Texas A&M CVM To Lead $3.3-Million Project Investigating Inter-Individual Differences In Chemical Toxicity

A team of researchers at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and College of Medicine, in collaboration with scientists at North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota, have been awarded a five-year, multi-million-dollar grant by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

The $3.3-million project was funded as part of a highly competitive call for proposals to explore population-based models to better understand the linkages between chemicals and their potential adverse health effects in both humans and animals.

Using the chemical butadiene, the team will test the linkages between DNA damage—changes to cells’ chromatin—and genetic differences among individuals. This work will be conducted using novel, experimental tools to study inter-individual variability in a mouse population called “Collaborative Cross” and human cells from more than 100 individuals.

The researchers participating in this project—including collaborator Dr. Natalia Tretyakova, a professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Minnesota—have previously established that butadiene, a chemical used industrially in the production of synthetic rubber and is also present in cigarette smoke, is linked to DNA damage.

“It is well established that exposure to butadiene can result in damage to the genomic code of cells and, thus, has been classified as a known carcinogen in humans and animals,” said Dr. Ivan Rusyn, a professor of toxicology in the CVM’s Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS). “But even though this chemical can damage DNA in all cells, it doesn’t cause cancer in every tissue, as has been shown by studies in animals.

“This means there are additional mechanisms that may be protective or that make certain tissues more susceptible, and we want to understand the factors that make those certain tissues or certain individuals more or less susceptible to the potential adverse effects of butadiene and other chemicals,” he said.

“This project relied on a series of previous studies that showed that if different strains of mice are exposed to the same amount of this chemical, there are very different amounts of DNA damage,” he said.

The study is significant because while the potential for inter-individual variability in the effects of pharmaceuticals on humans are studied through clinical trials, the effects of environmental factors are not investigated for their potential to be more hazardous to certain individuals.

“The reason the NIH is interested in determining which experimental models can be used to study variability in responses to environmental chemicals is that almost all of the testing that is done now is based on rodent strains that are, essentially, identical twins of each other,” said Dr. Fred Wright, a statistical geneticist from North Carolina State University and a collaborator on the study. “So, while we do have much data on the safety or hazards of many chemicals in those particular model systems, we make leaps of faith to then generalize to the human population without data on inter-individual variability.”

Translationally, research has generally worked the same way in humans—one population is studied through research such as a clinical trial, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the results are applicable to all humans around the world.

Ultimately, by exposing human cells from different individuals to butadiene through studies that aim to translate findings from mouse population to humans, the researchers also will be able to better ascertain how their findings can be related to human health.

“The practical application of this project is that we really are trying to understand what, if any, polymorphisms (genetic differences among individuals) actually confer susceptibility or resistance to DNA damage in general,” said Dr. David Threadgill, distinguished professor and director of the Texas A&M Institute for Genome Sciences and Society. “If we would understand that, we can, perhaps, enable improvements in testing future chemicals, in understanding what these chemicals can do when individuals have these particular polymorphisms.”

“It’s a very aspirational goal, and may not get there in five years, but it’s both fundamental research and a project that will generate knowledge that is more immediately applicable to the decision-making with respect to chemicals and their hazard in people,” Rusyn said.

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

Texas A&M Veterinary Students Prepare For 26th Annual Open House

Open House DemonstrationAnimal lovers of all ages can experience in a single day a year’s worth of the activities shared by students in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) during the 26th annual Vet School Open House on March 30.

Coordinated by hundreds of veterinary students and undergraduates, the event opens the doors to the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Center (VBEC), the Large Animal Hospital, and the Small Animal Hospital for a day of fun-filled activities, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“I distinctly remember attending my first Vet School Open House as a junior in high school, and truthfully, I believe it played a large role in guiding me to where I am today,” said Hunter Enderle, Open House co-director and third-year veterinary student. “After attending that Open House, I knew this was the school I wanted to attend and that veterinary medicine was the career that I would pursue.

“I’m so excited to be a part of an event that has such a meaningful impact; I’m glad I can help continue this tradition and inspire future aggie veterinarians like myself,” he said.

Attendees have the opportunity to tour the Small and Large Animal Hospitals, explore many different exhibits from rescues and other organizations, and watch talent demonstrations by animal groups.

Teddy Bear SurgeryOther popular activities include a teddy bear “surgery,” where children can learn about suturing; the dog kissing booth; the petting zoo; and the Exotics Room, which features dozens of reptiles. Food trucks will also be on-site.

In addition, Texas A&M students coordinate with area schools to create exhibitions of student artwork by children from elementary and middle schools across the country.

“Being a part of Open House has been one of the highlights of my time in veterinary school, and I am so proud of all of the students who have spent countless hours preparing for this event,” said Victoria Grimsley, Open House co-director and third-year veterinary student. “Open House has something to offer for everyone; there are countless opportunities for fun, while also learning about what makes veterinary medicine so great.

