th NEWS FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE
Veterinary student aims to build career using transplantation knowledge
BY SARAH CAREY
After graduation from the University of Southern California in 1992, at the time most
veterinary students are entering D.VM. programs, Max Polyak planned to be a
diplomat. Toward that end, he participated in a medical relief team, flying critically
injured civilians out of Bosnia during that country's civil war.
The experience changed him forever.
"The longer I was there, the more I realized it was the diplomats who were screwing things
up," said Polyak, now a sophomore veterinary student at UF. "The people having the biggest
impact were the physicians and nurses the medical folks on the ground."
Polyak continued to nurture his overseas travel bug, traveling to England where he
received a master's degree in natural sciences at the University of Cambridge. With an eye on
medical school, Polyak wound up back in the U.S., working in Comell University's transplant
The 10 years he would spend there allowed him to cultivate a unique niche.
Focusing on techniques to improve the function of transplanted organs, Polyak developed
the department's clinical and research laboratory, which became the largest of its kind in the
country. He focused on the time period when a donor organ is outside of the body prior to
being transplanted into the organ recipient.
"We formulated different types of drugs that we would infuse into organs so they'd function
better," Polyak said. "When you watch ER, you see an Igloo cooler with an organ inside of it
being rushed to the emergency room. We changed that paradigm. We would hook the organ up
to a machine to trick it into thinking it is still inside the body."
This technique, now in practice at several transplantation centers in the U.S., gives medical
personnel more time to test the organ for viability and to share the organ with recipients across
Polyak's personal research involved developing the drug solution that is used to perfuse
the organ and perfecting the machine used to optimize organ viability.
"I was really close to going to medical school and the surgeons I worked with really
wanted me to stay," said Polyak. "But I knew it wasn't for me."
Now 39 and the father of a 4-year-old son, Polyak said he always wanted to be a veterinar-
ian like his own father and brother.
"This was a different route for going back to when I was a kid, so I decided not to pursue
human medical school and to apply to vet school," Polyak said.
He applied to the University of Califomia/Davis, the University of Pennsylvania and UF,
and was accepted at all three schools. But Polyak was Florida bound.
"There were two main things," he said. "I wanted a warm climate and Florida had relatively
small classes, unlike the other places. Plus, I'd heard from so many people about their positive
experiences at UF, and I knew of the reputation of the equine program. Ultimately, I just had
the right feeling about being here."
Soon after moving to Gainesville, Polyak was contacted by some of his UF contacts from
the human transplant world.
"They said, 'we heard you were here in Gainesville and we want to start a clinical service
to machine-perfuse donor kidneys for our patients,'" Polyak recalled. "They knew about my
experience and asked if I would help set up an organ perfusion lab, so we started talking and
got everything approved."
In the past year, the Shands Transplant Center at UF's organ perfusion laboratory, which
Polyak directs, has increased the number of kidney transplants performed at UF & Shands by
"When you have this capability, you have a way to predict the success of the transplant:'
said Polyak. "We are now taking organs we wouldn't have even considered years ago and
actually using them. It's remarkable to see when someone unusually healthy and gracious
enough to be an organ donor, who can be 70 or 80 years old, can still save someone's life by
donating a kidney or two kidneys or a liver."
Being a veterinary student and simultaneously holding down a job directing the perfusion
lab is not as difficult as it might appear, primarily because many procedures can be scheduled
Sophomore veterinary student Max Polyak is shown at work at the organ perfusion laboratory at UF & Shands.
and he works with a committed staff, Polyak said.
Although he has a proven track record and publications in several peer-reviewed journals
relating to human transplantation, Polyak recently has worked closely with UF large animal
surgeons David Freeman and Ali Morton on publications relating to equine colic.
"We are delighted to have him involved in our research on improving survival in ischemic-
injured equine colon," said Freeman, who is associate chairman of the department of large
animal clinical sciences, associate chief of staff of the Alec P. and Louise H. Courtelis Equine
Hospital and director of the Island Whirl Colic Research Laboratory.
N Ij\ is a remarkable individual and has accomplished more before he earns his profes-
sional degree than many accomplish afterwards, in veterinary or human medicine."
He said Polyak was "great to work with," calling him a "true team player with an honest
and realistic approach to his work, backed by a deep knowledge of transplant technology."
"The University of Florida should be proud to have Max as a student and the College of
Veterinary Medicine should see him as a great resource," Freeman said.
