the NEWS FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE
UF's Aquatic Animal Health program thrives, but hopes to survive
BY SARAH CAREY
T he University of Florida's Aquatic Animal Health program was significantly
enhanced in 2000 with an $810,000 state grant shared with the Whitney Laboratory
for Marine Bioscience in St. Augustine. This funding is part of a larger state program
that supports the rescue and rehabilitation of Florida's imperiled manatee population at Sea
World Orlando, Miami Seaquarium and Lowry Park Zoo.
The funding allowed UF to establish a unique training program in marine mammal health
that complemented existing programs in fisheries and aquaculture.
"We have been able to provide support to our colleagues in various state agencies and to
unify previously disparate programs within other departments and colleges," said Dr. Ruth
Francis-Floyd, the program's director.
Dr. Eleanor Green, chair of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine's department of large
animal clinical sciences and chief of staff of UF's large animal hospital, called the program
"one of the most exciting on campus" and said it adds an important dimension to her depart-
ment, which is where the program has its academic home.
"This program is important to the State of Florida, its fragile ecosystem, and its people,"
Green said. "It would be impossible to measure the positive return on the state's investment due
to the expansiveness of its impact, such as on its multitude of freshwater lakes, miles of
coastline, unique and endangered aquatic animal species, agribusiness, tourism and much
The program covers everything from shellfish and other invertebrates, typically clams,
shrimp and ornamental coral, to fish, including both aquarium-type fish and aquaculture (fish
farming) operations, added Dr. Charles Courtney, associate dean of research and graduate
studies at the veterinary college, in which the universitywide program is centered. "Our zoo
medicine faculty and graduate students are heavily involved in sea turtles and alligators, so
we're also doing the large reptiles, both clinically and in research."
Collaborations with state and federal agencies, as well as private zoological parks such as
the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Sea World and Disney's Animal Kingdom, have been
strengthened through UF's veterinary and scientific expertise in private collections and
wildlife rehabilitation. The first-ever clinical resident at UF specializing in aquatic animal
medicine finished her program in July. In August, veterinary college faculty approved a
certificate program for professional DVM students who wish to gain experience in the area of
aquatic animal health.
The program also helps fund research ranging from very basic science to applied questions,
such as how fast a boat has to be going before it will damage a manatee on impact informa-
tion which could provide information used to set boat speeds, Courtney said. Continuing
education and consultation is available to biologists, veterinarians, and wildlife rehabilitation
professionals throughout the country and internationally.
But the recurring funds that have made the AAH program possible may soon be on the
chopping block, vulnerable to budget cuts at a time when all state agencies have been asked to
trim their budgets from 4-10 percent due to Florida's sagging economy.
"While supplemented by many more grants and contracts we bring in ourselves, the state
grant has allowed the college to build a stable and strong marine mammal program and
strengthen longtime programs in fisheries and aquaculture," Courtney said. "The funds we
receive are leveraged many times over."
In August, Dr. Mike Walsh, formerly head veterinarian at Sea World of Florida, joined the
UF team as associate program director. His 21 years in marine animal medicine have been
hallmarked by innovation and improvement in the care of manatees, pinnipeds, penguins,
dolphins, whales, sea turtles, sharks, beached whales and dolphins.
"I joined this program because of its past strengths, its current level of expertise and the
obvious future commitment it will make to Florida's valuable wild aquatic animal species, the
fish industry, the Oceanaria, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the
National Marine Fisheries," Walsh said. "Theses are unique and productive partnerships and
the general public has no idea of the many accomplishments on their behalf."
Walsh also has contributed to the internationalization of Florida's aquatic animal medicine
program with previous training for and assistance to programs in Taiwan, Canada, Holland,
Argentina, and South America.
"There may be programs around the world that are stronger than we are in one particular
area, but I'm fairly certain that no one has the broad strength and completeness that we have,"
Dr. Mike Walsh, UF's new associate director of the Aquatic Animal Health Program, helps position a
rehabilitated stranded dolphin for chest radiographs at Clearwater Marine Science Center. Taking the
radiographs (not shown in photo) was Dr. Michael Porter, who directs the College of Veterinary Medicine's
Mobile Equine Diagnostic Service. Porter took the MEDS truck to Clearwater to be of service when assistance
was needed. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Mike Walsh)
Marine mammal health expert named associate
director of Aquatic Animal Health program
BY SARAH CAREY
T he story of Winter, a dolphin
outfitted with a prosthetic fin by a
team of volunteer experts working for
Clearwater Marine Aquarium, has made
national news recently, in part because
of the unique collaborations and
helping spirit that made the new
One of those experts, Dr. Mike
Walsh, joined the University of Florida
College of Veterinary Medicine's faculty
in August as associate program director
for the Aquatic Animal Health Program.