“I hope that by hosting this event each year, we are able to inspire the next generation of veterinarians and further strengthen the human-animal bond,” she said.

All activities are free to the public, and families with children of all ages are welcome. While registration is not required, those interested in touring the Small Animal Hospital are encouraged to pre-register by emailing OHSAHCoordinators@cvm.tamu.edu with a name, the number of adults/children in the group, and what time the group would like to tour.

Although the event began over two decades ago, the heart behind the open house remains the same.

boy peering into cageVet School Open House started in 1993 as a small showcase of the college’s facilities with a petting zoo.

The event is much larger now, but it still gives the public a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the country’s premiere veterinary schools, all while learning about all the opportunities and best practices in the field of veterinary medicine.

For more information about the event, including frequently asked questions, and updates, visit vetmed.tamu.edu/openhouse, or follow the event on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more updates and announcements.

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

 


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Planning to Serve: Veterinary Students Aspire to Practice in Rural Communities

Luke Domas

Luke DomasBorn and raised in Orange, Texas—a small town that runs along the Texas-Louisiana border—Luke Domas grew up on his family’s farm, surrounded by dogs, cats, chickens, horses, rabbits, goats, and a few cows. The desire to be near animals seemed almost innate for Domas, and for as long as he can remember, becoming a veterinarian has been the plan for his future.

“I wanted to be a veterinarian before I could even say the word,” Domas joked. “My mom says that I would say I wanted to be an ‘animal doctor’ when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Those feelings stayed the same as I completed high school and entered college.”

With three older siblings, who all attended Texas A&M University, Domas said the choice was a no-brainer when it came time to apply for college.

“Shortly after my oldest sister started at Texas A&M, my entire closet turned maroon with Aggie T-shirts,” he said. “I loved visiting my siblings whenever I could, and I loved getting to attend Midnight Yell, football games, and several events on campus.”

Along with his love for the university and its beloved traditions, Domas said he wanted to attend Texas A&M because of the outstanding reputation of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). In 2015, Domas received his bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and is currently in his fourth year of veterinary school.

“I think the biggest enjoyment I have had while at Texas A&M is knowing that I received a top-notch education,” he said. “Although the long nights of studying were not the most pleasant, it’s nice to look back at what I have accomplished while being here.”

After graduation, Domas would like to get back to his small-town roots and eventually practice mixed animal medicine in a rural community.

“Growing up in a small community, I have seen first-hand how important it is to have access to quality veterinary care,” Domas said. “There is a growing need for good clinicians in rural settings, and I hope to help bridge that gap. Although I love cats, dogs, and other family pets, my strong desire to care for large animals would not be as easily fulfilled in an urban setting.”

As graduation grows nearer and his dreams become reality, Domas is thankful for the invaluable experiences and education he has received while at Texas A&M.

“The additional opportunities provided through the school to travel to outlying locations and care for cattle, equine, and exotic animals during various rotations have given me real-world experiences in a rural setting. Coupled with the experience I gained here working in the hospitals, I feel I have a strong foundation to carry on once I graduate,” he said. “The academic training at A&M and the College of Veterinary Medicine has prepared me to handle a wide variety of cases that I may encounter in the future.”

Taylor Williams

Taylor WilliamsTaylor Williams, a second-year student in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), is excitedly awaiting the day she can begin working as a veterinarian in the Texas Panhandle region. Growing up in the Panhandle, Williams noticed a lack of rural veterinarians and decided to do her part in solving this issue by returning home after graduation to start her own mixed animal veterinary practice.

“My plan is to serve the need for rural area veterinarians in the Panhandle by offering a variety of services for a variety of species,” she said. “Working in the Panhandle is an attractive option for me because without access to a large referral hospital in that area, I will have the opportunity to work on a variety of species and to be outside of my comfort zone in assisting animals that may otherwise not get veterinary care.”

In addition to the variety of animal species she will care for, Williams is excited to go home.

“I thoroughly enjoy the people in the Panhandle and the amount of passion they have for the livestock they raise,” she said. “It excites me to get to be a part of their livelihood and assist them in their production.”

Williams grew up in Amarillo, where she gained experience in agriculture through FFA, 4-H, and programs sponsored by West Texas A&M (WT). She worked for a local veterinary practice and judged horses while attending WT for her undergraduate education.

“Not only did attending WT allow me to save money, due to low tuition costs and close proximity to my home, but the agriculture department there was also a perfect fit for me,” Williams said.

After graduating from WT, Williams had no doubt that Texas A&M University was where she would go to pursue her veterinary degree.