Polyak said he is excited about the possibility of future human and veterinary medicine
collaborations in the area of transplantation technology.
"I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with them," Polyak said. "We now
have a series of experiments that are ongoing," he said. "The goal is to use techniques that are
proven in the human organ transplant field to improve healing in surgical colic cases."
Polyak coauthored on several papers presented this past summer at the 91 International
Equine Colic Symposium in Liverpool and at the American Gastrointestinal Association. Most
recently, he presented his findings at the American College of Veterinary Surgeons meeting in
"His publications would be the envy of anyone in academia, and are backed by more real
accomplishments than the list of papers would convey," Freeman said.
"I second all of Freeman's comments," added Morton, an assistant professor of large animal
surgery. "Max has brought novel concepts and ideas to our research, and he is definitely a great
person to work with very intelligent, yet unassuming, and with a great sense of humor, too.
He certainly is an asset to our research program, as well as to our college."
In the future, Polyak said he may consider pursuing a Ph.D. and likes contemplating
a career in academic veterinary medicine or possibly equine practice.
"The area of equine veterinary medicine is certainly the most attractive to me," he said.
UF researcher lectures
conference hosted by
BY SARAH CAREY
U university of Florida infectious
disease specialist Tony Barbet
has attended many professional
meetings in his 30-year career, but never
anything quite like the Onderstepoort
Centenary Pan African Veterinary
Conference and Celebration, held Oct. 6-9 At left in this photo collage is the postage stamp
in SouthAfrica. Institute. At right in the photo is a frontal view o
The Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute's
100 years of existence is a big enough deal
that South Africa issued a special postage
stamp in honor of it. Even the country's
president showed up as guest of honor.
"When South Africa was being settled,
they needed animals for several reasons,
including transport in the region," said
Barbet, a professor in the UF College of
Veterinary Medicine's department of
infectious diseases and pathology who was
one of only two United States scientists
invited to speak at the conference.
"As settlements began moving
northward, all kinds of animal diseases
were discovered, including rinderpest,
babesiosis, anaplasmosis, heartwater,
African horse sickness, trypanosomiasis
and others. Many people who were moving
northward lost a lot of their animals;
rinderpest wiped out most of the cattle in
the country and African horse sickness
wiped out most of the horses," he said.
Onderstepoort's first director, Sir
Arnold Theiler, is known as the father of
veterinary science in SouthAfrica. A
veterinary bacteriologist who also was a
researcher, a teacher and an administrator
in his lifetime, Theiler in 1896 created a
vaccine to combat the dreaded disease of
rinderpest. As a direct result of his efforts,
the disease was controlled in South Africa.
Under Theiler's leadership, many local
diseases were researched and vaccines
developed at Onderstepoort, which .'.1
remains an important part of South African
academic and professional culture.
Among the guests at the conference
were several of Theiler's descendants,
including his granddaughter, Elizabeth Dr. Tony Barbet is pictured at the Cape of Good Hop
Theiler-Martin, daughter of Max Theiler,
who won the Nobel Prize for developing a
vaccine for yellow fever.
Barbet said he and Theiler-Martin struck up an interesting conversation in which he
told her that the West Nile virus vaccine for horses developed by Dr. Maureen Long of
UF actually involves the insertion of West Nile virus genes into her father's yellow fever
"You can actually trace the origin of her West Nile vaccine back to Max Theiler's
vaccine since it is a combination of both viruses"' Barbet said. "Ms. Theiler-Martin did
not know about this, and I'll bet Max wouldn't have thought his vaccine would wind up
being used in a vaccine that helped the United States combat a different disease."
Barbet, whose research interest is in defining molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis
in tropical and emerging diseases, development of recombinant vaccines and improved
diagnostics, presented an abstract on "Persistence Mechanisms in Tick-Borne Diseases."
"I talked about some of the work Dr. (David) Allred has been doing on Babesia and
I've been doing on Anaplasma and heartwater, and about some of the work I did before I
came to UF relating to African sleeping sickness," Barbet said. "Most of these organisms
have similar methods to be persistent in animals."
He said he hoped to cultivate future relationships with South African scientists,
hopefully through collaborations with the UF veterinary college.
"They actually have quite a need to train up some of their scientists in some of the
interests we have here at UF," Barbet said. He felt there were training opportunities for
South African students to pursue graduate research degrees in Veterinary Medicine and
the new Emerging Pathogens Institute.
issued by the South African government in honor of the 100th anniversary of the creation of Ondestepoort Veterinary
of the Institute.
e during a recent trip to South Africa.
