and socioeconomic factors, such as housing conditions, affect the distribution of the disease. As the disease is transmitted primarily by insects called kissing bugs, any factor that influences kissing bug abundance or behavior will also impact disease risk. For example, poor housing conditions allow kissing bugs to colonize the home and increase the opportunity for them to take a blood meal from a sleeping human. Furthermore, as the climate changes, the distribution of the kissing bugs can shift, which could lead to the emergence of Chagas disease in new areas of the United States. Chagas disease, which affects approximately eight million people in the Americas, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and is spread by kissing bugs, which are prevalent across North, Central, and South America. Although once thought to be only a tropical disease, there is a current problem of canine Chagas disease in many regions of Texas that affects working dogs, such as military or border patrol, prized purebred breeding and show dogs, household pets, and stray dogs. In addition to the humans and dogs affected, the disease has been reported in South America in both cattle and pigs, and thus has the potential to threaten the economic stability of those who rely on livestock. Between 30 and 40 percent of those infected will develop life-threatening heart disease. In addition to the cardiac complications, humans can also experience intestinal complications and even—especially in young children—meningoencephalitis, which is a life-threatening inflammation of the brain. The team’s research proposal is a collaboration of faculty members in six Texas A&M colleges (the colleges of Agriculture & Life Sciences, Architecture, Geosciences, Science, and Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, as well as the School of Public Health). Together, they have expertise in ecology, epidemiology, population genetics, parasitology, community health, border health, medical anthropology, medical and veterinary entomology, land and economic development and planning, Latin American studies, and spatial analysis. “Zoonotic diseases are the ultimate One Health challenge because of the complex interactions among humans, wildlife, domestic animals, vectors, and pathogens within shared environments,” said Dr. Sarah Hamer, an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and the principal investigator on the project. “We plan for our research and outreach on Chagas disease to serve as ‘proof of principle,’ and that our One Health approach will be extended to tackle other vector-borne zoonotic disease systems in the future. We are in a great place for Texas A&M University to be a leader in multidisciplinary vector-borne disease research.” The team plans a three-pronged approach to their research in South Texas. First, they will trap kissing bugs; collect wildlife, domestic animal, and human blood samples;
Dr. Sarah Hamer
and assess the socioeconomic environment. Then, they will process samples in the laboratory to sequence DNA and determine the population genetics of both the parasites and the kissing bugs that transmit them. Finally, they will use that information to map the disease over time and space, taking into account the relationships between environmental, climatic, and demographic factors that influence spread and severity of disease. This map will then serve as a basis for future research, as it can help identify risk factors and evaluate intervention strategies. Although there is a recent increase in awareness of Chagas disease in Texas, researchers believe Chagas disease has existed in the Southern United States for a long time. In fact, mummified remains of humans from Texas and South America who died more than 1,150 years ago have evidence of Chagas disease. “This devastating disease is one of several neglected tropical diseases that can increase the poverty in already disadvantaged regions, as it can have impacts on child development and worker productivity,” said Chaddock. “As an under-diagnosed, under-reported disease with poorly understood risk factors, this type of research is desperately needed.”
Accessible & Affordable Quality Healthcare A research initiative led by Dr. Arum Han from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has faculty from the CVM, Dwight Look College of Engineering, Winter 2014 •
O N E H E A LT H
assays and significantly lower costs. Combined together, the team is hoping to provide a new paradigm for improving our capabilities to provide accessible and affordable healthcare. The initial focus areas of this initiative will be neurodegenerative diseases, immune systems, and the human microbiome; however, the team is hoping that the developed systems and their applications can be more broadly expanded and adapted to solving other health problems of high societal importance. “The proposal submitted by Dr. Han and his team of investigators holds great promise in radically changing how we examine organ systems and perform diagnostics in multiple species,” Chaddock said. “Interdisciplinary approaches such as this—that advance knowledge, that will improve global health—are at the very core of the definition of One Health.”
Safe & Available Food and Water
Dr. Arum Han (Photo by Jay Robinson, Advent GX) Texas A&M Health Science Center, and Texas A&M AgriLife. The title of their initiative is “Miniature Tissues and Organs for Detection and Prevention of Diseases,” which focuses on development of next-generation biologics through microphysiological systems. “I believe that multidisciplinary collaboration is key in addressing challenges in this new One Health paradigm,” said Han, “and I hope that engineering technologies can make significant contributions towards solving these grand challenges of societal importance.” The vision of this Microphysiological Systems Initiative is to create a world where human, animal, and plant diseases can be readily detected, disease mechanisms can be accurately and quickly deciphered, emerging threats can be predicted, and new therapeutics and vaccines can be rapidly developed, all at low cost, thus ultimately providing accessible and affordable healthcare. “We have a tremendous amount of expertise and human capital at Texas A&M, and we are ideally suited to address many of society’s greatest health challenges,” said Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of engineering. “Innovation thrives when we bring great scholars together, and it is exciting to imagine the possible advances that will come from their multidisciplinary approach to problem solving.” The technological innovations at the core of this initiative are in developing in-vitro microsystems that closely mimic the physiology of whole organisms, and in developing labon-a-chip systems that are high throughput, accurate, flexible, and low cost. Systems that mimic (or reproduce) human physiological systems (for example, organ-on-a-chip) aim to overcome the limitations of currently used in-vitro models and animal models. Lab-on-a-chip systems can accelerate 32 •
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As an established leader in electron beam technology, Dr. Suresh Pillai, director of the National Center for Electron Beam Research within the Texas A&M College of Agriculture & Life Sciences (COALS) Department of Poultry Science, along with an interdisciplinary team of investigators from eight Texas A&M colleges as well as Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, the Texas A&M University System Office of Technology Commercialization, the Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing (NCTM), the Texas A&M Institute for Genomic Medicine, and the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies, were recently awarded funding to pursue novel applications for this innovative technology as it applies to ensuring safe and available food and water. “The faculty in our college are well positioned to facilitate progress at Texas A&M in this area,” said Dr. Bill Dugas,
Dr. Suresh Pillai (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Robert Burns)
acting vice chancellor for agriculture and life sciences and COALS acting dean. The focus of this initiative is to develop novel uses for the one-of-a-kind electron beam technology aimed at eradicating water-borne, food-borne, and feed-borne infectious diseases in humans and animals through developing new vaccines and other therapeutics; ensuring global food supply security through new packaging, treatment, and processing methods; and exploring the use of this technology in improving food and water quality. “This technology uses commercial electricity, which is transformed by stripping off electrons,” explained Pillai. “What makes it a truly paradigm-shifting technology is that it creates both reduction and oxidation processes simultaneously without the addition of chemicals. The frequency levels of electron beam are adjustable, which allows us to use it at the lower end for killing insects and pests, at the mid range for treating food and water for dangerous pathogens, and then at the higher end to create memory shape plastics that may be used in medical applications.” The proposed project in electron beam technology leverages Texas A&M’s unequaled strength characterized by the combination of technological capabilities and expertise. This unique collaborative effort will initiate strategic partnerships between academia, private industry, non-governmental organizations, entrepreneurs, global financing institutions, eBeam equipment suppliers, and national and international regulatory agencies that will take advantage of the technological potential of this platform in healing, cleaning, feeding, and shaping this world in ways not seen before. “The proposal submitted by Dr. Pillai and this team of investigators holds great promise in creating the next generation of killed vaccines, developing new methods for cleaning the environment and improving the sustainability of our natural resources, and protecting the global food supply from massive loss,” said Chaddock.
Chronic Diseases & Conditions Enhancing the health and well-being of animals and humans through the alleviation of chronic illnesses and conditions is the goal of an innovative project recently awarded funding through the competitive One Health Grand Challenge proposal process. The project’s team will approach this objective by addressing the adverse physical, societal, and economic effects of stressful chronic conditions, including metabolic dysregulation and obesity. The interdisciplinary team includes faculty from seven Texas A&M colleges (COALS, the CVM, and the colleges of Education and Human Development, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Medicine, and Pharmacy) as well as Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “The faculty in our college have the training, skills, and abilities to integrate the environment, animal, and human aspects of a problem to solve the complex but very important grand challenges facing our society, such as improving our health,” said Dugas. The focus of this initiative is to further develop the understanding of genetic and environmental factors, including stress, that can disrupt metabolic functions in humans and animals, which may lead to a variety of chronic conditions
Dr. Tom Welsh such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes, and a reduction in productivity. “There are numerous undesirable conditions that can arise when an animal or person cannot maintain a healthy balance,” said Dr. Tom Welsh, the project’s primary investigator and a professor in COALS with a joint appointment at the CVM. “Our approach includes four separate projects, each of which will investigate environmental and genetic factors influencing the regulation of metabolic health. By learning how to manage these factors, we will be able to reduce susceptibility to chronic disease in humans and animals and also reduce stress on animals that affects their productivity.” Two pilot projects will focus on behavior and stress related to metabolism. These will include the investigation of prenatal stress on calves and, separately, will examine epigenetic changes in human patients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Two additional projects include work to determine environmental factors that influence metabolism, as well as the role that microbes in the body (or the microbiome) play in metabolic regulation. “The proposal submitted by Dr. Welsh and this team of investigators holds great promise in creating new understanding of the relationship between the environment, genetics, stress, and the cascade of chronic diseases that result from stress on the metabolic system,” Chaddock said. More information about these proposals, including videos about each, may be found online at http://onehealth.tamu. edu/research/one-health-grand-challenges. Winter 2014 •
O N E H E A LT H
One Healthy Village at a Time:
by Kelly Tucker
Changes in Ometepe, Nicaragua Two volcanoes dominate the landscape of Ometepe, the largest island in the Lake of Nicaragua. Concepción, the active volcano in the northern part of the island, has a picturesque conical shape. The ash it generates during eruptions enriches the island’s soil, creating fertile farmland used for sustainable farming by Ometepe’s inhabitants. Maderas, its extinct counerpart to the south, is covered in a cloud forest and holds a lagoon in its center. Much of the land around Maderas is part of a nature reserve that is home to a wide array of plant and animal species. Three core aspects of life on Ometepe–environment, animals, and people–were brought together by three Texas A&M University students this past summer as part of a fourweek One Health project on the island. One Health is the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain sustainable optimal health for the ecosystem. These principles were put into practice by
the members of the project in a variety of ways during their time in Nicaragua.
A sustainable project The multidisciplinary team included students and faculty members from Texas A&M and the University of California, Davis. Texas A&M was represented by students Christina Babu of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine; Thomas Jeffreys of the Texas A&M School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics; and Ashton Richardson of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM); and Merrideth Holub, the program coordinator for the One Health Initiative in the CVM. Prior to the trip, participants prepared at their respective schools. Four weeks of training included learning about zoonotic diseases, water treatment, animal handling, human vitals, and how to collaborate interprofessionally. “Our curriculum these past four weeks has basically covered everything you would want to know pertaining to animals and humans,” said Richardson in an interview before the trip. “We’ve studied foodborne illnesses, human medicine, environmental topics, and even history lessons on Ometepe island. It’s really important to be culturally aware and respectful when you go into another country. This has honestly been the best learning experience that I’ve had; I’ve never had another experience where I went from vaccinating pigs to learning how to deliver a baby in the afternoon. It’s really kept us engaged and focused.” Once in Nicaragua, the team began working toward the trip’s main objective: establishing a baseline knowledge of the Ometepe region on environmental, animal, and human issues from a One Health prospective. “One of our main goals for this trip is to create a sustainable project that will continue after we leave,” said Babu prior to the trip. “We’re only there for four weeks, but we have so much to do. One of our main goals is to work with the resources that [the inhabitants] do have and not bring in things they normally don’t have access to. We hope to create something that’s lasting and can be maintained for future years of this project.” Projects completed in pursuit of the objective included holding a public health fair; creating a sustainable kids’ café; working with local physicians, veterinarians, community leaders, and others to find solutions and strategies; and researching the needs of the community for future work toward creating One Healthy Village.
Ashton Richardson examines a dog. (Photo courtesy of Merrideth Holub) 34 •
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The students also worked in the clinics of Dr. Sara Gomez, a local veterinarian, and Dr. Sandra Villagra, a physician. Through work with animal and human patients, information for future work was gathered from human diagnostic data, physical exams of animals, and observations. Team
tion, 11 percent. This discrepancy suggests members of the community may not fully understand the serious effects of hypertension. Information on animal health on the island was compiled from observations of physical exams by Dr. Gomez, which included exams of 31 dogs, 5 horses, 1 pig, and 1 cat, and responses to a questionnaire taken by 22 animal owners. Ninety percent of respondents reported their animals are allowed to roam freely, and 81 percent allow their animals to enter their homes. All horses examined had ticks and symptoms of internal parasites, and approximately one third of the dogs presented with ticks and fleas. Only five of the dogs had been spayed or neutered. Both large and small animals generally serve at least two purposes for their owners, including companionship, transportation, protection, pest control, and traction, for example pulling a cart. Although 90 percent of the chickens on the island are considered a food source, egg-collecting techniques used by their owners were found to be inefficient. Management practices observed on the island could pose a threat to animal health and, indirectly, the health of their human owners.
Christina Babu examines a young boy. (Photo courtesy of Merrideth Holub) members also used responses from a community based participatory research (CBPR) questionnaire to gather information on general household demographics, nutrition status, oral hygiene, human health, animal health, and environmental health. Data from a sample of 50 human residents of Ometepe who visited Dr. Villagra’s clinics revealed several areas that can be improved by future endeavors. Family histories indicated a prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In addition, blood pressure measurements associated with prehypertension were observed in both male and female participants, and the average BMI was in the overweight range. Approximately one in four participants reported having joint or muscle pain. The CBPR questionnaire, completed by 42 people, provided further insights on the status of public health on the island. Just over half of respondents reported losing a child. Of the 40 respondents who use water from a potable source, only two stated that they treat the water they collect. Over half of the respondents reported they did not have good dental health, and the most prevalent reason given was lack of money. Similarly, over half of the participants indicated they did not have a nutritious diet, with finances again given as the main reason. With regard to pediatric health in the community, 91 percent of respondents stated they are worried about a lack of medication. When medication is unavailable, the majority of the participants self-medicated or used medicinal plants and natural remedies. The questionnaire also revealed a discrepancy between the percentage of people with a family history of hypertension, 41 percent, and those who reported being concerned about the condi-
The data gathered by the team shows a clear need for future work on Ometepe. Projects that utilize the One Health concept of interconnections between human, animal, and environmental health, such as the sustainable café and community garden, allow the community to improve all three areas of life. For the students, being involved in a project that makes a positive impact in a community is its own reward. “One Health is becoming such a hot topic these days, but not many people understand it fully,” said Richardson. “I’m hoping this program will shed a light on the importance of collaborating and how that approach is the best when we talk about education, development, or just helping people in general. I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate.”
Ashton Richardson, Christina Babu, and Thomas Jeffreys (Photo courtesy of Merrideth Holub) Winter 2014 •
I N T E R N AT I O N A L
by Christina B. Sumners
Study-abroad students pose with an elephant in South Africa. (Photo courtesy of Dr. James Derr)
Students travel to Africa for study abroad Professors James Derr and Linda Logan led a group of 10 students on a unique study-abroad opportunity this summer. The group spent two weeks in South Africa immersed in the fields of pathology, applied physiology, infectious and parasitic diseases, pharmacology of game capture, and wildlife conservation. “This course is designed for students who are serious about learning how to capture, handle, treat, and transport exotic African wildlife species,” said Derr, who is a professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB). “We learn from one of the most knowledgeable and respected wildlife veterinarians in all of Africa, Dr. Cobus Raath, who spent 15 years serving as the director of veterinary services for Kruger National Park. He is the pioneer of modern game capture methods for dangerous wildlife.” 36 •
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On this trip, the students dealt with a number of wildlife species including elephants, crocodiles, rhinoceroses, Cape buffalo, wildebeest, nyala, and even venomous snakes. “If you want to learn how the professionals do their job in remote regions of Southern Africa with dangerous exotic wildlife,” said Logan, who is the former VTPB department head, “then this is the course that may just change your life.” One of the major themes of the course was conservation in the face of poaching and other threats. The students were exposed to lectures from experts on topics such as animal rehabilitation centers and the role of zoos, conservation genetics research on African wildlife, how veterinarians contribute to global efforts to protect species, the role of sport hunting in conservation, and finally the black market trade of wildlife products.
Study-abroad students, with Dr. Logan and Dr. Derr, pose with a giant snakeskin. (Photo courtesy of Dr. James Derr) These lectures, though, were integrated into hands-on work with animals. For example, during their first days in South Africa, the students had the opportunity to dart Cape buffalo for tuberculosis testing in the morning and then help dehorn rhinos in the afternoon to protect them from poachers. “It was when I was kneeling next to a white rhino, with his enormous nostril pressed to my hand taking respiration while he was being dehorned, that I realized how truly amazing this course was going to be,” said Emily McCann, a senior animal science undergraduate who hopes to attend veterinary school. “You get dirty, bloody, your brain is constantly being challenged, and you find yourself experiencing and taking part in situations you never thought possible.” The group also learned how to identify similar-looking animals, safely capture crocodiles, and operate various types of commercially available dart guns.
Students participate in treating a rhino in the field. (Photo courtesy of Dr. James Derr)
“The remarkable experiences and the exceptional people made for a truly life-altering journey that may only begin to be described with one word: extraordinary,” said Julia Lemaistre, a third-year veterinary student. “These two weeks have beautifully highlighted the vast array of opportunities that veterinarians have across the globe and have presented professional opportunities that I would not have considered in my wildest dreams.”
Students participate in an examination at the clinic. (Photo courtesy of Dr. James Derr) Winter 2014 •
Spotlight In their own words:
International graduate student autobiographical sketches as told to Michelle Yeoman
Hamid Alkar My interest in animals stems from working on my family’s farms. When I was growing up in Libya, my grandfather and my father each had a farm with many sheep and goats. I started helping my grandfather with his farm when I was about seven or eight years old. At first I simply fed the animals and took them to pasture. As I got older, I gained more and more responsibilities. By the time I was fourteen years old, I was responsible for the care and well-being of all the animals on my father’s farm. Because of my love of animals, I decided to pursue veterinary science. I chose to study animal reproduction, which is an important area of research in Libya. Much of the veterinary research there is related to animal reproduction because we don’t have fancy equipment and machines for many other types of research. Also, I took courses in animal reproduction in college and greatly enjoyed this subject.
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When I first began my bachelor’s degree in veterinary science, my future goal was to become a clinician, but as I took more classes and gained more experience, my interests broadened. I realized that I was also interested in veterinary research. One of the reasons I love research is because I can stay up to date on veterinary science and be at the forefront of new findings and technology. Ideally, I would love to be able to combine both interests: clinical science and veterinary research. After completing my undergraduate degree, I decided to continue my education. I received a scholarship to attend Washington State University, where I earned a master’s degree in veterinary science, specializing in animal reproduction. My research focused on hormone levels, pregnancy, and lactation in cows. I’m now beginning my second semester in the doctoral program at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biosciences (CVM), and I am working with Dr. Juan Romano. Even though I’ve been here only a few months, I’ve been able to jump straight into research and am working on four different projects, which I find very exciting. One of my projects focuses on understanding how male goats affect the estrous cycle in female goats, and another project involves studying trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease, in bulls. Fortunately, I’ve also been able to collaborate with other researchers at CVM, including Dr. Jill Hiney. We’re developing a radioimmunoassay to analyze estradiol, a female sex hormone. A radioimmunoassay is a highly sensitive technique that uses antibodies to measure targets of interest, like hormone levels. We can use this information to better understand reproduction cycles in animals. My future goal is to remain in academia, where I can combine my interests in research, clinical work, and teaching. Working with students is extremely rewarding because it challenges me to stay up to date on scientific research. I also look forward to being reunited with my wife, who is still living in Washington state. My wife is originally from that region and is working as a nursing assistant. Because my move to College Station was rather sudden, she won’t be able to relocate until next summer. Even though I’ve only been here for a few months, I feel fortunate to have had so many opportunities, including multiple research projects and collaborations. Collaborating with other researchers has been a tremendous experience for me. These collaborations enable me to gain knowledge, learn new techniques, and develop professional contacts for future collaborations. If I have one piece of advice for other graduate students, it’s to get to know as many people as possible so that you can build your professional network and develop future collaborations.
Richard Cheng-An Chang I’m a second year doctoral student in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). My research focuses on how immune cells interact with fat cells. Immune cells are supposed to regulate fat cells, but instead, research shows that immune cells seem to go haywire in that microenvironment, releasing inflammatory markers, such as cytokines. Here’s another way to picture this: Immune cells are the good guys—they’re supposed to go into fat tissue and either destroy the fat cells or restore them to their natural state. But once in that environment, the immune cells themselves go crazy. So it’s like everyone goes crazy and throws a crazy party. That’s why people get fatter and fatter. I think the best way to investigate these sorts of problems is through the intersection of physiology and biology. Physiology focuses on bodily systems, while biology focuses on interactions with the environment, including the microenvironments in a cell. Combining these two disciplines is a powerful way to investigate how the environment affects the body. I first became interested in these fields as an undergraduate student in Taiwan. I earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, focusing on immunology, at the National Central University in Taoyuan, Taiwan. I then became interested in physiology and earned a master’s degree in physiology from National Yang-Ming University, also in Taiwan. During this time, I had the opportunity to work with faculty members who had previously taught at American universities. These professors encouraged me to come to the United States for my doctoral degree, telling me that I would really enjoy the learning environment here. They said that the biggest difference here is the freedom to express your opinion, even if it conflicts with others. In many Asian cultures, it’s considered rude to disagree with others, especially with superiors. This tradition may be fine in some situations, but not for true science. In science, you should be able to express your ideas, even if they differ from those of everyone else. Working with faculty members in the United States, I enjoyed more independence in my research projects than I normally would have had. I designed my own projects and developed my own proposals. Rather than someone telling me to do A, then B, then C—I convinced them that I wanted to do A, B, and C. These experiences helped me become a logical, independent researcher. After earning my master’s degree, I decided to improve my English language fluency. I spent one year at the University of California in Irvine. I then applied and was accepted into the doctoral program here at CVM. I’m now working with Dr. Beiyan Zhou and am excited to add another component to my research project: non-coding RNAs. My current project links non-coding RNAs to metabolism and immunology. Specifically, I’m investigating how immune cells use non-coding RNA to regulate fat cells and the microenvironment.
