Student Poster Presentations

Meet your future colleagues and interact with students from UC Davis and Western University as they explain, discuss, and answer questions about their research. The posters will be on display in the Vet Expo throughout the conference. 

Students will be available to discuss their theses during the  lunch breaks on Friday, June 29 and Saturday, June 30. They will also be presenting in the Vet Expo during the afternoon break on Friday from 2:50 PM–3:40 PM.

Friday, June 29th,  12:20 PM – 2:00 PM and 2:50 PM -3:40 PM
Saturday, June 30th,  12:20 PM – 2:00 PM

UC Davis Student Poster Presentations in the Vet Expo:

Joanne Bettada, Class of 2019  

Ms. Bettada received her B.S. degree in computer engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana. She worked for Intel as a microprocessor designer until she decided to continue her veterinary dream. Ms. Bettada obtained her RVT license in 2009 and worked in the field until 2015 when she was admitted to veterinary school. She plans to graduate from UC Davis Veterinary Medicine in 2019 and start an internship.

MRI of Equine Distal Limb Cartilage

This study is the second part of a project to develop the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocol for optimal visualization of equine cartilage. Twelve individual equine forelimbs were collected to obtain the optimal MR images of distal interphalangeal joint cartilages, and data were processed with MATLAB to calculate the MRI properties. Six homogenous, custom-made gel phantoms were constructed with carrageenan, agarose, and GdCl3 to match the calculated MRI properties. MR images of each phantom were acquired with the designed RF coils and pulse sequences, and image quality was evaluated by signal-to-noise ratio and image nonuniformity. The best combinations of radiofrequency coils and pulse sequences were carried onto the final phase of the project on equine limbs to be evaluated by radiologists for the easiness of cartilage visualization.

Connor Long, Class of 2020

Mr. Long is a DVM candidate from the class of 2020 at UC Davis. His work establishing canine placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cell lines for the treatment of neurological disorders was recently published in Cytometry Part A. Cell lines that he isolated and characterized are currently being tested in two veterinary clinical trials at UC Davis. Preliminary results in English Bulldogs affected with spina bifida have been promising and reported on in the popular media.

Placental Mesenchymal Stromal Cells for the Treatment of Canine Neurological Disorders

Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating disorder that affects humans and their canine companions. The prognosis of SCI depends on the severity of the injury and can include motor and sensory deficits including devastating paraplegia and quadriplegia. Placental mesenchymal stromal cells (PMSCs) have been shown to improve wound healing and possess neuroprotective and immunomodulatory capabilities. In this study, we developed a protocol to isolate PMSCs from canine placentas and characterized their therapeutic potential in vitro to determine their potential as a treatment option for neurological disorders in dogs. PMSCs meet the criteria to be defined as mesenchymal stromal cells and represent a potential regenerative therapy option for neurological disorders in dogs with their robust growth in collagen hydrogel, secretion of potent paracrine factors, and neuroproliferative and neuroprotective capabilities.

Stephanie Stromberg, Class of 2019 

Ms. Stromberg received her B.S. in biology from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, where she did research in comparative chloroplast genomics of the plant family Campanulaceae. After briefly working for Guide Dogs for the Blind, she entered veterinary school at UC Davis (Class of 2019) and joined a research project investigating the genetics of sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS).

Evaluation of the MHC Class II as a Candidate for Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) in Dachshunds

Sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS) is currently an incurable cause of blindness in dogs. The etiology of this disease is unknown, although several hypotheses have been suggested. Discovery of a genetic component of SARDS in dachshunds (one of the most commonly affected breeds) could lead to a deeper understanding of the disease’s etiology, identification of at-risk animals, and development of treatments. Based on data from a previous genome-wide association study, the authors hypothesized that an association could be identified between specific dog leukocyte antigen (DLA) class II haplotypes and SARDS in the dachshund using direct sequencing of genomic DNA from each of the DLA class II genes: DLA-DRB1, DLA-DQA1, and DLA-DQB1. Three significant associations were identified in our preliminary data.

Eric Velazquez, Class of 2020

Mr. Velazquez is pursuing a combined DVM/Ph.D. program at UC Davis and will graduate in 2020. His project emphasizes how gut microbiota affects susceptibility to infection in laboratory mice. Mr. Velazquez’s career goal is to pursue a residency in anatomic pathology with a focus on laboratory animals so he can become a research veterinarian with expertise in developing in vivo models of human diseases.

