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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Volunteer Brings Color And Comfort To The Hospital

August 18th, 2016
Dianne Ostergaard visits with Maggie who is enjoying one of the padded fleece kennel liners that Ostergaard makes for the hospital.

Diane Ostergaard visits with Maggie who is resting on one of the padded, fleece kennel liners that Ostergaard made for the hospital.

Six years ago, Diane Ostergaard brought her cat, Wolf, to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Wolf was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer and treated with chemotherapy. The treatment was successful and Wolf lived two and a half more years. This was how the hospital found one of its most creative volunteers.

“When I was visiting my cat in the ICU, I noticed that the kennel beds were made with an assortment of towels. I wanted to do something nice for the staff, and I like to sew, so I made them some padded, fleece kennel liners in bright colors with animal prints,” says Ostergaard. They were a huge hit and she has been making them ever since; she made 70 for OSU this year alone.

Animal attendant Peggy Muths really appreciates the fleece beds. “They are awesome!” she says “They are, of course, comfy for the pets, but they also are easy to launder and store.  They take a beating and still come out looking great.”

Each time Ostergaard sews a fleece kennel liner, she is left with a long, one inch strip. Over the years, she has saved those in big garbage bags. “I didn’t want to waste them,” she says. This year she taught herself to crochet those strips into beautiful, multi-colored pet beds that look like soft bowls. Cats especially like them because they can lay down semi-hidden.

In addition to making beds for the hospital, Ostergaard also makes them for the Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center. The staff there like the loose structure of the crocheted bed; they use if for their injured ducks because it allows air to flow. They also like the fleece because a baby bird’s claws won’t get caught in it.

Ostergaard also donates pet beds to adoption events sponsored by local pet stores. “But OSU comes first,” she says.

It takes a lot of fleece to make all those beds, so Ostergaard shops the sales at fabric stores. “My dining room table is stacked with fleece,” she says, “but I really enjoy doing it.” Her husband, Terry, helps her lay out and cut the big pieces.

Making so many pet beds over the years means Ostergaard has the process down to a science. “I would be happy to teach someone how to do it, if they were interested in helping other animal rescue organizations,” she says. You can email her at terry.ostergaard@gmail.com for instructions.

Volunteer coordinator Tammy Barr holds a crocheted fleece pet bed made by Dianne Ostergaard.

Client Advocate Tammy Barr holds a crocheted fleece pet bed made by Diane Ostergaard.

Hospital Improvement Initiative Works From Within

August 4th, 2016
Engineering professor Chinweike Eseonu meets with a committee of hospital staff who are working on process improvement.

Engineering professor Chinweike Eseonu meets with a committee of hospital staff who are working on process improvement.

Thanks to television shows like Grays Anatomy, most Americans are familiar with the way a surgery suite is organized: a nurse oversees a tray of instruments that have been laid out in a precise order, so when the surgeon says, ‘Scalpel!’, she can slap the instrument into his hand. It’s good drama, but it also makes sense medically; it lets the surgeon focus on the patient, and it minimizes opportunity for infection. That method of organizing a surgery was developed by an engineer named Frank Gilbreth, who was a pioneer in motion studies.

At the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, medicine and engineering meet again through OSU Professor Chinweike Eseonu and the graduate students in his Process Improvement Group (PIG).

Eseonu has developed a system of goals called the ‘Quadruple Aim’. Health care organizations across the country have been using the Triple Aim for years; it seeks to improve patient experience, improve patient health outcomes, and reduce the cost of care. “What they have found is that there is a missing component in the drive to measure all those things and get reimbursed,” says Eseonu, “That component is employee experience. With the Quadruple Aim, our primary focus is on improving employee experience, and then working backwards.”

Eseonu believes that to improve employee experience, you have to give them ownership of their processes. “Then, in spite of whatever happens, even if there is a total breakdown in management, people want to make things work well.”

Phase one of process improvement began at the hospital in November when Eseonu and his team met with staff from reception to get their ideas for improving front desk processes. “One thing we don’t want to do – that a lot of process improvement folks have done in the past – is come in and say, ‘Based on our previous knowledge this is what needs to happen here — do this.’  In three months we would be back at square one. So our new approach, which has yielded success elsewhere, is very, very collaborative.”

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Professor Discovers Research Fallacy

August 3rd, 2016

ZebrafishDr. Sean Spagnoli, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, was featured in the latest issue of Nature. He discovered that a common parasite that infects laboratory zebrafish may have been confounding the results of years of behavioural experiments.

Zebrafish are fast replacing white mice in research labs worldwide for the study of everything from the effects of drugs, to genetic diseases and disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. Since both zebrafish and people are highly social, researchers think that zebrafish may be a better lab model for some human behaviours than rodents.

Zebrafish demonstrate their preference for each other by clustering into shoals – a social behaviour that researchers  measure when they want to test how drugs affect zebrafish stress and anxiety levels, as a proxy for potential human responses. But this behaviour can change when fish are infected with a neural parasite called Pseudoloma neurophilia. Spagnoli found that individual fish infected with P. neurophilia swim closer to each other than do non-infected fish,  casting doubt on results from previous experiments.

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.