I’m currently collaborating with students from other labs to show them techniques for extracting microRNA from outside of the cell. Extracting these microRNAs can be challenging: microRNAs are present in small amounts and need to be isolated from other components. I’ve really enjoyed these collaborations because I get to refine these techniques to work in cells that I normally don’t study, such as neurons and embryonic cells. My lab is also collaborating with Dr. Elizabeth CosgriffHernandez to explore whether cell-cell interactions could affect the cell responses we are monitoring. These collaborations are very helpful because they add a new dimension to our research project and allow me to extend my professional network. My future goals are to continue my research in the United States because I really enjoy the research atmosphere here. I plan to delve deeper into my current research focus by adding bioinformatics. My work in RNAs has generated a wealth of data, and I need computational tools to interpret it. I’m excited to explore this new field because I think it’s best to continually challenge myself and not stay in my comfort zone.
Richard Cheng-An Chang Winter 2014 •
Sina Marsilo Although I am a first year doctoral student in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, I’m not new to veterinary medicine. In 2004, I earned a veterinary degree from the University of Hanover in Germany. My interests in animals and medicine began when I was a child. I’ve always loved animals and had many pets growing up. But more than that, I loved medicine and disease. I found chronic diseases fascinating, even as a young child. I remember asking my grandparents—who were elderly and had health issues—about their diseases and wanting to know everything. So my family wasn’t surprised when I became a veterinarian. After earning my veterinary degree, I worked in small animal internal medicine through a shared residency between
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the University of London in England and the University of Giessen in Germany. I then worked as a supervisor at the University of Giessen, where I mentored veterinary students. I found mentoring and teaching extremely rewarding, especially when I observed students gaining confidence while conducting research. In my opinion, a research project needs to be relevant, achievable, and affordable. By taking these considerations into account, graduate students can follow their path in their own way. However, after working as a supervisor for one year, I realized that I wanted to conduct my own scientific research. I began work in a pharmaceutical company, where I conducted clinical field studies. While I enjoyed the research, I found that I missed the academic environment—missed meeting people from all over the world. I also missed teaching. I realized that my future goal is to work in academia, where I can integrate all my interests: clinical science, veterinary research, and teaching. I think an effective teacher can make a huge difference in students’ lives. For me, the best classrooms are ones that are interactive, engaging, and fun. I enjoy teaching the most when I talk less and students talk more. I then decided to pursue my education in the United States. Although I enjoy working in Germany, I’ve always wanted to come to the United States because I enjoy the attitude and atmosphere here. While attending veterinary conferences in the United States, I was struck by the apparent lack of hierarchy—there was such a willingness to discuss research openly and informally. For example, I’ve witnessed occasions when a speaker will engage the audience by asking if someone has experience with a medical case. More than once, someone from the audience responded yes and ran to the front of the auditorium, waving a USB flash drive, to share his or her results. This exchange now strikes me as particularly typical for the United States. I also think the overall approach to science is somewhat different in the United States. In other countries, researchers discuss complex problems critically, which is essential, but they are less likely to take chances. The approach seems to be more straightforward in the United States, and researchers are more willing to take risks. Also, everyone here is friendly and genuinely wants others to succeed. Of course, science is still competitive, but in a way that’s helpful and allows collaboration. I think that collaboration is essential to scientific research. No department has all the necessary equipment—nor should it. That would prevent networking and knowledge exchange. For research to flourish, we must have interdisciplinary integration of knowledge. For example, I may know clinical aspects of a project, while someone else may be an expert in statistics, and another person may be knowledgeable in nutrition and metabolism. In one lifetime, it’s not possible to learn everything that’s needed, so it’s important to collaborate with other people and to share knowledge and skills.
Iveliz Martel I just began my first year in the Science and Technology Journalism (STJR) program here in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). I am excited to combine my interests in science and journalism and look forward to communicating science to a general audience. Growing up in San Felipe, a small town in the middle of Chile, I did not have much of an opportunity to be involved in science. I’ve always loved both science and journalism, but I had to focus on one or the other back in Chile. In my country, students are not able to study multiple disciplines but must select one field to pursue. I took a high school course in journalism and really loved it. We ran a newspaper and even had a radio show. So it made sense to me to pursue journalism. I earned my bachelor’s degree in journalism at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile—the only journalism school outside the United States to be recognized by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and
Mass Communication. I then interned at a radio station in Santiago, where I reported on a variety of topics, including national issues. Then swine flu arrived on the news scene. My editor realized that our radio station needed a dedicated health reporter, and I began covering topics in health and health policy. That’s when I realized that I missed science and wanted to become more involved in science communication. I also wanted to be able to reach a broader audience. I decided to improve my English language skills and traveled to Toronto, Canada. I lived there for one year, and took courses at George Brown College for three months. I then returned to Chile, where I began work as a radio producer. I scripted, edited, and storyboarded three radio shows with distinct but related topics: social media, nutrition and health, and science and technology. I loved my work but realized that I needed more education to be a truly effective science journalist. I had the journalism background but needed more exposure to science. I then applied for the Fulbright Scholarship Program so that I could continue my education. After being accepted into the Fulbright program, I applied to the STJR program. I chose this program, and this school, partly because of the individualized attention I received during the application process—I never felt like just one more student among a thousand. What I really love about the STJR program is that it is part of the CVM instead of a journalism school; I’ve never been as close to science as I am now. Science journalism is powerful because it can inspire young people to become scientists. For example, many children in Chile don’t know what they want to do later in life and don’t have access to proper education. By giving them even a little glimpse of what science is, maybe I can inspire them to pursue science as a career. I can’t inspire them as a teacher, but maybe I can inspire them as a science journalist. In the future, I hope to return to Chile and develop a radio show that communicates science to underserved regions. In Chile, much of the public education of science occurs in the capital, Santiago. But people living in regions farther away, including rural regions, don’t have access to programs that communicate and explore science. I love science because it can explain so many practical aspects of our lives, from nutrition and mental health, to illness and disease. If you know a little bit about science, then you understand a little Iveliz Martel more of the world around us. Winter 2014 •
Naomi Ohta ence. I think it was worth my three-hour daily commute just to learn from that teacher. I then earned the equivalent of a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Obihiro University in Hokkaido, Japan, where I researched two tick-borne diseases: babesiosis and theileriosis. I found that I greatly enjoy the whole process of doing research, from the literature search to developing my own research proposal. I love research because it has the potential to change our lives. I continued to gain research experience by earning a master’s degree at Kansas State University, where I studied stem cells in the treatment of human breast cancer. I’d never studied human medicine before, and it was a great experience. Then, I took an epidemiology class with Dr. H. Morgan Scott and realized that I prefer veterinary medicine, especially in relation to population medicine. I joined Dr. Scott’s lab, and when he moved the lab to the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University, I came with him. I’m currently a second-year doctoral student, and my research focuses on the emergence of antibioticresistant bacteria in cattle. I’m investigating whether the use of the antibiotics tetracycline and ceftiofur affect the emergence of antibiotic-resistant salmonella, which is a food-borne pathogen. This research can impact human health because resistant salmonella can potentially contaminate farms and find its way into the food supply. Collaboration is a vital aspect of our research. We’re currently collaborating with labs from across the country, including researchers at Michigan State University, Texas Tech University, and the University of Guelph in Canada. For example, we receive our samples from Dr. Guy Loneragan at Texas Tech University, who treated cattle with tetracycline. My future goals are to return to Japan and continue my research as a veterinary epidemiologist. Japan has few veterinary epidemiologists in comparison to the United States, so I feel that my work would have a real impact there. Like many other regions, Japan widely uses antibiotics, which leads to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. However, not many researchers in Japan are investigating the consequences of widespread antibiotic use in animals. While I plan to remain in this field, I may focus on other diseases. I love the interdisciplinary nature of veterinary epidemiology because it can identify promising areas of research. For example, epidemiological studies can identify that smokers have a higher chance of developing lung cancer. It’s then up to basic researchers to identify the mechanism behind this phenomenon. By using my background in cancer research and veterinary epidemiology, I hope to apply an interdisciplinary approach to answer innovative research questions. Naomi Ohta
I’m from Saitama, Japan, a region outside of Tokyo known for its many fields and Asian pear trees. To guarantee the best education possible, my parents enrolled me in a private high school in Tokyo, which required a one and a half hour commute each way. I first became interested in science through my high school biology teacher. He was a great educator and encouraged me to conduct scientific experiments. Once, he gave me a juvenile jellyfish with the goal of understanding how it matured into an adult. I tried different methods to determine which environmental cues signal maturity, including placing the jellyfish container in the refrigerator. I hypothesized that the temperature change might mimic conditions in the ocean. I even tried caffeine and poured coffee into the jellyfish container. Even though the jellyfish unfortunately eventually died, I greatly enjoyed my research experi-
• Winter 2014
Jizhou Yang I’m a first-year doctoral student in the Veterinary Integrative Biosciences department at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). I’m originally from Chongqing, a southwestern city in China, and I earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from China Agricultural University in Beijing. I remained at this university to earn my master’s degree in microbiology. I have long been interested in biology, especially microbiology. I love the field of microbiology because it offers so many practical applications to enrich our lives. For example, without microbiology, we wouldn’t have milk and wine! After earning my master’s, I decided to continue my education, and that’s when I came to Texas. In 2012, I entered the Professional Program in Biotechnology (PPiB) at Texas A&M University. This interdisciplinary master’s program focuses on both biology and business. I think that collaborations between business and biology can further practical applications of scientific research. I greatly enjoyed the diverse curriculum of the PPiB program. I took courses in finance and marketing, as well as molecular biology and bioinformatics. Perhaps due to my practical nature, my favorite course was statistics because you can find the correlation between two events, which is very practical and informative. A requirement of the PPiB program is an internship in industry, which gives students practical experience and future contacts in industry. I was very excited to intern at the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. I used innovative RNA sequencing to compare expression profile differences between people with cancer and those without. After completing the PPiB master’s program, I realized that I still needed more knowledge and experience, particularly in genomics and bioinformatics. With the wealth of biological data now available, I think that bioinformatics is becoming increasingly relevant. Bioinformatics is an emerging field that develops computational tools to understand the large amounts of biological data now available. I’m now a first-year graduate student in James Cai’s laboratory in the CVM. In the Cai laboratory, we develop computational tools to understand how variances in the entire genome can affect genetic diseases. We study diseases in both humans and animals, but my current research project focuses on human health. I am studying gene expression of two types of immune cells in humans: B cells and monocytes. Gene expression studies allow us to understand the processes by which genes can direct creation of functional products. A few months ago, I received a CVM scholarship from the Walter W. Lechner Estate Endowment, which provides funds for fees, tuition, and housing. This scholarship is awarded to incoming graduate students based on several factors including academic achievement, leadership roles, and commitment to community service. I was extremely honored to be awarded this competitive scholarship.
My advice to prospective graduate students is to find your own interests. Once you do that, you can pour all your energy and passion into that field and guarantee success. If you have many interests, as I do, then it’s best to play to your strengths. For example, I’m strongest in logic and math and am drawn to practical applications of biology and business. So for me, bioinformatics is the perfect combination of my strengths and interests. My future goal is to apply my knowledge and skills in industry. I’m interested in joining innovative companies that use bioinformatics to develop practical applications, such as better drugs. Because we live in the information age, we should apply computational tools to analyze biological data. Doing so provides us with a wealth of knowledge that leads to innovative applications.
Jizhou Yang Winter 2014 •
FAC U LT Y/S TA FF
Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine (left), and Dr. John Stallone, professor and interim head of the Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (right), welcome Dr. Ken Muneoka (center) to the college.
Dr. Ken Muneoka:
by Roberto Molar
A pioneer of regenerative medicine In the summer of 1978, graduate student Ken Muneoka attended a popular course on embryology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The course, taught by Muneoka’s future mentor, marked a crucial shift in his academic career. Almost four decades have passed since Muneoka attended that course, which transformed the way he thought about biology. Today he is an internationally recognized biologist, renowned for findings that have revolutionized the fields of mammalian limb regeneration and wound healing. “We have been successful in identifying key mechanisms in limb regeneration in those species who are able to do so,” Muneoka said. “We have also been able to begin developing a model for this same type of activity in mammalian species.” In Spring 2015, Muneoka will join the faculty of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) as professor in the Department of Veterinary 44 •
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Physiology & Pharmacology. Together with the Texas Heart Institute and other faculty leaders of the CVM, Muneoka will be part of the Center for Cell and Organ Biotechnology, a collaboration announced in September 2013.
A life-changing course Having earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Humboldt State University in 1976, Muneoka enrolled in graduate school at the University of Hawaii—but that took an unexpected turn. Dr. Susan Bryant, an internationally acclaimed expert on cell biology at the University of California, Irvine, taught the embryology course in Woods Hole as a visiting instructor. Fascinated by Bryant’s work on limb regeneration in salamanders, Muneoka left the University of Hawaii to join Bryant’s lab. She soon became Muneoka’s mentor and friend. “We just had a really good connection, and it was
very exciting to be in that kind of relationship and work in science that was engaging for both of us,” Bryant said. Muneoka earned his doctorate in 1983 in developmental and cell biology, and his doctoral dissertation analyzed the similarity between limb regeneration and limb development of salamanders. What he found transformed his perception of regeneration, particularly in mammals. After earning his doctorate, Muneoka worked in Bryant’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow. He shifted his research focus to mammals, particularly to understanding why mammals cannot regenerate like salamanders. His basic idea: Limb regeneration and development share similar processes. “We all go through development to form our limbs and our various structures, and there must be something impeding our ability to revisit that process,” Muneoka said. “Salamanders were able to figure it out; they are able to keep that going.”
A different approach to regeneration Muneoka’s interest in mammals led him to conduct independent research—this time away from his mentor. In 1986 he joined Tulane University’s Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, where he continued to study limb regeneration and wound healing. He has been studying this problem ever since. Some current approaches to regeneration seek to repair or replace damaged tissue with stem cells. But Muneoka’s research focuses on the cellular and molecular factors that can reprogram stem cells to be more embryonic. Doing so may maximize the body’s natural potential to regenerate. Building on previous research in salamanders and on the regenerative responses of mice digits, Muneoka’s lab developed a mammalian model for endogenous regeneration. And the development of this mouse model was another pivotal moment in his career.
Regeneration in humans and large animals In 2004, Muneoka participated in a workshop hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense. There he visualized the next step in his research: using his mouse model to try to understand the regenerative properties of humans. “The mouse is pretty different from the human,” he said, “but it’s certainly more similar than the salamander.” The regenerative responses of mice digits resemble those of human fingertips. However, the small size of mice makes Muneoka’s model unsuitable for pre-clinical trials. His challenge now is to move this model closer to humans and large animals. This challenge does not frighten him. In fact, the complexity of the problem captivates him, even if inducing regenerative responses in large mammals sounds too ambitious. “We’re not going to solve this problem in my lifetime, but I hope we make reasonable strides,” Muneoka said. “I’m passionate about hopefully contributing something to a very big problem in human health.” Muneoka also explained that regeneration might solve other problems in medicine, since induced regeneration could mobilize cell involvement in healing responses. “As we understand more about regeneration, the treatments of both
disease and injuries are going to evolve to a point where we are not going to be doing surgical manipulations,” he said.
Renowned findings and public service Muneoka’s findings—which he humbly attributes to the people working in his lab—have won him multiple appointments and recognitions. He has served on the editorial boards of several scientific publications, including the journal, Regeneration. At Tulane, he held the John L. & Mary Wright Ebaugh Chair in Science and Engineering. He also has served on numerous advisory boards and led workshops for such entities as the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency. Muneoka especially cherishes his appointment as a council member at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the National Institutes of Health. At NICHD, he advises policymakers and scientists on human health research. He had always thought people serving in such advisory councils were quite special. With a laugh, Muneoka joked about his appointment: “When they asked me to be on council, I thought ‘well, there must be something wrong with them, because I’m not special enough to do this.’”
Educating future scientists Muneoka’s humility about his expertise also has helped him win the admiration of colleagues and students. Dr. Lindsay Dawson, who attended graduate school at Tulane to work with Muneoka, admires his openness as a mentor and friend. Now a postdoctoral fellow, Dawson also appreciates Muneoka’s creativity in the lab. She has been working with Muneoka for six years, and she has never seen him dictate the research of his students or postdocs. On the contrary, she said, Muneoka always encourages others to think critically and try new methods. “That is huge in science because there is just so much freedom to be creative,” Dawson said. Muneoka encourages this creativity in all of his trainees with the goal of producing better scientists. He said he wants to train the scientists of the future—not robots who can simply follow orders. “I want to train people who can think for themselves, develop new strategies and ideas, and test new hypotheses to continue moving the field,” Muneoka said. This was an important lesson he learned from his mentor, Bryant. Now retired, Bryant looks back at the young Muneoka she met in Woods Hole. She remembers she “loved the way he asked questions about everything. He loves what he does, and that is very infectious to students and faculty,” she said. “It’s been that way right from the very first.” Muneoka’s inquisitive drive continues to extend the impact of his research as he prepares to move to Texas A&M, where he will promote graduate and undergraduate education in multiple academic departments. Members of his and Texas Heart Institute’s lab, Dawson included, will join him at Texas A&M’s Center for Cell and Organ Biotechnology. Their expertise will likely be transformative for limb regeneration and wound healing, propelling Texas A&M as a national leader in regenerative medicine. Winter 2014 •
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Dr. H. Morgan Scott with the producer of PBS Frontline
Dr. H. Morgan Scott:
by Claire Ronner
Viewing epidemiology through a different lens Dr. H. Morgan Scott has ridden his bicycle around the world, but he keeps coming back to College Station. Scott, an epidemiologist and infectious disease expert who taught at Texas A&M University from 2001–2009, has returned to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science (CVM) after a stretch as the E.J. Frick Endowed Professor of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. He will lead the development of the Microbial Ecology and Molecular Epidemiology (ME2) research laboratory at the CVM as a tenured epidemiology professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology. Dr. Scott didn’t originally plan to be an epidemiologist, however. The Canada native first encountered epidemiology while pursuing a DVM from University of Saskatchewan, when an eccentric professor who incorporated props into each lecture piqued Scott’s interest. Once Scott graduated in 1988 and started working as a practitioner at larger cattle farms, he realized that his veterinary training wasn’t extensive enough to tackle the issues at hand. “These farms had herd health questions that were simple on the surface, but very difficult to answer,” Scott said. 46 •
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Heading into the Ph.D. program at the University of Guelph in the Canadian province of Ontario, he fully intended to get back into veterinary practice one day. Instead, he turned to epidemiology to explore the best methods of reducing disease burden in animals. Today Scott is establishing ME2 at the CVM, but at the time, Scott shared that he never envisioned having a lab. “I saw the world as my lab—which is clichéd and naïve,” Scott said. He soon realized that in order to conduct experiments, he needed a controlled area for his research—which he couldn’t outsource. He learned to work with colleagues in different fields to meet his research needs and gain access to other useful and pertinent data. As it turns out, cross-disciplinary collaboration has become a hallmark of Scott’s career. He began postdoctoral studies in public health and research in risk analysis at the University of Alberta in 1999. While in Alberta, he shared an office with a moral philosopher, a sociologist, a toxicologist, an occupational hygienist, a civil engineer, and an ethicist. “I developed an enormous appreciation for the other aspects of human health, of how humans behave with respect to
everything we do,” said Scott. “This also applies to farming and agriculture. People like to say the farming business is entirely economic, but it’s not.” Now he continues to work with researchers in other disciplines and understands one person can’t be an expert in everything. “Projects end up being more exciting this way. It’s about evaluating what people bring to the table and recognizing you can appreciate each other, which makes science fun,” Scott said. “You read a crazy idea and say, ‘Hey, maybe we can make that work here.’” Members of ME2 study zoonotic disease control to improve food safety and public health. Scott ultimately hopes to reduce resistance to antibiotics among zoonotic bacteria, which can be transferred from animals to humans. He examines and observes how bacteria compete against each other in areas with finite resources, like within an animal’s digestive system. Scott and his team use microbiological and molecular methods to measure whether certain bacteria are resistant to antibiotics. These researchers also use genetic tools including recent moves into whole genome sequencing to observe how one strain of a bacterium is particularly successful at outcompeting others. Scott’s lab is being stationed in the new Veterinary Research Building annex, and he has filled the 1400-squarefoot space with top-of-the-line equipment. His research will be conducted entirely out of ME2 with the assistance of a six-person (and growing) team, which will include CVM graduate students. ME2 receives some of its start-up funding from the Chancellor’s Research Initiative, among others. “Dr. Scott’s efforts in the laboratory will translate to an innovative and dynamic learning opportunity for our graduate and veterinary students,” said Dr. Linda Logan, former head of the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology. “Learning from his experiences will prepare our graduate students with practical and applied knowledge and skill sets for future roles in government, industry, and academia.” An integral part of Scott’s work is rooted in communication with the public. During his more than 20-year career, Scott has seen food safety information grow from nonexistent to routine and systematic. He briefly worked as an epidemiologist for the Food Safety Division of the Government of Alberta in 2000, where he learned to use foodborne pathogens as a way to measure whether an intervention was effective. There he helped establish and monitor food safety outcomes; this research involved collecting data on foodborne disease pathogens in particular areas. While there have been some improvements in surveillance on the human side, scientists still don’t know the extent of antibiotic use on the animal side. “Molecular work lets you trace an organism back to its origin, see how it’s changed over time, observe its lineage, and note its acquisition of resistance,” Scott said. “In terms of how we use antibiotics [in animals], we still don’t have any broad and useful national data at this point.” Scott says that how to use these data to effect policy change isn’t a question for scientists, but rather a discussion for the public. Society has to decide if it wants these data to be used to make informed decisions about the continued use of antibiotics in its food production systems. At that point, discourse leaves the scientific arena and enters into
Dr. H. Morgan Scott
political debate. For example, in an October 2014 interview for PBS Frontline, Scott discussed how his team noticed that cephalosporin, an antibiotic, was losing its effectiveness among Gram-negative bacteria, which can have adverse effects on human health. When researchers tried using an alternative antibiotic, tetracycline, to reduce resistance to cephalosporin, the resistance to cephalosporin actually increased. “If someone wants me to detail the best way to use antibiotics, I can’t actually give them that answer at the moment,” Scott said. “The timeline of resistance development spans decades, and decisions on how to use antibiotics need to project at least that far into the future.” With his interdisciplinary approach to research, Scott says being at a large, multiservice university like Texas A&M is very appealing. On such a large campus, there are ample opportunities to collaborate with people working nearby. He recalls that even when he first started at Texas A&M in 2001, he received nothing but support for his research. “I always have lots of encouragement to pursue my interests,” Scott said. Scott’s areas of expertise complement the CVM’s One Health Initiative, which explores the connections between human, animal, and environmental health. He notes that measures taken in animal agriculture affect human health and vice versa. “My work sits at the intersection of agriculture, human health, and human activity in general,” Scott said. In addition to leading the ME2 lab, Scott will teach graduate courses on risk analysis as well as disease detection and surveillance. He is the immediate past president of the Association for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and an advisor to the World Health Organization Advisory Group on Integrated Surveillance for Antimicrobial Resistance. His wife, Dr. Cheryl Herman, also returns to the CVM as a clinical associate professor of anatomy. They continue to cycle when they can find the time. Winter 2014 •
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by Dr. Megan Palsa
Dr. Budke (top row, left) and her students in Mongolia (Photo courtesy of Dr. Christine Budke)
Budke focusing global attention on neglected tropical diseases Work with large-scale projects to have worldwide impact An estimated one billion people have one or more neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), according to the Gates Foundation. These diseases disproportionally affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities, and they have historically attracted little investment in combatting them. Although populations considered neglected are most often in developing nations, lower-income populations in the United States—especially those in the 48 •
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southern part of the country—can also be affected by NTDs and other diseases of poverty. Effective treatments and control methods are available to fight many of these diseases, but significant progress cannot be made without more funding to obtain additional data on the frequency and impact of these diseases in affected populations as well as to develop better diagnostic methods and means to implement control measures in challenging environments.
