Category Archives: Alumni

Show highlights farm animal veterinary medicine

Peter Ostrum ’84 highlighted in new online show documenting work of farm animal veterinarians

Modern American livestock farmers face two emerging challenges: an increasing shortage of large-animal veterinarians, and dimming public understanding of what happens with food before it hits the fork. A new reality documentary series called Veterinarians on Call seeks to bridge these gaps by offering online viewers a candid look into the work of real livestock veterinarians, raising awareness of the care that goes into responsible livestock farming in the US.

Ostrum

As part of its efforts to support the veterinary and animal health industry, pharmaceutical company Pfizer funded the show’s production. Currently seven short ‘webisodes’ are available through the show’s Youtube Channel. Each episode follows one of several livestock veterinarians selected from various states and specialties who have volunteered to be filmed in their day-to-day work behind the scenes caring for food-production animals.

Cattle veterinarian Dr. Peter Ostrum ’84 features prominently in the series. Ostrum had an early start onstage playing the role of Charlie in the classic film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Preferring farms to fame, he left acting to earn his DVM from Cornell and now works at a mixed animal practice in upstate New York, which he co-owns with three other Cornell alumni.

Ostrum

“I got a call from a friend and fellow alum, Dr. Roger Saltman ’81, who works at Pfizer, and asked me if I’d be willing to participate,” said Ostrum. “The crew shadowed me throughout my normal workday and during emergency calls on dairy farms. When we discussed cases on camera I tried to explain what I’m doing for someone who’d never been on a farm.”

The show highlights how veterinary care plays into the key concepts of animal welfare and food safety, and reveals aspects of the job Ostrum says people wouldn’t normally think of.

Ostrum

“This job is not just treating sick cows. A lot of it is education; we spend a lot of time with people, training the farm workers who work with these animals every day and are usually the ones making decisions about treatment,” said Ostrum.
“Growing up, most of my peers were raised on farms. Now that more people live in cities and suburbs, fewer and fewer people understand what agriculture involves. I’m doing this to encourage aspiring veterinarians to consider large animal medicine, and also to try to help people reconnect with their food sources and shed some light on what’s going on in the farming sector.”

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/vetsoncall_Ostrum.cfm

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Scholarship recognizes a perseverance to finish

Whitefield

When John W. Whitefield ’65 passed away in 2004, his colleagues and friends began raising funds for a scholarship that would keep his memory alive through generations of students who would receive the award. Through the work and creativity of some of his closest friends, including fellow alumni Dr. Ed Dalland ’68 and Dr. Joel Edwards ’64, the scholarship fund recently reached $100,000 with more than 350 donations from friends, family, colleagues, classmates, and clients.

“John was a good friend of mine and when he became ill I recruited a number of Cornell alumni to form a fundraising committee headed by Joel Edwards to establish the Whitefield Scholarship,” said Dalland. “We wanted to honor John while he was still alive, and he was very humbled. We mailed brochures to all practicing veterinarians in New York State letting them know of our efforts and asked veterinarians to give their clients the opportunity to contribute, especially those with pets on which John had performed surgery.

“The College’s alumni are devoted to the profession, the College, and their communities. Reaching our goal of $100,000 took approximately five years of effort, but we made it! John upheld that spirit of service, and in his honor we hope to support students that will do the same.”

The John W. Whitefield ’65 Memorial Scholarship will be given every year in perpetuity.

“Dr. Whitefield had to drop out of Cornell for one year because he ran out of money,” said Dalland. “Thankfully he was able to earn enough to complete his education. That is why the scholarship is to be awarded to a third-year student interested in pursuing a surgery internship or residency after graduation. What a terrible loss our profession would have suffered if he was unable to finish his education.”

The minimum for scholarship endowments at the University and College is $100,000, which provides annual support in perpetuity to qualifying students. Scholarships may be named for individuals, animals, or beloved faculty members and provide much-needed assistance. If you are interested in establishing a scholarship or know of individuals who might be, contact Amy Robinson in the Office of Alumni Affairs and Development at amy.robinson@cornell.edu.

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/whitefield.cfm

Christopher Byron ’98 joins AVMA editorial staff

ByronIn September 2011 Dr. Christopher R. Byron BS ’94, DVM ’98 was appointed assistant editor for the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) and the American Journal of Veterinary Research (AJVR), premier veterinary science journals published by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“Throughout my education at Cornell, and during my career as a surgeon, researcher, and veterinary educator, I have been interested in the science of veterinary medicine,” said Byron. “My new role as an assistant editor for the JAVMA and the AJVR fits well with this interest, and will be a natural complement to my prior experiences. The AVMA journals are important vehicles for scientific communications, and I am looking forward to serving the veterinary profession in this new capacity.”