A former head veterinarian at Sea
World, Walsh has spent more than 21
years working in marine mammal
medicine and helping to improve the Dr. Mike Walsh
care of manatees, seals and sea lions,
penguins, dolphins, whales, sea turtles and sharks, as well as beached whales and dolphins. He
also has longtime UF ties, having completed his residency in zoological medicine at the
college in 1983.
In his new role, Walsh's duties will be divided among clinical, teaching and research
responsibilities. He will continue his clinical work at Clearwater Aquarium, where he provides
contracted veterinary services and visits every two weeks, now accompanied by veterinary
students and the new aquatic animal health resident, Dr. Jenny Meegan.
"We also are involved in providing medical support for manatee captures and will prob-
ably become more involved with dolphin health assessments in the future," Walsh said.
He will assist with the newest aquatic animal health courses outside the veterinary curricu-
lum, namely Sea Vet 1 and Sea Vet 2, held for the first time last summer.
"These courses are geared to educating various people interested in marine animal medi-
cine, primarily veterinary students and veterinarians," Walsh explained, adding that the second
Sea Vet course emphasizes more in-depth relationships in selected species. Both courses
provide not only lecture material regarding various aquatic species but also wet labs and
interactions with people currently working in the field.
He also will seek to strengthen UF collaborations with parks such as the Georgia Aquarium
in Atlanta, Sea World in Orlando, Lowry Park in Tampa, the Miami Seaquarium, Mote Marine
Laboratory in Sarasota and other organizations.
"The theme parks, Oceanaria and zoos have provided vital support both to our student
externship program and to our clinical residency program," Walsh said.
Walsh has long collaborated with Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,
the National Marine Fisheries Service and Disney's Epcot Center. He hopes to beef up those
relationships in his new position and to help fulfill the mandate UF's CVM currently has to
meet state funding requirements, primarily through work with the Florida manatee as well as
other marine mammals such as those which strand on the beach.
Even when he worked at Sea World, Walsh lectured regularly to freshman veterinary
"Corporate medicine, like any area, can be very challenging and if you're prepared, you'll
do much better in the long rn," Walsh said. "Most veterinarians who enter that field aren't
prepared for client interaction, since typically the animals all were managed by other orga-
nized groups such as curators. Historically, veterinarians are a new addition to that animal
Walsh hopes to further discussion with the National Marine Fisheries service about ways in
which UF might better assist with issues relating to the Right whale.
"We are currently involved in ongoing research to find suitable methods to sedate these
whales in the wild and aid them in disentanglement from fishing lines and nets," Walsh said.
One of Walsh's research studies involves tagging large marine animals such as manatees
with special tags capable of providing information about the animal's swimming angle, its
pitch and roll and even noise that is surrounding them.
"This is a cooperative project between people that understand manatee medicine and the
state, which wants to do the best job possible in carrying out their important research pro-
grams," Walsh said, adding that both groups recognize the unique partnerships that can benefit
"It is probably the most synergistic, complementary program I have been involved with,
maximizing the knowledge base of state and federal biologists with the medical knowledge of
manatee clinicians," Walsh said.
Walsh's expertise in marine mammal medicine will supplement existing strengths UF's
Aquatic Animal Health program offers in aquaculture and fisheries.
The Veterinary Page is the UF College of Veterinary Medicine's
internal newsletter. Please submit story ideas to Sarah Carey,,
editor, at: email@example.com or call (352) 392-2213, ext.
Senior UF veterinary student Justin Sobota stands with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Florida, in the Capitol building
near the Senate chamber this past summer in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Justin Sobota)
Veterinary student hopes national leadership role
will advance "One Health" goals in profession
BY SARAH CAREY
U university of Florida senior veterinary student Justin Sobota describes himself as "an
average guy." His manner whether greeting colleagues, kidding around with fellow
students, or checking in with his professors is unquestionably humble.
However, Sobota's resume, accomplishments and vision as the president of the national
Student American Veterinary Medical Association make it clear the Pennsylvania native's life
and leadership contributions are anything but ordinary.
"I somewhat take the cowboy philosophy of not telling everyone who I really am," Sobota
said. "I've always been interested in politics and policy in veterinary medicine."
