Illinois Delivers #ScienceWithHeart

Jul 26, 2017 / Message from the Dean

[Dr. Jordan Vitt holds Nana, who traveled from Thailand with two veterinarians]

This message will appear in the August 2017 issue of the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association Bulletin.

Using Data, Strategy, and Caring to Improve Life

In July, two veterinarians from Thailand brought one of their patients, a three-year-old Chihuahua named Nana, more than 8,000 miles to have her PDA repaired via a minimally invasive procedure at our hospital.

Nana’s tale has a happy ending, but it’s only the beginning of a global, educational connection being forged between Illinois veterinary cardiologist Dr. Jordan Vitt and his colleagues at the Kasetsart University veterinary hospital in Bangkok.

Dr. Vitt first saw Nana in March of this year, when he spent 10 days at the Thai veterinary hospital working with the cardiology unit there. He already plans to visit again in March 2018. He hopes to assist doctors there in acquiring the skills and instruments needed to perform cardiac procedures not currently possible in that country, and he envisions an ongoing exchange of students and faculty between the two universities.

Actions that have impact on a personal level—saving a life, inspiring a student—as well as on a broad scale—facilitating the means to save hundreds of lives, transforming the approach to veterinary education—are actions that we call “science with heart.”

“Science with heart” means we are data-driven and analytical, disciplined and strategic, at the same time we are caring and are choosing efforts that will improve life on earth, for animals, people, and the planet.

At the AVMA meeting in Indianapolis, Illinois kicked off its extended celebration of the campus 150th anniversary and anticipated the coming capital campaign by handing out t-shirts and referral directories emblazoned with an anatomical dog’s heart and the phrase “Science with Heart.” When viewed through a device with a free app, the hearts come alive and beat—what else?—Illini orange and blue.

Although we have adopted the symbol of the heart, we are not just talking about cardiology.

#ScienceWithHeart happens in every corner of our hospital and clinics, classrooms, and laboratories. Here are just a few current examples:

  • Sleep aid. Megan Mahoney, with co-investigator Dr. Charles Davies from Carle Foundation Hospital, won funding through the new Carle Illinois College of Medicine to study how hormonal changes and environmental chemicals impact sleep disruptions in menopausal women. Their research will build on preliminary data from 760 women which show, for the first time, that exposure to phthalates is associated with increased frequency of insomnia and restless sleep in this population. Dr. Mahoney believes the work will lead to clinical interventions to improve sleep quality.
  • Cat stress. Third-year veterinary student Mandy Erdei is spending her summer investigating whether acupuncture can improve the stress levels and adoptability of shelter cats. Dr. Loukia Agapis, a veterinarian in the college’s shelter medicine program, is examining all cats entering the Champaign County Humane Society and performing acupuncture on a random sample, which will not be identified to Erdei, who will evaluate each cat’s stress levels in the three days after arrival. Maddie’s Fund, a family foundation based in Pleasanton, Calif., provided support for the project.
  • World Hunger. Brian Aldridge and Jim Lowe are using technology to deliver much-needed information about best-practices in food animal production to a global audience at no cost. “Sustainable Food Production Through Livestock Health Management,” a MOOC (massive open online course) they launched through Coursera® in 2015, has been seen by nearly 24,000 people from 163 countries. Based the course’s success, the campus Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning asked Drs. Aldridge and Lowe to develop a second MOOC that will be completed this summer.

Please join us at Fall Conference, October 26 and 27, for our ongoing celebration of the campus sesquicentennial and for more examples of #ScienceWithHeart at your Illinois veterinary college.

—Dean Peter Constable