Making a difference Committed to increasing awareness about neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is Dr. Christine M. Budke, an associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Her interest in the field began when she was a veterinary student at Purdue University. “I did a variety of international externships, and one of them happened to focus on parasites,” she said. “After that I was hooked.” After veterinary school, Budke moved to Europe, where she obtained a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Basel in association with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and the University of Zurich. During her graduate studies, she spent much of her time conducting infectious disease fieldwork on the Tibetan Plateau of western China. Budke now works to better elucidate the socioeconomic impact of two parasitic NTDs: echinococcosis and neurocysticercosis (NCC). Both of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning they are transmissible between animals and people. One goal of Budke’s work is to give the research community and policymakers a better feel for the true impact of these diseases on different parts of the world. She hopes this knowledge will help promote better allocation of resources. “You can have many cases of a disease that are fairly mild,” said Budke. “On the other hand, you can have a relatively small number of cases, such as has occurred with the Ebola outbreak, with a high mortality rate. Our goal is to find ways to better quantify the true impact of these diseases on a society.” One way to better understand the true impact of disease is to create a common metric to compare diseases. The DALY, or Disability Adjusted Life Year, is one such tool. It measures morbidity, mortality, and duration, as well as the severity of clinical symptoms of a disease. This enables researchers to compare very different diseases—such as the common cold and an Ebola infection. One DALY can be thought of as one lost year of “healthy” life. The sum of these DALYs across the population, or the burden of disease, can be thought of as a measurement of the gap between current health status and an ideal health situation where the entire population lives to an advanced age, free of disease and disability, according to the World Health Organization. “If you are able to incorporate mortality and the severity of the disease into that metric, you can actually compare the impact of Ebola and the common cold or a parasitic disease with a viral disease because you are using a common language and a common tool,” said Budke.
The big two Budke’s work is a prime example of the global One Health Initiative. The diseases on which her work is focused pose a double threat to the societies where they manifest, because both humans and their livestock can become infected. “If you have a community affected by echinococcosis, then you have individuals who are ill and may not be able to work and who are impacted physically as well as emotionally from their disease,” Budke said. “If their animals also have the
Dr. Budke (right) in China (Photo courtesy of Dr. Christine Budke) disease, and the animals contribute to their livelihood, as is true in many communities, the impact can be devastating.” An insidious disease, echinococcosis causes cystic lesions in the liver, lungs, or both in people who do not become ill immediately, but whose health slowly declines over a period of time. This disease is particularly problematic in pastoralist and low-income communities around the world. “The causative parasite is a type of tapeworm, but they are unlike the very long tapeworms that most people envision,” Budke said. “They are very tiny—the size of a grain of rice—but they can cause serious damage.” Eliminating echinococcosis is extremely difficult because so many animal species can become infected with the cyst stage of the parasite. Large free-roaming dog populations, which carry the adult stage of the parasite, also make control a challenge in some locations. Although dog deworming is very effective, it must be repeated regularly to prevent reinfection; repeated deworming, however, can be difficult in resource-poor areas. To date, there have been few coordinated efforts globally to control this NTD. More recent advances have focused on developing a sheep vaccine; however, thus far, vaccines are not readily available. The other tapeworm that Budke studies is Taenia solium, which causes NCC. This condition, which is believed to be one of the leading causes of epilepsy in the developing world, is especially found in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and parts of South America. Like echinococcosis, this parasite also affects both people and livestock—pigs in this case. Poor sanitation can result in people ingesting parasite eggs that are shed by infected individuals, which can then Winter 2014 •
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develop into cysts in the central nervous system, resulting in epilepsy, stroke, or dementia. Budke noted that this infection can have a major impact on a community, in terms of illness and the stigma some societies still attach to those with epilepsy. Although epilepsy can be caused by other factors (or have no known cause at all), NCC is a leading cause of epilepsy cases, especially in low socioeconomic status pig-rearing areas, as pigs are vital for the parasite’s life cycle. Because these conditions are chronic and zoonotic and because they disproportionately affect socioeconomically disadvantaged pastoral and agricultural communities, efforts to study and control echinococcosis and NCC remain substantially underfunded. Control of these diseases, Budke explained, requires a multidisciplinary approach. However, agricultural and public health funding agencies often wait for each other to take the lead. The impact on communities is also undervalued because of lack of information; diagnosis of echinococcosis and NCC in humans usually requires medical imaging, which is rarely available in developing countries, and infection in livestock at slaughter is seldom monitored. Although there are human cases of echinococcosis and NCC in the United States, the vast majority of these cases are in people who were infected elsewhere. “Primarily what
Research in Kazakhstan (Photo courtesy of Dr. Christine Budke) you are seeing are these diseases affecting the immigrant population,” Budke said. “The biggest impact is the drain on the health care system because these can be fairly expensive diseases to treat.”
Dr. Budke in China (Photo courtesy of Dr. Christine Budke) 50 •
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Budke works with a number of global initiatives focused on estimating the effect of these parasites on societies in which they are found. Other groups within these initiatives are working on other parasitic agents, as well as toxins and chemicals, bacteria, and viruses. Noting which diseases are impacting a particular country’s population can aid policymakers in determining priorities. In the last 10 years, Budke noted, there has been an effort to put NTDs “on the map,” so to speak. “I think we are at least starting to go in the right direction to finally address some of these conditions,” she said. Part of the challenge, however, is that when something “big, new or exciting,” such as avian flu or Ebola, hits the news, it can be dramatic and get an abundance of attention. “A lot of these NTDs have been around for a very long time. They tend to be chronic. They just don’t grab the same attention as some higher-profile diseases; therefore, they tend to be forgotten.” As the world becomes more aware of NTDs and as people in Budke’s field continue to work on solutions for positive change, her work becomes evermore important. “We are trying to get the larger population to understand what is going on and to become aware of the populations that are impacted,” she said.
Running for a Cause:
by Micah J. Waltz
How putting Yucatán miniature pigs on treadmills helps fight heart disease If you walk by Dr. Cristine Heaps’ lab on a sunny afternoon in the spring, you may see Yucatán miniature pigs running on treadmills. Heaps, an associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), studies the effects of exercise on heart disease using these pigs. Adaptations in the heart during exercise intrigued Heaps, who was involved in athletics from a young age. Exercise puts demands on a body, causing the heart to beat faster and move blood more quickly through the cardiovascular system. A person with heart disease may be fine while watching a rerun of Survivor; however, after the show is over and the person is sweating like a pig while pushing a lawn mower, he may suddenly have a heart attack. Risk factors, such as obesity and lack of physical activity, contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. According to the 2013 Overweight and Obesity Update by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 50% (154.7 million) of Americans 20 years and older are Dr. Cristine Heaps
Yucatán hairless mini pigs
overweight. As obesity rates increase in other countries, the number of deaths caused by cardiovascular disease will also rise. So why use pigs in research? A pig’s cardiovascular system functions similarly to a human’s. Likewise, the pig body mimics a human’s in response to exercise; therefore, running pigs with heart disease on treadmills models humans with heart disease exercising. Arranging for approximately 100-pound Yucatán miniature pigs to run on a treadmill you might see at a local gym is both labor-intensive and expensive, so this type of model is uncommon. In fact, Heaps’ lab is one of the few in the United States using a pig model combining heart disease and exercise. Researchers elsewhere contact her to collaborate. Dr. Steven Fisher, a physician and recent collaborator from the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, contacted Heaps to help with his research because she uses this model. “Very few labs have this model,” Fisher said. “Coronary heart disease is very difficult to model.” A recent study by Heaps and Fisher indicates exercise may increase the heart’s sensitivity to drugs such as Viagra. In addition to her recent collaboration with Fisher, Heaps also works with faculty at both the CVM and the Texas A&M Health Science Center. Often waiting in silence, cardiovascular disease is deadly until conditions are right, such as exacerbation by exercise. This disease has not only severe, often fatal, health implications but economic repercussions as well. Heaps noted, “Billions to hundreds of billions of dollars and productivity are lost to heart disease.” Winter 2014 •
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The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
by Gina Marie Wadas
Museum “crusties” foster collaboration between geneticists and Smithsonian Museums are a repository of many artifacts collected in times gone by, and the Smithsonian holds one of the United States’ best collections. Its Division of Mammals at the National Museum of Natural History houses a world-class collection of roughly 590,000 preserved specimens, many of which are available to researchers, including Dr. Bill Murphy, a mammalian geneticist in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Murphy’s background in comparative genomics and mammalian phylogenetics helps him determine the ancestral relationships between different groups of species, when they originated, what factors drove them to diversify, and what processes led to their distribution around the globe. In his journey to discover these connections, Murphy has taken advantage of the hard work already accomplished on species collection trips over a century ago. Since 2002, Murphy has been collaborating with a mammalogist, Dr. Kris Helgen, on the methodology of using museum specimens to extract mammalian DNA. But the practice really advanced in 2008 when the pair started exploring 52 •
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the mammals collection at the Smithsonian, where Helgen is the curator in charge of mammals. Their goal is to use DNA from museum specimens to understand how rare or unusual groups of mammals fit into the mammalian family tree. Murphy brings the genetic component to the collaboration, whereas Helgen brings the curatorial and mammalogy background to help classify and understand mammals more thoroughly. The field of museum-based genetics had its origins in the early 1990s, according to Murphy. Although many studies with museum specimens have been conducted in the past, Murphy wondered how well DNA could be recovered from these specimens and in large amounts without contamination. Also, he wanted to determine if the new next-generation sequencing techniques might reveal a more accurate resolution of ancient DNA sequences, as well as larger datasets for phylogenetic analysis. Typically, previous researchers have chosen to extract DNA from the hide or hair of specimens because it is more abundant, but there is an increased risk of contamination from being handled over
the years. Using hide samples can also be more problematic because hides are often chemically treated for preservation. To avoid analyzing DNA from specimens where the possibility of sample contamination is high, Murphy and his team implemented an alternative approach to sampling. “We developed an approach where we extract DNA from the ‘crusties’ as we call them,” said Murphy. “When you examine skulls in museum collections, they are usually pretty clean. But if you look inside the brain case you can actually see tidbits, little remnants of dried tissue that have been sitting there for a 100–150 years. For the most part these tissues have never been exposed to human contact, so we figured there would be less contamination. This approach is also less destructive since museums like to avoid damaging specimens, such as drilling into bones or taking hair and tissue samples, at all costs. No one can tell if you’ve removed a bit of tissue from inside a skull.” Murphy and his team have found that they can get an extraordinary amount of acceptable and quality DNA from these tissues. And with the new sequencing technologies, Murphy has found that the DNA sequencing is simplified with degraded “crusties” more than if one starts with fresh or frozen tissue. With this methodology researchers can also reduce or avoid the costs and time associated with trapping animals in the field, applying for permits and permissions, and traveling; they can take advantage of the work done a century before that resides within museums. This method also allows geneticists to access and sequence DNA from extinct species. Murphy is working on such a project with a colleague in South America to extract ancient DNA from extinct ungulate megafauna groups, such as a Toxodon, a rhinoceros-like species that went extinct in the Pleistocene. Historically, mammals have been classified into small groups and researchers believed that if species share the same morphology, or physical characteristic, they must be related. But with the new sequencing technology, genetics has revealed that parallel evolution, the development of similar physical characteristics in related but distinct species, is happening among the whole mammalian tree. According to Murphy, “Among the 4,500 mammal species identified in 2005, geneticists now believe there are roughly 6,000 species as a result of molecular techniques, but there is speculation that there are probably close to 10,000 species of mammals.” Murphy has used the technology and museum specimens at the Smithsonian to study colugos, the closest known living relative to primates found throughout the islands of Southeast Asia. “Colugos are one of the most poorly known groups of mammals, and the problem is they are not found in zoos and you can’t sample colugos from across Southeast Asia very easily. So we turned to museum specimens,” said Murphy. He feels that by understanding the genome of colugos, we can understand the genetic transition to primates. In his team’s analysis of 13 specimens in one area alone, it was determined there were probably as many as five or 10 species, whereas it was believed that only two existed. Murphy and his team’s technique has yielded promising and successful results. “We have not had too many limitations. Most of the samples for which we have attempted DNA
Dr. Bill Murphy
extraction have been highly successful. The results have been so promising that we have proposed a much more concerted effort of using only museum specimens to identify the true number of mammal species on Earth,” said Murphy. However, different museums preserve specimens differently, and their location also affects the quality of the samples. For example, a museum located in a tropical environment has to battle with factors such as mold and bacterial growth, and having temperature-controlled rooms to avoid mold and bacterial growth can help with this. Other elements, such as how specimens are preserved and handled, also have an effect on a sample’s quality. Since 2008, Murphy has been a research associate at the Smithsonian, and he travels there about once every one to two years. In the company of Helgen, Murphy and his graduate student, Victor Mason, have also visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research in Singapore. Along with studying colugos, the pair has also studied cat species and other endangered species in Southeast Asia. “There are probably many undiscovered, cryptic species in Southeast Asia, and this is an ongoing focus of the collaboration with the Smithsonian,” said Murphy. “Molecular genetic technologies have rapidly changed the way in which mammals are classified. We can also look at genetic diversity within species 100 years ago and compare them with today to see how human influences have affected their genetic diversity,” said Murphy. The technology and use of museum specimens extends beyond studying mammals and can be utilized to study other species as well. Winter 2014 •
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by Angela Clendenin
From left, Dr. Lorraine Rodriguez-Rivera, Dr. Kevin Cummings, Mary FitzSimon, and Mali MacMullen
Powerful collaborations work to solve multifactorial salmonella challenge Salmonella causes over a million illnesses every year in the United States alone, and it’s the leading cause of hospitalization and death among foodborne pathogens, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 2,600 different strains of salmonella (called “serovars” or “serotypes”) have been identified, but relatively few are responsible for a large proportion of clinical infections. Although clinical disease (diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, and malaise) generally resolves in a few days without treatment, salmonella can also produce invasive salmonellosis infections that may be fatal. Young children, elderly adults, and those with compromised immune systems are at highest risk for severe disease. 54 •
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“We’ve made little progress in reducing the incidence of salmonellosis in people over the last 15 years. As a result, salmonella remains one of our predominant threats to food safety,” said Dr. Kevin Cummings, assistant professor of epidemiology in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). One of the reasons for the relative lack of progress may be the complex ecology of the bacterium itself. “Salmonella can be found in the gastrointestinal tract of a very wide range of hosts,” Cummings said. “In addition, it can survive for extended periods of time in a broad array of environments. These features make salmonella a formidable challenge.” Most coverage of salmonella in the popular press has revolved around outbreaks that resulted from food consumption, and Cummings notes that this is still the most common pathway for salmonella infection. However, he also adds that the role that direct contact with infected animals plays in salmonella infection is generally underestimated. “The bottom line is that in addition to our vigilance with food safety, we must practice safe animal contact,” Cummings said. “As
for the foodborne cases, it’s also important to remember that large outbreaks actually represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of overall disease burden.” For researchers like Cummings, the challenge of the multifactorial salmonella problem is best addressed using a collaborative One Health approach. The One Health concept is based on the inextricable link between animal, human, and environmental health. Because salmonella affects animals and humans and is persistent in the environment, a team representing different viewpoints is needed. “Collaborative approaches allow us to address problems through multiple perspectives,” Cummings said. “With salmonella, for example, we have microbiologists studying the organism itself, clinicians treating individual patients, and epidemiologists looking at the level of disease and associated risk factors at the population level. This multidisciplinary plan of attack maximizes our chances of discovering new methods to control the pathogen. The combining of disciplines to solve tricky problems is one of the most exciting parts of academia.” Cummings regularly collaborates with faculty across departments at Texas A&M, faculty at other universities, colleagues at state and federal government agencies, and colleagues in industry. His multidisciplinary approach can be seen in his own lab, as exemplified by Dr. Lorraine Rodriguez-Rivera, a postdoctoral research associate in the Cummings lab. Rodriguez-Rivera has expertise in the microbiology of salmonella and other bacterial pathogens. “We have unique perspectives and areas of expertise, thus allowing a synergistic approach when investigating salmonella and other foodborne disease agents,” Cummings said. Several research projects are ongoing in the Cummings lab. One of his main research aims is to determine the role of various wildlife species as reservoirs of salmonella and other pathogens. Thus, he is investigating the role of feral pigs in the epidemiology of salmonella and three additional zoonotic agents. “Feral pigs are an emerging One Health threat,” Cummings said. “They are one of the most abundant free-roaming ungulates in the United States, with a population that might be as high as 8 million. Feral pigs invade and contaminate crop fields, they contaminate surface waters, and they serve as a potential source of pathogen transmission to livestock. All of these things pose a risk to food safety.” Cummings is also interested in the role that livestock play in the ecology and transmission of salmonella. Currently he is using genomic techniques to study an emerging strain of salmonella among dairy cattle. This project, in collaboration with investigators at Cornell University, is an extension of work that he did as a Ph.D. student. “The sharp rise in isolation of this strain from sick dairy cattle presents a very unique opportunity to investigate pathogen emergence in real time,” Cummings said. Another primary objective of the Cummings lab is to tackle the issue of antimicrobial resistance among salmonella and other foodborne pathogens. Antimicrobial resistance limits treatment options for veterinary patients, and it represents a threat to public health. “The antimicrobial resistance issue is inherently complex with a lot of moving parts, to say
the least,” Cummings said. “We are now studying antimicrobial resistance trends within a variety of host species, and this work opens new doors in terms of focusing new research questions. We’re also investigating the role of environmental reservoirs in promoting the emergence and persistence of antimicrobial-resistant salmonella on dairy operations.” Both a veterinarian and an epidemiologist, Cummings has studied salmonella from both the clinical and the research side. “Having been in practice, I have a perspective of knowing what the big problems are, as well as what solutions would be practical,” Cummings said. “This helped me immensely when I began my research career, in terms of framing my research questions.” Being a clinician also helped Cummings see the effect of salmonellosis firsthand in his patients. “Besides being a major threat to public health, salmonella is an important cause of disease in many of our veterinary patients, such as cattle, horses, and pigs,” Cummings said. “So, when progress is made against a pathogen like salmonella, we all win. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Dr. Kevin Cummings and Mary FitzSimon, a doctoral student, discuss findings. Winter 2014 •
A Love of
Leads to a legacy of
by Angela Clendenin
What began as a child’s love of horses has engendered a legacy of research to help ensure equine health and wellbeing. Established 20 years ago, the Patsy Link Endowment has fostered programs of research and education in equine reproduction, genomics, epidemiology and infectious disease, and more. Along with the strengths of the faculty, a dedicated scientific advisory committee has contributed to the successes achieved. The college remains grateful to Patsy Link for the endowment and looks forward to all it will continue to support in the years ahead. Ask anyone who knew her, and they would tell you that Patsy Link had a deep love of horses beginning in her early childhood. Working with horses was a central part of her life and a source of great happiness for her. This love of horses led Link to leave much of her estate to Texas A&M University to support research benefitting equine health and welfare. The endowed gift that bears her name—the Patsy Link Endowment, now in its 20th year—has funded more than $6.5 million in equine-related research that has advanced the knowledge of equine health. The endowment, which began in 1995, was a cooperative effort between the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (COALS). Under the direction of Dr. Bryan Johnson of COALS and Dr. William Moyer of the CVM, a plan was put into place to ensure that Link’s passion for horses was reflected in the excellence and impact of the research programming her endowment supports. Born Helen Patricia Link to Helen Wicks and John Wiley Link Jr., an insurance agent, Link grew up as an only child in the River Oaks community of Houston. Her grandfather, John Wiley Link Sr., formed and became president of Link Oil Corporation and was later president of the Dr Pepper parent company. Link learned early on about horses and horse care, and the purchase of a saddlebred mare led to the start of her own horse farm near Burton, Texas. “Patsy started off with the one saddlebred mare,” recalled Dr. H.A. Smith, a veterinarian in Brenham, Texas. “It wasn’t long before her friends in the Thoroughbred world got her 56 •
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involved with that breed. She raced some of her horses, trained some, and had some really nice brood mares.” Smith provided veterinary care for Link’s horses for many years. He recalls that Link’s love for horses was evident in how well she cared for them. “There were some occasions where we needed to send her horses to the teaching hospital at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences for specialized services,” Smith said. “She was always very satisfied with the treatment her horses received there.” Link died on March 16, 1994, shortly after being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor at age 65. Beforehand, she had ensured her beloved horses would be provided for. “It was her wish that a part of the estate would cover the care of her horses until they could be sold or otherwise cared for,” Smith said. “The remainder was given to Texas A&M in the form of an endowment to support the equine research programs there, an endeavor she found important.” “Patsy Link’s love of horses has led to an incredible opportunity to provide funding for leading-edge research that directly benefits the health and welfare of the horse,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “The researchers who have received funding from the Patsy Link Endowment are undoubtedly as passionate about horses as she was, and are driven to discoveries that impact horses and the entire equine industry. We have seen tremendous success in our equine research programs that would not have been possible without the legacy that Patsy Link established 20 years ago through her generosity.”