In high school, Sobota was president of student government; in college, he presided over
Pennsylvania State University's academic assembly, an experience which helped solidify his
desire to pursue veterinary medicine as a career. He also served as president of the pre-veteri-
nary club at Penn State, where he received his bachelor's degree in animal bioscience. In
addition, Sobota holds master's degrees in both animal science and management and even
worked as an equine nutrition consultant for two companies prior to returning to UF as a
"When I came back to school, I didn't feel I was providing society very much, which is one
reason I wanted to become so involved in SAVMA," Sobota said. "Just going through vet
school wasn't fulfilling. I have become much more goal oriented in many respects, and really
wanted to be a part of the student AVMA and be a delegate and be a part of organized veteri-
SAVMA is an 11,000 member organization which encompasses students from all over the
United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Ireland and Australia. Sobota became the
group's president in March and will serve for one year. As president-elect, he served on
numerous committees within the group and thought a lot about what he hoped to accomplish
as SAVMA's most visible officer.
"I and other executive committee members wanted to do something on a global scale,"
Sobota said. "We teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control and the Alliance for Rabies
control to promote World Rabies Day on Sept. 8.
"This opportunity enabled us to develop our SAVMA One Health Challenge Series, which
is intended to drive home the message that the many components of the health profession -
veterinary and human medicine, public health, veterinary technicians and nurses are all part
of one goal to improve health for everyone. All of these groups need to work together," he
As it happens, SAVMA's goal is concurrent with the American Veterinary Medical
Association's "One Health" initiative, which promotes essentially the same message: that the
vision of one health will enhance the integration of animal, human and environmental health
for the benefit of all.
"We are two separate organizations (AVMA and SAVMA) but we are somewhat teaming
with the AVMA on this approach," Sobota said, adding that SAVMA already has reached out to
See JUSTIN, p.3
medical students to enlist their support for the one health, one medicine concept.
While only 28 veterinary schools belong to SAVMA, many more medical and veterinary
technical schools may soon become involved in the effort to expand public awareness about
the importance of education about zoonotic diseases.
As SAVMA's president, Sobota was named to the AVMA's One Health Initiative Task Force
in July. Sobota, the only veterinary student on the task force, will join 12 other members who
will work to identify areas where animal and human medicine are already integrated and
where integration is needed. The group also hopes to identify challenges or potential barriers
to integration and to identify potential ways of overcoming those challenges.
Other goals SAVMA has put forth this year include encouraging veterinary students to
contact their legislative representatives about legislative initiatives impacting the veterinary
profession, and doing a better job of outreach specifically getting the word out to fellow
students about the availability of SAVMA scholarships and providing "better public rela-
tions" to a variety of audiences about what veterinarians do.
"Our communications committee this year created a public relations DVD for pre-vet
students as well as veterinary students, and copies have been delivered to all the schools,"
Sobota said. "We need to do a better job of promoting our profession, even amongst our-
This past summer, Sobota worked for four weeks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., as
part of the AVMA's governmental relations division. The program provides a small group of
veterinary students with the opportunity to participate in the legislative process as a way of
promoting veterinary issues.
"I'm really thankful that my advisors and professors are supporting me by providing
some flexibility in my schedule," Sobota said. "Without that, it would be extremely difficult
to do all of these outside activities."
Large animal clinical sciences chair Eleanor Green, also chief of staff of UF's Alec P. and
Louise H. Courtelis Equine Hospital, called Sobota "clearly a leader among his student
peers." As Sobota's faculty advisor and mentor, Green said she had interacted with him
beyond the formal classroom setting, discussing future goals and aspirations and even
philosophies of life.
"Justin is precocious in his global view of the profession, with a mature approach to his
own professional aspirations and how they integrate with the profession on a larger scale,"
Green said. "His desire to contribute to the profession and to participate in organized veteri-
nary medicine is sincere. He brings to the table experience with research, teaching, the animal
industries, and veterinary technicians."
Green added that Sobota had "an uncanny sense" of how to balance his professional and
"He has attained a level of comfort with the related choices he makes," she said. "While
he is a role model in the leadership arena, this balance he seeks and finds is also exemplary."
Sobota encouraged all of his fellow students to participate in something bigger than
themselves, whether a club, their state veterinary organization, or a specialist group.