“Texas A&M was the only school I would consider because of the prestigious reputation it had and the fact that it was located in my home state,” Williams said. “Furthermore, Texas A&M offers the most reputable large animal program I am aware of, and I knew I could gain skills that I could take back to the Panhandle in the future.”

Williams said one of her favorite things about Texas A&M is getting to work with faculty who are more than willing to teach by sharing their experiences.

“In a short amount of time, I have gained an invaluable resource through connections at Texas A&M and lifelong mentors I will be able to keep in touch with even when I am back in the Panhandle,” she said.

She also appreciates that the A&M veterinary program is helping her prepare for a career in working with large animals, which she will often see in the Panhandle.

“The new curriculum contains a surprisingly large amount of large animal material,” she said. “I was not expecting to be given the opportunity to have hands-on large animal experience so early on in veterinary school.”

Once she returns to the Panhandle, Williams plans to help WT pre-veterinary students by offering internships at her veterinary practice. She is excited to serve her community and invest in future veterinarians.

Trent Dozier

Trent DozierThe Aggie War Hymn is not a typical lullaby for babies, but it was for Trent Dozier.

“I was raised as an Aggie and I never really knew there were other options,” he laughed.

Now a class of 2019 Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) student, Dozier is learning veterinary skills in order to one day help the hard-working ranchers of West Texas.

Dozier grew up on his family’s farm helping his father, Dr. Warren Dozier, who is a mobile large animal veterinarian in Fisher County, Texas.

“Growing up, I spent a lot of time working our cattle with my dad, as well as for other producers throughout the area,” Dozier said.

After finishing high school in Trent, Texas, where his graduating class comprised only 13 people, Dozier earned his bachelor’s degree in animal science through courses taken at Cisco College, Blinn College, and finally, Texas A&M.

“I knew that I eventually wanted to apply to veterinary school, and A&M has one of the top veterinary programs in the world,” Dozier said.

After he graduates from the CVM, Dozier plans to move back to West Texas to practice large animal medicine.

He and his wife, Blair, have been married for 10 years and are excited about becoming part of a community where they can raise their two daughters, 5-year-old Wimberley and newborn Waverley.

“There are a lot of good, hard-working families in West Texas that continue to dedicate their lives to keeping agriculture and the western way of life alive,” Dozier said. “It would be a great privilege to work day in and day out with these salt-of-the-earth people to ensure that the livestock and ranching industry continues to endure for generations to come.”

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Note: This article appears in the Spring 2019 edition of CVM Today.

For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

Texas A&M Professors Perform First Humerus Repair On Polar Bear

prepping Nora for surgery
Drs. Jeffrey Watkins and Kati Glass, and the rest of their team, prep Nora for surgery. Photo courtesy of Hogle Zoo Graphics Department

As veterinary surgeons in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Large Animal Hospital, a lot rests in the hands of Drs. Jeffrey Watkins and Kati Glass. Sometimes their work can be a matter of life and death; other times, an animal’s quality of life may be at stake.

Perhaps none more so than when Watkins received a call from Utah’s Hogle Zoo asking for assistance with a 3-year-old, 500-pound polar bear named Nora.Either way, the pressure to perform can be intense.

Nora, who has accrued quite a following on social media because of her story—having been abandoned by her mother after birth and being hand raised by zookeepers in Ohio before making her way to Salt Lake City—was not acting herself when her keepers found that she had broken her right humerus.

After reaching out to a small animal surgeon at the University of California, Davis, the zoo was referred to Watkins, a professor of large animal surgery in the CVM, who had recently traveled to the UC Davis to repair a fractured humerus on a foal.

While Watkins had never operated on a bear, his expertise in developing specialized equipment and implants for repairing unique fractures led him to accept the challenge.

“There were many unknowns, but we were interested in trying to help if we possibly could,” he said. “We made contact and started to have a conversation about whether this might work.”

In addition to whether the fracture could be repaired, Watkins said logistics of the repair were of the utmost concern.

“First and foremost, I knew I was going to need good help, so that’s where Dr. Glass came in. Second was making sure that we had the right equipment,” Watkins said. “Then, DePuy Synthes really came through for us with some equipment that was key for us to be able to do the job.

“The Large Animal Hospital was very supportive, our department was very supportive, and with DePuy Synthes on board, it all came together,” he said.

But the challenges and concerns weren’t over.

nora fracture
An X-ray image of Nora’s injury

Recognizing that they had no experience working with polar bears, and really weren’t even familiar with polar bear anatomy, Glass went to work, researching to learn all she could.

“When Dr. Glass went to the literature, she found our most useful reference for polar bear anatomy was 1880; so, there was really no reference material for us to go on,” Watkins said.

“There are a lot of really neat things about polar bears that now I know,” Glass said. “It turns out, they’re pretty similar to grizzly bears, evolutionarily speaking. They’re kind of cousins on that front.”

