View from our Chair

Dr. Rowan Milner, chair of Small Animal Clinical Sciences

Dr. Rowan Milner, chair of Small Animal Clinical Sciences

We have had some big changes since the last update to our website in the largest department of our veterinary college.  Dr. Colin Burrows retired as chair July 1, 2011 and I have succeeded him in the position of chairman of the department of small animal clinical sciences after a national search that started last March.  I feel incredibly excited to have been given the opportunity to assist in the mentoring and leadership of some of the best and brightest faculty you will ever find in any veterinary college in the world!

For those of you who don’t know me, I joined UF/CVM’s faculty in 2001 and am dually board-certified in veterinary internal medicine and veterinary oncology.  My early academic training was in South Africa at the University of Pretoria.    My research interests include osteosarcoma, melanoma vaccine, stereotactic radiosurgery, targeted radiotherapy and tumor suppressor genes.   Last year we proudly obtained our US citizenship.  My wife, Diane, works at the UF Museum of Natural History and we have four children, ranging in age from 27 to 21 years.

As chair, I have assumed responsibilities for faculty recruitment, mentoring and promotion and will also be responsible for budget management, leadership in research and veterinary and graduate student education.  We feel lucky in these uncertain economic times to still be able to recruit and hire faculty in our growing department.  Since July 1, six new faculty have been appointed into positions in our  department. These include Dr. Ursula Oberkirchner, Clinical Assistant Professor, Dermatology; Dr. Brendan Mangan, Clinical Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology; Dr. Jennifer Covey, Clinical Assistant Professor, Surgical Oncology/Soft Tissue Surgery;  Dr. Wendy Mandese, Adjunct Lecturer in Primary Care & Dentistry; Dr. Amanda Abelson, Clinical Lecturer, Emergency Medicine & Critical Care; and Dr. Natasha Werpy, Clinical Assistant Professor, Radiology.   This month, four candidates are being interviewed to fill the position I vacated in oncology.   Dr. Nick Bacon took over as service chief in oncology when I assumed the chair position. In September, both Drs. Schaer and Brooks were recognized by the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine alumni association and were presented with the Dr. Erwin Small Distinguished Alumni Awards and a Special Service Award on Sept. 15, 2011, during the annual Fall Conference for Veterinarians.

I work closely with the hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Dana Zimmel, meeting weekly to continue to provide high quality clinical service to the nearly 20,000 small animal patients that are treated annually at UF.  Just as Dr. Burrows did, I often take off on “walkabout” to see what is going on in the hospital and in the Veterinary Academic Building, where I maintain my research lab with the help of my dedicated biological scientist, Marc Salute.

We have so many exciting things we would like to tell you about our department’s 12 services!  Here are just a few highlights.

  • Small Animal Medicine performed the first laser lithotripsy at UF in May.  Traditionally, stones in the bladder or urethra were removed surgically but laser lithotripsy allows us to remove stones without making any incisions.  In most cases, this is an outpatient procedure making use of a new piece of equipment, the Holmium YAG laser unit, which was installed soon after the opening of the hospital last November. Dr. Kris Cooke was promoted to Associate Clinical Professor.
  • Acupuncture and Rehabilitation Medicine had the grand opening of its underwater treadmill and therapy pool in September.
  • Wildlife and Zoological Medicine continues to thrive in its outreach programs and is enjoying its newly remodeled area in the former small animal hospital.  Dr Elliot Jacobson will be retiring next year after many years of service to the university. He was recently awarded the prestigious American Association of Zoo Veterinarian’s Emil Dolensek Award.  The award is an honor presented to a past or present member of the AAZV in appreciation for exceptional contributions to the conservation, care, and understanding of zoo and free-ranging wildlife reflecting Emil Dolensek’s commitment to these purposes.  This award recognizes individuals that have advanced the profession and served to link the related disciplines of zoo and wildlife medicine.
  • Shelter Medicine headed by Dr. Julie Levy, recently received a three-quarter million three-year renewal from Maddie’s Pet Rescue grant to fund their programs, which continue to expand tremendously. Dr Natalie Isaza is moving into renovated facilities in the “old” surgery area in the UF Small Animal Hospital. Apart from its obvious value to the community this service continues to provide a wonderful experience for students.
  • Oncology is thrilled with the addition of the LINAC (Linear accelerator) at the new hospital.  It makes things so much simpler and easier than having to go across the street to the McKnight Brain Institute, although collaborations with their staff continue.
  • Radiology has a new service chief in oncology, Dr. Matt Winter.  The service continues to provide a high of service to the Small Animal Hospital with state of the art imaging.  The UF Small Animal Hospital also offers an Image-Guided Interventional Service (IGIS).  Image-guided interventions, also known as interventional radiology, is the use of imaging modalities, such as ultrasound, fluoroscopy (X-rays), and endoscopy (small video cameras), to guide therapeutic procedures. The IGIS brings together faculty from Diagnostic Imaging, Surgery, Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Oncology, Emergency and Critical Care services, thus a truly integrated discipline.
  • Cardiology is now providing a successfully and continually expanding mobile consultation and diagnostic service to private practitioners in the area.  Owners of pets needing specialized cardiology care benefit from the convenience of being able to receive the service in the veterinary clinic they are most comfortable in and referring veterinarians are able to offer specialty services within their own clinic.
  • Neurology is using a laser procedure postoperatively with great success in dogs with paralysis caused by intervertebral disc disease.  Dogs that receive low-level laser treatment after initial surgery are walking a full week earlier than patients that do not receive the treatment.  This procedure is used routinely after results from a year-long study showed the laser’s effectiveness in patients with intervertebral disc disease.  Dr. Tom Schubert, neurology service chief presented results at the ACVIM’s (American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine) annual meeting in Denver in June.
  • Ophthalmology continues to provide a very valuable service in both large and small animal hospitals.
  • Surgery continues to be strong service with excellent reputation in training residents. The surgery residents are often awarded prestigious awards at surgery annual meetings.
  • Dermatology has received a boost with the hiring of Dr. Ursula Oberkirchner.  Ursula recently became boarded in both the American and European Colleges of Dermatology.
  • Emergency Medicine and Critical Care continues to grow exponentially. We now have three criticalists on staff and can offer a very high level of critical care. The service offers state-of-the- art monitoring and a dialysis unit.