Oregon State University
Skip navigation

Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Unique Hospital Program Garners Interest From Other Universities

July 12th, 2016
L to R: Hospital volunteer Jeanine Preston, client xxxxx with her dog Chopper, and Client Relations Advocate Tammy Barr.

L to R: Hospital volunteer Jeanine Preston, client Jane-Anne Phillips with her dog Chopper, and Client Relations Advocate Tammy Barr.

Many veterinary colleges have a ‘grateful client’ program in their hospital. Often it is simply a set of communications between the college development director and hospital clients who may want to give back.

At OSU, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) does it differently by placing emphasis on client support through their Client Relations Advocate. Tammy Barr has held that position for two years. “My primary goal is to build relationships with hospital clients,” she says. “I really care about them; that is why I come to work.”

Retired in 2012 from a thirty-year career at OSU, Barr now works on Mondays and Fridays from a desk in the small animal hospital waiting room, where she dispenses dog biscuits, human candy, orange bandanas, and lots of sympathy. As a long-time pet lover, whose own pets have visited the VTH, Barr knows how stressful it can be to sit and wait while your furry friend is getting intensive medical care. “I am there to listen and be a friend,” she says. “Sometimes clients have a long wait by themselves, so I keep them company, learn their stories, and offer support.” She also facilitates communication between hospital employees and clients. “Some clients are worried, and it helps relieve their anxiety if I go back into the hospital and check on their pet’s progress,” she says.

Barr manages the Client Relations Program for CVM Development Director Kelley Marchbanks. She also supervises four volunteers who work on the days she is not on site. “Several of the volunteers live as far away as Cottage Grove and Lincoln City. They come a long way because they love this work,” says Barr. Jeanine Preston volunteers on Tuesdays; Joan and Terry Ferguson volunteer on Wednesdays; and Reed Walter volunteers on Thursdays.

All four volunteers are former hospital clients who are grateful for the excellent care their pets received and want to give back. Other clients choose to give back by making blankets for the ICU, buying pizza for students who work long hours, or helping to purchase a needed piece of equipment.

In her off-site hours, Barr contacts clients to get feedback on their experience at the hospital. She created a set of cards called ‘Tail Wags’ which she fills out and uses to share positive feedback from clients with doctors, technicians, and students.

Several times a year, Barr goes on the road with Marchbanks and college Dean Susan Tornquist to visit hospital clients at home. Dean Tornquist appreciates the opportunity to meet them in person with their pets. “When we visit VTH clients at home, it gives us a glimpse into the role pets play in their lives, and we can see the importance of our services — both medical and emotional — for these families. They are uniformly enthusiastic and thankful for the services they’ve gotten, and the people they’ve met at the VTH. It’s fun to see their pets being happy and healthy at home,” she says.

Because Barr has built her position from scratch, and because it is unique for a university veterinary hospital, she has been asked to speak at the Association of Veterinary Advancement Professionals conference in August. She will describe the program, how it was implemented, and how it is funded. “This position is unique because it is funded primarily by donors,” says Barr. “This is their way of giving back.”

Whether measured in the number of Tail Wags that brighten a doctor’s day, or in the amount of money raised for hospital equipment, the Client Relations Program has been a big success. “It is the best program in the nation,” says Marchbanks. For Barr it is more personal: “I feel like I make a difference in the lives of people and their pets.”


Summer Research Project Takes Brains

July 12th, 2016

CedricCedric Boluda recently completed his second of five years at the Ecole Nationale de Veterinaire in Toulouse, France. OSU veterinary students would say, ‘OMG! Five years of veterinary college!’, but the process works differently overseas. After high school, French students attend two years as an undergraduate then, if they pass an entrance exam, they are admitted to veterinary college.

Another difference between the programs: In France, second year veterinary students are required to participate in a summer research project.

Boluda was fortunate to be selected for the summer research program funded by the CVM Department of Biomedical Sciences, where he will be working with professor Kathy Magnusson investigating memory and aging. “Cedric is helping set up a new technique in the lab: electrophysiological recording,” says Magnusson. “This will allow us to determine if high energy diets influence memory at the cellular level via the gut microbiome.”

