Phi Zeta awards honor top researchers

Three faculty members and three graduate students whose achievements have demonstrated excellence in research were honored at Phi Zeta Day on Feb. 7. The faculty and graduate student awards are especially prestigious, and are part of a tradition of recognizing current and future leaders in research and discovery in the field of veterinary medicine.

The selection process for the key faculty awards consisted of nominations selected from a pool of names nominated by faculty colleagues. Packets were reviewed by a selection committee consisting of awardees from the past three years.

Dr. Amara Estrada and Dr. Maureen Long.

Receiving the FVMA Clinical Investigator Award, which included $500 and a plaque, was Dr. Amara Estrada, an associate professor in the department of small animal clinical sciences.

“Despite having only an average 12 percent FTE assignment to research, she has been incredibly productive in the area of translational cardiology,” noted Dr. Charles Courtney, associate dean for research and graduate studies. “Her research has focused upon artificial cardiac pacing therapy, novel interventional therapy for acquired and congenital cardiac disease, and stem cell therapy for heart disease.”

Estrada has served as principal investigator on four major clinical trials and as co-PI on many multicenter trials. She serves as chief of the cardiology service and has worked closely with colleagues in the College of Medicine on translational studies of stem cell therapy for cardiac disease that promise to benefit not only dogs, but humans as well.

Dr. Brian Stacy and Dr. Maureen Long.

Receiving the C.E. Cornelius Young Investigator Award, which included $500 and a plaque, was Dr. Brian Stacy, a clinical assistant professor in the department of large animal clinical sciences.

Stacy joined the faculty after completing his Ph.D. at UF in 2008.

“Although his dissertation research involved highly pathogenic blood parasites of sea turtles, he is known to many outside that field for his recent involvement in the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” Courtney said. “He worked in the oiled waters of the Gulf for weeks at a time recovering sick, dead and dying sea turtles under conditions that few would tolerate.”

Stacy is now in the process of conducting forensic necropsies on more than 500 sea turtles recovered from the spill area, for which he is serving as the lead pathologist nationally. His research has already demonstrated that the earliest sea turtle deaths were a result of inappropriate shrimping activities rather than oil contamination, with obvious oil contamination playing a role later in the event.

“When all the necropsies are finished, he will have amassed the most comprehensive data set ever concerning the impact of an oil spill on marine turtles,” Courtney said.

Dr. Rowan Milner and Dr. Maureen Long.

Receiving the Pfizer Animal Health Award for Research Excellence, which included $1,000 and a plaque, was Dr. Rowan Milner, an associate professor in the department of small animal clinical sciences.

Milner has received national and international recognition for his research in translational oncology. He came to UF in 2001 and soon established research collaborations with other UF scientists in the Colleges of Engineering and Medicine, where he now holds adjunct positions.

Within the CVM, he has established strong research collaborations with Drs. Jim Farese, Jeff Abbott and Janet Yamamoto. His main research interests include in-vitro models of cancers and their sensitivity to radiation, chemotherapy and receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Milner also has developed new immunologic assays for monitoring the immune functions of dogs receiving the canine melanoma vaccine, and is part of a research team that is developing a virtual canine model for dosimetry and investigating a new macromolecule for targeted radiotherapy.

Graduate student honorees were chosen on the basis of nomination letters from college faculty, along with their curriculum vitae and transcripts reviewed by a committee of four faculty members.

Dr. Claudio Verdugo and Dr. Maureen Long.

The Charles F. Simpson Memorial Scholarship Award, which consisted of $500 and a plaque, went to Dr. Claudio Verdugo, a third year Ph.D. student in the department of infectious diseases and pathology.

Verdugo is a 2004 graduate of the Universidad Austral de Chile who came to UF in 2008 to pursue his doctoral degree in the area of wildlife diseases.

At UF he is investigating the relationship between natural reservoir hosts and emerging disease, with emphasis on the genetic base for clinicopathological manifestation of West Nile Virus in wild birds. His project combines the disciplines of immunopathology with ecology and genetics as he investigates the effect of WNV on genetic heterogeneity in wild crows. Verdugo’s faculty mentor is Dr. Maureen Long.

Dr. Jim Wellehan and Dr. Maureen Long.

The CVM Excellence in Doctoral Studies Award went to Dr. Jim Wellehan, who completed his Ph.D. in December 2010 following completion of a residency in zoological medicine at UF and a year working with Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Along the way, he became board-certified in both zoological medicine and veterinary microbiology. He has published 59 peer reviewed papers since arriving at UF in 2002.

“This is nothing short of an amazing accomplishment, considering that the papers were published while he was pursuing residency training, board certification exams and Ph.D. studies,” Courtney said.

Wellehan’s doctoral research involved molecular studies of astroviruses, which are a significant cause of diarrheas in children. From these studies, he has identified 15 novel viruses from various marine mammal species, and some of these may represent previously unknown genera. He also found evidence of recombination between a human and a sea lion virus, indicating involvement of marine mammals in human astrovirus ecology. Wellehan’s faculty mentor is Dr. Elliott Jacobson.

Dr. Maureen Long, Dr. Caleb Hudson and Dr. Dan Lewis.

The CVM Excellence in Master’s Studies Award recipient, which included $100 and a plaque, was Dr. Caleb Hudson, a resident in small animal surgery who is pursuing his master’s degree concurrently.

Hudson’s thesis research involves the biomechanics of partial and complete ring components used in circular and hybrid constructs, as well as an assessment of three configurations of hybrid circular-linear constructs. As a result of this work, he received an award for the best poster presentation by a resident at the 2010 annual meeting of the Veterinary Orthopedics Society, and has been awarded the Mark S. Bloomberg travel award to present his further research at the 2011 meeting of that group. He has two research papers published and three more nearing submission. Hudson’s faculty mentor is Dr. Dan Lewis.

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February 2011

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New plaque in anatomy lab honors beloved teacher, friend
to students.

New department chairman named

Renowned reproductive biologist starts new job as chairman of the CVM’s department of physiological sciences.

Top faculty, graduate students honored for research

The college’s leading researchers, on faculty and in graduate programs, are honored during Phi Zeta Research Emphasis Day on Feb. 7.

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