Research endeavors supported by the Patsy Link Endowment
Reproduction Studies Funding from the endowment has supported research that has received national and international recognition. The Link Equine Reproduction Studies program, led by Dr. Katrin Hinrichs, has developed an international reputation for discoveries enhancing the fertility and reproductive potential of brood mares. The development of the intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) procedure and the subsequent novel process for the harvesting of egg cells (oocytes) from mares has increased foaling rates in mares with fertility problems. The accomplishments of this team were featured on the cover of Biology of Reproduction, a highly respected peer-reviewed journal. The Link endowment continues to provide funding to this program and has enabled it to grow and support an active graduate program resulting in multiple national and international presentations.
Dr. Katrin Hinrichs, professor and Patsy Link Chair in Mare Reproductive Studies in the Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology: “The funds I have received from the Link endowment have been integral in the development of our program in equine assisted reproduction. A major component of this program is intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a form of in vitro fertilization. Our work on equine ICSI has not only resulted in Texas A&M publishing the most research in this area but also in the development of a clinical ICSI program at A&M that is among the foremost in the world. In addition, the Link endowment funds have supported pioneering research in our laboratory on equine nuclear transfer (cloning) and on the molecular physiology of equine sperm and its preparation for fertilization. This work has enabled graduate students, visiting scholars, and veterinary students to learn techniques and develop knowledge in equine assisted reproduction, from both the research and clinical perspective.”
Dr. Dickson Varner, professor & Pin Oak Stud Chair of Stallion Reproductive Studies: “The funding received from the Patsy Link Endowment in previous years has been invaluable to our programmatic efforts. It has allowed an expansion of research collaborations with basic scientists in our college and other colleges on campus and has enabled us to conduct pilot projects that have been critical to acquisition of extramural funds for equine reproductive research.”
Genomic Markers Dr. Bhanu Chowdhary and Dr. Terje Raudsepp of the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences have led another research initiative made possible with Link funds. This initiative has sought to identify genomic markers for a variety of traits and diseases within the horse, and it provides needed genomic data to other Link-supported projects in an effort to better understand the role that genetics plays in fertility, as well as infectious disease and other clinical conditions.
Stem Cell Therapy One of the newest areas to receive Link endowment funding is regenerative medicine research. Scientists—such as Dr. Ashley Watts, an assistant professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences—working in this area have already given a number of national and state-level presentations on a variety of clinical uses of stem cell therapy. The researchers hope their results will serve, educate, and benefit horse industry stakeholders. Like the researchers in the equine genomics initiative, those working in regenerative medicine collaborate with those in other Link-supported areas of research.
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Dr. Noah Cohen, professor & associate department head for research and graduate studies: “The Link funding has enabled us to establish and maintain an equine infectious disease and equine epidemiology program that has made substantive contributions to control and prevention of: 1) infectious diseases of horses, Another innovative, productive program fundparticularly Rhodococcus equi foal ed through the Link endowment is the Equine Epidemiology and Infectious Disease Program, pneumonia; 2) equine colic; 3) led by Dr. Noah Cohen. The high-quality musculoskeletal injuries of horses; and, 4) equine laminitis. These program trains graduate students and residents are disorders that have an important impact on the health and and has resulted in many peer-reviewed publicawell-being of horses and are important to the equine industry. In tions and presentations, establishing this group’s my view, the most important thing the Link funding has enabled international reputation. Clinical applications is training future veterinarians and clinical scientists. Those of this program’s projects have been of value to who participated in research in the Equine Infectious Disease veterinarians and the horse industry, and they Laboratory include veterinary residents who have gone on to jobs continue to promote horse health. in academia, veterinarians who have gone on to pursue doctoral training to become the next generation of equine clinical scientists, postdoctoral scientists who went on to careers at universities or private industry, veterinary students who have participated in research and gone on to residency training programs, and undergraduate students who have gone on to veterinary school or graduate school. Facilitating these people’s pursuit of their career aspirations is by far the most rewarding and impactful component of the Link legacy. Scores of people have been given an opportunity to fulfill their dreams and go on to improve the health of horses because of the Link funding.”
Epidemiology & Infectious Disease
Imagine starting a new job at a leading university and being told that a large donation in the works will establish an endowment, but it will be necessary to work with a representative from another college within the university to develop an efficient and effective plan to use the funds generated from the endowment in accordance with the well-defined wishes of the donor. This is what Dr. William Moyer, professor and later department head for the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, faced when he arrived at Texas A&M University in 1993. A similar scenario was playing out across campus in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with the arrival of Dr. Bryan Johnson, professor and later department head of the Department of Animal Science. The two knew each other before their arrival at Texas A&M and were friends as well as colleagues. Together, they would develop a unique approach to funding equine research with funds from the Link endowment, an approach that continues to the present day. “The dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the time, Dr. John Shadduck, recognized the value of this significant gift and what it had the potential to accomplish,” Johnson said. “Working with the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to begin the detailed process of getting the endowment in
Dr. William Moyer
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place was the first step in bringing our two programs, Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine, together in an effort to best address advances in research that would directly benefit the health and welfare of the horse.” Johnson had recently arrived at Texas A&M from Maryland, where he had worked with the agricultural experiment station to develop research programs. Combined with a background in reproductive physiology, he brought a wealth of expertise. “Bryan had a tremendous amount of knowledge of how to set up successful research programs,” Moyer said. “I brought with me a background in clinical and academic equine medicine. And this is where we started. We knew we had the opportunity to create a plan that would provide sustainable support in equine research, but we had to make sure it was done well.” One early decision was to establish a scientific advisory committee to review funding proposals from researchers in both colleges. Composed of both internal and external experts, the committee provided an objective review of proposals originating from multiple disciplines. “Because of the anticipated diversity of projects and programs, we wanted to bring in experts from different areas of research to ensure scientific validity and the potential impact on improving the health and welfare of the horse,” said Moyer. “The internal members came from several different departments across the university, and the external experts were leaders in their field from different institutions.” The approach created by Johnson and Moyer was distinctive in that instead of focusing on individual projects, the endowment would provide initial support for research programs that could use the seed money to achieve excellence and then obtain external funding. From the beginning to the present day, the researchers who began their programs with Link funding have earned national and international acclaim for their projects and expertise. “Prior to the establishment of the Link endowment, it was difficult to acquire funds for equine research,” Johnson said. “We had such expertise in both colleges, and we wanted to find a way to capitalize on that. We wanted to reward those scientists who were capable of establishing high caliber programs that would lead to further external funding. Early on, we placed a strong emphasis on research that would have significant application in the horse industry and with horse owners—just as Ms. Link wanted—to the benefit of the health and welfare of the horse.” One key to the success of the Link endowment has been the dedication of the scientific advisory committee. Members of this committee reviewed many proposals and evaluated the annual reports from the funded programs, which outlined where the dollars were spent. “From the beginning, I was amazed at the tremendous camaraderie displayed by the members of the committee,” Moyer said. “Everyone was asked to take on a significant responsibility in reviewing these program proposals, and when they arrived at the meetings, each and every one of them was well prepared for the task at hand. In addition, not only did they review the proposals, they contributed their perspectives and concepts to the discussion in an effort to make each proposal stronger and better. It was phenomenal.”
Dr. Glen A. Laine, vice president for research at Texas A&M University: “The Scientific Advisory Committee for the Patsy Link Endowment has been a very successful program in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. That program has led to significant research contributions and impactful education in the areas of equine health and welfare. As a member of the advisory committee, I am proud to have played a role in furthering the legacy of Patsy Link.” Johnson and Moyer also noted the important role that students have had in Link-funded programs. “The engagement with students in these programs was a big deal,” Johnson said. “It was a big opportunity to have the funds to attract top students into these programs to support the scientists in their work, to learn from them, and then to take those skills with them as they went to work in both industry and academia. In this way, and by supporting sustainable and impactful research programs, the Link fund has had the biggest impact of any fund on equine research, as well as the equine industry in Texas and beyond.” Bringing together industry expertise and scientific experts from Texas A&M and from around the nation has created a unique collaboration that has served the equine industry and horse owners everywhere as a direct result of the generosity and passion for horses that represented Patsy Link. “The magnitude of the achievements resulting from these programs are indicative of the dedication and wealth of expertise in our research faculty,” said Moyer. “It also represents the strength of a highly transparent, objective, and accountable plan as part of the funding strategy. It is rare that a plan will last as long as this one has, but the strategy that Dr. Johnson created has withstood the tests of time and is still used by the scientific advisory committee to this day, unchanged. Because of a sound strategy and the excellence in programmatic proposals, Texas A&M researchers using Link funds have been able to create new knowledge, expand educational opportunities, discover new information, and develop novel applications that will continue to impact the equine industry and horse owners well into the future.”
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Collaborative The CVM enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship by Dr. Eleanor M. Green
The relationship between the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) is treasured and mutually beneficial. As a member of the TVMA as well as the dean of the CVM, I have been privileged to see the collaboration from both sides. The value of what the TVMA provides our students in the way of support and engagement is immeasurable. I cannot thank them enough for their numerous scholarships and other financial assistance to our students, as well as their ongoing support of programs such as Open House, the Professional Programs Office, and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Government Affairs Intern at the AVMA office in Washington, D.C. The TVMA also donated numerous items such as stethoscopes (for first-year students), scrubs and a copy of Veterinary Drug Formulary (for second-year students), and surgical scissors (for third-year students) throughout our many years working together. The TVMA also sponsors a Veterinary Ethics Program dinner for first-year veterinary students and participating veterinarians in both the fall and spring semesters. Third-year veterinary students have the opportunity to attend a “clinic orientation” meeting with TVMA officers in attendance. The organizations also have previously sponsored practice management seminars, job fairs, and college-to-work transition meetings. Their governing bodies are open to student members. Each TVMA committee is open to students. Elected by class, a third-year veterinary student can serve as a voting member of the TVMA Board of Directors. They also name a stu60 •
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dent to serve on the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation (TVMF) Board of Trustees. We are also privileged to have the TVMA actively involved in the college in other ways. A TVMA officer serves as a liaison to the college and meets with Drs. Kenita Rogers and Dan Posey three times per year. This relationship also includes mentoring for each veterinary class and a student section on their website. TVMA’s Texas Veterinarian magazine invites a student to write a column in each issue. TVMA support of student attendance at its annual conference by offering free early registration for them is appreciated. The TVMF sponsors two student summer research projects, in which each student presents his or her project to the Board of Directors. They also provide two faculty awards presented at the Honors Convocation. The TVMA president attends and presents awards to honored veterinary residents. In short, we are forever grateful to the TVMA and TVMF for being such a collaborative partner in our students’ experiences, from their admission interview to their graduation ceremony, where the TVMA president administers the Veterinary Oath and sponsors breakfast for the graduates with attending TVMA officers. Overall, the TVMA commits close to $32,000 toward student events and activities, and the TVMF commits approximately $24,500. As Albert Schweitzer said, “We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” We are thankful for the TVMA.
TVMA grateful to help educate the veterinarians of tomorrow by Dr. Tracy Colvin ’98
As a Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) member and volunteer leader, I have firsthand experience with all of the opportunities TVMA members gain from engagement with the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) faculty, staff, and students. As an executive board member, I feel so privileged to have been able to meet and mentor the CVM Class of 2014. I have also enjoyed the many opportunities to be a part of numerous special events at the CVM such as student orientation, white coat ceremony, ethics sessions, and graduation. As a busy practitioner and practice owner, it is easy to see the benefits to our practice and local veterinary community. Our involvement with TVMA has given us an advantage to recruit and retain some of the brightest veterinary students to work as externs and associates in our practices. TVMA members repeatedly claim that being involved at the CVM reenergizes them as they return to their practice, industry, or regulatory work. Whether it is meeting students on committees or reconnecting with faculty and staff at TVMA social events, TVMA members are always grateful for the chance to be with the students, faculty, and amazing CVM staff. I also see benefits to our entire membership when the CVM collaborates with our association. Besides the benefits to individual TVMA volunteers, our entire association benefits from collaboration with the college. The CVM graciously gives TVMA the opportunity to give input on curriculum changes and student selection, giving our members the ability to point out where the college is doing a good job and where it could improve as it molds graduates to become the future of our profession. The CVM also recruits TVMA
members to participate in the Multiple Mini Interviews used as part of the student selection process. TVMA members then have direct influence on the caliber of veterinary students that the college admits. So many of the decisions the college makes impact the veterinary profession in Texas. The CVM is thoughtful to consider input from TVMA leaders and members before making important decisions that could affect us all. It also benefits our members when the CVM simply shares information with TVMA through regular meetings with TVMA leadership and formal reports at our biannual meetings. We are grateful as an association to have such a wonderful working relationship with the CVM.
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Dr. Duane Kraemer and his wife, Shirley, with (from left) CC, Zip, Tess, and Tim
by Dr. Megan Palsa
Dr. Duane Kraemer M.S. ’60, B.S. ’65, DVM ’66, Ph.D. ’66 From his beginnings on a progressive Wisconsin dairy farm where his father utilized milk testing and artificial insemination to improve his dairy herd, Duane Kraemer followed a path through the University of Wisconsin, where he received his bachelor’s degree in animal husbandry and was commissioned in the ROTC, to Texas A&M University, the United States Army, and finally, back to Texas A&M, where he received his master’s degree and Ph.D. in physiology of reproduction and his DVM, and soon after became a pioneer in the field of physiology of reproduction and embryo transfer technology. A critical contributor to the technology utilized in reproductive therapy and genetics, Kraemer currently serves as Senior Professor of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology at Texas A&M. 62 •
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Beginnings on the Dairy Farm Born in 1933 and raised on a dairy farm just outside of Reedsburg, Wisconsin—a small town roughly an hour northwest of Madison—Duane Kraemer was one of six children. He spent his days helping around the farm and occasionally skiing to school in the winter when the snow became too deep to ride the bus. For his first eight years of schooling, Kraemer attended a one-room country school before transitioning to the larger Reedsburg High School, boasting roughly 110 students per class. With two brothers and three sisters, Kraemer grew accustomed to a full house on the dairy farm. “We had three boys and three girls, kind of two groups of children, and we were raised on three different farms,” Kraemer said. “We moved to our last farm the day before Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941.” The youngest of the three boys, Kraemer watched his older brothers become teachers in agriculture and media resources. With the encouragement of an aunt, Kraemer intended to enroll in a short course at the University of Wisconsin while continuing to work on the farm. After receiving enough scholarships to enable his enrollment, Kraemer began the four-year program at the University of Wisconsin, where he worked on research as a student worker. “By that time, I had decided not to go back to the farm,” Kraemer said. “It broke my dad’s heart.” Kraemer did concede that his father ended up very proud of him and his accomplishments, despite his surprise decision to leave the farm for the university.
Introduction to the Research World Once enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Kraemer fell in love with the world of research, finding a home in the university setting. Studying agriculture and veterinary science, Kraemer earned his bachelor of science in animal husbandry in 1955. Soon after, he chose to continue his education at Texas A&M. He spent some time working on his master’s degree, but then his commission in the ROTC program took him away from his studies. He returned to Texas A&M after his two years of service in the Army ended. “I thought I should get some experience with agriculture in different parts of the country, and I came to Texas A&M with an aim to do that,” the Wisconsin native said. “I ended up deciding to study reproductive physiology. We found this to be a good place with lots of good opportunities.” Kraemer served as a graduate assistant in the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M and built a strong foundation for his future work in veterinary physiology.
firmed she had been telling me the truth and we got back together then,” Kraemer said. During his two years in the United States Army. Kraemer served as the commanding officer for a military police detachment at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, where he helped provide security for the atomic testing operations. When Kraemer returned to Texas and continued work on his master’s degree, he also married Shirley in 1960. Shortly thereafter, Kraemer earned a master’s degree in physiology of reproduction. Shirley earned a bachelor’s degree from Stevens Point College in Wisconsin, and she earned a master’s degree in education with a certificate in counseling from Texas A&M in 1965. Before their marriage Shirley taught elementary school students in a one-room country schoolhouse; later she taught fourth grade in the Madison, Wisconsin, school system. After moving to Texas, she taught second grade in Snook, a tiny town roughly 11 miles southwest of College Station. Upon completing his master’s degree, Kraemer was offered a teaching position in the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M that would allow him to pursue his Ph.D. “That instructor’s job was pretty attractive, and Shirley was working at the State Chemist Lab,” Kraemer explained. “Then they changed the veterinary program from four years to three years without summer break. I was able to get a bachelor of science degree in veterinary sciences, a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree, and a Ph.D. by adding just one more year to the program.” With his future at Texas A&M set, Kraemer embarked on an academic career that
Family and Future Joining Kraemer for his journey to Texas was his girlfriend-turned-wife, Shirley (Smith) Kraemer. “We met in a little town where I played baseball called Rock Springs,” Kraemer shared. “We had dances there quite often, and she and a couple of girlfriends stopped by the dance kind of late one evening. I asked her to dance and we danced.” When Kraemer asked her for her name and she told him “Shirley Smith,” he assumed it was a brushoff, but when he returned to school and met a young man from Smith’s hometown and asked him if he knew a girl from Portage named Shirley Smith, the young man said yes, in fact he did. “That con-
Dr. Duane Kraemer in the mobile lab Winter 2014 •
CC’s kittens—Zip, Tim, and Tess allowed him to work and collaborate with some of the pioneers in the fields of genetics and reproductive technology.
San Antonio In 1966, after he earned his DVM and his Ph.D. in physiology of reproduction, Kraemer and Shirley relocated to San Antonio, Texas. There, Kraemer went to work as an assistant foundation scientist at the Southwest Foundation for Research and Education. “I did reproduction work with the baboon colony that they had there,” Kraemer explained. The Southwest Foundation was performing cutting-edge research into cardiovascular and reproductive therapy. “One of the things I did was establish a selective breeding program to produce high and low cholesterol baboons for use as models for research.” The research Kraemer performed during his eight years at the Southwest Foundation became especially important to the future of artificial insemination and embryo transfer. “We did have the capability of doing artificial insemination and also embryo transfer, and we 64 •
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were the first to produce non-human primates using those procedures,” Kraemer said. “The successful embryo transfer was done after I moved back to College Station,” Kraemer added. “I commuted back and forth to San Antonio and did those final experiments.” While there were many people working in the fields of artificial insemination and embryo transfer, Kraemer’s work was critically important. “We were the first to successfully transfer an embryo in a primate,” Kraemer said. The Southwest Foundation continues to conduct research on baboons today, building on the foundation of Kraemer’s research. While in San Antonio, Kraemer and Shirley had two daughters, Pam and Cyndi. Pam earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas in the Honors II program with emphasis on American Sign Language, and she played baritone in the University of Texas marching band. She earned a master’s degree in deaf education from Western Maryland College, in Westminster, Maryland, where she works as a sign language interpreter for hearing-impaired
foreign students. She and her husband, a retired librarian, have two children, including a daughter adopted from China. Cyndi attended Texas A&M for two years and then transferred to the University of Texas where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She then earned a master’s degree in labor and industrial relations at the University of Illinois. Cyndi currently resides in Minnesota on a small ranch near Minneapolis with her entrepreneurial husband and two children. After returning to College Station, Shirley became a very successful real estate broker and taught property management at Blinn College. This has made it possible for the Kraemers to purchase $12,500 worth of office and conference room furniture for the Reproductive Sciences Complex and to contribute $50,000 to the Texas A&M Foundation to support Kraemer’s graduate students and their research projects on wild hog contraception and maintaining the porcine melanoma research herd.
Embryo Transfer and Cloning While he was in San Antonio, the Southwest Foundation allowed Kraemer to use 10% of his time to start the first commercial cattle embryo transfer company in 1969, with an Oklahoma rancher. After he returned to Texas A&M in 1975, he established the Reproductive Sciences Laboratory and developed a comparative embryo transfer research program involving livestock, companion animals, laboratory animals, and wildlife and exotic animals. He and his colleagues and graduate students were the first in North America to successfully produce embryo transfer offspring in horses. They also were the first in the world to produce embryo transfer offspring in cats, dogs, whitetail deer, and suni antelope. In addition, they helped the Granada Land and Cattle Company of Bryan, Texas, establish cattle and horse embryo transfer programs called Granada Genetics, which became the largest embryo transfer company in the world. Kraemer encouraged Granada Genetics to hire Dr. Steen Willadsen, who had produced the first livestock clones and taught Granada personnel to clone cattle using embryo
Dr. Duane and Shirley Kraemer at the house they built for their cats cells. Among those was Dr. Mark Westhusin, one of Kraemer’s former students. When Granada Genetics closed its cattle operation, Westhusin was hired to bring the cloning technology to the Reproductive Sciences Laboratory at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. Another Granada employee, Charles Long, later earned his Ph.D. and is also a colleague in the Reproductive Sciences Laboratory. “We became involved with pet cloning when Dr. Westhusin was approached by a representative of a wealthy California businessman who heard about cloning and decided he would like to have his dog cloned,” Kraemer said. “So, we submitted a proposal with Dr. Westhusin as the principal investigator. We were awarded the contract, at least in part, because we were the only group in the world at that time who had produced dogs by embryo transfer and had also cloned other animals.” Cloning technology for pets became popular and it was noted that storing the cells needed for cloning was no longer contributing to the research and encouraged the sponsor and representative to form a company, ultimately called Genetic Savings and Clone. “The company became interested in cats as well as dogs, and so we started working on cloning cats.” The most prominent cloned animal, CC—for “Carbon
Dewey, the first cloned deer Winter 2014 •
Dr. Duane and Shirley Kramer on their wedding day (left) and with CC (right) Copy” or “Copy Cat”—a tabby and white domestic shorthair cat, soon made headlines. Two of Kraemer’s most satisfying activities have been the design and implementation of the mobile reproduction laboratory that they used for embryo transfer of bighorn sheep and for embryo transfer and cloning of whitetail deer; and organizing the purchase of the 45-acre Reproductive Sciences Complex on Highway 47 that provides office, laboratory, and animal facilities for four faculty members and their staff and students.