She also learned that from a veterinary standpoint, polar bears are treated, most often, like a dog. However, Glass and Watkins knew that a traditional dog approach would not be a viable option.

“Most importantly, the implant we were relying on to fix the fracture needed to actually fit a polar bear and it needed to be something that would be strong enough to handle her weight,” Glass said.

While working to answer those basic questions, Glass discovered that Nora is famous.

“She has people who follow her on Facebook and Instagram and visit her at the zoo; there are these cute little cuddly pictures of her as a baby, growing up, and with people interacting with her,” Watkins said. “So now we’ve got a little more pressure on us to perform.”

Undeterred, Watkins and Glass headed to Utah to perform the procedure. After a small snafu involving getting their luggage containing sterilized instruments cleared through airport security, the two arrived and performed the procedure, successfully implanting an intramedullary, interlocking nail Watkins had developed to stabilize the fractured humerus.

 Watkins and Glass “The surgery took quite a bit longer than we had hoped it would; it was difficult,” Watkins said, adding that the procedure took around five hours. “Instead of an acute fracture, we were dealing with a more chronic situation, which required much more effort to bring the fractured ends of the bone into alignment; we all were exhausted once that was finally accomplished. However, we were happy with the fact that we got the bone realigned and stabilized in a normal position.”

While they were initially concerned that Nora may rely too heavily on her broken limb, which might hinder her healing, Watkins reports that a few weeks after the surgery, Nora is recovering well. Zoo keepers are continuously updating them on Nora’s progress through videos and social media updates.

“It’s challenging. You can’t do a lot of postoperative care, first, because she’s a bear and, second, in trying to evaluate how she’s doing from Texas; you can only do so much,” Watkins said.  “But the veterinarians and caretakers at the Hogle Zoo are very knowledgeable and are doing a fantastic job of looking after her.”

“This is the hard part of orthopedic surgery—the waiting—but so far, so good,” Glass said. “The next step is to see how the bone does and we won’t know that for several weeks to months at this point. Her caretakers are doing an excellent job, and she’s doing a great job of taking her medications, but we will be kind of in this waiting zone for a while.”

Watkins attributed the successful surgery to the quality of care provided by team members who joined them from across the U.S., including Dr. Alessio Vigani, from the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine, who, along with Dr. Erika Crook, an associate veterinarian at the Hogle Zoo, were responsible for the anesthesia. In addition, Dr. Peter Chalmers, from the University of Utah Department of Orthopaedic Medicine, assisted with the surgery.

“The entire team of veterinarians, zookeepers, and staff at Hogle Zoo are to be commended for Nora’s excellent care before surgery, as well as post-operatively,” Watkins said. “It was, and continues to be, a team effort.”

While Nora’s case carried its fair share of stressors and the outcome is anything but assured, ultimately, it’s “all in a day’s work” for the Texas A&M veterinarians.

“As veterinarians, our job is to help the animal, first and foremost,” Glass said. “To know that this implant—which Dr. Watkins has spent years designing, developing, and finding the best ways to use—could have an application for other large animals and that a fracture that we historically thought really didn’t have a good surgical option could be repaired—I think that’s really exciting.”

“There really weren’t any other good options for Nora. The technique and implants we’ve developed to get these kinds of fractures reduced and stabilized, it’s a system that works, and we want to make it available as often as possible,” Watkins said. “At the end of the day, our primary concern is for Nora, and hopefully, our efforts will reflect favorably on the College of Veterinary Medicine and Texas A&M.”

To learn more about Nora or to follow her progress, visit Hoglezoo.org.

 

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

CVM’s Rogers Named Recipient of AAVMC 2019 Iverson Bell Award

Dr. Kenita S. RogersThe Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) has named Dr. Kenita S. Rogers, executive associate dean at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), as the recipient of the 2019 Iverson Bell Award.

The award is presented in recognition of outstanding leadership and contributions in promoting opportunities for underrepresented minorities in veterinary medical education.

“Dr. Rogers’s ongoing efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and in our profession, as a whole, have been extraordinary,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M. “Her work has had a tremendous impact on the reputation the CVM has developed in making the college a welcoming, thriving, and inclusive climate for all. We are so proud of all that Dr. Rogers has accomplished and that she is being honored for that work with this award.”

“The AAVMC is proud to recognize outstanding educators and researchers like Dr. Rogers who elevate academic veterinary medicine and inspire others through their commitment to professional excellence and service,” said AAVMC chief executive officer Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe. “We look forward to publicly honoring her for her achievements during our 2019 annual conference.”

Rogers will receive her award during the AAVMC’s 2019 Annual Conference and Iverson Bell Symposium, March 8-10, at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., where she will also address attendees.