"Life is more about how you accomplish something than what you've accomplished,"
Sobota said. "It's what you can provide, not the letters behind your name, that defines who
UF pharlnacology professor named interim
associate clean at veterinary college
T homas W. Vickroy, Ph.D., a
pharmacology professor and longtime
University of Florida College of Veterinary
Medicine faculty member, has been named
interim associate dean for students and
instruction at the college.
Vickroy's appointment came after a
national search to fill the position was
terminated in August due to a universitywide
A neuropharmacology professor in the
college's department of physiological
sciences, Vickroy teaches veterinary pharma-
cology and small and large animal clinical .
pharmacology to professional (D.VM.)
students. He also lectures on cellular neuro-
physiology, molecular and cellular neurobiol-
ogy, mammalian pharmacology and advanced
toxicology, among other topics, to graduate
students associated both with the veterinary Dr. Tom Vickroy
college and with UF's College of Medicine.
Vickroy has won numerous awards for
teaching excellence since he joined the UF veterinary faculty in 1988, among them the
National Award for Excellence in College and University Distance Education, given in 2006
by the forensic science program. That program is offered through the graduate schools of both
the veterinary college and UF's College of Pharmacy. Other honors include being named by
veterinary students as their Clinical Sciences Teacher of the Year in 2003-2004 and also as the
Class of 1996's Teacher of the Year.
Vickroy's appointment was effective Sept. 1. His predecessor in the position, James P.
Thompson, D.VM., Ph.D., had served since 1996. Soon after the present dean, Glen Hoffsis,
D.VM., was hired, Thompson was promoted to executive associate dean. Since that time, he
has performed duties associated with both positions.
"I would like to thank Dr. Thompson for his intense commitment to the college during this
period of transition and I understand the importance of the associate dean position to the
college and our programs," Hoffsis said. "Although I wish the search process could have gone
forward with full faculty, staff, and student involvement, I have full confidence in Dr. Vickroy
and his ability to perform the responsibilities associated with this job."
UF phi sical paint employ ee shares gratitude
B ill Privett, senior refrigeration
mechanic with the UF Physical -
Plant Department) would like to '
sincerely thank everyone from the
CVM family for their donations of
furniture, cash and well wishes in the
aftermath of the fire which destroyed
his family's mobile home onAug. 13.
It1 \\ a devastating experience
but once I found out how many people
actually cared, I was overwhelmed by
it," Privett said. "I kind of learned a life
lesson that when the chips are down,
people sure do chip in. When you
walk into my house everything there Bill and Karen Privett
has been donated. It's a lasting
memory that I'll never forget."
Privett said there were "a hundred
or more" names of people he would like to have included in this article to give thanks to and
one day he'll get around to thanking everyone individually for their support.
In the meantime, Privett and his wife, Karen, are looking forward not backwards and
focusing on the future.
"We are in a new place and it's coming along pretty good," Privett said.
Ophthalmology professor honored for
presentations at conference
D eninuj E Blool,. D \ M Ph a piDl.. o'sor ofophlilhlinolol .1 li he
UliIers I\ of Florida CollcLce of \V eemr n Nedicine lmhs been lionoied
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Fcbiim: in Las \ce!a-s
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pro\ ide foi eqinel' \ c iroblemsi
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in liorNe',S uin aiii one in like \\oi ld
Freshman leadership experience gets added boost
from sophomore participation
T his year's 88 new freshman veterinary students may get by with a little help from their
friends -- the sophomores.
During the Florida Orientation Leadership Experience, held Aug. 15-16 at Camp Weed in
Live Oak, Fla., 12 sophomore students participated as facilitators, guiding training sessions
"We met with these facilitators at four different, three-hour planning and training sessions
where we went over the agenda and all the activities," said Kristi Esmiol, academic coordinator
for the college's Office for Students and Instruction. "We trained them. There were large and
small group presentations and this year's program was leaps and bounds above last year's,
mainly because we had a team doing it this year."
The team consisted of staff members from the Office for Students and Instruction, specifi-
cally including Esmiol, Tonie Henry, Dot McColskey, Lynnette Chaparro and Erin Sanetz as
well as Dr. Jim Thompson, former associate dean for students and instruction and Dr. Tom
Vickroy, the new interim associate dean, as well as the 12 sophomore students.
Overall, the program consisted of activities focused on getting to know yourself better
through the Myers-Briggs test, looking at how individual personalities work within a team;
how to encourage self expression in a safe environment while understanding and implementing
both individual and team goals; how to identify and cultivate positive coping skills in
personal and professional life; and ultimately how to better build trust and unity within a team.
