The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine has garnered national attention with the opening of a center specializing in the treatment and research of cancer in companion animals, and M. Daniel Givens, dean of the college, is leading plans to expand the existing curriculum College’s Hospital to enhance the College’s dual mission of educating students and providing clinical care to animals.
In 2020, the Veterinary College opened the Animal Cancer Care and Research Center in Roanoke. The center was recently featured in the journal Nature for its cutting-edge treatment and potentially revolutionary studies on canine cancer that could lead to advances in human cancer treatment. The 18,680-square-foot cancer center, which is adjacent to and shares some equipment with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC in Roanoke, treated 2,188 dogs and 333 cats referred by veterinarians in 2021 and currently has 62 dogs cared for free enrolled in experimental clinical trials to the animal owner.
Two facilities geared toward large animal care and clinical training — the Animal Physiology and Reproduction Building and the Outdoor Equine Lameness Arena — are open behind the main college building on the Blacksburg campus.
Local government approvals have been received for a $6 million, 20,000-square-foot indoor arena at Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, which is slated for completion in late 2023. The equine center sees what Givens describes as a “uniquely high caseload” of more than 2,000 horses per year, and when you add to the approximately 800 in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech’s veterinary college has one of the highest equine caseloads of any teaching hospital in the USA
Central to future facility plans is the college’s proposed addition and renovation of its approximately 42,000 gross square foot Blacksburg Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The need is due to a doubling in student numbers and a nearly three-fold increase in the number of small animal specialties offered since the current teaching hospital was built in 1987.
The funding plan for the estimated $45 million project, Givens said, includes about $12 million saved by the college and $15 million from philanthropy, with the remainder funding the debt through fees on existing ones Facilities and income from the teaching hospital are repaid along with the university support.
“We have so many exciting developments at our Equine Medical Center in Leesburg and Animal Cancer Care and Research Center in Roanoke, and so much potential to see more at those sites,” said Givens, who spoke at Virginia Tech’s November meeting Board of Visitors on the progress and projects of the Veterinary College. “But please understand that we are primarily programmatically based in Blacksburg, Virginia. Here we have a veterinary teaching hospital, here doctoral students in veterinary medicine mainly receive their basic training as part of the veterinary medicine curriculum.”
The Blacksburg Teaching Hospital treated 14,667 animal patients in 2021, including approximately 11,000 dogs and 2,300 cats. Instructor-led veterinary students also visited over 5,000 farms last year, mostly within a 30-mile radius of Blacksburg, and primarily to treat horses and cows.
“These clinical entities have a dual focus,” Givens said. “One focus is absolute experiential education. But the second focus is to serve the animals that are introduced to these different clinics by their handlers. So our priorities are how best to serve the animals and customers, and also how to achieve the best experiential learning in these facilities.”