Twins Kaitlyn and Calista Headrick helped their mom, Melissa Headrick, a small animal hospital
referral liaison, in her efforts to promote the Month of Movember event. See p. 4 for story.
Equine reproduction service
going mobile to aid students, clients
A mobile service for equine reproduction at the University of Florida aims to
better serve area horse breeders while simultaneously moving students at the
UF College of Veterinary Medicine more frequently into the field.
"The approach to medicine on the road is different than in the hospital, regardless of
what service you are associated with," said Scott Bailey, D.VM., a Kansas State University
veterinary alumnus who recently completed his residency in theriogenology at UF's College
of Veterinary Medicine.
Bailey, a board-certified reproduction specialist, spent 10 months at Hagyard Equine
Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky., during his residency. He hopes to expand the ambula-
tory service in mid-February, at the start of Thoroughbred breeding season.
"I think our students will benefit greatly from seeing how routine breeding is handled in
the field, as opposed to the more advanced kinds of cases they would typically see at the UF
SVeterinary Medical Center," Bailey said. Because the UF VMC is primarily a referral center, a
more typical horse reproduction case seen in the hospital might consist of a mare at high risk
for losing a foal.
Breeding management is also not typically as intense in the field as in the hospital,
l\ cl most patients are sent to address fertility problems.
Although there are dil le.n \\a s to get a mare pregnant depending on the breed of iltc
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He added that although many equine
veterinarians offer excellent breeding
management services, specialists in the area
have additional expertise to offer.
Although UF used to provide an ambula-
tory reproduction service, in recent years the
time spent on such calls has dwindled and
only two university-owned farms are pres-
As a clinical instructor, Bailey says he has
the interest and flexibility to make a mobile
reproduction service work.
"I'm pretty excited about it," he said.
"The No. 1 complaint we hear from students
has been that there is a lack of real-world
experience at the university at any
university. I think our students will benefit
from obtaining a more varied view of how
cri c iun Ilpaciicc is conducted in the field." 0
No addliioiul overhead costs were
needed to bcin the procamm since UF
alCid\ it s IonlK iKe iCCCd \ cclcis anld Dr. Scott Bailey
ediiical eqtiipmiieiI Baile salid
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Associate director of UF's aquatic animal health program has played key role
in recent Navy "ship shock" exercises
D r. Mike Walsh, associate director of the University of
Florida's Aquatic Animal Health Program, partnered
recently with the Navy in a ship shock trial as part of a team
effort to ensure protection for any marine mammals or sea turtles
that might be located near the
The Navy is required by
law to conduct realistic live
fire testing of new classes of
ships. To comply with this
requirement, the Navy exposes
new ship designs to controlled
explosions during a shock trial
4 ,in an effort to test and build
Improving ship capability
to absorb and survive these
explosions during times of
conflict protects the lives of
Dr. Mike Walsh the sailors involved, Navy
A test site was chosen
based on all available biological information of animal
migration and usage, and the area then was meticulously
surveyed using marine biologist observers in planes, as well as
trained observers on multiple surface ships. Prior to any
explosive use, members of the Marine Animal Protective
Measures team which consisted of Walsh, a biologist and a
small group of others determined that the area was free of any
marine mammals or sea turtles.
Following each detonation, the area was again intensely
monitored in a widening pattern by ship and plane for several
days to make sure no injured animals were encountered.
The Navy is using the information gained from these events
to design safer vessels, but also to validate computer modeling.
Photo of a Navy ship conducting a shock trial off the coast of Florida last summer.
~*.~r~ ~ 'i
Congratulations to new
S Several students in the UF
SCollege of Veterinary Medicine's
Graduate studies program received
Their degrees during December
commencement exercises at UF
S The new recipients include
Stanley Kim and Thomas Rikoski,
u who received master of science
: degrees (thesis-based); Sara Chan,
m Maggie Kellogg and Brian Stacy,
Swho received their Ph.D. degrees;
Sand several who received non-thesis
Master of science degrees in forensic
S Those graduates include:
Christine Clark, Julie Huss, Alexis
SLittle, Kelly Magurany, Jennifer
Richardson, Laura R owe, Susan
SSkolly-Danziger, Trava Soltis and
EE E E EEE E E EE
Offshore veterinary students graduate,
say goodbye to UF
In front row, from left to right, are new offshore graduates Sheila Goldszlager, Amanda Miller, Sharon Allen, Brigette Dean-Hines, Ana Sofia Pearse and Maria
Rathert Fron left to right, back row, are Dr. Michael Schaer, Peter Roufail, Linda Hanel, Sonny Sanghera, Dr. Thomas Vicoroy, Dr. Chito Pablo, Paul Weber and
Ben Ley. Congratulations and good luck to all of our new offshore graduates!