CC and Cloning Cats In 2001, after several unsuccessful attempts to clone cats, CC, the first cloned cat, was born. “We were attempting to clone a cat for a private individual and we had done a number of transfers and had one pregnancy, but it didn’t go to term,” Kraemer said. From the literature reports on other species, however, Kraemer and his colleagues learned that cells harvested from ovaries could serve as a better source of cells for cloning. When a cat named Rainbow was spayed, they used ovary cells from the procedure. “That was the first 66 •
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time we tried using granulosa cells from ovaries, and that’s when CC was born.” The successful cloning of CC the cat garnered a great deal of publicity and headlines. “The Texas A&M public relations department has said that CC was the biggest story ever out of Texas A&M,” Kraemer said. “Almost every paper and magazine in the world had that picture of CC.” As the first cloned pet in existence, CC was big news, both in the scientific community and for the world in general. “The Chronicle came out for her tenth birthday,” recalled Kraemer referring to the Houston Chronicle, a newspaper with a circulation of over 350,000. “CC was the first cloned pet; that made it special.” CC, who is currently 13 years old, became more than a science experiment to Kraemer and his wife, Shirley. “When it came time to adopt out CC, we decided we didn’t want to send her just anywhere. We volunteered to adopt her.” Kraemer, clearly taken with the pet, built her a special two-story house in which to live. In 2006, CC gave birth to four kittens—fathered naturally by a male named Smokey—three of which survived and were named Tim, Zip, and Tess. This
marked the first time a cloned pet had given birth, making CC a news sensation once again.
Cloning Beyond Cats Kraemer and his colleagues’ work has influenced cloning and reproductive science in a variety of other animals. Horses, cattle, goats, deer, and pigs have all been cloned at Texas A&M. The focus of Kraemer’s research and teaching has shifted slightly since his work with CC. “Our lab has refocused pretty much on genetic engineering, and I try to support that,” Kraemer said. “I’m not a genetic engineer, but I’m the veterinarian of the group.” Kraemer often finds himself explaining the intricacies of cloning to the curious. “Each clone is a unique individual,” Kraemer explained. “It’s similar to how identical twins are unique. Each individual during development turns genes on and off, and they get turned on and off at a little different time. Some genes don’t get used at all.” CC is a prime example of gene expression in cloning. Rainbow, the cat from which CC was cloned, was a tri-colored cat. CC did not express the orange gene; instead she is tabby and white. “People ask why she didn’t look exactly like her donor,” Shirley Kraemer said. “We had to explain about the X inactivation phenomenon,” Kraemer expounded. “We had to explain that you don’t get your animal back. You get a genetic copy.”
Future Work Having served as chair or co-chair on graduate committees for over 60 students, Kraemer’s influence has been— and continues to be—wide and far-reaching. Students looking to utilize his groundbreaking research in new and interesting ways often approach Kraemer. “One of the early things that happened was that students started to come to me and say they’d like to use the reproductive technologies
Dr. Duane Kraemer outside the mobile lab for endangered species conservation.” Kraemer’s work has also influenced scientists working with reproductive technologies across the world. “We have trained approximately 300 people from all over the world to conduct embryo transfer.” Kraemer has not rested on his laurels either. He continues to work on research related to disease treatment through his work with a herd of pigs. “We have a collaboration with the physics department to see if their lasers can detect tumors in these pigs,” Kraemer said. The herd is being managed as a cancer research model, and the resulting work may have value in treating cancer in animals and humans.
Still Active At 81 years old, Kraemer shows little sign of slowing down. Still an active co-chair for graduate students as well as a lecturer at Texas A&M in Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology, he continues to publish his research in well-respected peer-reviewed journals and other publications. Kraemer continues to receive grants and other funding for his work that is applicable to both animals and humans. With no plans to leave academia or research in the near future, Kraemer looks forward to continuing his work at Texas A&M and spending time with Shirley, his wife of 54 years, and their beloved pet cat, CC. CC (“Carbon Copy” or “Copy Cat”) Winter 2014 •
L E A D E R SH I P
by Dr. Dan Posey
Agent for Change Change is inevitable. It doesn’t matter how hard we resist change or advocate for it, it’s coming in everything that we do. Why is change so painful? It might be because although there are times that we experienced change in our jobs or lives and it was the best thing that could have happened, often we perceive such moments to be the “worst of times.” This conflicted view of change probably comes from how the change occurred and the personal pressure that we felt. Self-evaluation of our past performances and procedures is an important process to improve our situations through thoughtful change. The quote “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results” denotes a mindset that has caused institutions to falter in the wake of their own inability to mandate change. Resistance to change is an essential part of the human spirit because we crave familiarity. Have you ever found yourself not listening to those who had great ideas of change because you were self-assured that all the answers came within yourself? The failure to listen to those great ideas of change can cause significant setbacks for a business, an educational institution, or program. There will come a day that you decide after the continued stress and demands of your work, complicated by the pressures of your personal life, you will come to that moment of clarity and declare, “Change needs to occur.” Your mindset changes, and you can see a course that might have been suggested by others or an idea that someone had given you that Dr. Dan Posey
you are using in a different way. You might find yourself at a crossroad, and you know that there needs to be a direction change for your program. You are compelled to become an “Agent for Change” (AFC). There are three ways that your colleagues could respond to proposed change, and most of us have done all three in our careers. There are those who will resist change because of their love of the status quo or concern that the change might cause a personal burden or a loss of personal power. They are impassioned to stop the change and will be the greatest questioners of your plan for change. They are sometimes seen as obstructers of change. Then there are those who are indifferent to change because they see no effect on the way they will accomplish their job. Some of these are indifferent because they have a history with change and saw no impact the last time. You will not hear their outright complaint in group meetings but the underlying feeling of, “There is nothing to worry about; this is like all the other programmatic changes and we will revert to the ‘same ole same ole.’” In this same indifferent group, there are others who were frustrated because they jumped on the wagon of change last time and were disappointed because the last wagon had no destination. In their eyes, the change made no difference. Finally, there are the people who see change as essential and view the process of change as a great adventure. There is a commitment to buy-in because they value the need for change and know that this could be better. They are embracing the need for change.
Are you an “Agent for Change”? “Agents for Change” are people who act as the catalyst for a change. Their process can occur in numerous ways. It may start with an unrelenting, undeveloped idea that reoccurs over a period of time. They find themselves revisiting the same thoughts and decide they need to act. The other common way that you may find yourself as an “Agent for Change” is the daily confrontation of a reoccurring problem. You decide that there has to be a better way. Effective AFCs share some common characteristicsa:
“Articulate the vision with clarity” The first thing that you must do before advocating for the change is to make sure that you have a clear understanding of what you want to change and what is needed for the change and all its implications. This task sometimes can be daunting because you must write a clear, detailed plan that you can communicate to others. Some equate this to a mission statement; it is a “statement of purpose.”
“Be like a hammer” The words of Abraham Maslow have changed meaning over the years. He warns us not to be like a hammer, because 68 •
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“If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” The modern interpretation of this quote is that by becoming hammer-like, you become persistently singleminded. However, this single-mindedness is not necessarily a bad thing. Change will occur with time, and it takes a person who has the single-mindedness of purpose to weather the test of time. The AFC must be ready for the waves of frustration and sometimes criticism that will come from their colleagues. You will feel the change of ownership when things don’t happen as quickly as you projected. The agreed-upon change becomes your change instead of ours. It takes a person with great resolve to face “Your change isn’t occurring fast enough” or “I don’t think your change will ever happen.” This is when you must be compelled to explain the process and explain where we are on the plan. This is why vision clarity is so important. You must know your plan so well that you can easily communicate all the steps. You need to take this moment to be the hammer and see your vision plan as your nails. Time is an advocate of change. All we have to do is look at the rock formations of the Grand Canyon and see how the test of time has changed the landscape. It takes understanding how little persistent changes over time have a tremendous effect on a program or profession. It takes persistence of a hammer to change your professional landscape.
“Embrace the naysayers” There are a great number of distractions on the pathway to change, and it is easy to get sidetracked. One of the biggest areas of concern are the confrontations by the naysayers. As explained earlier, they’re the impassioned people who see it as their mission to stop the change and will be the greatest questioners of the need to change. They are sometimes seen as obstructers of change and the holders of the status quo. A paradigm shift has to occur in our understanding when we are confronted by naysayers. They are usually emotionally connected to the change, and this makes them potentially your best ally. Their questions will make you reexamine your motives, plans, and decisions and make you think, rethink, and think again about your suggested change. This is their most important attribute as the questioners. Before any change of direction should occur, we should think about the consequences of change and the reality of not changing. General George S. Patton once stated, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” The naysayers are the most important group of people to embrace by listening.
“Take the time to talk with those that do the walk” Change is not easy. Change that is not well thought out and not based on reality of the situation is horrible. The most successful organizational changes occur from the bottom up, not the top down. The number of times we have seen failure in a decision on change because the AFC didn’t attain knowledge of processes or understand the culture are too numerous to count. The AFC should be the leader who makes sure the change is sustainable by attaining the insider knowledge of process and understanding the consequences to the culture. As the AFC, it is your first priority to ensure that you have sufficient knowledge about the environment
where the change will occur and know its impact on others. You should ensure buy-in on the impact level by having open conversation with the people who will feel the effect of change. It is easy to implement change from the administrative level. It is entirely another story to have effective change from the administrative level. There are countless encounters in life where we implement changes in protocols and we didn’t have insider knowledge and take into account the person that is having to do the protocol. The frustration level of those who have to deal with change brought about by others who didn’t take the time or effort to understand process can be explosive. Most people on impact level will try to implement the change, but if there is no commitment for change at that level or a poorly thought out plan, most will try to implement, but then revert to the old ways of doing things. The AFC must become knowledgeable at the impact level and collaborate with those who are “doing the walk.”
“The keys to the kingdom” The most important attribute you need as an AFC is approachability. The ability to allow others to connect with you will help open doors when you want to evoke change. Your approachability should be in your long-term strategy in relationship building. Approachability is not a difficult attribute to cultivate, and assessing your own approachability is an important step in becoming a successful AFC. This begins with determining your approachability through self-evaluation and frank discussion with colleagues. If you determine that people might have issues with your ability to connect, then you must work on your approachability. The first step is to be open to your personal change. When people reach out and help you in your job, acknowledge their efforts. Some of the foundational words for establishing your approachability are statements like “Thank you” and “I appreciate…” Invest time in your colleagues by getting to know who they are, what they do, and what they value. You will see that by investing yourself that your approachability quotient will begin to climb. The keys to the kingdom of evoking change in any organization are getting your colleagues to know you and your motivations. You accomplish this only by being approachable. Change is inevitable, and effective change can be accomplished through understanding the process of becoming an effective agent for change. An effective agent for change understands the need for a clear, well-articulated plan based on understanding not only the need for change but also the individual impact and the consequences on the culture. The agent for change listens to the naysayers and understands their passion and uses it to build the best plan for change. The agent for change embraces the attribute of the hammer and the passion to see that the plan goes to completion. Lastly, the agent for change should have a firm foundation in the understanding the attributes of approachability and will invest time with people. This important attribute of approachability will assist you when the time comes for institutional change. Your colleagues know that you can be approached so that you can establish colleague buy-in. Inspired by the blog of George Couros, Division Principal, Parkland School Division a
Winter 2014 •
Facilities Update by
VBEC Construction Site, November 2014
And the journey continues… Progress on the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex As the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) marches toward its 100th anniversary, construction of the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) moves forward as well. Skanska, the contractor coordinating the construction of VBEC, has made tremendous progress and is still on track to complete the three buildings that comprise the complex by May 2016. Skanska has employed a counterclockwise approach to ensure the continuous and uninterrupted construction of the three buildings. Excavation work began first on the Veterinary Integrative Collaboration Building (VICI), the remarkably complex laboratory building, then turned west and south through the Veterinary Interdisciplinary Innovation Building (VIDI), the office suite building. In the near future, VBEC Construction Site, July 2014
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excavation will continue east through the Veterinary Education and Administration Building (VENI) as piers are drilled and poured in VICI and VIDI. This circular pattern, dubbed “the dog chasing his tail,” ensures forward progress for all three buildings by maximizing the efficiency of all the subcontractor crews. While September brought several inches of rain for which local farmers and ranchers were grateful, Skanska was forced to use their time creatively in other areas while pumps were utilized to drain what had become swimming pools rather than basements. Once the water was removed, the drilling rigs were able to resume their work, and now all of the piers for VICI and VIDI are complete. During the design development of VBEC, the CVM engaged representatives of all groups that would be using the new complex in an effort to make sure the building meets the needs of its users for the next 50 to 75 years. As construction of VBEC moves forward, we are maintaining the same philosophy of engagement and high levels of communication with VBEC neighbors. Disruptions due to noise, vibration, and traffic flow changes have increased as a direct result of construction. In collaboration with Texas A&M Transportation, the Texas A&M System Facilities Planning & Construction, Skanska, and others, the CVM Facilities Team is actively working to share construction-related information early and often. In the spirit of information sharing, Skanska assisted in the installation of two construction cameras to document the construction of VBEC. VBEC, the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex, belongs to all of Texas and to the future of veterinary medicine. As such, the cameras will allow the entire construction process to be viewed by all and archived for future reference. Please visit http://vetmed.tamu.edu/constructioncams to follow the entire adventure from start to finish.
Honor Roll Ashton Richardson
Richardson awarded Marshall Scholarship Ashton Richardson, a second-year veterinary medical student at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has been named a recipient of the prestigious Marshall Scholarship. He is one of only 40 students in the United States selected for this honor. Richardson, a native of New Orleans, serves as the president of the Student One Health Association, which explores the connections between human, animal, and environmental health. He is also a member of the Texas Veterinary Medicine Foundation Board of Trustees. “We are very proud of Ashton for being selected to receive this prestigious award,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “Ashton is a remarkable individual bound for unusual success. As a veterinary student, he is dedicated to making a difference in the world. He has gained a fundamental understanding of One Health, the inextricable link between animal, human, and environmental health, and has developed a deep dedication to pursuing endeavors beyond the traditional role of veterinary medicine and enhancing the presence of veterinary medicine in global
health,” said Green. “Ashton is a leader who will excel with this award.” Richardson recently returned from a One Health-themed service and research experience in Nicaragua where he joined a six-member team of veterinary, medical, and public health students investigating the health disparities of humans and animals. In addition to his work abroad, he has contributed to spreading the knowledge of One Health in the state and nation, organizing and participating in forums and seminars, writing articles, granting television interviews, and sharing information via video produced by local and national veterinary associations. “I view this scholarship as a tremendous blessing that also comes with quite a bit of responsibility,” Richardson said. “Receiving advanced training in the political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of international development will help me improve the quality of life of people through making their animals healthy and productive. Perhaps just as important is the responsibility I carry to enfranchise youth from a similar background as mine and to help them realize that they’re limited only by their expectations.” Richardson received a bachelor of science degree in pre-veterinary medicine from Auburn University,
where he was recognized in 2012 with the Bobby Bowden Award, presented by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision player who best epitomizes a student-athlete. “Ashton exemplifies student leadership within our college,” said Dr. Kenita S. Rogers, associate dean for professional programs. “Through his collaborative efforts with students from multiple disciplines with the student One Health program, he has developed a deep understanding of and appreciation for the responsibility of veterinarians in creating a healthy future for people, animals, and the environment. This award is a welldeserved honor for a great ambassador of our profession, a wonderful student, and an even better man.” The Marshall Scholarship program was established in 1953 by an act of British Parliament in honor of U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall as an expression of Britain’s gratitude for economic assistance received through the Marshall Plan after World War II. The program is overseen by the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission. The 40 winners are chosen from the approximately 900 students endorsed annually for the scholarship by their respective universities. Winter 2014 •
Honor Roll Linda Logan awarded prestigious
International Veterinary Congress Prize In August 2014, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) awarded Linda Logan, DVM, Ph.D., of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), the 2014 XIIth International Veterinary Congress Prize. During the AVMA’s Annual Convention in Denver, July 25–29, 2014, the AVMA honored some of the nation’s top veterinarians, other individuals, and organizations during several events and ceremonies. Each recipient has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of both animals and people across the country and around the globe. These recipients represent the very best in all areas of veterinary medicine, from education and public service to research and private practice. The XIIth International Veterinary Congress Prize is given annually to recognize outstanding service by a member of the association who has contributed to international understanding of veterinary medicine. Logan received the award during the AVMA President’s Reception on Monday, July 28. Logan spent many years researching vector-borne disease in livestock both at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York and in Africa. She is the former head of the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at the CVM, where she is also a professor. Much of the department’s research focuses on infectious diseases, with an emphasis on zoonotic and transboundary diseases. Logan is also the college’s director for international programs. “Dr. Logan spent most of her childhood outside of the United States, so it was natural that her veterinary career took her around the globe,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “With her training as a pathologist and interest in tropical diseases of livestock, international livestock disease control, and international agricultural trade, she has made a difference in the world. Here at Texas A&M, she has helped take the CVM international programs to new heights. I can think of no one more deserving of this recognition.”
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Dr. Linda Logan
She has worked for both the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) and the USDA Animal Research Service (USDA ARS). While at USDA APHIS, she was the department’s international service’s attaché for North and East Africa and the Middle East. She later assumed the USDA
APHIS senior post in Kadar, Senegal, as the senior attaché for Africa and the Middle East. During her career with the USDA ARS, Logan was the national program leader for animal health. Later, she served as the Texas Animal Health Commission executive director, which is the Texas state veterinarian.
“Dr. Logan spent most of her childhood outside of the United States, so it was natural that her veterinary career took her around the globe.”
~Dr. Eleanor M. Green
Honor Roll Heather Wilson-Robles named first Palmer Chair in Comparative Oncology Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles, a veterinary oncologist and associate professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS) at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), has been appointed as chair holder of the Dr. Fred A. and Vola N. Palmer Chair in Comparative Oncology. “We are enormously grateful for the support the Palmers have provided our college through the establishment of the Dr. Fred A. and Vola N. Palmer Chair in Comparative Oncology,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “This chair recognizes Dr. Wilson-Robles’ contributions to veterinary oncology through scholarly research and the development of multiple clinical trials within our teaching hospital. Her efforts have led to the development of new approaches to diagnose and treat cancer in animals that will eventually lead to similar advances in the treatment of cancer in people, and are indicative of why she is so deserving of this recognition. It is notable that Dr. Fred A. Palmer not only is an Outstanding Alumnus of the CVM, but also is a Distinguished Alumnus of Texas A&M University.” A chair is established to support and enhance the professional activities of an accomplished faculty member. It usually is created by a donation that is placed into an endowment. The principal amount from the donation is not spent, but remains in place to provide support. “The beauty of an endowment is that the funds are invested, and the earnings from the investment are used to support the faculty member’s work,”
said Dr. Guy Sheppard, director of development at the CVM. Dr. Fred A. Palmer, a 1969 graduate of the CVM, was a successful veterinary practitioner in Fort Worth for many years and served as president of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association. Fred and Vola, who are great friends of the CVM and of Texas A&M University, serve on the CVM Development Council, the Friends of the Libraries Council, the 12th Man Foundation Board, and the Association of Former Students Board. Fred was also named an Outstanding Alumnus of the CVM, as well as being one of only three veterinarians named as a Distinguished Alumnus of Texas A&M. “The Palmers are stellar college advocates and tremendously gracious donors to the college, and we are truly grateful for their generosity in establishing a chair in comparative oncology,” Green said. “Dr. Wilson-Robles has distinguished herself in the field of comparative oncology, a field for which the Palmers are very passionate,” said Sheppard. “Her clinical and research work in the field make her well suited for this honor.”
Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles
“I am both honored and thrilled to be given this opportunity to further develop our comparative oncology program at Texas A&M,” said Dr. WilsonRobles. “The Palmers have been very supportive of the oncology department here at Texas A&M, and I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to advance this very important area of research in their name.”
“The Palmers are stellar college advocates and tremendously gracious donors to the college, and we are truly grateful for their generosity in establishing a chair in comparative oncology.”
~Dr. Eleanor M. Green Winter 2014 •
Honor Roll Levine appointed to Helen McWhorter Chair in Small Animal Medicine Dr. Jonathan Levine, associate professor in neurology at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), has been appointed to the Helen McWhorter Chair in Small Animal Medicine. “Dr. Levine is an established leader not only on our veterinary neurology service, but also within the neurology discipline,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “His translational research approach is building impactful collaborations with his counterparts in human medicine in an effort to improve the health of both animals and people. He is truly deserving of this recognition. Recognizing outstanding faculty through a chair appointment such as the Helen McWhorter Chair in Small Animal Medicine is tremendously beneficial to the college, and we are grateful for the support received from this endowed chair.” A chair, which supports and enhances the professional activities of an accomplished member of the college faculty, is usually created by a donation that is placed into an endowment. The funds from this original gift are then invested, and the earnings are used to support the faculty member’s work while the original money remains in place to provide funding in the long term. “The support from endowed chairs allows us to recruit and retain the finest faculty members,” said Dr. Guy Sheppard, director of development at the CVM. Ms. McWhorter, who was a generous benefactor to the CVM from Baytown, Texas, established this endowed chair and a generous scholarship endowment through a gift from her will. In addition to her support of the CVM, Ms. McWhorter also placed her dogs to be cared for at the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center when she was no longer able to care for them. “I am humbled and honored to receive the McWhorter Chair in Small Animal Medicine,” said Levine. “This will be a tremendous resource to further develop and support our programs in translational medicine.” 74 •
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Dr. Jonathan Levine
“I am humbled and honored to receive the McWhorter Chair in Small Animal Medicine. This will be a tremendous resource to further develop and support our programs in translational medicine.”
~Dr. Jonathan Levine
Honor Roll Kerwin named to Tom & Joan Read Chair in Veterinary Surgery Dr. Sharon Kerwin, professor and interim head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), has been named to the Tom and Joan Read Chair in Veterinary Surgery. “Dr. Sharon Kerwin has served our college as an exceptional veterinary surgeon and as a model of selfless service and leadership,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “Her dedication to supporting the growth of her service area in the veterinary medical teaching hospital, the teaching and research endeavors of her colleagues, and the continued development of staff and students on the surgical service has created an engaging work and teaching environment based on teamwork. In recognition of her exemplary leadership and surgical expertise, we are proud to recognize Dr. Kerwin with this chair.” Mrs. Joan Read and her late husband, Tom, have been very generous to the CVM and to Texas A&M, establishing numerous scholarships and providing support to a wide variety of areas within the university. “I am honored to be appointed to the Tom and Joan Read Chair in Veterinary Surgery; it is only one of the many wonderful things the Reads have done for Texas A&M University,” Kerwin said. “It has been my privilege to be part of a team that has had a long tradition of excellence and innovation in small animal surgery in the CVM.” “We are proud and honored to have the Tom and Joan Read Chair in our college supporting an excellent faculty
Dr. Sharon Kerwin (right) guides a student during surgery. member and recognizing the generosity of Mrs. Joan Read and her late husband, Tom,” Green said. Kerwin is one of three newly appointed chair holders at the CVM, sharing recognition alongside two of her colleagues, Dr. Jonathan Levine and Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles.
