OVC Bulletin

OVC surgeon cycles for a cause

Posted: July 28, 2014

Dr. Tom Gibson

About 10 years ago, clinical studies professor Tom Gibson took up road cycling – and loved it. One of his cycling buddies suggested he join in a fundraising event in 2005 called “Ride for Karen.” The route was 100 km, and the participants raised money for cancer research.

“I was mostly excited about riding that far,” says Gibson. He hadn’t thought a lot about the cause, but he did raise $3,000. Then something else happened: at the beginning and end of the ride, there were dedications where people spoke about their experiences with cancer. “I was so moved by the families who were dealing with children who had cancer that it was like something switched on for me. I thought: I can do this. I can raise money for this cause.”

The following year he rode in Tour for Kids, an Ontario event that raises money for the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation. The tour involves riding 800 km over four days. He was hooked and has ridden in that event every year since, except the year he had knee surgery. Gibson plans to ride in this event again Aug. 14 to 17.

For more, read the story in At Guelph.

Unique scholarship program brings science and business together

Posted: July 28, 2014

Neda Barjesteh at work in the avian virology lab in the Department of Pathobiology.

The connection between science and business is an important one and one that’s gaining credence through the Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) Graduate Scholarship program.

Funded under the OMAFRA-U of G Partnership, HQP scholarships are awarded to support future generations of researchers, policy-makers and innovators in agri-food. Students gain a better understanding of business models and business management while completing research in their area of study. 

The program also includes an important job shadowing component with a government, industry or community partner which provides students with valuable work experience. In most cases, the work semester also connects well with the student’s research interests and future career goals. 

“This is a good opportunity for us,” says Neda Barjesteh, a current HQP  student working on her PhD in the Ontario Veterinary College’s (OVC) Department of Pathobiology. “We can go to a company or a government agency where we’d like to work in the future. It’s experience beyond the academic side.”

Barjesteh completed her veterinary degree at the University of Kerman in Iran and worked as an advisor at a veterinary diagnostic lab for several years before coming to Canada.

Her research at OVC focuses on the avian influenza virus and developing new strategies to boost the chicken’s immune system against the virus and control the shedding of virus.

“There isn’t a lot of information about the immune system in chickens, especially mucosal immune responses,” says Barjesteh. “This research will provide a better understanding of their immune responses, especially in the case of avian influenza virus infection.”

The HQP program has proven it’s a successful formula. Beyond making science accessible and applicable, it is the opportunity to bring science to the marketplace.

“The HQP has helped me so much,” says Neda. “I have research that I believe could be used for industry. It is not just research for the shelf.”

Students are exposed to business practices, commercialization (intellectual property and license protection), as well as the interactions between society and the agri-food system. 

For example, says Berjesteh, “students explore the steps involved to take a product produced in the laboratory, to a proposal to put the product into the business economy. They look at the target audience for that product, how to increase the consumer’s knowledge of that product and demonstrate the value of the product – all while considering government regulations, consumers, retailers, society and media.”

The two co-ordinators for the HQP program really help through the process, says Neda.  In her first semester the co-ordinator was Dr. Michael van Massaw and in the second semester it was Erna Van Duren.

For more information on the HQP program, click here

Funding opportunities with poultry industry, Cystic Fibrosis Canada

Posted: July 28, 2014

Researchers are encouraged to apply for funding available from Ontario’s poultry industry and Cystic Fibrosis Canada’s fall research competition.

The Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC) and the Poultry Industry Council have sent out a reminder for an open call for poultry related research projects. The LOI’s should be e-mailed to poultryletters@livestockresearch.ca. There is currently no deadline and LOI’s will be accepted until further notice. 

For more information, see the LOI form and the draft research strategy on the LRIC website.

Cystic Fibrosis Canada is also accepting proposals for its fall research competition.

Applications are being accepted in the following categories: Discovery Research Grants, Clinical Research Grants, Early Career Investigator award in CF, and Fellowship and Studentship awards.

The goal is to support leading research into the understanding, management and treatment of, and cure for, cystic fibrosis. Proposals will be scored on both scientific merit and impact of CF patients.

Funding is available for one to three yearsand the proposedbudget for the 2015/16 fiscal year is $5.2 million, with prior research commitments totaling approximately $3.2 million.