“I am thrilled and humbled to receive the Iverson Bell award,” Rogers said. “I believe that it actually represents a great deal of creative and consistent work by the students, staff, and faculty of the CVM in the areas of climate, inclusion, diversity, wellness, and conflict management.  I couldn’t be prouder of the passion and dedication of our incredible, collective team.”

In addition to serving as executive associate dean at the CVM, Rogers is the college’s director for inclusion and diversity.

In this capacity, she has worked to develop memoranda of agreements (MOAs) with four Texas A&M University System schools for pipeline recruitment, including one historically black university and two Hispanic-serving institutions. She also has infused the CVM’s curriculum with multiple diversity initiatives, including mandatory cultural competency and conflict management in all years and adding diversity awareness and cultural competency as required core competencies.

Her efforts also led the CVM to receive the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award for Diversity in Health Professions for two consecutive years.

Rogers has presented on topics such as implicit bias at multiple national meetings and served on numerous national committees, including the AAVMC Diversity Committee and the steering committee for the Southeast DiVersity Matters Symposium. She has served as co-adviser for the national Broad Spectrum Association and received the national Broad Spectrum LGBTQ+ Awareness Award.

“The briefest conversation with her enables quick recognition of a woman with deep-rooted values that include kindness, integrity, respect, leadership, and fairness,” said CVM associate dean for professional programs Dr. Karen Cornell, who was among those who nominated Rogers for the award. “To say that she is passionate about diversity and inclusion would be a gross understatement.”

Rogers is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in the specialties of internal medicine (1987) and oncology (1990), the author of more than 50 articles in refereed journals and 30 book chapters; she also has presented well over 100 continuing education seminars.

She has won numerous teaching awards, including the Norden Distinguished Teaching Award, the Richard H. Davis Teaching Award, and the College-level Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award (1991, 1997, 2003).

In 2009, Rogers was named to the Dr. Charles H. and Mildred Kruse Bridges Chair in Veterinary Medical Education, and in 2011, she became director for diversity and inclusion.

She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in animal and veterinary science from West Virginia University and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from Louisiana State University. She received her Master of Science degree and joined the faculty at Texas A&M University in 1986.

The AAVMC is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect and improve the health and welfare of animals, people and the environment around the world by advancing academic veterinary medicine. Members include 49 accredited veterinary medical colleges in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean Basin, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.

Listen to Rogers discuss her award on the AAVMC’s DiversityMatters podcast here.

 

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

Parker Bestowed AAVMC’s Leadership In Public Policy Award

Dr. Gerald W. Parker Jr.The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) has named Dr. Gerald W. Parker Jr., associate dean for Global One Health at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), as the recipient of the 2019 Sen. John Melcher, DVM Leadership in Public Policy Award.

The award, established in 2007, is presented to current or former faculty, staff, or students at an AAVMC member institution to recognize leadership in public policy that advances veterinary medical education and success in advocating for veterinary medical education on a national or international scale.

His award will be presented during the AAVMC’s 2019 Annual Conference and Iverson Bell Symposium, March 8-10 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., where he will also address attendees.

“The AAVMC is proud to recognize outstanding educators and researchers like Dr. Parker who elevate academic veterinary medicine and inspire others through their commitment to professional excellence and service,” said AAVMC chief executive officer Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe. “We look forward to publicly honoring him for his achievements during our 2019 annual conference.”

In addition to serving as associate dean for Global One Health, Parker is Texas A&M’s campus director for Global One Health and holds a joint appointment at the Bush School of Government Service as director of the Pandemic and Biosecurity Policy Program within the Scowcroft Institute for International Affairs.

Parker has had a long and distinguished career of service to veterinary medicine, the U.S. military, and the U.S. government. He has become an essential resource and well-respected leader in Washington, D.C., on matters pertaining to biodefense, high consequence emerging infectious diseases, global health security, and all-hazards public health and medical preparedness.

He also is a former commander and deputy commander for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and held senior executive level positions at the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD), including serving as the principal deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS and as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for chemical and biological defense at DOD.

He is a member of several advisory boards, including the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity for the director of the National Institutes of Health, Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response for the Governor, and he serves as an ex officio member of the Biodefense Blue Ribbon Study Panel.

Parker is a 2009 recipient of the Distinguished Executive Presidential Rank Award and a 2013 recipient of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Meritorious Civilian Service.

He earned his Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degrees from Texas A&M University, a Master of Science degree from the Industrial College of Armed Forces, and a Ph.D. from the Baylor College of Medicine.

The AAVMC is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect and improve the health and welfare of animals, people and the environment around the world by advancing academic veterinary medicine. Members include 49 accredited veterinary medical colleges in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean Basin, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.