INew forensics program to investigate crime against animals
C all it "CSI: Animal Edition."
But this isn't television. In this real-life drama, necropsies, assessment of skeletal
remains for abuse and trauma, and crime scene analysis of hair, fibers and
bloodstains are used to solve cases of cruelty to animals.
University of Florida officials announced today that they are partnering with the American
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to form the first Veterinary Forensic Sciences
Program dedicated to the teaching, research and application of forensic science in the investi-
gation and prosecution of crimes against animals. The program will handle cases from around
the country possibly up to 200 within the first two years and provide consultancy and
training. Additional details were presented at the North American Veterinary Conference, held
Jan. 17-21 in Orlando.
The collaboration between the university and the ASPCA started a year ago, when the two
institutions organized a conference on the use of forensic science to investigate animal cruelty.
Coordinators expected only a few dozen attendees, but instead were met by nearly 200 people
from across the United States and nine other countries.
That unanticipated interest helped fuel the development of the new program.
"This is a newly emerging field," said forensic toxicologist Bruce Goldberger, Ph.D.,
director of the William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine at UF. "We are translating our
knowledge of forensic science to a new field devoted to solving crimes against animals."
The Veterinary Forensic Sciences Program will dramatically increase the number of
professionals trained in forensic investigation of animal cruelty cases by potentially
hundreds each year, Goldberger said. In so doing, it could also help uncover instances where
the abusers are also targeting people, experts say.
Housed at the Maples Center, the new program is being established with an initial gift of
$150,000 and a commitment of support for the next three years from the ASPCA.
Over the last few years, the number and stringency of laws relating to animal cruelty has
Penalties can include extended prison time, such as in the high-profile dog fighting case
involving professional football player Michael Vick.
"That means the standards of investigations and of the science used in documenting what
has happened to animals are much much higher than even five years ago," said Randall
Lockwood, Ph.D., ASPCA senior vice president for anti-cruelty field services.
There is no national tracking of animal cruelty cases the new Veterinary Forensics
Sciences Program will allow for better collection of such data. Each year the ASPCA investi-
gates more than 5,000 cruelty cases and arrests or issues summonses to more than 300 people.
Scenarios include simple neglect, abandonment, animal hoarding and blood sports such as
dog fighting. On the basis of media accounts, the animal advocacy Web site pet-abuse.com
reports 1,620 high profile cases in 2008.
Lt. Sherry Schlueter, who calls herself the "original animal cop," is credited with starting
- in the early 1980s the first animal cruelty investigation unit within a law enforcement
agency. Today she is section supervisor of the Special Victims and Family Crimes section of
the Broward County (Florida) Sheriff's Office. She said the new program will help protect not
only animals, but also humans who might be harmed by the same assailants. She heads one of
the first police units in the country in which officers are "cross-trained" to recognize and
investigate links between animal abuse and violence against humans, including child abuse,
domestic violence and sexual abuse.
She works to educate fellow officers and others about that link.
"My goal was always to get law enforcement to recognize animal cruelty for the crime it
is," she said. "Victims are victims and batterers are batterers and it shouldn't matter what
species, what age, what gender."
The new program at University of Florida will offer undergraduate and postgraduate
courses and continuing education for veterinarians, law enforcement personnel, animal
control officers and others. Courses include forensic entomology, buried-remains excavation,
bloodstain pattern analysis, bite-mark analysis and animal crime scene processing. Training
will be done in classroom settings, online and through the just-formed International
Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association.
One such course to be offered next spring through the University of Florida's College
of Veterinary Medicine will include seminars on various forensics topics, as well as a mock
trial in which students will play the defendants in animal-cruelty cases. Real prosecutors and
media professionals will take part to enhance the learning experience.
Often, veterinarians presented with cases of animal abuse or neglect are not sure what to
look for to establish cause and manner of death, or to prove that a crime was committed.