Indigenous Enterobacteriaceae Underlie Variation in Susceptibility to Infection 

The microbiome represents an important source of variation in disease outcomes. Understanding how balanced gut-associated communities influence host-pathogen interactions could advance prophylaxis and improve reproducibility of mammalian models. However, little is known about specific microbial composition changes that cause phenotypic differences. Here we show that genetically similar mice, obtained from four vendors, exhibit heterogeneous responses during Salmonella. Fecal transplantation into germ-free mice replicates hierarchical susceptibility, revealing variability is due to distinct commensals. Co-housing of susceptible with resistance hosts partially transfers protective capacity, suggesting minority species within the gut flora are responsible. Consistent with our hypothesis, escalating colonization resistance is attributed to diverse resident Enterobacteriaceae, a low abundance taxon not readily detected by amplicon sequencing. These findings illustrate how keystone facultative anaerobes can affect experimental results and alter infection risk among healthy individuals.

Alice Wang, Class of 2020

Ms. Wang is currently a second-year veterinary student at UC Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2020. She did a five-year undergraduate veterinary medical study in China and a one-year pre-veterinary study at Kansas State University before attending veterinary school. She is interested in small animal medicine and comparative medicine.

Evaluation of Biocompatibility of a Novel Sustained Ocular Drug Delivery System in Rhesus Macaques Using Optical Coherence Tomography Imaging

Biodegradable microspheres suspended within thermoresponsive hydrogel designed by our collaborator, Dr. Kang-Mieler’s team at Illinois Institute of Technology, can be used as an ocular drug delivery system (DDS). The DDS can achieve controlled and extended release of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF), with potential to reduce intravitreal injection frequency for patients with wet form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Excellent biocompatibility and pharmacokinetic properties of this DDS have been demonstrated in rodent AMD models. In this project, we further evaluated the safety of this DDS on primate eyes by studying the anatomic and function changes of the retina of three rhesus macaques after six months of intravitreal injections using spectral domain-optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) and electroretinogram (ERG).

Western University of Health Sciences Student Poster Presentations in the Vet Expo:

Emalee Blumhagen, Class of 2019

Ms. Blumhagen grew up on a small sheep and goat farm outside Seattle, Washington. In her undergraduate program, she performed paleontological research and field work in New Mexico, Utah, and China. In 2010, she worked as a wildlife rehabilitator at PAWS. Ms. Blumhagen expects to complete her DVM at Western University of Health Sciences in May 2019.

Prevalence of Lead Exposure in Southern California Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura)

As scavengers with a broad geographic range and substantial population in North America, turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) may be exposed to a wide range of dead animals potentially contaminated with lead and may serve as useful sentinels to detect lead contamination in the environment. In this study, we investigated the prevalence and epidemiology of lead exposure in turkey vultures and assessed their potential role as environmental sentinels in Southern California between 2016 and 2017. A total of 102 turkey vultures were captured and sampled at Anaheim Lake, Orange County, California. The prevalence of blood lead was 50 percent. Detectable blood lead levels ranged from 3.3 μg/dL to 33.0 μg/dL, with an average and standard deviation of 7.7 +/- 6.5 μg/dL. The collection of data is currently ongoing and therefore its epidemiological analysis is still in progress. At this point, our data suggests that there is significant lead exposure in turkey vultures in Southern California. Given the relative ease of capture in large numbers with limited effort, ability to cover extensive surfaces of land while searching for food combined with the high prevalence blood lead levels, suggests that turkey vultures can be potentially effective sentinels for environmental lead.


Amber Pentoney, Class of 2020 

Ms. Pentoney is from California and in 2013, she earned her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from CSU-Fullerton. In 2016, she completed her master’s degree in cell and molecular biology at San Diego State University where she studied molecular cardiology. During this time, she volunteered with a rescue and worked at a small animal hospital. Ms. Pentoney’s interests include clinical research in veterinary medicine, and one of her goals is to expand the diagnostic resources available to veterinarians.

Adaptation of Phosphatidylserine and Tissue Factor Microvesicle Procoagulent Activity Assays for Use in Cat Blood

Procoagulant activity associated with microvesicles (MVs) may contribute to, and serve as a biomarker for thrombotic risk. The two objectives of this study were to determine if a centrifugation protocol used to clear platelets in dog blood is effective for cat blood, and determine if procoagulant activity associated with phosphatidylserine (PS) exposing MVs (PS+MV) can be detected in cat blood.


Samantha Phillips, Class of 2019 

Samantha Phillips is a third-year veterinary student at Western University of Health Sciences, where she has been extensively involved with several research projects aimed at improving animal welfare. She received a BS in biology from Temple University. As vice president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, Student Chapter and College of Veterinary Medicine, Student Chapter of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association in 2016-2017, she worked with other motivated club officers to establish a cooperative trap-neuter-release program between WesternU and Inland Valley Humane Society and SPCA, which gave rise to the current study on feral cat cage stress.