“Two of my departmental colleagues, Drs. Jon Levine and Heather Wilson-Robles, were also appointed chairs,” Kerwin said. “They both are tremendously deserving, and it’s exciting to see their talent and hard work recognized.”
“Her dedication to supporting the growth of her service area…, the teaching and research endeavors of her colleagues, and the continued development of staff and students on the surgical service has created an engaging work and teaching environment based on teamwork.”
~Dr. Eleanor M. Green Winter 2014 •
Honor Roll Musser & Barr recognized for teaching excellence Two outstanding faculty members at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), Dr. Jeffrey Musser, clinical associate professor in veterinary pathobiology, and Dr. James Barr, assistant professor in small animal emergency and critical care, were recognized with the prestigious Association of Former Students College-Level Teaching Award for their talent, expertise, and devotion to students. The awards were presented at the CVM College Hour on October 10, 2014. “This award recognizes the important contribution Dr. Musser and Dr. Barr make to the lives of so many here at Texas A&M University,” said Kathryn Greenwade ’88, Vice President for Communications and Human Resources at The Association of Former Students. “Loyal and dedicated former students, like class of ’59 CVM graduate Dr. Charlie Wiseman, whom we honor tonight as a Distinguished
Alumnus, make these awards possible through their annual gifts and help us recognize the people who make a difference at Texas A&M.” Recipients of this award are chosen by faculty members and students every year. The honorees are presented with a plaque and a stipend. “We’d like to thank them for the work that they do to provide our students with high impact learning experiences,” said Dr. Blanca Lupiani, associate dean of faculties at Texas A&M. Musser has been with the CVM since joining the faculty as a lecturer in 2000. While serving on the faculty at the CVM, he has won several awards including the 2003 Montague Teaching Excellence Award, the 2005 Texas Veterinary Medical Association Research Award, and the 2007 Texas A&M University International Excellence Award. Musser has also been nominated twice by the CVM for the
Bush Excellence Award for Faculty in International Teaching. With an interest in global veterinary medicine and emerging infectious diseases, Musser has worked diligently to provide opportunities for Texas A&M students to have internships in Zambia, Malawi, Norway, Australia, Ghana, and Ecuador, in addition to teaching several study-abroad courses. Musser’s award was presented by Dr. Linda Logan, professor and former department head for veterinary pathobiology at the CVM. “Dr. Musser is an exceptional choice for this award,” Logan said. “His commitment to the students, his innovative teaching style, his communication skills, and his challenge to students to broaden their horizons exemplify the intent of this award. His contributions to international understanding of veterinary medicine are outstanding and bring a global perspective to the learning environment within the college.”
From left: Dr. Blanca Lupiani, Kathryn Greenwade, Dr. Linda Logan, and Dr. Eleanor M. Green present Dr. Musser (center, appearing via teleconference) with his award. 76 • • Winter 2014
Honor Roll “The world and how animals and people interact with it is changing rapidly,” said Musser. “Our students, whether in the laboratory or in the field, will one day play an important role not only in identifying new emerging zoonotic diseases, but also in making our world healthier for everyone. To me, it is critical that we prepare them well for that responsibility. I would like to thank The Association of Former Students and the people in my department and the college who spent the extra time and effort to make this happen. I feel so honored to be chosen.” “Congratulations to Dr. Musser,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “His enthusiasm for the subject matter is contagious, as is his deep devotion to the students and their education. He is not only a knowledgeable academician, but he is also an approachable teacher and mentor.” Barr has been with the CVM since 2009 and currently serves in the emergency and critical care department of
the Small Animal Hospital at the CVM. In his role, Barr is involved in the diagnosis and treatment of the most critical cases brought into the hospital. He works closely with third- and fourthyear veterinary medical students in the hospital to prepare them for difficult and complex cases. This is his first teaching award while serving on the faculty at the CVM. Dr. Sharon Kerwin, professor and interim head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the CVM, presented Barr with his award. “Dr. Barr has been an incredible asset in the emergency room and the critical care unit,” notes Kerwin. “It is a very challenging job, and he makes it look easy. He is an incredibly talented and natural teacher, both in the clinic and in the classroom. In addition to a busy clinic and research schedule, Dr. Barr gives his time to our students as faculty advisor to both the student chapters of the American Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA) and the student chapter of the Emergency and Critical Care Club. He is a tremen-
dous asset to Texas A&M, and we are lucky to have him on faculty.” “I appreciate the challenge of complex and critical cases,” Barr said. “One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is finding a solution that will save a life. Working through a difficult case with my students not only gives them an opportunity to use their exceptional problem-solving skills but also often gives me a new perspective—one that I may not have considered earlier. The two-way dynamic between instructor and student is an important part of preparing the next generation of veterinary practitioners, and it is an honor to be recognized for that work. I want to thank the association, the committee that selected me, and the students who took their time to show their support.” “Dr. Barr teaches by example, whether it is the highest quality of patient care or the deepest level of compassion for the patient. Add to that his sense of humor and his devotion to students, and it is clear why he is so deserving of this award,” Green said.
From left: Dr. Blanca Lupiani, Dr. Eleanor M. Green, Dr. Sharon Kerwin, and Kathryn Greenwade present Dr. Barr (center) with his award. Winter 2014 •
Honor Roll Dr. Sarah Hamer named Montague–Center for Teaching Excellence Scholar from CVM Dr. Sarah Hamer, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS) at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) has been named a Montague–Center for Teaching Excellence Scholar for 2014-15. The Montague–Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) Scholar award has been given annually since 1991 to one tenure-track faculty member from each college, based on their early ability and interest in teaching. Awardees receive a $6,500 grant to encourage further development of undergraduate teaching excellence. With the grant provided by the Montague–CTE Scholars program, Hamer will develop a new high impact undergraduate course focused on field and laboratory methods in vector-borne disease ecology. She will teach the new course with a medical entomologist as a co-instructor and offer it to undergraduate students in a broad range of degree programs, including biomedical science and entomology. This diverse mixture of students should allow a rich exchange of ideas and experiences. Vectorborne disease will be the focus because disease-causing organisms transmitted by arthropod vectors (such as ticks) are a major public health burden that is increasing due to climate change. “Dr. Hamer joins a distinguished group of young faculty members in our college who have been recognized with this honor for their excellence in teaching,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “We are proud of Dr. Hamer for her commitment and dedication to providing an excellent learning environment for students both within our college and from other programs across the university.” Hamer teaches the undergraduate-level VIBS course 78 •
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in introductory epidemiology in the spring semester each year. She also gives guest lectures in undergraduate classes in a multitude of disciplines, including biology, bioenvironmental sciences, and wildlife and fisheries science. “I am very excited for and about the new high impact undergraduate learning opportunities that will result from the Montague scholarship being awarded to Dr. Hamer,” said Dr. Evelyn Tiffany-Castiglioni, department head of VIBS. “Her research expertise is in vector-borne disease ecology. The new course will allow undergraduates to participate in hands-on research projects. As the course is repeated year after year by new cohorts of students, it will help yield long-term datasets and
meaningful contributions to science. This is a great opportunity for students and for the college.” The Montague–CTE Scholars awards are named in honor of Kenneth Montague, Texas A&M class of ’37, a distinguished alumnus and outstanding trustee of the Texas A&M Foundation, who had a long and storied career in the Texas oil industry. The award is designed to benefit Aggies who are lifelong learners and contributors to their communities. The object of the Center for Teaching Excellence is to stimulate the development of innovative teaching strategies and technologies at Texas A&M University and to recognize excellence in teaching early in a faculty member’s career.
From left: Dr. Evelyn Tiffany-Castiglioni, VIBS department head; Dr. Sarah Hamer; and Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine
Honor Roll Center for Educational Technologies wins Blackboard Catalyst Award The Center for Educational Technologies (CET) at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science (CVM) was named the winner of the Blackboard Catalyst Awards program’s Student Impact Award, which recognizes individuals and institutions that have successfully increased levels of student engagement or retention. The center is led by Dr. Jody Korich, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences. New to the Blackboard Catalyst Award Program this year, the Student Impact Award was created to honor successful efforts to address the major educational issues of student engagement and retention. Award winners were selected from dozens of submissions as the best examples of improving engagement and retention through new academic, student support, or administrative strategies. The Blackboard Catalyst Awards program annually recognizes and honors
innovation and excellence in the Blackboard global community of practice, where teachers and learners work every day to redefine what is possible when leveraging technology. “It’s an honor each year to recognize forward-thinking educators who are helping create a world inspired to learn through the work they do every day,” said Jay Bhatt, Blackboard CEO. “We congratulate Catalyst Award winners on their vision and innovative approaches to education, and celebrate their accomplishments with them.” CET was honored alongside other Blackboard Catalyst Award winners during BbWorld®, Blackboard’s annual user conference held in July 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Blackboard is a global leader in enterprise technology and innovative solutions that improve the experience of millions of students and learners around the world every day. Blackboard’s solutions allow thousands of higher education, K–12, professional,
Center for Educational Technologies staff
corporate, and government organizations to extend teaching and learning online. For a complete list of Blackboard Catalyst Award winners please visit: http://blackboard.com/catalyst.
Winter wins ACVIM National Research Award Dr. Randolph Winter, until recently a veterinary resident at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), was named one of two 2014 ACVIM Resident Research Award Winners by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) who are working on projects funded by the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. Winter was working with his faculty mentor, Dr. Ashley Saunders, an associate professor and veterinary cardiologist in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, to investigate improved methods of treatment of mitral valve disease in dogs. Their project, titled “Biologic Variability of N-Terminal Pro-Brain Natriuretic Peptide and Cardiac Troponin I in Healthy Dogs and Dogs with Myxomatous Mitral Valve Disease,” was aimed at identifying important biological markers of the disease.
“We are proud of Dr. Winter on this achievement,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the CVM. “This recognition is indicative of our highcaliber faculty and the talented interns and residents we have recruited to Texas A&M. The discoveries they make in our robust clinical research program will continue to improve the quality of life for animals.” Funding for the project came from the AKC Canine Health Foundation, which supports high impact canine health research. “CHF is committed to funding research that helps move canine health forward,” said Dr. Shila Nordone, CHF’s Chief Scientific Officer. “[Both winners] represent our commitment to supporting young clinician scientists, and we expect that these two men will be among the next generation of key opinion leaders in veterinary medicine.”
The prestigious ACVIM Research Award is presented annually and recognizes ten active researchers who are on the cutting edge of veterinary medicine. Winter completed his residency and is now at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Randolph Winter
Winter 2014 •
Students present at the AABP Conference The American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) Student Quiz Bowl team from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) won the national Quiz Bowl competition for the second year in a row at the 47th Annual AABP Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on September 18–20, 2014. Titled “Reconnect, Retool, Reclaim,” the conference offered the most upto-date and futuristic sessions on beef, cow-calf, dairy, feedlot, and general cattle topics, as well as various featured speakers and exhibits. The senior team, comprising of veterinary students Jayton Bailey, Bryan Weaver, Leslie Wagner, and Benjamin Fox, made the final round against Ohio State and defeated them for the second straight year. “It was great to represent the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine 80 •
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and the state of Texas at the AABP Quiz Bowl,” said Benjamin Fox. At the quiz bowl, held in a designated area of the exhibit hall, the four-member teams were challenged in head to head, single elimination competition to determine the AABP Student Quiz Bowl Champion. “We are proud of our students for winning, but not surprised they did,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the CVM. “Their performance reflects the hard work, dedication, and commitment to learning. This win also reflects the quality and dedication of our outstanding food animal faculty, who prepared them for this competition, as they do for their veterinary careers. Congratulations to the team for earning this special award and for exemplifying the excellence in education for which Texas A&M University
and our college are known. Where else but Texas, #1 in the nation in cattle? Where else but Aggieland?” Also deserving recognition, the junior AABP Quiz Bowl group made it to the final rounds and was in the round of three with the other Texas A&M team. One win away from making the finals, team members Kathleen Gerdes, Ross Kalina, Bryan Agado, and Erin Fuchs are commended for their representation of their college and university. Three of the students also presented cases at the conference. Wagner presented a cranial cruciate rupture in an Angus bull, Bailey presented salmonellosis in an adult cow, and Weaver presented Johne’s disease in a Wagyu bull.
2014 Staff Awards recipients (Cindy Voelker was unable to attend, so her granddaughter, center, accepted the award on her behalf.)
Superheroes of the CVM honored at annual Staff Awards ceremony The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) held its annual Staff Awards Ceremony July 17, 2014, honoring 11 dedicated staff members for their excellence and showing recognition for their many successes as “Superheroes of the CVM.” Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at the CVM, or “Stickneyman,” as he was called for the ceremony, emceed the superhero-themed awards show, which began with musical performances by Anna Morrison and Lauren Pluhar. The 2014 Staff Awards recipients were as follows: • Mary Sanders, Veterinary Technician in Small Animal Medicine & Surgery • Amy Savarino, Pharmacist at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) • Kay Duncan, Medical Technologist in Clinical Microbiology • Kit Darling, VMTH Infection Control Coordinator
Lora Gonzales, Business Associate in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences • Sheila Carter, VMTH Compliance Coordinator • Elizabeth Scanlin, Veterinary Technician in Neurology • Katrina Lacaze, Veterinary Technician in Equine Theriogenology • Samantha Watson, Veterinary Technician in Small Animal Oncology • Tina Lilly, Veterinary Technician in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Cindy Voelker, business administrator in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, received the 2014 Pearl Enfield Staff Leadership Award. Pearl Enfield was a highly professional and committed mainstay of the administrative staff in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (then called the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and Public Health) until her unexpected death in 1996.
The Pearl Enfield Award was established in her honor to recognize a staff member who has exhibited that same caliber of leadership and dedication to the college. Voelker was not able to be at the awards ceremony, so her granddaughter accepted the award on her behalf. The awards were presented to employees based on nominations from their colleagues, which were reviewed by staff and faculty members serving on the Staff Awards Committee. Each recipient was presented with a plaque noting her achievement along with a monetary award. “All recipients were especially deserving, as indicated by the exceptional comments,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine, as she congratulated the award winners and thanked all of the staff for their hard work and dedication to the CVM. “Thanks to everyone for making CVM a better place.”
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College News Nina Pham (center) with her family shortly after Dr. Deb Zoran and Dr. Wesley Bissett (right) reunited her with Bentley.
Bentley, the dog monitored for Ebola, returns home After 21 days in quarantine for possible exposure to the Ebola virus, Bentley, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel belonging to Texas nurse Nina Pham, has returned home to his owner. Pham, who herself was successfully treated for Ebola after contracting the virus while caring for a patient in a Dallas-area hospital, was grateful to bring Bentley home. Very little is known about Ebola in dogs, so after Pham became ill, Bentley was placed in quarantine under the direction of Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center. Two veterinarians from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) assisted in Bentley’s testing and care during his isolation period. 82 •
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Dr. Wesley Bissett, director of the VET, and Dr. Deb Zoran, chief medical officer for the VET, worked cooperatively with multiple agencies to provide Bentley’s daily care and collect the needed blood, urine, and fecal samples from Bentley, which were shipped to a laboratory for testing for presence of the virus. To ensure Bentley was free from Ebola, two collections took place during the isolation period. Each test came back negative, and thus Bentley was able to reunite with Pham. “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 we are at today. We are all standing behind Nina and Bentley.” In addition to providing for his daily care, Bissett and Zoran also monitored Bentley’s psychological health by making sure he had toys to play with each day, was able to leave his crate to move around in his room, and had plenty of human contact. The need for ensuring Bentley’s physical and psychological health in this unprecedented situation is an example of the VET’s commitment to its mission of “Serving our state and nation every day.” This is accomplished by deploying the largest and most sophisticated veterinary medical disaster response team in the country, by developing and providing cutting edge emergency management education,
Dr. Wesley Bissett speaks at the press conference after reuniting Bentley with Pham. by the development of new knowledge in emergency preparedness education and response, and building on the legacy of service that is at the heart of Texas A&M University. “We focus on hurricanes, but our first deployments were a wildfire, then an explosion, a variety of search support missions, and now an Ebola outbreak,” said Zoran. “Although all of these have been different than what we originally thought we would be doing when we started all of this, we have navigated each challenge successfully.” The importance of the humananimal bond played a key role in the decision to care for Bentley and to find a way to safely monitor him and his health. For Pham, Bentley is a family member, and knowing he was being cared for and receiving daily updates provided much-needed encouragement for her own recovery. For Bissett and Zoran, the other VET members, and the rest of the CVM family providing moral support from back home, Bentley holds a special place in their hearts. While the CVM eagerly waited for Bissett and Zoran to return, the love everyone felt for this special dog and his owner, and the willingness to accept this mission, became a living example of the selfless service for which Texas A&M Aggies are known.
Dr. Deb Zoran and Dr. Wesley Bissett bathe Bentley. Winter 2014 •
College News Dr. Michael Criscitiello
Dr. Michael Criscitiello:
One of first to participate in Texas A&M– CAPES Collaborative Research Grant Program Dr. Michael Criscitiello, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), was one of six principal investigators at Texas A&M University awarded nearly $300,000 ($50,000 apiece) in research funding through the newly established Texas A&M–CAPES Collaborative Research Grant Program. Criscitiello is collaborating with Dr. Leonardo Sena and Dr. Maria Paula 84 •
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Schneider of the Federal University of Pará in Belém, Brazil. The Texas A&M research team also includes Dr. Loren Skow from the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences and veterinary student Ashley Heard-Ganir, who is participating in the Veterinary Medical Scientist Training Program. Together, this international team of scientists will be studying the genes important in the adaptive immune system of Amazonian manatees. This species of freshwater manatee is threat-
ened, and this initial study will provide information about its immune system’s ability to defend against infectious pathogens, as well as the status of its population diversity—both crucial elements in the efforts to better manage these mammals. “We will also be comparing this species’ immune genes to those of the West Indian manatee and related terrestrial mammals, such as elephants and armadillos,” said Crisicitiello. “This will give us a better understand-
College News ing to how these critical genes have evolved in different species to defend mammals in terrestrial, marine, and freshwater habitats.” Criscitiello recently earned honors with the 2014 CVM Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award, the 2013 Southeastern Conference Visiting Scholar Travel Award, and the 2011 Montague–Center for Teaching Excellence Scholar Award. “Dr. Criscitiello’s work in immunology and microbiology has resulted in significant discoveries in the disciplines of genomics and evolutionary biology,” said Dr. Linda Logan, former head of the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology. “This research award will facilitate the college’s ability to share the expertise of Dr. Criscitiello with international collaborators in Brazil. This advancement of knowledge coincides nicely with the global One Health Initiative, as it will have a positive impact on animals and the environment.” The Texas A&M–CAPES Collaborative Research Grant program is open to researchers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The lead Texas A&M principal investigator (PI) must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member and have served as a PI or co-PI on a competitively awarded state, federal, or major foundation grant in the past five years. The lead Brazilian PI must have served as a PI or co-PI on a competitively awarded CAPES research grant in the past five years. The awards are for two years. “We are proud of Dr. Criscitiello and all the collaborators on this project,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the CVM. “The opportunity to share knowledge through a global interdisciplinary initiative such as this extends the concept of One Health across borders and advances our understanding of the relationship between population health and environmental health.” The other Texas A&M awardees are: • Bradford P. Wilcox, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Antonio Celso Dantas Antonino, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco • Dr. Mladen Kezunovic, the Eugene E. Webb Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,
and Glauco Nery Taranto of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro • Courtney Schumacher, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, College of Geosciences, and Luiz Augusto Toledo Machado, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais/Centro de Previsao de Tempo e Estudos Climaticos • Paul de Figueiredo, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and Renato de Lima Santos, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais • Susanne Talcott, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Luciana Azevedo, Universidade Federal de Alfenas Criscitiello also serves as a member of the Interdisciplinary Faculty of Genetics, the Interdisciplinary Faculty of Toxicology, the Whole Systems
Genomics Initiative, the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Interdisciplinary Program, and the Professional Program in Biotechnology. Most recently, he assumed a joint appointment in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology in the College of Medicine, Texas A&M Health Science Center. Criscitiello also holds memberships in the International Society of Developmental and Comparative Immunologists, the American Association of Immunologists, the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, and the Society of Mucosal Immunology. He has authored or co-authored more than 25 peer-reviewed publications and is engaged in three ongoing, externally funded research projects (funded by the National Science Foundation, USDA Formula Animal Health, and Instituto Nacional de Pesca). He has successfully completed projects funded by the USDA Formula Animal Health and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Michael Criscitiello in his lab
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College News Reconstructing historical population size and genetic diversity of African lions Fondly referred to as the “King of the Jungle,” the African lion is one of the world’s most iconic species, representing not only Africa but all things wild. The lion’s majestic nature makes it a species that is held in high regard by many people; however, research and conservation efforts associated with the species are greatly lacking. As the human population in Africa drastically increases, nearly quadrupling over the last 50 years, wildlife has had to adapt to a changing landscape. The major sources of lion deaths across its range are human encroachment into lion habitat and human-wildlife conflict, but, while there is no debating that the lion’s range has shrunk as a result of human-related changes to the African landscape, the actual impact to the population is not really known. Up until now, the fate of the African lion population has been determined by overall population decline. Population declines of the African lion, however, are based on the comparison of historical and present-day numbers, which have been estimated through the use of controversial methods. A study being conducted at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine &
Biomedical Sciences by Ph.D. student Caitlin Curry, under the supervision of Dr. James Derr, is taking an innovative approach to African lion (Panthera leo) conservation. Rather than comparing finite population numbers, which have been critiqued for being “guestimates,” this study is estimating population size based on genetic diversity found within the population, allowing conclusions to be drawn based on the lion population’s genetic health. This study has been funded by the Safari Club International (SCI) Foundation. Using state-of-the-art genetic biotechnology, the study will uncover information necessary to document accurate lion population numbers through genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is directly related to a species’ ability to adapt, survive, and thrive within its environment. A loss in diversity is detrimental to the health of the overall population and its long-term survival because it decreases its potential to adjust to an ever-changing environment. The current lack of knowledge about the genetic history within the wild lion population makes it difficult to predict how losses in the genetic diversity might negatively impact its
African lions (Photo courtesy of Dr. H. Morgan Scott) 86 •
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overall health. With the use of genetic biotechnology, genetic information can be accessed from long-dead individuals preserved in museums around the world and their contemporary counterparts through the power of isolating genetic material, or DNA. Tissue, bone, and hide samples will be collected from over 10 museums in the United States, Europe, and Africa. Current and historic population sizes across the species’ range can then be determined by looking at the differences in the DNA. And, by tracking changes in genetic diversity over time through the combination DNA from contemporary lion populations and lion populations that existed over 100 years ago, we can identify the existing wild lion populations that are most at risk and make recommendations to guide management actions accordingly to safeguard their future genetic health. Ultimately, this project has the ability to set the record straight amongst the emotional cries about the downfall and genetic vulnerability of the African lion. Science is the cornerstone of wildlife management, and this research could provide much needed insight into an issue where feelings often trump fact.