Boluda is interested in small animal medicine, and may pursue a specialization in neurosurgery, so his summer assignment with Dr. Kathy Magnussen is right on target: he is part of a team working on electrophysiology. One of the tasks he performs is the preparation of slices of mouse brain, keeping them ‘alive’ in a solution of artificial cerebrospinal fluid. Those slices are then placed on a grid of 64 microelectrodes. “We place the brain on it and choose to send a signal to one electrode,” he says, “Then we record the response of neurons. The aim will be to compare a specific signal, called LTP, in mice on a normal diet versus mice on a high-sucrose diet.”

When he is not working in the lab, Boluda is taking advantage of his first trip to the USA. He has already been to the beach and plans to take a trip to Seattle soon.
Corvallis is a big change from Toulouse, one of the biggest cities in France; conversely, his university is much smaller than OSU.  “We have only veterinary students, so compared with OSU, the campus is really small. It is at the border of the city so we have horses, sheep, cows . . . but my friends and I agree it is more beautiful here. We haven’t so many trees.”

When asked what he likes about Corvallis, Boluda replies, “Everything!  The landscape is very wonderful and people are very kind. I did not know Oregon at all; it is the first time I came to the USA and I was really surprised.”

At the end of summer, when he has completed the lab experiments, Boluda will write a report and prepare a presentation to be given when he returns to France. “I hope the experiments work, and that we see a good difference between the mice on a high-sucrose diet and the mice on a regular diet.”

Professor McKenzie Becomes U.S. Citizen

July 11th, 2016

McKenzie,-EricaSeventeen new U.S. citizens had a stunning backdrop for their naturalization ceremony this year: Crater Lake.

In that group was CVM professor Erica McKenzie, who came to America as a veterinary student from Perth, Australia. “It felt like a very special thing to be here with so few people, and hear the speeches that they gave and how welcoming they were to introduce us to their country and envelop us as part of it — it was pretty incredible,” she says.

The Crater Lake ceremony is one of a hundred being held at National Parks across the country this year. It’s part of the U.S. National Park Service’s centennial celebration. “It was a lot more emotional than I expected it to be,” said McKenzie after the ceremony.

Watch the video.

Heidel Led VDL To Big Benchmarks

July 6th, 2016

HeidelLast week, Dr. Jerry Heidel retired after 27 years at the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Heidel began working at the OVDL as a pathologist in 1988. Ten years later, he was promoted to Interim Director, and then appointed Director in 2000.

“The achievement I am most proud of,” says Heidel, “is obtaining and maintaining full accreditation by the AAVLD.” The American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians accredits labs that meet strict technical and operational standards.

Heidel also steered the VDL into a membership in the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, which coordinates veterinary laboratories with state and federal agencies to provide quick response to large-scale animal disease outbreaks.

At Heidel’s retirement party, many employees spoke to the generous mentorship that Heidel provided over the years. “Jerry provided excellent leadership for 15 years as Director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory,” says Dean Susan Tornquist. “His low-key manner and collegiality provided the basis for a long-time, friendly and productive atmosphere within the VDL, while his focus and determination resulted in VDL accreditation that has continued. He has been a friend and mentor to many in the College.”

Heidel is looking forward to spending more time with his family, but also to staying in touch with the college by working one week a month doing biopsies for the VDL.

Managing A College Farm Takes Animal And People Skills

June 24th, 2016
The team who keeps the farm running (L to R): Kasey Pedder, Peter McPartlin, Ashley Silkett-Butler, and Kim Veldman.

The team who keeps the farm running (L to R): Kasey Pedder, Peter McPartlin, Ashley Silkett-Butler, and Kim Veldman.


On an average day, the large animal hospital houses 25-30 animals. Those animals receive stellar medical treatment from doctors and veterinary technicians, plus an extra dose of attentive care from fourth-year veterinary students. But who provides for their basic needs?

That is where Peter McPartlin comes in. As farm manager, he oversees a team of animal attendants and student workers who not only care for the hospital animals, but also for the teaching herd.  “We have five llamas and alpacas here, and roughly 15 horses, and two cows,” he says. “There are 30 llamas over at RAIL [the field on Campus Way]. We have a lot of pasture for them there. The RAIL folks check them every day. If they have any problems, we pick them up and bring them here.”

A typical day for McPartlin and his team begins at 6 a.m. with the first hospital feeding. Then they clean and disinfect stalls. A couple of hours later, they can turn their attention to the teaching herd and farm chores. Afterwards, they go back to the hospital for the afternoon feeding.

Between hospital patients and herd animals, the college goes through about 72 tons of hay per year, and about 20,000 pounds of feed or grain.