Natalia Pfaff, Class of 2019

Natalia Pfaff is a third-year veterinary student at Western University of Health Sciences. She received her BS in neuroscience at UCLA, where she obtained research experience studying neuroendocrinology. At WesternU, Ms. Pfaff developed a passion for small animal internal medicine, shelter medicine, feline medicine, and cardiology, and served as the president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, Student Chapter.

Feline Stress: An Analysis of Fecal Glucocorticoids and Hiding Times in Feral Cats Awaiting Trap-Neuter Release (TNR)

Although feral cats are believed to experience confinement stress during TNR procedures, municipal laws often require holding periods before TNR. Feral cats are released quickly after surgery, making post-surgical intervention impossible and highlighting the need for managing captive stress before release for optimal recovery (Graham, 1996, Schatz/Palme, 2001, Young, 2004). However, baseline stress levels have not been established for this population. This two-part study aimed to non-invasively establish baseline stress levels in feral cats using fecal cortisol production as paired with total hiding time. Time spent in “hide boxes” has been negatively correlated with stress-induced cortisol in cats. Cameras were used to measure hiding times in order to support that fecal cortisol levels indicated environmental stress compared to other natural stressors (Carlstead, 1993, Nibblett, 2015). Fecal samples from 12 intact, male feral cats were used during city-mandated four-day holding periods at Inland Valley Humane Society and SPCA. The study also aimed to determine the rate of glucocorticoid breakdown in feral cat feces over time, as mammalian wildlife research studies have determined that naturally-occurring bacterial enzymes in feces will cause progressive steroid metabolite degradation. However, the bacterial load of an exclusively-outdoor cat and the exact timeline of glucocorticoid breakdown in feral domestic cats has not been determined (Moestl et al., 1999; Wasser et al., 1988). Our preliminary results indicate that pairing fecal cortisol with hiding times may be a viable tool for TNR clinicians wishing to verifiably manage cage stress and optimize post-surgical healing.


Daniela Sumano, Class of 2020

Ms. Sumano was born and raised in San Diego, California. She graduated from UC Merced with a Bachelor of Science degree. After graduation, she started working as a veterinary assistant at the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in San Marcos. Ms. Sumano is a second-year veterinary student at Western University of Health Sciences and has an interest in small animal surgery. She aspires to become a board-certified veterinary surgeon with a special interest in orthopedics and soft tissue surgery.

The Use of a Head Camera for Video Self-Assessment of Surgical Performance of Veterinary Students

Several published studies in human and veterinary medicine have demonstrated that individuals using video footage for self-assessment after performing surgical procedures have significant improvement in their basic surgical skills acquisition. The objective of this study is to determine whether the use of a head camera to record ovariectomy and orchiectomy procedures by veterinary students followed by self-assessment with video review, improves subsequent surgical performance compared to students that perform a self-assessment without video footage. We hypothesize that third-year veterinary students who used video recordings of the surgical procedures they performed for self-assessment, improve their performance on subsequent surgical procedures compared with those that perform a self-assessment without the aid of a video recording.

Karena Tang, Class of 2019 

Ms. Tang is currently a veterinary student at Western University of Health Sciences, graduating in May 2019. She received her B.S. from UC Berkeley where she was involved in research on communication and behaviors of tuco-tucos. She has a strong interest in clinical research and is pursuing a radiology residency.

Plasma Copeptin as a Measure of Surgical Stress in the Canine Patient

Stress has a direct effect on the physiological and psychological well-being of pet animals. In response to stressful stimuli, arginine vasopressin (AVP), along with corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH), synergistically activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Cortisol and AVP have limited clinical use as measures of stress due to a variety of factors, including multifactorial causes of cortisol release, the instability of AVP, and analytical difficulties. Copeptin, a glycopeptide released from the same parent hormone as AVP, is stable, easily analyzed, and is being used clinically as a measure of stress in human medicine. In this study, we explore the use of copeptin as an indicator of stress in canine patients. Plasma copeptin was measured in seven dogs before and after elective surgery of ovariohysterectomy using enzyme immunoassay. Results did not show a statistical difference in pre-surgery (0.21 ng/mL) and post-surgery (0.20 ng/mL) copeptin levels using the nonparametric Wilcoxon rank sum test (p = 0.4735). This could be due to analytical complications, species differences, or interference from the premedication and pain management. More studies need to be done to clarify the role of copeptin as a measure of stress in dogs to understand its value in canine health and welfare.