College News Reveille VIII to retire at the Stevenson Center Reveille, the First Lady of Texas A&M and a special member of the Aggie family, will retire in style on campus at the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center. The Stevenson Center provides personalized, lifelong care for animals in a home-like environment. It is a special place and will be a wonderful home for Reveille next door to her long-time health care provider, the Texas A&M University
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Reveille’s health care team will include 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. She will also be able to continue living on campus, where she can see Kyle Field from her window and hear Aggie game day
excitement. “She will live with four very special veterinary students, and she will receive royal treatment befitting the retired first lady of Aggieland!” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “We are thrilled to welcome her to our family of much-loved animals at the Stevenson Center at our college.”
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College News Maccabe, AAVMC president, visits the CVM
Center: Dr. Andrew Maccabe, AAVMC executive director, and Dr. Eleanor M. Green, with students from the CVM The executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), Andrew Maccabe, DVM, M.P.H., J.D., visited the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) in September 2014 and spent time with numerous college students, staff, faculty, and administrators. He discussed the One Health Initiative, opportunities to advance veterinary medical education, the challenges faced in veterinary Dr. Andrew Maccabe
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medicine, and opportunities on the horizon. He also expressed his enthusiasm for the work being done to train the next generation of veterinarians who will lead the profession tomorrow. While visiting with the college, Maccabe discussed his passion for a college and a nation focused on improving human and animal health. Presenting to over 55 college faculty, administrators, and staff, he discussed the new AAVMC strategic plan. Outlining the plan’s three goals—analyze, catalyze, and advocate—he stressed the importance of recruitment, financial literacy, core assessment, and the cost of education. “Educational debt is a complicated issue,” said Maccabe. “We live in an interdependent global world. We need to look at ways to share resources, get input from colleges, and decide how to best coordinate our efforts. There are always barriers, especially to state-supported colleges, and sometimes there are complications in sharing funds, but it’s a matter of finding ways to work together.” Focusing on recruitment, Maccabe discussed the importance of diversifying the student body as the CVM prepares students to lead in the global search for cures for both animal and human disease. He strongly believes that graduating classes of veterinarians with diverse perspectives and backgrounds is imperative for the future of the profession. “One of the most
important things we can do to secure this profession is to increase diversity and bring awareness to underrepresented populations,” said Maccabe. “Our profession is greatly enriched by sharing education systems and models with high quality programs around the world. The schools that have sought and achieved American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accreditation promote the exchange of ideas, which is the essence of education.” This is Maccabe’s second appointment at the AAVMC; his first, as associate executive director, followed his completion in 2002 of his J.D. degree from the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. He served at the AAVMC until 2007. Following that, he served as a liaison at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coordinating policies and programs between the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “I am looking forward to working closely with Dr. Maccabe, the AAVMC Executive Committee, its Board of Directors, and all of the veterinary colleges and schools to advance the AAVMC mission, goals, and strategies to advance veterinary education and the veterinary profession,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “Dr. Maccabe has already demonstrated leadership qualities to make a difference.”
College News August named Associate Dean of Faculties, Director of Center for Teaching Excellence Dr. John August, professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS) at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), has been named the new associate dean of faculties for Texas A&M University. He will also serve as the director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Texas A&M. August, whose term began September 1, 2014, succeeds Professor X. Ben Wu, who held the position for five years. August has received several teaching awards, including the Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching (College Level), the Texas Veterinary Medical Association Award for Teaching, and university-level teaching awards at Auburn University and Virginia Tech. August, a board certified veterinary specialist in internal medicine, joined the CVM faculty in 1986 as a professor and head of the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery. He also served as deputy dean of the CVM from 1995 to 1997. During his term as department head, he was recognized with the Association of Former Students University-Level Distinguished Achievement Award in Administration. “Dr. August is a clinician, a scholar, and an engaging instructor with an international reputation,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “His innovative teaching methods and extensive experience with curricula and pedagogy will be a benefit to the faculty at Texas A&M. We are proud of Dr. August’s
Dr. John August
many accomplishments, and we look forward to his contributions to excel-
“His innovative teaching methods and extensive experience with curricula and pedagogy will be a benefit to the faculty at Texas A&M.”
~Dr. Eleanor M. Green
lence in teaching across the university in his new role.” Known for his engaging teaching style, August lectures in core and elective classes for third-year veterinary medical students and instructs and supervises third- and fourth-year students, interns, and residents on the feline internal medicine service within the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. He has also written several textbooks on feline internal medicine and is widely sought after as a speaker for veterinary continuing education programs. While in his new role, August will maintain a 30 percent appointment within VSCS.
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College News Joe Kornegay appointed as director, Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies Dr. Joe Kornegay, a professor in the departments of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences and Veterinary Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) at Texas A&M University and a member of the Texas A&M Institute for Neuroscience, has been appointed director of the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS). Established in 2007, TIPS is a stateof-the-art research facility supporting preclinical studies, translational research, and endeavors that require Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) methods. “TIPS is an innovative concept in preclinical drug and medical device development and also offers excellent opportunities for collaborative research and scholarship,” said Kornegay. “The facility is the only one of its kind in the world. We are particularly positioned to extend studies to large animal models through our specialized imaging and surgical facilities. With that said, any facility is only as good as its people. TIPS is blessed with a dedicated, well trained staff committed to meeting the needs of our clients and collaborators. My goal as director is to work with other faculty and staff to build on the vision and hard work of the founding director, Dr. Terry Fossum, and the most recent former director, Dr. Matt Miller.” Kornegay received both his undergraduate and DVM degrees from Texas A&M and completed residency and graduate training at the University of Georgia. He previously held faculty positions at the colleges of veterinary medicine at North Carolina State University and the University of Missouri. At Missouri, Dr. Kornegay also served as clinical department chair/hospital director and later as dean. Immediately before coming to Texas A&M, he was on the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. His research on a canine model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy relates to the broader concept of One Health. Most recently, Kornegay was selected to present the Recognition Lecture at the 2014 annual conference of the 90 •
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Dr. Joe Kornegay
Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). This honor is given to an individual whose leadership and vision have made a significant contribution to academic veterinary medicine and the veterinary profession. “Dr. Kornegay’s experience as a senior research scientist and administrator make him an ideal choice to assume the role of director at TIPS,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “His research expertise in comparative veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences will ensure the continued growth of TIPS as a core laboratory supporting researchers from across the Texas A&M System and beyond, as well as developing strong mutually beneficial public-private partnerships, which support the TIPS mission. TIPS is a key element in the spectrum from basic discovery to commercialization, which ultimately improves the health of people and animals. I am confident that Dr. Kornegay will lead TIPS with great vision and dignity.”
As a part of the CVM, the TIPS team specializes in the preclinical phase of research required to gain Food & Drug Administration approval for both drugs and devices. “The team at TIPS has a tremendous amount of experience in research, particularly in medical device testing,” said Dr. Robert Burghardt, associate dean for research and graduate studies at the CVM. “We are excited to have this level of cuttingedge technology and world-class expertise combined in one facility, and we are pleased that Dr. Kornegay has agreed to lead this team.” “The research conducted at TIPS is advancing efforts to find cures, develop devices, and investigate novel therapies for diseases and injuries that impact both animals and humans,” said Kornegay. “Working with distinguished scientists engaged in innovative and cutting-edge research, we are poised to play a role in bringing medical discoveries from bench to bedside.”
College News Sharon Kerwin named interim head of Small Animal Clinical Sciences Dr. Sharon Kerwin accepted the position of interim head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS) in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and officially assumed the role on June 20, 2014, following the retirement of Dr. Sandee Hartsfield. Hartsfield, upon his retirement, leaves a legacy of excellence in service, having been recognized with many awards during his time with the CVM, including the Texas A&M University Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award on both the college and university levels. Hartsfield earned his bachelor’s degree in veterinary science and DVM from Texas A&M, and then received his master’s degree in small animal surgery and medicine from Michigan State University. Like Hartsfield, Kerwin is also a highly recognized educator having been awarded the Texas Veterinary Medical Association Faculty Research Achievement Award in 2007, the Texas A&M University Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award on both the college and university levels in 2009, and many other honors. Her combined interest in orthopedics and neurology/neurosurgery encompasses lameness, gait analysis, fracture healing, osteoarthritis, and spinal cord injury. Kerwin graduated from Texas A&M University with her bachelor’s degree in veterinary science in 1986 and her doctor of veterinary medicine degree
Dr. Sharon Kerwin
in 1988. After graduation, she went on to earn her master’s degree in veteri-
“We thank Dr. Kerwin for her willingness to step in as interim department head. She is already a valuable addition to the administrative team of the college.”
~Dr. Eleanor M. Green
nary physiology in 1993 from Louisiana State University (LSU). After interning and teaching at LSU for several years, Kerwin returned to Texas A&M in 2001 to begin her role as associate professor and has been serving as a professor in VSCS until her appointment as interim department head. “We thank Dr. Kerwin for her willingness to step in as interim department head. She is already a valuable addition to the administrative team of the college,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “We are also grateful to Dr. Hartsfield for his many years of service and wish him the best in his retirement.” Winter 2014 •
College News Flippers, feathers, and fun at SeaWorld Students working with the Partnership for Environmental Education & Rural Health (PEER) program have been busy lately spreading the word about veterinary medicine. They have presented to 1,992 students and 70 teachers at 12 public schools on topics such as “Careers in Veterinary Science,” “Human Impact on Wildlife,” “Cell Theory and Taxonomy,” “Comparative Anatomy,” “Life as a Veterinarian,” and “Animal Behavior.” In mid-June 2014, some of the students traveled to San Antonio to present to over 100 high school students and spent the afternoon with a SeaWorld veterinarian.
Student’s Perspective by Devin Smith In summer 2014, work for the PEER program was very busy for our veterinary students. The hours are long, the travel can be exhausting, and the many presentations can leave your throat begging for a lozenge. But the rewards are incredible! Not only do these veterinary students get to share their passion for veterinary medicine with young students all over Texas to inspire them to pursue careers in science, but they also get amazing opportunities to network and hang out with some very neat people. The PEER students traveled to San Antonio to give a presentation for over 100 high school students and got to spend the rest of the afternoon with a SeaWorld veterinarian, Dr. Steve Osborn.
From left: PEER students Anella Stanford, Erin Wilkens, Sarah Irving, and Devin Smith visited with SeaWorld veterinarian Dr. Steve Osborn (center). (Photos courtesy of PEER) The SeaWorld staff was beyond kind to our group of four veterinary students and allowed them to interact with dolphins, aquarium fish, rays, baby sharks, flamingos, and Golden Conure chicks. They were even introduced to a famous Pacific dolphin, named Kai, who starred in Jaws 3. Dr. Steve Osborn, who met with the students, took time out of his busy schedule to explain his job in immense detail and answered hundreds of questions from our extremely inquisitive group. The experience was far more enriching than the students had ever anticipated and will remain a fond and unforgettable memory for the rest of their lives.
Sarah Irving holds a Golden Conure chick. 92 •
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Devin Smith examines a flamingo.
Anella Standord poses with a dolphin.
VMSRTP participants and faculty
Annual Veterinary Medical Student Research Training Program held In summer 2014, 19 students from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) had the opportunity to move from the classroom into research laboratories to further their education through the Veterinary Medical Scientist Research Training Program (VMSRTP). Working closely with faculty mentors in the program, this dedicated group of students conducted research projects on various topics that encompass the full range of the One Health Initiative. “My research focus was to evaluate the microbial communities, termed microbiota, residing in the small intestine of healthy dogs during periods of withholding food,” said Alyssa Kasiraj, a student participant in the VMSRTP. “We discovered profound changes in the microbial communities during periods of withholding food compared to the periods of regular feeding, which is
important when considering therapeutic options in clinical situations that involve withholding food.” “The VMSRTP encourages veterinary medical students to explore a side of veterinary medicine that is not typically a part of private practice, including career paths in clinical research and academia,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “It provides students with a new look at the breadth of career opportunities in the veterinary profession, as well as a better understanding of veterinary and biomedical research and the various roles that veterinarians fill in those endeavors.” “The Standards for Accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education tell us that the curriculum should provide ‘opportunities throughout the curriculum for students to gain an understanding of the breadth of
veterinary medicine, career opportunities, and other information about the profession,’” said Dr. Roger Smith III, the program’s faculty coordinator. “The VMSRTP provides one such opportunity.” The VMSRTP conference, which was held on July 29, 2014, gave these students the opportunity to present their research results before traveling to the Merial–National Institutes of Health Veterinary Scholars Symposium held at the College of Veterinary Medicine on the Cornell University campus. “I came into the lab with very little computer knowledge, and I learned how to use Python-based software by the end of the summer, as well as getting to work on my writing and presenting skills,” said Kasiraj. “The experience showed me the amazing impact of research in the medical field. I am very grateful for this program and all it allowed me to do!” Winter 2014 •
College News Dr. Matt Miller retires as director of the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies Dr. Matt Miller, director of the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS), retired on June 27, 2014. Miller plans to remain engaged in TIPS, as this will allow him to continue his work as a PI on important contracts and grants. Miller has had a long and successful career at
Texas A&M University and he will be missed. He was recently honored at an executive council meeting by Green and the department heads for his work and service to the college.
From left: Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine; Dr. Matt Miller, former director of TIPS; Dr. Sandee Hartsfield, former department head of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, and Dr. Sharon Kerwin, interim department head of Small Animal Clinical Sciences
Dr. Sandee Hartsfield retires as head of Small Animal Clinical Sciences Dr. Sandee Hartsfield, head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), retired on June 20, 2014. He leaves a legacy of excellence in service, having been recognized with many awards during his time with the college, including the Texas A&M University Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award on both the college and university levels. He was honored by Small Animal Clinical Sciences and at a CVM executive council meeting by Green and entire council for his work and service to the college. From left: Dr. Sharon Kerwin, interim department head of Small Animal Clinical Sciences; Dr. Sandee Hartsfield, former department head of Small Animal Clinical Sciences; and Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine 94 â€˘
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College News New faces in the Dean’s Office Dr. Kristin Chaney
Dr. Kristin Chaney, who is boardcertified in equine internal medicine and critical care, joined the Professional Programs Office on Sept. 15, 2014, and will work with the faculty on outcome assessment and portions of the curricular review process. Dr. Chaney earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her DVM at Colorado State University. Most recently, she has been working at St. George’s University, Grenada. Nicole Parker
Nicole Parker, who has worked within Texas A&M University at College Station, Galveston, and Qatar, joined the Professional Programs Office team as an administrative assistant. She has a master’s degree in public service and administration from the university. Eliana Mijangos
Eliana Mijangos ’14 joined the CVM as the new alumni relations and events coordinator. She has worked as a communications specialist at the Texas A&M College of Geosciences. Eliana graduated from the Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service with her master’s degree in public service administration, with an emphasis in education policy and nonprofit philanthropy. She received her bachelor’s degree in communications from Texas Wesleyan University.
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Development News Centennial plans, construction underway Well, we made it to 2015 and the lead up to our Centennial Celebration for the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). I know that Dr. Mark Francis and his wife, Anna, would be very proud of what has transpired and the impact that this college and its graduates have made around the world and beyond. Our kickoff for the Centennial Celebration is right around the corner, so please make your plans to join us for this grand event and for the other centennial celebrations over the coming year. This is a perfect time for all associated with the college to display our pride in this great institution and
O. J. “Bubba” Woytek, DVM ’65
Asst. Vice President for Development
to share it with everyone else. All of you have played a role in establishing the CVM as one of the premier veterinary colleges in the world, and we want to use this year to celebrate that fact and to look forward to the next 100 years. To those who have accepted the challenge of making endowment level gifts in honor of our centennial, we say thank you. If you would like to join this generous group of veterinarians and others, there is still time, and we would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about a gift to accomplish something meaningful to you. Qualifying gifts for this program include current gifts, pledges, and planned gifts.
We would also like to remind you that there is still ample opportunity to name various rooms and areas in both the new Veterinary and Biomedical Education Complex and the new Small Animal Hospital. Please let us know if you have an interest in applying your name or honoring someone else through the naming process in either facility. Please also let us know of others who might have an interest in these projects. Thank you for your support and generosity, and as always, we welcome you to stop by and say “howdy” when you’re in our neighborhood.
Chastity Carrigan ’15
Guy A. Sheppard, DVM ’78
Senior Director of Development
Director of Development
Chastity Carrigan, Dr. O.J. “Bubba” Woytek, Dr. Guy Sheppard, and Noell Vance 96 •
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New Small Animal Hospital development For over 100 years, the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences has been offering top-of-the-line clinical services to animals from all over the United States. As one of the oldest continually operating veterinary practices in Texas, the Small Animal Hospital itself has not changed much since its opening in 1988. However, thanks to a recent fundraising campaign, plans to expand and renovate the hospital to better suit the needs of its valued patients are currently underway. “We have launched our fundraising campaign for the new Small Animal Hospital, complete with architectural renderings and a list of naming opportunities in the new hospital,” said Dr. Guy Sheppard, Director of Development at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “The development team is busy contacting friends and supporters of the CVM and discussing the plans and opportunities with them in an effort to reach our goal of $90 million.” Among specific plans for the new hospital are designs for triple the current capacity of surgery suites and intensive care units for both dogs and cats and other general expansions to meet the sheer increases in demand.
The hope is that with this new groundbreaking development, the incoming animals and owners will have their needs met on a larger scale. Designed to address both the physical and emotional needs of the animals and their owners, another element of expansion will be larger, more comfortable waiting areas separated for dogs and cats.
“Since 2016 is going to be such a banner year in the life of the CVM with our Centennial Celebration and the completion of the new Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex, or VBEC Building, we think that it would be wonderful if we could also announce a groundbreaking for the new Small Animal Hospital in 2016,” Sheppard said.
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Development News by Dr. Megan Palsa
Memory of undergrad saves lives of beloved pets years, the fund has Helen and Chris Stehouwer received donations in excess of half a million dollars and contributed to over 600 patients. The Capper and Chris Save the Animals Fund evolved from a veterinary scholarship fund. The Stehouwers had created the scholarship fund to honor their son, Chris Stehouwer, after he died in a tragic accident. Chris was an undergraduate majoring in biomedical science at Texas A&M when he died, and the Chris Stehouwer Scholarship Fund was originally formed to provide scholarships for husband. “We have two daughters and veterinary students four granddaughters, so never havworking their way through college. ing a son, we looked at Chris and his “Chris was like a surrogate son to brother, Mark, as our own sons.” Capper and me,” said Terry, Capper’s Chris loved animals and was planning to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, his sister recalled. “My younger brother was an undergraduate freshman at Texas A&M when I was just starting veterinary school. He went to orientation with me; he’d sit with me through my gross anatomy class,” Stehouwer said. “He was a huge animal-lover, and we had a dream that we would someday open a veterinary hospital together.” One evening during Stehouwer’s externship in her fourth year of veterinary school, she mentioned to her mother that some cases, though treatable, ended in euthanasia due to their owners’ financial struggles. Horrified by the idea of treatable animals being put to sleep over money concerns, Lenore relayed Helen’s story to her best friend and sorority sister, Capper Thompson. Both alumnae of Colorado State University (CSU), Lenore and Capper are longtime friends, and their families have been close for over 45 years, spending many holidays Dr. Helen Stehouwer with Dakota, one of her patients
Dr. Helen Stehouwer remembers when she first encountered the sad reality that some animals are euthanized because their owners cannot afford medical care for their pets. As a fourth-year veterinary student, she met an elderly veteran who brought in his beloved dog, which was suffering from pancreatitis. The man was on a fixed income and couldn’t afford the treatment, so he made the heartbreaking decision to euthanize his pet. “He was devastated and heartbroken, and it just ripped my heart out,” said Stehouwer, Texas A&M University DVM class of 1998. Such unfortunate cases influenced Stehouwer’s parents, Lenore and Ron Stehouwer, and their friends, Capper and Terry Thompson, to develop the Capper and Chris Save the Animals Fund. Established in 1997, the fund’s eligibility criteria require that pets (small animals) must have a treatable disease or injury and must be treated at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. The fund can provide up to $1,000 per case, with the pet owners required to match the donation. Activeduty military families may receive special consideration. Over the last 17
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Development News and special occasions together. Capper and Terry introduced Lenore and Ron to one another while attending CSU, and the four have been close friends ever since. The Thompsons live outside San Antonio on a beautiful 11 acres with stables and accommodations for Capper’s horses, dogs, and other animals. Chris had worked for the Thompsons one summer, “He was doing everything from mucking stalls to stacking hay,” Stehouwer said. “Whatever she would need done, he would take care of.” When Capper heard Lenore’s account of the pets whose lives ended due to their owners’ lack of funds, she was shocked. “Capper was completely surprised to hear that anyone would ever have to make a decision to put a pet to sleep because they couldn’t afford to treat it,” Stehouwer said. “That thought had never entered her mind. Animals are her heart, and she believes you do what needs to be done to take care of them,” Stehouwer said. During a dinner discussion one evening, Lenore and Capper came up with the idea of changing the focus of the Chris Stehouwer Scholarship Fund. Stehouwer noted that the fund hadn’t seemed to bring her parents much comfort, and they all agreed this would be the perfect way to commemorate Chris and his passion for animals.