Horses are, by far, the highest maintenance animals in the teaching herd. “You have a big animal that walks on four little legs, and when they are outside in a herd, they act like a group of teenagers,” says McPartlin. “They are always fooling around.”  Sometimes, that creates more work for the farm manager.

“Last month, a mare named Pearl was in a separate paddock with her best friend,” says McPartlin. “I put them there to eat down some grass. She decided that she didn’t like being there, and jumped the fence to be with the other horses.” The fence is four feet high, and Pearl is not a youngster, so she hit the fence and got a big knot on her leg. “I spent one morning fixing the fence she ruined,” says McPartlin.

The horses also get extra care for their feet, from a farrier who comes once a month, and for their teeth, from Dr. Mecham, the herd veterinarian.

In addition to animal care, McPartlin is responsible for keeping the basic operation running. He does everything from repair hoses in the hospital to changing the oil in the tractor. His team even keeps the hospital parking lot tidy.

McPartlin supervises three, full-time animal attendants and about eight, part-time student workers. “The animal attendants are my right hand; I could not do this without them,” says McPartlin. “The student workers are also a valuable part of what we do.”

Some of the student workers come from farms, and have been around large animals before. Others are animal lovers, but need more training to work with the herd. “They maybe had dogs that they loved, and they are thinking about being a veterinarian,” says McPartlin, “but I need to make sure they are comfortable working with large animals before I turn them loose in a stall. They have to be able to read an animal, and understand how it will react under certain conditions, so no one gets hurt.”

One of the things McPartlin likes best about his job is interacting with the fourth-year students on rotation in the hospital. “I walk around the hospital quite a bit, so they stop me and ask for help with the practical aspects of what they are doing. I like to show them what works best.”

His advice often deals with the nuts-and-bolts of hospital issues, sometimes literally. “We have a commercial washer that gets messed up when people leave stuff in their coveralls. I’ve always got screws in mine.  I try to remind everyone to turn their pockets inside-out before they stuff them in the laundry,” he says.

Another challenge for the washing machines is the amount of stall debris clinging to everything. “The leg wraps from the horses get full of sawdust, which clogs things up,” says McPartlin. “I saw a student in the hall yesterday shaking one off, so I stopped and said ‘Great job. That is exactly what we should be doing’.”

That kind of positive interaction with people is something that McPartlin consciously strives to achieve. He sees it as part of the OSU mission to create an environment for people to grow.

“As our society has gotten busier, we don’t always watch our words, or are not as kind as we should be,” he says. “I think when you are working with young people, it is especially important. My team and I try to ‘lay out the red carpet’ for their learning.” McPartlin also extends that courtesy to his staff and coworkers. ”Each of us has to take the responsibility to create a positive environment.”


Heart Disease Research Earns Prestigious NSF Award

June 16th, 2016

RamseyDr. Steven Ramsey, assistant professor in the CVM Department of Biomedical Sciences, earned the prestigious Faculty Early Career Award from the National Science Foundation.

“This award recognizes the quality of Dr. Ramsey’s research, which has significant potential for contributing to our understanding of disease in both humans and other animal species – a good example of One Health,” says Dr. Susan Tornquist, Lois Bates Acheson Dean.

The award is a five year grant that supports both research and educational activities, including outreach to K-12 schools. Ramsey’s research uses computer science to discover genetic factors related to heart disease.

“It’s career making,” says Ramsey. “It’s very significant because the five-year grant enables me to have longevity for my research program. To make research breakthroughs, you need the kind of sustained effort that is enabled by the this award.”

Ramsey’s research looks at massive data sets to examine variations in the human genome. But he is not looking at the genes — instead, he is analyzing the spaces in between the genes, the relatively unstudied portion of the genome that affects 40% of inherited risk for disease. “It’s a needle in a haystack problem,” Ramsey says.

Ramsey’s ultimate goal is to improve health. “If we can better understand the molecular basis of disease, it will help us come up with new targets for drugs to prevent or treat disease,” Ramsey said.

Part of the NSF award requires outreach to kinds. Ramsey plans to bring his excitement about bioinfomatics to high school students through afterschool and summer workshops that will introduce them to modern genetics, including analyzing real data with a genome browser. Initial programs will be held at Oregon State University through pre-college programs. Additionally, Ramsey will be working to develop materials that can be used by any high school across the country.