10 Most Memorable Stories of 2018 NC State Veterinary Medicine

2018 was a reminder that sense of duty is stronger than crippling devastation, that acts of kindness and generosity can quickly rebuild broken lives.

It was a year of medical and educational innovations through extraordinary thought and tireless energy. We fought cancer together, fought hurricanes together and, with steadfast resolve, vowed to fight against some of the biggest health problems around the world.

It was a year that the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine again looked ahead with a clear vision for the future. Here are 10 of the most memorable CVM stories of 2018.

Unflinching Support

Hurricane Florence loomed heavy, even thousands of miles away.

When the storm finally smacked into North Carolina on Sept. 14 its strength had weakened, but its size had not. As entire towns drowned under relentless rain and wind, CVM faculty, students and staff sprung into action

A temporary shelter space opened at the CVM’s Equine Health Center at Southern Pines. Many from the CVM worked at shelters in the area, helping to feed, clean, treat and comfort displaced pets. CVM Dean Paul Lunn drove a van full of veterinary supplies to the coast. Friends and clients of the CVM quickly and generously donated to relief efforts.

The light of humanity shined extremely bright.” ~ Alexandru Pop, class of 2019
Alexandru Pop, class of 2019

“The light of humanity shined extremely bright,” wrote fourth-year CVM student Alexandru Pop, who turned a long-planned externship at an eastern North Carolina veterinary hospital into a two-week relief mission throughout small towns near Wilmington. “We were able to examine and treat every single animal we put our hands on.”

Taking the Fear out of Cancer

About 1.74 million new cancer cases were anticipated in 2018, equaling more than 4,700 new diagnoses a day. CVM researchers and doctors at the NC State Veterinary Hospital won’t soon give up the fight against the disease in its many forms.

This year we featured a story about Michael Nolan, associate professor of radiation oncology and biology, who leads clinical trials for potential drug development and guides lab research for new and better cancer treatments for animals and humans. Since 2016, the CVM has joined forces with the Duke Cancer Institute as part of the Consortium for Canine Comparative Oncology, which awards grants each year for research projects into diseases such as B-cell lymphoma and osteosarcoma.

Ideas that can grow into something big have to start somewhere.” ~ Mike Nolan, associate professor of radiation oncology and biology

In March, we celebrated two transformative endowments from Vicki and Don Webb that were created in memory of their beloved pet, including the Chicken Webb Cancer Research Endowment.

This is a winnable war, and the CVM is on the frontline.

Making the List

Tyler Allen would never call himself a “lab person,” but labs are where he’s changing lives.

Before he completed his Ph.D. work at the CVM this year, he was singled out by Forbes on its 30 Under 30 list as a young visionary in science. Then later this year he was named to a list of 100 most influential African-Americans between the ages of 25 and 45 by leading online magazine The Root.

There was something so appealing to me about the biomedical research being done here at the vet school. There’s still a lot that we don’t know about diseases, especially cancer. And here we get to help with that.” ~ Tyler Allen

It’s all for his research on how certain cancer and tumor cells exit the bloodstream to form new tumors, called the cancer exodus hypothesis. The discovery, made when Allen was a member of the lab of Ke Cheng, CVM professor of regenerative medicine, could lead to early detection of cancer spreading as well as more effective therapies.

Seeing is Believing

The new NC State Veterinary MRI service, launched in the fall, is a sight to behold.

The state-of-the-art machine, twice as strong as previous equipment, provides crystal clear looks at damaged spinal cords and easily shows the tiniest differences between types of tumors. Its on-site location makes the veterinary hospital a one-stop shop of advanced care.

To be able to have that kind of imaging and offer every option to clients that’s what we’re here for,” ~ Jon Congdon, NC State Veterinary MRI director.

It’s also a multi-purpose tool, used by clinicians to create targeted treatment plans for cats and dogs coping with neurological and other conditions, as well as for horses suffering from lameness, to name a few.

NC State Veterinary MRI service team.

In 2004, the veterinary hospital was the first in the area to offer an MRI service. Today, we continue to set the pace.

Simply the Best

Each year, CVM faculty, staff and students garner much-deserved accolades. In 2018, two clinician-scientists got some biggies.

Ed Breitschwerdt

Ed Breitschwerdt, who received the Melanie S. Steele Distinguished Professorship in Medicine earlier in the year, was awarded the Global One Health Award from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association in July. Breitschwerdt, a worldwide leader in infectious disease research, shared the award with Duke University professor Christopher Woods and was singled out for his impact on the study of the bacterium Bartonella and the family of diseases it causes.

Brian Gilger

In August, Brian Gilger, professor of ophthalmology, received the 2018 Clinical Research Award from the American Veterinary Medical Association. Gilger, a renowned expert in equine eye disease, was recognized for his impact on the diagnosis and prevention on a slew of ophthalmological conditions, including glaucoma and corneal ulceration.


Oscar Fletcher was a dutiful administrator and a brilliant poultry health management professor. He was also a guy you really liked being around.

So when Fletcher retired in June, it marked the end of an era at the CVM. From 1992 to 2004, Fletcher served as the CVM’s dean when the college grew into an academic powerhouse. He oversaw the building of the landmark Randall B. Terry, Jr. Companion Animal Veterinary Medical Center.