 

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

From West Texas to College Station: Veterinary Students Find Home At Texas A&M

Hayley Morgan

Hayley MorganWith a long-time passion for horses and a desire to study veterinary medicine, Hayley Morgan found herself right at home at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

After completing her bachelor’s degree in animal science from West Texas A&M University, Morgan found herself searching for a veterinary program that matched with her career goals and aspirations. When she looked into the program at Texas A&M, she felt the choice was simple.

“I wanted to focus on equine and mixed animal medicine, and I knew that A&M had an outstanding Large Animal Hospital at which I could learn a lot,” said Morgan, a first-year veterinary student. “I have worked for a few veterinarians who graduated from A&M, and I always admired their knowledge and skills.”

Another major influence in her decision, according to Morgan, was Dr. Dan Posey, academic coordinator for the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC) at West Texas A&M University, whose passion and love for Texas A&M radiated though his teaching. It was enough to make anyone believe his beloved school was a special place, Morgan said.

Now an Aggie, Morgan has felt the spirit and seen first-hand just what Posey was talking about.

“I have loved my time at Texas A&M so far,” she said. “The thing that I have enjoyed the most about A&M is the culture and how passionate all of the faculty and students are about this school and each other. I love how willing everyone is to help and lend a hand for one another.”

Although the transition to a new school may seem overwhelming and scary for some, Morgan felt prepared and confident to begin her new journey.

“So far, my biggest challenge was actually finding a quick way to get from my parking lot to the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex during the first few weeks of school,” she joked.

At West Texas A&M, Morgan encountered hands-on courses centered around food animals and their health and production, an area in which she was not previously knowledgeable. Morgan credits the rigorous curriculum and coursework there for her seemingly easy transition to the classes and workload at A&M.

“West Texas helped prepare me for A&M by providing me with experiences that helped diversify my animal experience,” she said. “Growing up, I had a lot of experience with companion animals and horses, but not so much cattle and other food animals. The courses at West Texas really allowed me to be more successful in the food animal lectures and labs that I’ve had so far at A&M.”

After graduating from veterinary school, Morgan plans to pursue a career in equine or mixed medicine. Eventually, she would like to work at a private or specialty practice. With the knowledge and experience she has gained from her time at West Texas A&M and Texas A&M University, Morgan feels confident she can conquer any and all challenges she may face along the way.

Ashlee Adams

Ashlee AdamsA life-long dream of becoming a veterinarian is becoming a fast reality for Ashlee Adams, a first-year veterinary student at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

Before making the move to Texas A&M University, Adams lived in the Amarillo area, where she first discovered her passion for animals.

After graduating from West Texas A&M in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s degree in animal science, Adams worked as a head veterinary technician at a small animal clinic while applying for veterinary school.

“Ultimately, I chose to come to Texas A&M because they have reached out to and worked with students at West Texas, and they are one of the best veterinary schools you can attend,” Adams said. “It also didn’t hurt that it was affordable and fairly close to home.”

Adams also credits her mentors Dr. Dan Posey, academic coordinator for the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC) at West Texas A&M University, and Dr. Dee Griffin, TVMC director, for making the decision to come to Texas A&M an easy one.

“I met Dr. Posey and Dr. Griffin while working on my master’s at West Texas A&M, and their enthusiasm for the field made me want to pursue being a veterinarian again,” Adams said. “I knew if the professors at Texas A&M were anything like them, I would get an amazing education and have a great time doing it.”

Upon arriving at Texas A&M, the distance from College Station to the Panhandle did not seem too far. However, Adams admits that she experienced her fair share of homesickness in the beginning.

“I’ve never been this far away from my family for an extended period of time,” she said. “Missing my family has been the greatest challenge so far, but they are so supportive and keep me excited about this new experience.”

Aside from a short spell of homesickness, Adams said her transition has been smooth and easy, and the education she received at West Texas has proven beneficial in her courses thus far.

“The classes at West Texas were set up for us to learn and understand information that will be useful for the rest of our lives,” she said. “So far, I’ve used a lot of my class notes from West Texas to help me understand the concepts I am learning here, and I am able to apply what I’m learning now to the experiences I gained at West Texas.”

As Adams continues through her first year of veterinary school, she said she is thankful for the tradition and culture that A&M offers its students and would not trade this experience for anything.

“I really enjoy the team atmosphere that is created by the faculty and students here. We all want to succeed as a team,” she said. “I have been blessed to be elected our class president, and our officer team is a cohesive group of students who truly want the best for everyone.”

After graduation, Adams plans to move back to the Panhandle to work with cattle at a feedlot and practice at a small animal clinic. With the education and experience acquired from both universities under her belt, Adams looks forward to giving back to West Texas in any way she can.

 

Note: This article appears in the Spring 2019 edition of CVM Today.