• Notice of Intent: Aug. 11 – Applicant sends by email to: Joanna Valsamis, Program Director, Research Funding jvalsamis@cysticfibrosis.ca or fax:  416-485-0960                 

• Internal deadline: Sept. 24 - Applicant sends application along with signed OR-5 to Research.Services@uoguelph.ca

• External deadline:  Oct. 1, 5 p.m. Applicant submits 1 paper copy with original to Cystic Fibrosis Canada, 800-2323 Young Street, Toronto, Ont. M4P 2C9 by courier or hand delivered.

For more Information and forms, see the Cystic Fibrosis website.

Questions? Contact

Joanna Valsamis


1-800-378-2233 ext. 230

Fax: 416-485-0960


Ornella McCarron

Grants Officer

Office of Research, Research Support Services


Ext. 52832

Stay current with OVC research news and funding opportunities by visiting the OVC research website.

Equine Guelph hosts emergency rescue course

Posted: July 28, 2014

Equine Guelph will host a three-day Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue (TLAER Inc.) course in September.

This operational-level training is being offered for the first time in Ontario and will be led by Dr. Rebecca Gimenez (TLAER Inc.), world leader in this field, with two specialized co-instructors. This training will give emergency response professionals the knowledge and skills to effectively deal with incidents involving large animals.

This is especially timely, with the upcoming Pan-Am Games set to bring a high number of valuable horses and trailers to roadways and venues around southern Ontario.

The course will take place Sept. 19-21 at the Adjala-Tosorontio Fire Department, near Orangeville, in the heart of Ontario’s horse country.

Gimenez will also deliver an emergency preparedness workshop for horse owners at the University of Guelph on Sept. 18. Topics include basic horse behaviour, hazards on your property, fire prevention and trailer safety.

An internationally known speaker and instructor on large animal emergency rescue techniques, Gimenez has a PhD in animal physiology and is a decorated officer in the U.S. Army reserves. She edited the only textbook available to the fire service and veterinarians on technical rescue of large animals.

For more information or to register, visit the course website or contact Susan Raymond at Ext. 54230 or slraymond@uoguelph.ca.

Early bird registration ends this week for fall cat health symposium

Posted: July 28, 2014

Some of Canada’s leading experts in feline care will host a special continuing education event at the OVC this fall.

The Cat Healthy Symposium will take place Oct. 26 in the OVC Lifetime Learning Centre. Seating is limited for the day-long symposium and early bird pricing ends July 31, so register now.

Cat Healthy is an initiative led by Dr. Elizabeth O’Brien and jointly created by Drs. Susan Little, Elizabeth Ruelle, Margie Scherk and Kelly St. Denis, Canadian feline healthcare specialists certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP).

The symposium, which will discuss approaches to preventive health care for kittens, adult and senior cats, is  eligible for six hours of CE credit.

GDS 2014: Welfare of working animals key to community development

Posted: July 28, 2014

More research is needed to increase understanding the role of working animals and improve their health and welfare, says one of the world’s leading thinkers in animal welfare and ethics.

In a keynote address at the May 2014 Global Development Symposium, Dr. Joy Pritchard said more than 100 million horses, donkeys and mules play a vital role in agriculture, transportation, construction and small business in developing countries. But because they don’t directly provide food they are rarely recognized as production animals, and are largely “invisible” to researchers and funders.

Pritchard, a veterinary surgeon specializing in animal welfare science, ethics and law, is Senior Animal Welfare and Research Advisor at The Brooke, an international animal welfare organization dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules in some of the world’s poorest communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

In low-income developing countries, horses, mules and donkeys often support five or more family members, contributing in innumerable ways to the family that owns one.

They reduce women’s chores, contributing to better health and time for doing other things. People use them to replace human-powered tillage and transport where it is profitable and socially acceptable, added Pritchard. A donkey can carry water and firewood, allowing people to travel farther to a cleaner water source. They also provide access to services and institutions, such birth registrations or travelling to schools that are far away.

“This enabling capacity of working animals to get people to the services they need is very important,” Pritchard says. They are “a very important way for people to access health services where they otherwise would have great difficulty.”

However, little research is funded into working animals or improving their welfare. Pritchard developed a donkey rainbow tool to assess risks for working animal welfare, looking at housing, nutrition, disease prevention, as well as the owners’ knowledge and skill level and the perceived benefits of the animals to the owners.