Byron’s appointment is the latest in a string of varied professional experiences as a young equine surgeon. After earning both his undergraduate and veterinary degrees at Cornell University, Byron interned at the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY. He then completed an equine surgery residency and master’s degree program at Michigan State University, becoming a board-certified diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) in 2003, on whose Resident Credentials Committee he now serves.

As an Assistant Professor of Equine Surgery at the University of Illinois for six years, Byron taught veterinary students and residents, practiced clinical equine medicine, and headed a research team publishing papers about shock wave therapy and equine joint disease, including several in JAVMA and AJVR. He then joined the staff of the Ruffian Equine Medical Center, a private equine referral center in Elmont, NY, where he practiced equine surgery until March 2011.

Experience on the review board of the ACVS Veterinary Surgery journal prepared him for his full-time position in Schaumburg, IL. As assistant editor for AVMA’s publications, he will read and review article submissions and prepare them for release to JAVMA and AJVR’s subscribers, informing the veterinary community about the latest developments in veterinary science and clinical innovations.

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/byron.cfm

Artistic alum serves Costa Rican clinic

fDr. Robin Truelove Stronk, DVM ’75 spent her tropical getaway in Costa Rica volunteering her veterinary skills to help a community in need. In February 2011 she took part in a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in Esterillos Oeste, Costa Rica. Along with a colleague, Dr. Rich Righter, they neutered 40 animals in one day.

“These animals are all owned by poor families and the stray and unwanted animal situation is heartbreaking,” said Stronk. “We worked in an open school building on the beach on folding tables from the local church with only the light coming through the windows. We moved our surgery tables following the sun. Owners sat in little school chairs and quietly watched the surgery.”

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When owners presented their animals, the veterinary duo held an informal screening process to ensure proper care after the surgery.

“One of the requirements was that they agree to keep the animal under close observation for several days post-op and that they provide transportation home,” said Stronk. “Virtually nobody has cars so they use what we would call ‘Yankee ingenuity’.”

kAfter owning her own practice in Vermont for 24 years, Stronk sold her business to a corporation and worked for them for a few more years before taking a new path.

“I have switched to exercising my right brain and now work as an animal artist,” said Stronk. “So I am essentially the ‘Artist Formerly Known as Veterinarian.’ The spay clinic made me feel young again! It was probably one of the most challenging, rewarding days of my career. I can’t wait to repeat it this coming year.”

Stronk’s animal art has been featured in several places, including the cover of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and her new book, a collection of illustrated veterinary memoirs, Vet Noir – It’s not the Pets – It’s the People Who Make Me Crazy.Check out her artwork at http://www.truelovearts.com/.

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/Stronk.cfm

 

 

The Francis H. Fox Scholarship

How Fox’s friends and former students gave the prankster his best surprise yet

What comes to mind when you think of Francis H. Fox? If you were one of the legions he trained, you might remember lively lectures offset by mischievous humor, or rolling up farm roads for firsthand lessons in large animal medicine. Perhaps you’ve only heard his name in the College’s legends: rumors of preternatural diagnostic powers, or elaborate pranks exchanged with students. If you’ve ever driven down Route 366 near the College, you may think of his name in white paint, infamously emblazoned on the side of an old bridge over the road and accompanied by a public birthday counter.

This symbol has become a lasting tribute to the strong bonds between one of the College’s most well-known professors and the generation of veterinary students he trained, challenged, inspired, and befriended. That close camaraderie roused a large group of Fox’s former students and fast friends to unite and establish a scholarship in his honor, gathering supporters happy to give their mentor a legacy that would continue his passion for helping veterinary students for years to come.

“When I was a student I spent a lot of extra time with Dr. Fox,” said Dr. Pete Malnati ’52, who spearheaded the project. “He would call up interested students to go out on special cases with him. He was an exceptionally committed teacher, happy to share his knowledge and experience and sense of humor. I appreciated what he did for me, and for my fellow students, and we wanted to give back.”

The Friends of Francis Fox had no trouble getting support from enthusiastic peers. More than 200 people contributed over $22,000 in the first year alone. When Fox entered the Centennial New York State Veterinary Medical Society meeting in Rochester, NY in Fall 1990, he was surprised with a formal announcement establishing the endowment in his name.

“We are honoring Dr. Fox for his contributions to veterinary medicine in the field of large animal medicine and ophthalmology, especially as a teacher, clinician, and advocate of the art of physical diagnosis,” said Malnati. “He has given many of us this basic foundation in veterinary medicine. Thus we owe him this measure of gratitude as a friend, teacher, and fellow veterinarian.”