 

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

CVM Professor, Researcher Elected to Inaugural Class of NAI Senior Members

Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) distinguished professor Stephen H. Safe, is one of six faculty members from across Texas A&M University recently named to the inaugural class of National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Senior Members.

He is among 66 academic inventors selected for the honor.

“This important award recognizes the life-long contributions of Dr. Safe to innovation in scientific discovery that is a goal of all researchers and scientists. Not all of us are able to make such wide-ranging and important contributions as Dr. Safe,” said Larry Suva, head of the CVM’s Department of Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP). “It is high praise for Dr. Safe, our college, and our university that his endeavors have been so highly visible and successful.”

NAI Senior Members are active faculty, scientists, and administrators from NAI member institutions with success in patents, licensing and commercialization. They have produced technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society.

“I am honored to be chosen among this group of scientists,” Safe said. “I have numerous patents out there and this recognition is an honor that I appreciate.”

Over the course of his career, Safe has focused his research efforts on creating molecular compounds to treat or cure cancers. These compounds have been licensed by pharmaceutical companies, and he has more than a dozen patents or patent applications on several compounds/drugs and their applications.

More recently, he found that one of his cancer-treating compounds was effective for treating endometriosis.

“We have two or three compounds that act through different pathways,” Safe said. “We’re right at the point where we’ve shown that they are effective in animal models and in cells. These are big diseases, I am confident that we’re on the right track.”

Safe, who started as a chemist before moving into the fields of environmental toxicology, endocrinology, and molecular oncology—and, ultimately, his laboratory discovered a new mechanism for the way hormones affect breast cancer—attributes the range of successes in his career to following the path that organically developed as each of his projects unfolded.

“Everything we do requires another area of expertise, which often leads us off into a different field,” he said. “Some people will work on the same gene or pathway for their entire career, but I find that when I work on something and learn what I want to know, this usually results in a change of research direction into new and interesting areas of science.”

This inaugural class of NAI Senior Members represents 37 research universities and research institutes. Their names appear on more than 1,100 issued U.S. patents.

Other elected NAI Senior Members from Texas A&M are Mark Benden, School of Public Health; Richard H. Gomer, College of Science; Jaime C. Grunlan, Linda and Ralph Schmidt ’68 Professor, J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering; Duncan J. Maitland, College of Engineering; and Richard Mile, College of Engineering.

“Congratulations to our faculty members who have been elected to this first class of NAI Senior Members,” said Mark A. Barteau, vice president for research and NAI fellow. “This recognition pays tribute to their knowledge, skill and talent as well as to the role that Texas A&M plays in encouraging and nurturing research and innovations from start to finish. Together, these faculty members and Texas A&M are making the world a better place for all of us.”

A full list of NAI Senior Members is available on the NAI website.

The National Academy of Inventors is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, and governmental and non-profit research institutes, with more than 4,000 individual inventor members and fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide.

It was founded in 2010 at the University of South Florida to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

Texas A&M Researchers Prove Mammalian Joint Regeneration Possible

Picture of Ken Muneoka Research by Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) professor Ken Muneoka and his colleagues has opened the doors to the future possibility of regenerating joints in mammals.

His study, “BMP9 stimulates joint regeneration at digit amputation wounds in mice,” published Feb. 5 in Nature Communications, expands on previous research conducted by his laboratory showing that the treatment of digit amputation wounds in mice with a growth factor, called bone morphogenetic protein BMP-2, promotes elongation of the stump bone.

In that study, however, the joint and additional skeletal elements were not regenerated.

Now, Muneoka’s team has devised a method to stimulate joint regeneration following injury in mice using a combination of growth factors.

That growth factor, BMP-9, stimulates the formation of joint structures comprising a synovial cavity and a skeletal element lined with articular cartilage, while the sequential treatment of the wound with BMP-2 and BMP-9 leads to the formation of bone and joint cells.

The authors found that the process also requires cells to express the Prg4 gene to initiate the formation of the synovial cavity.

Unlike amphibians and reptiles, mammals have poor regenerative capabilities, and in response to an amputation or traumatic injury, scar tissue normally forms at the site of the wound.

The authors argue that the results provide evidence that cells in a mammalian amputation wound retain the capacity and information for joint regeneration.

“We have been working on this project for nine years, and there are really two different levels that we can talk about with the study,” Muneoka said. “The first is really a basic science issue; it’s the question of why some animals regenerate and some can’t. For example, salamanders regenerate wonderfully, but mammals, for reasons we don’t understand, don’t regenerate it all.

“There’s this basic idea that regeneration is really an ancient property that evolved very early and then disappeared in some animals and has been regained in some animals,” he said. “There’s good evidence that there is selective pressure to gain or lose regeneration.”