"The whole program built up to the last afternoon on the second day when we did trust-
related activities, which were led by our sophomore facilitators," Esmiol said. "One facilitator
said the web of trust was so meaningful when they sat down as a small group and discussed
what they'd learned, where they were going and what people's fears were about vet school.
Some people said they could not believe what was shared and how personal and open these
students were being."
Hill's Pet Nutrition was the principal sponsor. Other sponsors included Banfield,
Pfizer, SCAVMA, AVMA/ Group Health and Life Insurance Trust Programs, Fort Dodge and
II 7hat their said:
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-- Melaic Thoilias
Dr. Victor Shille is pictured in his former office in the Veterinary Academic Building, where he edited the Theriogenology
journal for ten years following his retirement from the college faculty. He served as the journal's editor for a total of 25
Dr. Victor Shille. editor, friend and pioneer
in small animal reproduction field, dies at 74
T he college and the world of theriogenology lost a friend when Dr. Victor Shille died
Sept. 9 at the age of 74. His family lost a devoted husband and father.
Although Shille had technically retired from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in
1993 he had served as a professor of small animal theriogenology at UF since 1978 he
remained involved in college life and events.
He kept in close touch with Dr. Maarten Drost, a longtime friend and UF CVM colleague,
and others with the Food Animal Reproduction and Medicine Service. He attended the
dedication of Deriso Hall in 2006 and most recently, a meeting held by Dean Glen Hoffsis for
professors emeriti of the college.
Many consider Shille the grandfather of the study of small animal reproduction.
Born inYugoslavia to Russian parents, Shille spent his youth in Germany and grew up in
Southern California, where his parents immigrated during World War II. He was fluent in
Russian, German and English; could read Serbo-Croatian and could speak conversational
Swedish and Spanish.
Shille received his D.VM. from the University of California/Davis and then spent 14 years
in a solo small animal practice prior to pursuing his Ph.D. His doctoral work focused on
follicular development and ovulation in cats. He increased his international perspective by
completing a postdoctoral program at the Swedish Agricultural College in Uppsala.
When he joined the UF veterinary college as a member of the founding faculty, he worked
under the first dean, the late Dr. Charles Cornelius.
Shille had a prestigious career in academia, where he was widely acknowledged for his
abilities in and devotion to teaching. He was UF's Norden Distinguished Professor in 1988 and
was Teacher of the Year in 1991. He received the Bartlett Award from the American College of
Theriogenologists in 1992 and was the recipient of the college alumni council's first-ever
Distinguished Service Award in 2001.
Shille also served for nearly 25 years as chief editor of Theriogenology, an international
journal of animal reproduction. Ten of those years were spent post-retirement, with Shille
working quietly with his small staff of copy editors on the second floor of the Veterinary
Shille suffered from Parkinson's disease, which made his life and ability to use his consider-
able clinical skills increasingly difficult in recent years. In a farewell message printed in
Theriogenology, he stated that he had retired twice from UF the first time from clinical
duties due to "Mr. Parkinson" because "trembling hands neither inspire confidence in a client
nor do they make surgery possible." The second retirement was in 2003 from the journal
because "Parkinsonism was advancing."
However, Shille never really retired, said his friend, Drost.
"He continued to help authors and graduate students who spoke languages other than
English with their manuscripts," Drost said.
Over the past four years, Shille continued to present workshops of English for speakers of
other languages with his wife, Patt. These workshops, focused on how to write a scientific
paper, were presented contemporaneously with the annual conference of the International
Embryo Transfer Society which awarded him its Distinguished Service Award in 2006 -
and were held in Quebec, Hungary, France, The Netherlands and China.
"Dr. Shille's philosophy was that language must not be a barrier to publication," Drost said.
"The most difficult problem is not in grammar, punctuation or syntax, but in cultural differ-
ences in expression of ideas, he believed."
Cards may be sent to Patt Shille, 1807 NW 22nd Drive, Gainesville FL 32605.
As for memorial contributions, the Shille family, Patt and her sons Michael, Ted and Tom,
suggest two options for donations, both of which can be accessed on-line.
1) National Parkinson Foundation. Go to: http://www.parkinson.org then select: Donate
2) The Visual Guide to Feline Reproduction and the Visual Guide to Canine Reproduction
which will be dedicated to Shille, and which will contain his collection of teaching slides. Go
to: http://drostproject.vetmed.ufl.edu On the home page under Support the Project click on
University of Florida Foundation.