The selection criteria reflect Fox’s interests and ideals, seeking students highly motivated to serve the large animal sector, and those showing a gift mirroring Fox’s famous talent for physical diagnosis.

“It was all done behind my back,” said Fox. “I never expected such a thing, and felt very humbled. I hope it will help students who love the profession, and feel a calling to medicine because of their love of animals and satisfaction in working with them.”

The Francis H. Fox Scholarship fund has grown substantially since its inception in 1990, with continual support from hundreds of contributors. It aids two to four students in need a year, and has supported a total of 29 to date. Should you have interest in contributing to the Francis H. Fox Scholarship, please contact Amy Robinson in the Alumni Affairs and Development Office at amy.robinson@cornell.edu or (607) 253-3742.


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‘Scopes Magazine
July 2011

Alumni Spotlight: Cesar Tello ’97

Trials and triumphs of starting a new veterinary practice in NYC’s Latino community

After eight years at Cornell, Peruvian-born Cesar Tello BS ’93 DVM ’97 launched into a fast-paced veterinary career in New York City, where he now owns a thriving practice. On March 29, 2011, Tello returned to his alma mater to share his story with a diverse group of students from across the university. Tello spoke of his trials and triumphs as a sole practice owner in one of New York City’s immigrant neighborhood where a majority of his clients do not speak English, and how it has strengthened his skills and enriched his experiences as a veterinarian.
“A solid social foundation is essential, in school and beyond,” said Tello, who came from Peru to New York City when he was one and half years old with his veterinarian parents. “The worst feeling is feeling alone; you have to build and use your network. As an undergrad I joined a Latino fraternity and several cultural and political student organizations. When I started veterinary school, I stayed involved with the student groups down campus, even joining them in a sit-in protest at Day Hall. When vet school got tough, I started connecting with veterinary students as well. We all pulled each other through.”

The value of camaraderie and the networking skills Tello cultivated at Cornell proved vital later in his career. Through networking he found his first veterinary job in Staten Island. “It paid $40,000 a year for 80 hours of work per week. But the working habits you established in the first two years out of veterinary school stay with you forever. I was a sponge and was determined to learn everything I could.”

kTello built his skills in various kinds of practices, including a house call service and an emergency night service where he worked from 5 pm to 8 am. “Emergencies taught me to do what needed to be done despite the anxiety. You see some scary things and have to act fast. I was scared, but I wasn’t scared enough not to help,” said Tello. “That’s where I really learned leadership.”

At the age of 29, Tello had gained enough confidence, experience, and leadership to brave the trials of starting his own practice. He opened Noah’s Ark Pet Clinic in Jackson Heights, a Queens’ neighborhood housing 130,000 people in a one-mile radius, 80 percent of who speak only Spanish. Tello is the sole owner and practitioner, managing seven employees and fielding a heavy stream of clients.

“I was a young guy starting a new business; there were a lot of things working against me. Speaking to people, gaining their trust, showing confidence in your knowledge and skills, it’s a vital art. So I go back to basics: honesty and integrity matter and so does a network of support. I got to know my neighbors, my colleagues, my employees, and my clients. I can call up other veterinarians in the area and refer cases, we have a good camaraderie. I try to create a comfortable space for clients where we keep an open dialogue. My office has a library; clients come in with questions about a case and I bring out textbooks and show them what I’m talking about. Owners come in all forms, and I try to be fair with everyone.”

As the intensive labor of opening settled and business bloomed, Tello sought new ways of becoming involved with his community. He began a mentorship program for diverse high school and college students. “The first thing I do is ask them for resumes,” he said. “Many of them don’t have one so making them prepare one shows them what they need to start off in the world. We talk about their goals, activities, and educational decisions. Each year about 10-15 students come through my office. I let them know that as long as they keep in touch, I’ll write a good recommendation for them. Maybe four in the past 5 years have actually gone on to vet school.”

TelloAsked why there are so few minorities in veterinary school, Tello said there is no easy answer. “To be a veterinarian is the number one aspiration of kindergarten students around the country,” said Tello. “Somewhere in the education pipeline, something breaks down. Grades are the gatekeeper into vet school, and grades start in kindergarten. No matter who you are, a strong education and supportive social network are essential. I try to be a role model, to show it can be done.”

Tello finished paying his student loans two years ago, ends appointments at 4pm, and leaves work promptly at 5pm to return to his wife and young daughter. He continues his involvement in Cornell as a College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Board Member, and as part of the Cornell Alumni Trustee nominating committee. His talk was arranged by the students of VOICE (Veterinarians as One in Color and Ethnicity), in collaboration with the Latino Studies Program, Cornell’s Pre-Vet Society, and the College’s Student-Alumni Network Group.

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/Tello.cfm