“The other level, which is more clinically relevant, is that joints and joint tissues don’t regenerate, nor does articular cartilage, which forms at the ends of your bones and buffers the stress that we experience on a day-to-day basis. Joint injuries, sports injuries, or diseases like osteoarthritis, are really debilitating; I think they are the biggest cause of disability in the world,” he continued. “The question of how you can replace articular cartilage is in the backdrop of what we’ve been working on, which is what we’re able to regenerate in this process. It really demonstrates that these cells have the ability to replace themselves and we just haven’t figured out how to do that.”

Larry Suva, head of the CVM’s Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP), said that what’s truly incredible about Muneoka’s work is its transformative nature, bringing to mind the Nelson Mandela quote “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“Until this information comes out, the field, the world, basically thinks mammals can’t regenerate a joint. Dr. Muneoka’s work suggests that it is possible—you can regenerate portions of a joint in an animal and recapitulate that structure,” Suva said. “That has a whole variety of translational potentials that may be far down the road, but the road didn’t exist until somebody did the impossible and showed that you could run.

“Dr. Muneoka’s a scientist’s scientist and he’s progressing through this project to understand how each of those tissues can be regenerated,” Suva said. “It might be a long time—after all of our lifetimes—before someone actually regrows an amputee’s or a war victim’s limb, but nobody was even thinking about it (before) because we couldn’t get past regenerating a joint.”

Muneoka said he is thankful for the support he has received at the CVM and in the VTPP department.

“It’s terrific to have the level of support, both financial and moral support that we’re doing the right thing, that I have at the CVM,” he said. “That support was a big factor in my coming to Texas A&M.”

The next step in the study, he says, will be exploring the engineering of an articular cartilage.

The paper is available online at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-08278-4.

 

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

Texas A&M Professor, SeaWorld Perform First Spinal Tap On Bottlenose Dolphin

Nick JefferyA rescued bottlenose dolphin is doing well at SeaWorld San Antonio after the first cerebrospinal fluid tap on a live bottlenose dolphin was performed by a Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) neurology professor Nick Jeffery.

The procedure has now given her a chance at living with other dolphins.

Rimmy, a sub adult female bottlenose dolphin, was stranded on Sea Rim State Park, Texas, in September 2017 when she was approximately 2-3 years old.

She was rescued by the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (TMMSN) and treated for 14 months at their Galveston center for multiple ailments, including pneumonia and nasal parasites, in collaboration with SeaWorld San Antonio’s animal care team.

NOAA Fisheries determined that Rimmy could not be released back to the wild because of her need for continued, long-term medical treatment. In order to find her a permanent home a bacterial infection of the central nervous system or brain needed to be ruled out.

This kind of procedure had never been attempted before on a live dolphin and, without it, Rimmy’s options for finding a new home were limited.

In collaboration with the TMMSN, SeaWorld brought in outside specialists for this first ever procedure, including Jeffery, who regularly performs spinal taps in animals, and Dr. James Bailey, of the Florida-based Innovative Veterinary Medicine, an expert in cetacean anesthesia who used a ventilator designed specifically for dolphins.

“It was nice to be able to contribute to this because it meant that Rimmy could go live a nice life, which she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do,” Jeffery said.

“We do spinal taps very commonly in dogs, and while I initially thought it would be very different in dolphins—because of the shape of the skull and because the relationship of the brain to the spinal cord is completely different—since I’ve completed the procedure, I realize that it’s really straightforward to do,” he said.

SeaWorld veterinarians Dr. Jennifer Camilleri, Dr. Steve Osborn, and Dr. Hendrik Nollens, and SeaWorld’s animal husbandry team rounded out the team of experts.

During the procedure, samples were also collected to examine how the anesthetic drug was metabolized, information that can make future anesthetic procedures possible at other facilities caring for dolphins and whales.

Rimmy, the rescued bottle-nose dolphin
Rimmy, the rescued bottlenose dolphin. 2019©SeaWorld Parks

Rimmy’s groundbreaking procedure was a success.  She recovered completely from the anesthesia, and the much-needed diagnostic samples were collected.  It was found that she did not have the infection of her central nervous system that had been feared and she continues to be cared for at SeaWorld San Antonio while NOAA Fisheries finds Rimmy a permanent home.

“The expertise and creativity to devise new ways to treat marine animals is a testament to the extraordinary lengths our teams will go to preserve the life of every animal,” said Dr. Steve Osborn, a senior veterinarian at SeaWorld San Antonio. “Working in collaboration with experts in the fields of neurology and anesthesia, we were able to successfully extract cerebrospinal fluid from a live cetacean for the very first time.”

SeaWorld San Antonio’s animal hospital, performing radiography, endoscopy, ultrasound, as well as small and large animal anesthesia, has given many rescued animals a second chance at life. SeaWorld’s rescue team is on call 24/7, benefiting more than 33,000 animals over the past 50 years.

 

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)