Pet care pioneers

Melissa Kossler Dutton, Capital Style

People often worry that the Ohio State University campus is too big. But for the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, the size is part of its appeal.

Dr. Lonnie King appreciates that his faculty and students are sharing a campus with doctors from numerous medical fields, world-renowned researchers and public health experts.

"(The campus) has great assets," he said. "There are interactions that wouldn't happen anywhere else."

He believes the breadth of the expertise at OSU will help him lead the college to the forefront of the One Health Initiative, a worldwide movement that addresses the connections among the health of humans, animals and the environment and calls for interdisciplinary collaborations.

King, who took the helm of the veterinary college in 2009, has developed numerous strategies for advancing the institution. The college is currently in the initial phase of a $92 million fundraising campaign. Money raised will develop faculty, fund student scholarships and help renovate the Veterinary Medical Center. Barbara Trueman is serving as one of the campaign co-chairs.

"We're just really looking to make some huge advances in veterinary medicine in the next couple of years," said Danielle Ford, director of development for the college. "We wouldn't be where we are today if it weren't for clients, alumni and friends of the college. They've laid great groundwork for us."

The changes will improve students' learning experience, create opportunities to develop cutting-edge procedures and increase the level of care that the center can offer to patients, King said.

The current medical center, which is open to the public for veterinary care and tends to about 35,000 patient visits a year, needs to expand. The building was designed for a caseload a quarter of that size, King said. "Renovating that facility in a major way is our top priority."

Previous renovations already have increased the facility's scope of treatments. The completion of an interventional medicine suite last year, for example, has created opportunities for doctors like Brian Scansen, director of the Cardiac Catheterization & Interventional Medicine Laboratory, to address heart disease, respiratory issues and liver and kidney problems in animals. New equipment allows them to treat patients with less-invasive procedures. "There's a large trend toward minimally invasive treatment options," Scansen said. "Patients have shorter recovery and less pain."

Scansen is one of only a handful of veterinarians in the country who has completed a fellowship in interventional radiology. He appreciates the center's proximity to Nationwide Children's Hospital because he can consult with doctors there about patient treatment. Since children can be close to animals in size and weight, there are often useful parallels. Scansen recently offered them his thoughts on a human case.

"Having physicians available to consult and assist with veterinary cases has proven invaluable. It allows us to offer a level of care that is truly cutting-edge," he said. "We bring these novel treatment options to pets much sooner and are able to leverage the incredible experience and expertise of the MDs to make the early cases in animals successful."

Recent upgrades to the facility's clinical trial office also have benefitted human and animal patients. The office routinely runs clinical trials that give dogs access to new cancer treatments and uncover important information for doctors who treat humans, said Dr. Cheryl London, an associate professor. "There's a significant amount of new information that can be applied to future human studies or ongoing studies," she said.

A portion of the money raised in the fundraising campaign will go toward hiring more standouts in the veterinary education field to help the college continue to be a leader in research and treatment options, King said.

Attracting more quality faculty members will enhance the education students receive and help grow the school's reputation, he said. He is eager to put the college's resources toward the One Health concept to look at the safety of the global food system, issues of animal extinction and the relationships between animal and human diseases.

"(Our college) is better poised than almost any college in the country" to take on a leadership role, he said. "They've always been a pioneer."

Improvements to the medical facility and hiring additional faculty also will help attract quality students, said Jack Advent, executive director of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association in Columbus. Advent and the members of his organization are working with the college to help raise money for scholarships.

He hopes people understand what an asset the school is. "It's definitely a plus for the state," he said. "And it's definitely a plus for the veterinarian community and the pet-owning public."

What the doctor ordered

The Veterinary Medical Center at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine offers pet owners a variety of options for state-of-the-art medical care. Here's a look at highlights

1. Interventional Medicine

Suite Completed March 2011

The suite offers the center's veterinarians a place to perform cutting-edge surgeries that address heart, liver, urinary and respiratory problems. It's equipped for surgeries, as well as less-invasive procedures that use X-rays or imaging equipment. "It is patterned after the hybrid operating room at Nationwide Children's Hospital," said Dr. Brian Scansen, director of the Cardiac Catheterization & Interventional Medicine Laboratory. "It's the only room in the country that is designed and built to take care of small patients like dogs and cats, and large animals like horses and cows. We can do novel procedures."

2. Animal Blood Bank Renovated March 2011

The blood bank collects and stores blood from donor cats, dogs, llamas and alpacas. The blood is available and distributed locally and nationwide for animals who are sick or in need of emergency treatment. "Blood is a vital tool," said Dr. Cristina Iazbik, managing director of the blood bank. "It's very important to have it available when it's needed."

3. Canine Physical Rehabilitation Center Opened March 2008

The center provides a place for about 35 dogs a week to undergo rehab using specialized equipment like an underwater treadmill. Dogs use the equipment before or after orthopedic surgery to restore physical function. The center also aids dogs with osteoarthritis, neurological problems, weight loss and agility issues. "The equipment allows us provide a standard of care for animals similar to what humans receive," said Tracy Marsh, veterinary rehabilitation services coordinator. "Being able to offer our patients hydrotherapy puts us at the forefront of the veterinary rehabilitation industry."

4. Clinical Trials Office

Established 2007

More than 20 clinical trials are conducted yearly here, typically involving 500 to 600 animals. About 75 percent of the trials are oncology related. "It's often a win for the human side and pet owners," said Dr. Cheryl London, an associate professor at the veterinary college. "Pet owners may get access to free care and state-of-the-art treatment that's not normally available. Human medicine gains new information that can be used to guide future therapies for people with various diseases."

5. The Trueman Chair in Equine Clinical Medicine and Surgery

Established 2000

Dr. Alicia Bertone brought her cutting-edge molecular orthopedic research when she arrived as the Trueman Endowed Chair at the College of Veterinary Medicine in 2000. Bertone, who had just completed a fellowship at Harvard University, focuses on injured horses by helping them grow new bone or cartilage. She combines stem cells or skin cells from injured horses with natural genes that accelerate healing. The process results in a "super cell" that she injects into the animal at the site of injury to regenerate cartilage and bone. She has used the technique on horses and other animals in clinical studies at the college. She hopes to continue her research so that this procedure can be offered at the center as a therapy to more animals and more species of animals. "We're trying to regenerate the tissue to the way it was," Bertone said. "We believe we can create bone that is 100 percent the same in strength and appearance."

6. Equine Surgery Suites

Completed 1997

These modern facilities are large enough to contain all the necessary imaging equipment for difficult fracture reconstructions and other complex procedures. They also feature an observation deck for students or clients to watch doctors perform procedures. "We are privileged to have these top-tier, state-of-the-art facilities available for surgeons and our equine patients, resulting in the highest quality of surgical care," Bertone said. "For students, having the opportunity to observe the procedures in the room or from the observation deck presents a unique training opportunity. It allows large numbers of students to benefit from seeing these procedures. It's a really novel concept for vet med."