There is a need for more support in this area, she added, helping owners recognize the need for a farrier and vaccinations, linking owners to feed sellers and suppliers and providing community first aid boxes with basic supplies to care for working animals.

Things are beginning to change, she said.  An animal welfare law recently was ratified in Ethiopia. It took three to four years to get going but started off with interest in working animals, she added.

The communities that rely on working animals best sum up their importance, said Pritchard:  “We know for the whole world it might only be a donkey, but for us it is the whole world.”

Check out our new wheels!

Posted: July 21, 2014


The OVC Health Sciences Centre is rolling out a simple, fun way to help clients navigate ongoing construction while transporting their animals in pet carriers.

Due to renovations at the OVC Companion Animal Hospital (Small Animal Clinic), all companion animal patients and clients are now entering the hospital through the OVC Animal Cancer Centre. Clients are then escorted by staff to the exam rooms via the Sunken Lounge area.

To make it easier for staff and clients to navigate the temporary construction route, the hospital bought some classic red wooden wagons to transport patients and carriers. They’d like your help to name those wagons!

Enter your name idea at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Namethatwagon

All contest entries must be submitted by Friday, July 25 at midnight and must come from a University of Guelph email address. Entries will be carefully reviewed by three members of the HSC client experience committee. The winner will be announced July 31 and will receive a $10 coffee card from Second Cup.

On the renovation front, as of today, the area behind the old reception area has been turned over to construction and there will be no access to these areas. Construction noise and traffic will continue with the demolition of the old reception area.

The driveway in front of the hospital remains open. There are two 20-minute patient drop-off spots at the front of the Animal Cancer Centre, as well as two accessible and four metered parking spots. The driveway will remain open and signage directs clients to the drop-off areas. Metered parking continues to be available in P64, adjacent to the Companion Animal Hospital. Clients who anticipate they’ll need help to bring their pet into the hospital from the parking area are asked to please contact the Companion Animal Hospital for assistance.

Please check the Health Sciences Centre website at www.ovchsc.ca and click on News and Events for regular updates on the renovation.


OVC in the news

Posted: July 21, 2014

The OVC Externship Project was noted for its creative, original content for social media in a recent online article published by Snout School, a website dedicated to helping veterinary professionals make the most of social media to benefit their practices.

Read the article here.

The Externship Project featured five DVM students who have been blogging about their externship experiences this summer. The students are among the 118 DVM students from OVC getting hands-on practical experience at mixed veterinary practices through the eight-week externship course funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

The article pointed out connecting with community, while telling your story, is an important part of social media and included examples of the students’ use of videos, photos and practical tips as important components in veterinary site content.

You can read all the students’ blogs at www.ovc.uoguelph.ca/externship.  You can also see all the related videos on OVC’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/OntarioVetCollege.

OVC research aimed at helping obese cats is highlighted in an article published by the Guelph Mercury. Dr. Adronie Verbrugghe, Clinical Studies, is looking at how macronutrients and dietary supplements can stimulate a cat’s metabolism to help burn fat.

The article is written by Alaina Osborne, part of the University of Guelph’s Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge (SPARK) program.

Read the article here.

Looking back at GDS 2014: Without Borders panel explored need for community-driven development

Posted: July 21, 2014

A sense of wanting to give back and help communities by improving animal health, human health and the systems that facilitate them were common themes at a May 5 panel discussion involving representatives of Veterinarians Without Borders, Engineers Without Borders and Doctors Without Borders.

The “Without Borders” panel discussion was one of the highlights of the 2014 Global Development Symposium held May 4-7 at the University of Guelph.

That desire to give back may start with helping one person, said Dr. Barbara LeBlanc. LeBlanc, a Guelph general surgeon who volunteers part-time with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF), described helping a woman in need of a Caesarean section who also had a necrotizing infection. There were people in that setting who hadn’t finished their medical training or seen that infection, she said. LeBlanc was able to help the patient while teaching those skills to the people working there.

Dr. Erin Fraser, managing director of Veterinarians without Borders/ Vétérinaires sans Frontières - Canada (VWB/VSF), wanted to improve animal health and community health by helping animals. After helping launch VWB/VSF in 2004 together with a dedicated group of colleagues, Fraser became the organization’s first executive director in 2007. VWB/VSF aims to tackle the root causes of public health, animal health and ecosystem health challenges in developing communities around the world.

Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada - Ingénieurs Sans Frontières (ISF) Canada was born in 2000 by putting together a community of engineers really committed to looking at root causes of problems and where they could use their expertise, said Dr. Alexandra Conliffe, EWB/ISF’s vice president of operations.

Connecting with the local community is vital for each organization and also drives where each organization focuses their efforts. “The need is huge and we could be in so many different places,” said Fraser. VWB is driven by locally identified interest in partnership and focuses on capacity building as much as possible.

In addition to emergency medical care, including vaccination and surgery, MSF is committed to being a witness and a voice for the people in countries where its members serve. They determine projects partly by what is happening in the news and mostly because they have the expertise needed in a particular area, said LeBlanc. “When a project ends we try to hand it off to the people. There has to be buy-in from the community.”

EWB relationships tend to be longstanding, said Conliffe, and based on a lot of observation to learn how to engage particular communities. In addition to operating in five countries in Africa, Engineers Without Borders has chapters across Canada where they do an enormous amount of work focused on responsible mining, she added.

All the organizations welcome volunteers, whether professionals who go to work in the field, or those who can help with work closer to home, including advocacy.  VWB is involved in development and education programs at all Canadian veterinary universities, offering a three-month internship to students. “We’ve deployed about 110 interns since we started,” said Fraser. 

There’s no question each of the organizations has been successful in its own right, both with particular projects and with raising awareness. But failure is also sometimes part of the process, said EWB’s Conliffe.

EWB has an annual failure report that playys a part of determining in which countries they should work.  “It’s okay to fail as long as you are learning from it.”

imageDr. Elizabeth Stone, OVC dean, right, moderated the Without Borders panel discussion that included, from left to right, Drs. Erin Fraser, Alexandra Conliffe and Barbara LeBlanc.

OVC Shared Administrative Services Update

Posted: July 21, 2014

The month of June was an active one for the Shared Administrative Services (SAS) Initiative!  July is also proving to be a busy month.

Personnel and Location Update:

Temporary office space for Graduate Program Services has been set up in building 174, the former OVC Clinical Research building.  A graduate program assistant position has been posted it is expected that the recruitment process will be concluded this week. 


Deyna Dinesen has transitioned into her new shared-services role and temporary coverage has been solidified for graduate programs in Biomedical Sciences as well as purchasing and accounts payable responsibilities in the Department of Clinical Studies.  Information and documents continue to be collected on current processes in order to build a foundation for the future and ensure excellent delivery of graduate program support. 


Shayan Sharif and Carol Ann Higgins met with Anthony Clarke,  assistant vice-president graduate studies, regarding the shared services model for graduate programs.  Clark was very supportive and offered excellent advice as the initiative moves forward.  Likewise, Higgins also met with Jane Duck, the University’s staff relations consultant for OVC, and the president and vice-president of United Steelworkers Local 4120 to outline the shared administrative services model.  OVC remains committed to keeping chairs, faculty, graduate students, staff and union representatives informed throughout this process.  Thank you to the many staff and faculty who have been positive and supportive of the initiative.

Next steps include:  continuing to work with graduate program staff, graduate coordinators, graduate students and others to ensure current processes are documented accurately while developing options for improved administrative service delivery.  

Project Milestones

OVC’s approach to implementing shared administrative services is to transition key administrative areas in phases.  Current targets for the beginning of each phase are noted below.  All dates are tentative guidelines as changes are implemented.

Graduate Program Services will be fully operational and functioning as a team by Sept. 1.  The planning team is working closely with Physical Resources to identify the final space to house the team and ensure the working space is well designed and well equipped to meet their needs.

Questions, concerns are welcome and can be directed to Carol Ann Higgins at Ext. 54784 or chiggins@uoguelph.ca, or Judy Tack at Ext. 54418 or jtack@uoguelph.ca.

For the health of all species, including our own.

The Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) is a world leader in veterinary health care, learning and research. We work at the intersection of animal, human and ecosystem health: training future veterinarians and scientists, improving the health of our animal companions, ensuring the safety of the food we eat and protecting the environment that we all share. It's been that way since 1862.

About OVC

We are dedicated to the advancement of veterinary and comparative medicine through teaching, research and service.