Dr. Fletcher’s vision, strategic thinking and commitment to innovation were critical in moving the college to a level of preeminence nationally.” ~ Warwick Arden, NC State executive vice chancellor and provost

And for more than 50 years he was the kind of teacher you always want but usually don’t get: an always-available mentor providing a kind ear and a push when needed. Every year, Fletcher offered a friendly smile and shook hands with each new CVM class during orientation.

Those who know him will not be surprised to learn that even in retirement he won’t really be retiring. He plans to continue work on a number of CVM projects and still serves on the Terry Foundation’s board of directors. And he’ll always think of himself as an educator, first and foremost.

If you’re a teacher you take great pride in what your students have accomplished." ~ Oscar Fletcher, dean emeritus

We will always take great pride in you as well, Dr. Fletcher.

In the Saddle

An exciting new chapter for the veterinary hospital’s equine service is being written right down the road.

In May, we broke ground on the Reedy Creek Equine Farm, a modern home for reproductive services and a shared space for faculty and students from the CVM and the NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The Reedy Creek project comes during a renewed focus on the NC State Equine Health and Farm Animal programs and bolsters dramatic medical advances being made every day. Thanks to the establishment of the game-changing Tiffany and Randy Ramsey Equine Sports Medicine Program through a generous donation, we’re able to provide the latest and greatest equine treatments for a variety of conditions, particularly performance-related diseases.

It also helps make our groundbreaking equine research possible, from garnering a better understanding of colic to ways to better treat musculoskeletal injuries and infectious arthritis. Students and faculty were able to provide such specialized treatment this fall at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, the largest sporting event held in the U.S. in 2018.

Health for All

The CVM regularly tackles health challenges, even if they are happening thousands of miles away. Those projects include fighting antimicrobial resistance and examining treatment options for endangered animals in the Galápagos and investigating dairy animal source foods in Ethiopia.

As a world-class veterinary school, we see it as an obligation of our mission to try to solve problems around the world.” ~ CVM Dean Paul Lunn

We’re doubling down on our commitment to a healthy world. In November, we announced a new Global Health program, merging an existing global education program with a health research program. Directed by Sid Thakur, the program is designed as a powerful, all-encompassing effort to address issues in animal, human and environmental health.

A Push to Ease Pain

Duncan Lascelles is a man on a tough mission: figuring out the best ways to measure and treat animal pain.

Under Lascelles' watch this year, breakthroughs are being made. He organized the first-ever Pain in Animals Workshop, which brought together clinicians, governmental health organizations and industry giants for the sole purpose of making strides in the field of animal pain.

The ball is rolling. We’ve started something big, and this is bigger than me. This will be big for everyone.” ~ Duncan Lascelles, professor of small animal surgery and pain management

Now he’s developing a roadmap which will address how to recognize pain in animals, creating targeted therapeutics and working on long-term approaches to easing chronic pain, such as arthritis, muscle strain and nerve damage. In veterinary medicine, chronic pain is not well understood and often underdiagnosed. Lascelles is devoted to changing that, inspired in part by the heartbreak of watching his own father cope with arthritis that crippled his body and mind.

Outside the Educational Box

A good textbook is still important in mastering veterinary medicine — try going through anatomy class without one. But sometimes, you have to put away the highlighter and get up from a desk.

In the CVM’s innovative Advanced Clinical and Professional Communication class, students spend three years studying and practicing effective communication skills for working with animal owners, as well as senior clinicians and colleagues. In the third year, they go through videotaped simulations of a range of doctor-patient situations they’ll encounter in the real world, from basic check-ups to difficult end-of-life discussions.

Simulated client Karen Butler with “Telly” and Jenna Harrington, class of 2019.

And while we still fill lecture halls each semester, a new podcast provides an off-the-cuff and more relaxed supplement. The podcast Passing Gas — it’s about veterinary anesthesia and pharmacology — is hosted by CVM alums-turned-faculty members Kate Bailey and Kristen Messenger. It offers 20-minute episodes for students to both review material and listen as the hosts go more in-depth about topics from classroom lectures. Students can also submit questions via email or Twitter.

The goal with each episode is for students to get that one little pearl, that one piece of information that sticks with you.” ~ Kristen Messenger, assistant professor of pharmacology

These unique approaches to veterinary education work in tandem with specialized offerings such as the House System and a new financial counselor for students to provide an unparalleled educational experience at NC State’s CVM. And one that’s never boring.

Be a Part of our Story

Thank you for helping us Think and Do in 2018. Help us make sure 2019 is even more memorable.

Your support for the college assures that it continues to think and do the extraordinary through its leadership in science, education and patient care that improves animal and human health.

Create a scholarship. Support animal health. Fund veterinary innovation.

There are many ways to support the college through a gift to the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that sustains the college’s teaching, learning and research in the field of veterinary medicine.


All photos by NC State Veterinary Medicine with the exception of the following: Unflinching Support page: Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) In the Saddle photo: The FEI World Equestrian Games on September 19, 2018 at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)

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