"Veterinarians are frequently asked to participate in cruelty investigations, yet we don't
receive special training on that in veterinary school," said Julie Levy, D.VM., Ph.D., director
of Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida. "There is a substantial
unmet need for that training to be provided to veterinarians."
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Veterinary students' contributions improved facilities at St. Francis House clinic
BY SARAH CAREY
W hen senior veterinay students An Nguyen and Ben
Nevitt first visited the primary pet care clinic at the St.
Francis House homeless shelter in downtown
Gainesville last year, they were struck by how "bare bones" the
"I'd heard about it from Maggie (Machen) in our class," Nguyen
said. "I just went down there and asked if I could help."
Nguyen said he saw and evaluated patients, as he would in the
UF VMC, after receiving an orientation from Dr. Dale Kaplan-Stein. An Nguyen
Kaplan-Stein, a UF CVM alumnus and local practice owner,
opened the St. Francis House clinic in August of 2007 in an effort
to begin providing veterinary care to the pets of homeless and
low-income people from the Gainesville area. Dr. Natalie Isaza,
who coordinates UF's shelter medicine course, was involved with
the clinic from the beginning, along with Kaplan-Stein, her friend
Chris Machen (Maggie Machen's mother and wife of UF president
Bernie Machen) and later, local veterinarian Frances Lane and
longtime animal advocate and community volunteer Melissa
"The first clinic was in August 2007 with just Dale, Chris and
me," Isaza recalled. "We saw one patient that day. Today we have
over 300 active clients. We have seen over 500 patients in the Ben Nevitt
clinic since it first began."
Isaza added that this past year alone, veterinary students on
their shelter medicine rotation had spayed or neutered 180 of the
St. Francis House veterinary clinic animals.
Soon after the program started, Isaza began regularly taking students on their shelter
rotation through the clinic as part of their course. When Nguyen and Nevitt visited several
months later, they noticed the tight space constraints of the building in which the clinic is
housed, as well as other logistical problems.
"We could see how we could make the place a lot more clinic-like just by bringing some
things in and organizing the place a little better," Nevitt said. "Running water was probably the
Putting their heads together, Nguyen and Nevitt saw that there had once been a water
fountain in the room. They determined that it would be possible to install a sink in the area, so
began visiting local surplus stores to see what types of equipment and cabinetry was available.
"Ben does some woodworking, so he was able to put some of the pieces together," Nguyen
said. "We borrowed the Machens' truck and with help from some of the people from St. Francis
House, we were able to get the water hooked up."
Dr. Natalie Isaza and Brooke Wells, class of '08, are shown in front of the sink and cabinets procured by students An
Nguyen and Ben Nevitt for the St. Francis House veterinary clinic in a photo taken last year.
(Photo by Sarah Carey)
Chris Machen, who is trained as a nurse, was impressed with the students' efforts and
commitment to the program.
"An and Ben have gotten surplus shelving and counters, even a sink and laboratory
equipment for us," Chris Machen said. "They spent hours getting it all ready and installing
everything and really deserve some recognition."
Nguyen and Nevitt said they felt the people whose pets are being helped through the
homeless shelter clinic were truly grateful for the service, which is now part of the UF shelter
medicine elective course.
"A lot of the problems these pets have are solvable, like dogs with fleas," Nevitt said.
"The problem is easy to fix, and doing so makes their dog's life a lot better."
Nguyen said he felt the program was a great way for veterinary volunteers and others to
give back to the community.
Mo' bros and friends exceed goals to aid prostate cancer awareness
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Participants in the 2008 "Movember" event to benefit the Prostate Cancer Foundation raised a record $1,030.27 that will be used to find better treatments and a cure for the
More than 30 "Mo Bros" from the UF VMC, including faculty, staff and students, showed their support by growing mustaches, or "Mos" in fun, but as a show of solidarity with
those affected by prostate cancer.
A "Movember Gala" catered by none other than Moe's Restaurant was held Nov. 24, during which several awards were given to acknowledge key participants for their unusually
hairy and over-the-top contributions.
Winning the "Best in Mo" award was Dr. Nick Bacon, with Dr. Alistair Coomer and senior veterinary student Derek Parkin taking first and second runner-up honors. Phil Buchyn
received the "Beasty Mo" award, while Dr. Stan Kim added yet another honor to his string of awards this year by grabbing the "Lame Mo" award.
"We are already coming up with ideas for making Movember 2009 a great one," said Melissa Headrick, VMC's referral liaison and coordinator of the Movember event.