Chris with Capper’s dog, Bud The fund helps alleviate the financial burden of a pet’s treatment plan for a family in need and in turn allows veterinary students to learn from diagnostics, treatments, and surgery that otherwise could not have been afforded. Capper volunteered to match the scholarship fund and to ensure its future viability. “You don’t meet many people in this lifetime like Chris,” said Capper. “He was genuine, hard working, and absolutely loved animals—all animals.” In discussion with the veterinary school, it was decided to call it “The Capper and Chris Save the Animals Fund,” “and that’s how it all came about, emanating from two special people, Capper and Chris, where animals are their heart and soul,” Stehouwer said. Stehouwer’s office, Parkwood Animal Hospital in Friendswood, Texas, and many others make donations in a pet’s name when one is euthanized or passes, whatever the cause. She also continues to make personal contributions to the fund, and she shares information about the fund with some of her clients, knowing the emotional significance of the fund. “It was the memory of Chris and the special person he was that brought about the Capper and Chris Save the Animal Fund,” Stehouwer said. “He was one of the warmest, most genuine people I have ever known. His really
big heart included love for people and their pets of all kinds, especially his great fondness for cats!” Chris was one of those rare people who seemed to be able to communicate with animals. He had a genuine calmness, which led all animals to love him, Stehouwer recalled. “We like to think his life, though cut short, keeps some beloved pets in their owners’ lives longer. I think he would love knowing that.” Donations to the fund can be made through the Giving page of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences website, at http://vetmed. tamu.edu/giving/opportunities.
Chris Stehouwer Winter 2014 •
Sparky (left) and Bugs (right) with Jerri and Terri Lindsey
by Dr. Megan Palsa
Twins leave animals to Stevenson Center Lifelong love of horses and dogs leads sisters to A&M They’re twins, but they have their differences. Dr. Jerri Lindsey went to graduate school at the University of North Texas; Dr. Terri Lindsey went to the University of Oklahoma. Jerri started teaching at Tarrant County Community College, Terri in public schools. However, they share one abiding passion: their love for animals and the confidence they feel knowing that, if something should happen to them, their beloved horses and German shepherds, Maddie and Lexie (whom they lovingly call their “children”), will be cared for at the Texas A&M Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center. The two began their journey in Abilene, Texas. Their mother (a teacher) and father (who was offered a scholarship to play basketball for Texas A&M University after he graduated from high school, an opportunity he had to pass up so he could work and support his parents and sisters during the Depression) instilled a solid 100 •
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work ethic in the sisters, inspiring them to achieve amazing educational goals. Jerri holds a Ph.D. in cellular biology with minors in microbiology and biochemistry. Terri has a master’s degree in microbiology with a minor in biochemistry and a Ph.D. in cellular biology and minors in microbiology and biochemistry. They’ve always loved animals. “When we were just toddlers, a horse came down the street,” Jerri recalled. “We ran out, and our parents found us hugging the horse’s legs.” The passion for horses and dogs has continued. Today their horses are housed in a 34-foot by 48-foot stable in Ft. Worth, Texas, that the ladies helped build in 1980 with their dad and uncle. “Dad and Uncle Burrell came and laid it out and set it up, and then they showed us how to do the stalls, walls, and doors. We finished it because they needed to go back to Abilene, and
they came back later and checked our work,” said Jerri. The twins can’t help but reminisce about some of the amazing horses that have lived in those stalls through the years. Shenandoah was their first horse, a Quarter Horse they acquired when she was eight and who was loved until they lost her at age 30. Jerri’s Thoroughbred, Stormy, who came off the racetrack as a three-year-old, competed in dressage and hunter-jumper competitions. Then there was Andy, an orphaned, sickly six-hour-old foal. “We felt sorry for him; he looked so poor and we were told he might not survive. We took him and raised him on a bottle.” Jime, registered name “Glittering Jim,” was Terri’s dressage horse, and they ranked nationally in first level. “He was a retired racehorse,” she says of the competitive animal. Princely Princess (Megan) was also a rescue. She was an appendix registered
Development News Quarter Horse that got her full AQHA papers with her first race, but she had kissing spine syndrome. “She visited A&M, back when they had the old facilities,” Terri said, remembering the old building with only four stalls. The names keep coming to their minds as they take a canter down memory lane. A favorite horse, named Some Kind of Sunny, was an “awesome, do-anything-you-want-with-him, Quarter Horse.” They acquired Red (Bigger Bite) when he was two and had him until a couple of summers ago when he was 30 years old. “He was awesome. We taught him to pull a cart so our dad could drive around a little bit,” Terri said. They still have a fourth-level dressage horse named Bugs (I’m A Mighty Bug) who is Terri’s prize-winner and helped fill up the walls of ribbons. Terri jokes that her sister “went to the dogs.” Jerri has shown toy fox terriers all over the country and is a United Kennel Club Obedience judge, UKC Rally Obedience judge, and UKC All Breed Conformation judge. She trained and showed the first toy fox terrier (Abby) to earn a qualifying score in obedience, and the U-CD, U-CDX, and U-UD obedience titles. She also had the first toy fox terrier (Jordie) to earn a UKC Conformation Grand Champion title and the U-CD obedience title. Maddie, one of their current German shepherds, does obedience, rally obedience, herding, and tracking. Lexie, the other German shepherd, loves tracking. The dogs are family pets but are also allowed to show what they can do in various dog activities. But it was horse care that endeared A&M to the twins. “Some of those equine doctors at A&M are so amazing; they’ll look at something and point out things that you never even guessed.” For instance, Sparky (Mr. Faulty Spark) had a sinus infection, resulting from an infected tooth. “We didn’t realize it was a bad tooth,” Terri said. “We went to A&M, and he was diagnosed with a cavity in a tooth. They explained to me that the infection went way up into his sinus cavity resulting in a serious sinus infection. They did a small bone flap surgery to flush the sinus cavity and sent him home with antibiotics.” About a month later, the sinus infection returned. The veterinarians made a larger cut, and that time Sparky
stayed at A&M for about a week, then went home again. Jerri and Terri praised the Texas A&M veterinary care, noting that the expertise shown, such as using radiographs to diagnose the condition, was unique to the Large Animal Hospital at Texas A&M. Terri noted that, with her experience as a microbiologist, she had many questions for the caregivers. They told her Sparky had an E. coli infection. “There were three antibiotics that would take care of the infection, and two of them had never been used on horses,” she said. “They settled on the one that had been used in large animals even though it might take a bit longer to deal with the infection; and it was successful.” To help with the healing, Terri took Sparky to an equine hospital in Weatherford for 10 days of hyperbaric chamber treatments, where he got an Aspergillus fungal infection during that process. But the veterinarian was a Texas A&M veterinary school graduate, and Sparky’s veterinarians worked with each other to clear his infection. “So now I have a healthy Sparky!” Terri said.
The sisters are committed to their animals; they rise at 4 a.m. to take care of the horses and the dogs, eat breakfast, and get to their respective jobs by 6 a.m. Terri teaches microbiology at Tarrant County College South Campus, and Jerri teaches anatomy and physiology at Tarrant College Northeast Campus. “Where other people go to the movies and go on vacations, we come out here. All the stress and strain of being a teacher, for instance, gets left at the barn door,” Jerri said. And when the twins’ time is through, the animals will continue to have excellent care at the Stevenson Center. “The best present we’ve ever had is knowing that, if we were in an accident tonight, our ‘kids’ would be taken care of at Texas A&M’s Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center,” Terri said. Sounds like all of the dogs and the horses will end up in the winners’ circle.
Terri (left) with Lexie and Jerri (right) with Maddie Winter 2014 •
COMING SOON…A CELEBRATION OF
Development News The First First Lady of the Veterinary Profession in Texas:
Remembering Anna Francis by Thomas Murnane, DVM ’47, U.S. Brigadier General (Retired)
Reprinted with permission of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association As we prepare for the 100th anniversary celebration of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) in 2016, we should acknowledge the lady, Anna Francis, behind the man, Dr. Mark Francis, who labored to establish the CVM. Anna was Mark’s confidant for some 42 years. Dr. George C. Shelton, former dean of the CVM, published a comprehensive and intimate biography of Mark, the first dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine (1916–1936) at Texas A&M College. Shelton, the second longest-serving dean (1973–1988) since Mark, wrote from a position of
understanding and appreciation, inviting a fresh perspective of the dean, his times, and his family. Mark has been acclaimed for his singular contributions to the veterinary profession and the livestock industry in Texas. It is said that behind every great man is a great woman. The youthful relationship, inevitable marriage, and partnership of Mark Francis and Anna Scott Jones attest to the veracity of this statement. Mark and Anna were native residents of Shandon, Ohio, a farming community then as it is now. Shelton records that, as Mark neared his final high school year, he began to give serious Anna and Mark Francis
thought to his future. John Francis, his eldest brother, was pursuing a career in medicine. Medicine was attractive to Mark, but he was aware too that Ohio State College was opening a veterinary school. He foresaw that Ohio State College, together with the three publically funded schools then in existence in the United States, offered an education that would lead the veterinary profession out of the dark ages. He consulted with his good friend Anna, who was a year younger than he. Wise and intelligent, she knew Mark’s potential by intuition and encouraged him to choose a career that would provide happiness, a challenge, and an opportunity to be productive. Anna was there for Mark in this time of momentous decision-making as he chose to become one of the early pioneers in veterinary medicine. Mark and Anna continued their friendship, though apart, while he pursued his doctorate in Columbus, Ohio (1884–1887). Anna attended his graduation in June 1887, as a guest of his parents. Mark was 24. Following brief incursions for further training in equine medicine at the Veterinary College in New York City and practice in Cincinnati, Ohio, Mark found himself en route in July 1888, to assume a position with the Department of Veterinary Science and the Agricultural Experiment Station at Texas A&M College in College Station, where he was to devote the next 48 years of his professional career, 46 years of which he was to share with his bride-tobe, Anna. Mark and Anna Scott Jones were married in 1890 in their small hometown of Shandon, Ohio, during a well-deserved vacation from Mark’s academic chores and early research in Texas cattle fever. After a brief honeymoon, the young Ohio couple arrived at the seemingly isolated rail stop in College Station. Anna registered no disappointment in this ultimate destination in their lives together. She may have felt like the charachter portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor, who gazed forlornly from the Winter 2014 •
Development News private railcar to the ranch house situated on the barren prairie, in the movie Giant. Anna was determined to make life pleasant for Mark. She was agreeably pleased to be brought to the attractive apartment Mark had eagerly pursued and secured from a departing faculty member, complete with some nice furnishings. Anna offered hospitality to Mark’s friends, who were sometimes unannounced and who included Dr. Cooper Curtice, the veterinarian who worked out the lifecycle of the tick Boophilus bovis, the vector of Texas cattle fever. Curtice advocated tick eradication to eliminate cattle fever and is known as the father of tick eradication. Anna was a gifted and talented pianist and vocalist. No doubt she entertained in her humble surroundings to the pleasure of Mark and their guests. Within a year of their arrival in College Station, Mark was profoundly disappointed to learn of the dismissal of two colleagues who had been of exceptional assistance upon his arrival in College Station. It was an administrative decision by the new college president, Lawrence Sullivan Ross. Mark was emotionally devastated. His despair was evident to Anna, who probed for the reason. Upon learning the reason, she chided him for disregarding her. After all, she was his confidant when he was seeking direction in his life and course of studies. She had counseled him and expected that relationship would carry into their marriage. “Do not deny me the opportunity to share your troubles and concerns,” she said. “Our marriage is a partnership. I may not be able to offer anything positive, but I am a good listener. Sometimes that helps.” She demonstrated she was a good listener, a good thinker, and a good wife. This event was in August 1890. There were yet 46 years ahead of them, years that were filled with frustrations and success. Whether it be in the Veterinary Science Department, the Experiment Station, the Texas Legislature, the governor’s office, or the academics and politics of College Station, Anna was there for Mark. The Francis family began in 1902 with the birth of Andrew. Anna was 39. A second boy, William Bebb, followed two years later. Never expecting children in their late years, Mark 104 •
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and Anna were blessed and proud of their sons. Anna’s mother had died in childbirth. She was lovingly raised by an aunt and uncle for whom she added the name Jones to her family name of Scott. Within this period of the arrival of the new sons, Mark’s Veterinary Science Department was augmented, and plans for a new veterinary hospital took root. The establishment of a school of veterinary medicine was finally to be realized. In September 1916, the first class of 13 students was admitted. The celebration of the opening was shortlived. With the onset of World War I and the entry of the United States into the war on April 6, 1917, some students were called or volunteered for service. Four of the original entrants graduated as scheduled in 1920. Personal tragedy struck the Francis family with the death of Andrew, the first-born, from tuberculosis in 1917. Andrew was 15. He was interred in Shandon Cemetery in Ohio, as would be his father and mother. Mark and Anna shared the disappointments and growth of veterinary medical education post-World War I. The disappearance of the horse from travel and transportation forced the closure of private veterinary schools and impeded the progress of the public institutions, but they were increasingly focused on livestock and small animals and made a successful transition, particularly in areas of livestock concentrations in Texas. Texas A&M’s School of Veterinary Medicine grew with the faculty additions of other Ohio State graduates. By the early 1930s, Texas A&M enjoyed a very respectable position among the veterinary schools. The Francis’ living accommodations were considerably upgraded after Mark was named dean. The new home offered a modest yard and small garden, which appealed to Anna’s rural upbringing. Dr. Patton W. Burns, an early addition to the veterinary faculty, described the Francis’ married life as “very successful and both seem very happy.” Anna continued to live in the home after Mark’s death in June 1936, until she could find suitable accommodations in Bryan in 1939. Anna chose to remain in the adoptive community of Bryan-College Station, where she and Mark had shared their lives together, until her death in 1947.
This article is based on Shelton’s biography of Mark from the book “Visions of Two Pioneer Veterinarians.” The other pioneer veterinarian featured in the book is Dr. John W. Connaway, a contemporary and colleague in tick fever research. Connaway served the University of Missouri Departments of Agriculture and Veterinary Science for 59 years. The two biographies complement each other. The book should be required reading for all Aggie DVMs. Like Anna, many wives have endeared themselves to their practitioner husbands and their practices. Following World War II, the GI Bill of Rights enabled many men who were cashstrapped to pursue a veterinary medical education. These men were generally older than pre-war students, and many had wives and parental responsibilities. The couples shared accommodations with others in barracks, which became post-war fixtures for college campuses for many years. The course of studies was intensive. The GIs’ wives were partners, assets, and sources of encouragement for student husbands. Wives of GI graduates received their doctorates too—a PHT, the acronym for Pushing Hubby Through. The gender composition of the veterinary student body began to shift in the 1970s from all male students to an increasingly larger number of female students. Today, the number of female veterinary students enrolled at the CVM exceeds the number of male students. Positions in professional organizations and academia typically held by men are now held by both genders. Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a faculty member of the CVM, was elected president of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) in 1994 and the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 2004. Dr. Christina Kornegay, not to be outdone by her practitioner husband Dr. Larry Kornegay, served as president (1998) of the TVMA as well. Dr. Eleanor M. Green is the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University following a succession of ten male deans, beginning in 1916 with Dr. Mark Francis. These women are today’s first ladies of the veterinary profession in Texas. Dr. Murnane was inspired to write this article by his late wife, Connie. It originally appeared in the October 2014 edition of the Texas Veterinarian.
Alumni News by Clara Bush
Dr. James L. Courtney ‘67, DVM ‘70 Continuing a proud tradition of diversity and excellence is at the center of every program at Texas A&M University. To uphold and maintain these traditions depends on the courage and cooperation of each successive generation of students, faculty, staff, and community members. It is this interconnectedness that makes excellence shine through. However, this kind of community doesn’t form overnight, and, often, the most courage and the first spark of excellence comes from those who invoked the first changes to create it. To be the first of anything is no small feat, but to do so amongst the adversity and discrimination that is so intimately tied to our past, and, in some places, our present, is an immense triumph. Often, there are people who stand out as pioneers of this sort. Not least among such people is the first African American to receive a DVM from Texas A&M, Dr. James L. Courtney. Courtney, a native Texan from Palestine, Texas, came to Texas A&M as an undergraduate student during James Earl Rudder’s administration at the university. He and one other student, Leon J. Greene, became the first African American undergraduate students to graduate from Texas A&M in January 1967. After earning his bachelor’s degree in veterinary science that year, Dr. Courtney stayed at the university and went on to pursue his DVM degree from the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). In 1970, he became the first African American to graduate from the veterinary school with his DVM. Courtney remained an active alumnus of the university and received an “Outstanding Alumni Award” from the CVM in 1998. Courtney’s career led him into private practice for a short time, and then to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he worked in the Meat and Poultry Inspection Program until his retirement. Although Courtney was the first African American DVM graduate of
In 1970, James L. Courtney became the first African American to graduate from the veterinary school with his DVM. He received an “Outstanding Alumni Award” from the CVM in 1998. the college, he was preceded by Dr. Edward B. Evans as the first licensed African American veterinarian in Texas. Even so, Courtney remained among a small number of licensed and practicing African American veterinarians in the state, and his commitment to excellence helped to pave the way for more and more students to enroll in Texas A&M University and graduate from the school. In honor of Courtney’s achievements as a pioneering student, and of his accomplishments and dedication to his field, the Texas A&M Black Graduate Student Association created the “James L. Courtney Achievement Award.” Almost two hundred students have been chosen to receive the award since its establishment. Among such changes as integration of the student body during Courtney’s time as a student came several other changes to the university. During the few years surrounding Courtney’s graduation from the undergraduate program at Texas A&M, the university had also approved female applicants for study at the university and elected to make membership in the Corps of Cadets voluntary. These changes opened up even more opportunities for the student body to grow and prosper. Courtney’s generation proved a generation of change and commitment to a new way of thinking among universities and collegiate scholars. Even now, as Texas A&M continues to advance the “One World, One Health”
movement among all disciplines of medicine and academia, we are reaping the benefits of people like Courtney, who took advantage of change and worked unfalteringly to provide for a new and better future until his death on September 28, 2000. For the CVM, these kinds of benefits are integral to the pursuit of excellence and honor in the classroom, in the community, and ultimately in the lives and careers of the students Texas A&M has helped to achieve greatness.
Winter 2014 •
Alumni News by Caroline Neal
Crawford named AVMA Congressional Fellow Dr. Chase Crawford
Each year, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) selects three veterinarians in a highly competitive process to serve in the AVMA Congressional Fellowship program in Washington, D.C. Chosen among 20 for this year’s term was 2014 DVM graduate of Texas A&M University, Dr. Chase Crawford. “In order to be selected, each candidate must advance through several rounds of the selection process, which involves essays, interviews, and scenario-based evaluation,” said Crawford. “Eventually, three veterinarians are selected by the AVMA to join a fellowship class of thirty-three congressional fellows, the rest being selected by other professional associations.” Starting in August, the AVMA fellows began serving in D.C. as scientific 106 •
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advisors to members of Congress, where they will use their scientific background to shape legislation and regulations that affect animal and public health and the future of veterinary medicine. Every Congressional Fellow
is placed in either a personal office or committee within the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives for a term of one year through an extensive interview process. “I am grateful to have been selected by Senator Al Franken’s (D-Minnesota) office to work on their agriculture portfolio,” said Crawford. “Senator Franken’s support of the swine producers during the PEDv (porcine epidemic diarrhea virus) outbreak as well as the farmers of his state are what made his office so appealing.” Focusing on issues related to the One Health concept during his time at Texas A&M, Crawford has also gained valuable experience working at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as well as the World Health Organization. “Fortunately, at Texas A&M I had mentors like Kenita Rogers and Dan Posey who encouraged me to participate in various TVMA committees and legislative days at the Capitol in Austin,” said Crawford. “These experiences really highlighted how important it was for veterinarians to be involved in the legislative process. Crawford appropriates a common Texas A&M saying, “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” He says, “The same is true for D.C., and it has been quite an eye-opening experience to work in this environment. While I know I can provide a unique perspective as a veterinarian, I am extremely excited to be learning from everyone that I work with in our office.”
“I am grateful to have been selected by Senator Al Franken’s (D-Minnesota) office to work on their agriculture portfolio.”
~Dr. Chase Crawford
I Anlumni Memoriam News Class of 1945 Edward P. “Doc” Maddox III, 91, of Kingwood, Texas, died June 16, 2014. Class of 1948 Sam B. Kelsey, 87, of Deport, Texas, died November 29, 2014. James F. Sousares Jr., 92, of College Station, Texas, died September 23, 2014. Class of 1949 Joseph B. Doak, 86, of Dallas, Texas, died May 12, 2014. Edward Guy Batte, 93, of Southern Pines, North Carolina, died November 9, 2014. Class of 1950 Billy Robert Mayse, 87, of Lake Jackson, Texas, died July 2, 2014. Class of 1951 Donald Jean “Doc” McDermith, 86, of Mountain View, Missouri, died June 11, 2014. Clifton Eldred Pfeil, 85, of Refugio, Texas, died October 17, 2014. Class of 1952 Bill R. Ellsworth, 85, of Seattle, Washington, died October 24, 2014. Class of 1953 James Edward Cates, 86, of Conroe, Texas, died July 30, 2014. Class of 1954 Billy Young Parker, 84, of Fort Worth, Texas, died December 7, 2014. Class of 1955 Warren Alvord Criswell, 89, of Bay City, Texas, died July 14, 2014. Class of 1956 J. Peverly Broussard, 83, of Kaplan, Louisiana, died August 7, 2014. John Ray Watkins, 85, of Houston, Texas, died November 26, 2013. Class of 1957 Howard H. Hargroder, 81, of Eunice, Louisiana, died November 24, 2014. Class of 1958 Fred Hartman, 79, of Austin, Texas, died October 9, 2014. Charles “Charlie” Farrell Wilson, 84, of Friendswood, Texas, died November 13, 2014. Class of 1960 Donald R. Clark, 81, of Bryan, Texas, died August 14, 2014.
Class of 1961 James E. “Jim” Hall, 87, of Everman, Texas, died December 2, 2014. Class of 1964 Robert “Bob” Johnson Hoyland III, 73, of Bandera, Texas, died April 6, 2014. Class of 1968 Ronald Jay Orrell, 72, of College Station, Texas, died July 17, 2014. Class of 1969 Ralph M. Engelmann, 67, of College Station, Texas, died August 25, 2014. John Treadwell of Austin, Texas, died December 14, 2014. Class of 1972 Nancy Rowe Cox, 65, of Auburn, Alabama, died August 1, 2014. David James Elliott, 70, of Houston, Texas, died June 7, 2014. Class of 1973 George W. Beeler Jr., 64, of Crockett, Texas, died August 19, 2014. Robert O. Colvin, 67, of Boerne, Texas, died August 22, 2014. R.W. “Dickey” Moreland, 71, of Gatesville, Texas, died October 12, 2014. Class of 1984 Scott P. Lumpee, 55, of Burleson, Texas, died December 4, 2014.
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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 Larry Wadsworth
Looking forward to the dawn of another 100 years