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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

OSU Founding Faculty Member Blazed a Trail For Women Surgeons to Follow

July 31st, 2014
Pam (Wagner) von Matthiessen was one of the founding faculty at OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Pam (Wagner) von Matthiessen was one of the founding faculty at OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Women make up 57% of the student population of U.S. colleges. In veterinary medicine, women hold 78% of the seats, and now outnumber men in veterinary practice.

When Pam Wagner vonMatthiessen graduated from the UC Davis veterinary program in 1976, it was a different story. Women were rare in veterinary medicine, especially large animal medicine. But vonMatthiessen was a lifelong horse lover with a dream of being an equine surgeon, so she didn’t let the prevailing norms stop her.

After receiving her DVM, vonMatthiessen went on to an internship and residency in equine surgery at WSU under the mentorship of Dr. Barrie Grant. “At that time being a woman in any large animal field was a novelty,” she says. “I distinctly remember hearing ranchers coming in and saying to the receptionist ‘Don’t give me one of those female vets’.  I decided to take it as a challenge and see if I couldn’t change their minds.  And it worked!  I found that by being understanding of their reluctance, listening to their story and being compassionate, a lot of prejudice could be overcome.  By the time I left WSU I had a loyal following.”

VonMatthiessen was lucky to have supportive mentors, both at WSU and, later, at OSU and Tufts. “In the academic setting, which at that time was largely male, I do feel women in large animal surgery had to work harder to be taken seriously,” she says. “My mentors, Dr. Barrie Grant, Dr. Michael Shires [OSU Hospital Director] and Dr. Frank Loew always pushed me to be all I could be, to publish and to give lectures and symposiums, and to take on novel research projects that would help me advance academically in the equine field.”

One of those projects was germinated at a Las Vegas convention on human orthopedic surgery. In 1979, vonMatthiessen and Grant had a dinner conversation about Wobbler Disease with human surgeon Dr. George Bagby. He suggested that human medical techniques using spinal decompression might help horses as well.

That conversation blossomed into a collaboration, where Bagby worked with vonMatthiessen and Grant to develop and test spine stabilization techniques in horses that turned out to be very effective in treating Wobblers. “I went on to do my Master’s thesis on the surgical correction of equine cervical spinal cord compression in horses,” says vonMatthiessen. “The technique has come a long way since then.  At first, we used bone dowels taken from the equine hip bone to stabilize the column.  Since then, a basket of steel, now titanium, has been developed.” [See Animal Connection for related story.]

VonMatthiessen went on to become board-certified in equine surgery in 1984. “She was a ground breaker”, says Dr. Jill Parker, current CVM equine surgeon. “When I started my internship in 1983, there was only one woman (Midge Leitch, 1982) who was board-certified and doing equine surgery. It was very helpful to me to see someone doing what I wanted to do.”

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Students, Staff and Faculty Team Up For Warm Springs Tribes

July 30th, 2014

A team from the CVM large animal hospital, including Drs. Mecham, Montilla, and Estill, helped the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs castrate more than a dozen wild horses last week. Fourth-year students and hospital staff assisted. “It was just an amazing experience,” says Liz Harbert, Student Teaching Tech. “It was really interesting to see the traditional method the tribe used to castrate with cotton string. It’s so different from the way we do it with a Henderson tool.”


Top Row: Angela Bonang, Shelby Zehnder, Travis Feldsher, and  Ariel HogelVorst-Rukke. Bottom Row: Dr. Estill, Annamaria Tadlock, Amanda Profita, Jill Ollivant, Dr. Mecham, Serena Mills, Heather McEvoy, Liz Harbert and Dr. Montilla.


New Admissions Coordinator at CVM

July 30th, 2014

TessCollinsTess Collins is the new Admissions Coordinator for the College of Veterinary Medicine. Tess grew up in Idaho, originally living up north in the panhandle and then moving to Boise to complete her undergraduate degree in psychology. She moved to Corvallis three years ago to complete her Masters of Education degree in College Student Services Administration.

Prior to joining us, Tess worked in the Center for Teaching and Learning at OSU, where she was a Program Coordinator and provided graduate students with trainings and professional development opportunities. Tess is thrilled to have an opportunity to work with pre-vet students and to learn more about the admissions process. Tess has a special interest in working with veterinary students as she has been housemates with two current vet students for almost three years!

Outside of work, Tess enjoys outdoor activities such as running, biking, backpacking, hot springing and gardening. She loves to travel and favorite destinations include Thailand, Central America, and around the PNW. Tess has a cat named Emma Noodles and is an aspiring cat lady.

Been There Done That . . . And It’s Fun!

July 17th, 2014

KMorenoEvery summer at CVM, Dr. Dan Rockey organizes two weeks of veterinary workshops for fifth and sixth-graders from around Oregon. It’s part of OSU’s Adventures in Learning (AIL) and provides hands-on, small-group experiences for high-ability students. This year, Rockey has an assistant who knows all about AIL.

Katie Moreno, a high school junior who participated in the AIL program when she was in grade school, is working as a guide and mentor to the 12 students who visit the OSU Veterinary Hospital each morning. Her job is to greet the students and introduce them to the faculty person who will lead the workshop. She also answers questions and keeps an eye on the students so they don’t wander off.

Yesterday, Katie helped large animal internist, Dr. Keith Poulsen, herd the group through Magruder hall and into a stall where Clementine, a teaching cow with a surgically attached fistula, was waiting.

First Dr. Poulsen used a model of a bovine rumen to demonstrate how a cow digests food. Then CVT Betsy Snyder showed the kids how to put on arm-length gloves and Dr. Poulsen invited them to step up and reach inside Clementine’s rumen.

Most of the kids thought it was pretty cool,” says Moreno, “but some were grossed out. One guy wasn’t going to do it, but the other kids encouraged him and he gave it a try.”

Moreno is used to being around veterinary hospitals; her mom is Dr. Sarah Maxwell, a veterinary opthalmologist who occasionally teaches at CVM.

One of Moreno’s favorite memories of her AIL veterinary experience was dissecting brains in the necropsy room. “That was very interesting and something you could not do anywhere else,” she says. Moreno also remembers watching a dog on the underwater treadmill. “When the dog got off the treadmill, it ran up the ramp and jumped in the therapy pool. It was pretty funny and he splashed everyone,” she says.

Dr. Keith Poulsen helps a student find the digested grass inside a cow rumen.

Dr. Keith Poulsen helps a student find the digested grass inside a cow rumen.

Veterinary Holistic Medicine Conference in Portland

July 17th, 2014

holistic-ConferenceAmerican Holistic Veterinary Medical Association’s annual conference is being held in Portland this year. Experts in holistic and integrative modalities will speak and CE credit is available.
For more information, visit the website.


New Executive Assistant to the Dean

July 17th, 2014
Rhonda got Butterbean and Peggy Sue from the local animal shelter.

Rhonda got Butterbean and Peggy Sue from the local animal shelter.

Rhonda Hankins, the new Executive Assistant to the Dean at CVM, has over a decade of experience providing administrative support to leaders in higher education. She especially enjoys cultivating donor relations, a primary link between the university and the community.

Rhonda has a Master’s in Information Science from The University of Texas at Austin, a Master’s in International Studies from Claremont Graduate University, and a BA with a major in journalism from Cal State Northridge. She taught English as a Second Language in Tokyo for 14 years, working in universities and with corporate clients. While living in Japan she made time to travel widely throughout the world.

Here in Corvallis, Rhonda lives quietly with her husband David. Regrettably, their two dogs do not live quietly; they live very noisily indeed.