Grid showing graduate students convocating at Fall 2022 Convocation, USask.
Top row (l to r): Ivanna Kozii, Siu To Koo and Paisley Johnson. Bottom row (l to r): Mohanathas Gobikrushanth, Alison Williams and Michael Zabrodski. Photos: Christina Weese.

WCVM graduates part of USask Fall Convocation celebrations

A group of students pursuing higher education at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) will receive their graduate degrees and certificates during the University of Saskatchewan’s Fall Convocation ceremonies on Nov. 9.

By Jessica Colby

Four of the college’s five departments are represented by graduate students whose research topics touch on everything from honey bees and beef cattle to RNA splicing and the impact of environmental changes on wildlife health. Eleven students will receive their Master of Science (MSc) degrees, two will receive Master of Veterinary Science (MVetSc) degrees and four will receive Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees.

In addition to the degree programs, 13 veterinarians will receive graduate certificates for completion of small animal clinical internships through the college’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. Two veterinarians will also receive graduate certificates for completing the veterinary diagnostic pathology program in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Pathology.

WCVM graduates are part of the university’s first day of convocation ceremonies, which begins at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9. Click here to watch the convocation ceremony live

Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences

Dylan Huynh, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Michael Wu
Thesis title: “Identification of ribonucleic acid splicing defect and oxidative stress-inducing environmental chemicals in Caenorhabditis elegans.”
Click here to read his thesis

Snapshot: Huynh’s graduate research focused on ribonucleic acid (RNA) splicing, which removes non-splicing sections of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from messenger RNA (mRNA) strands. Contaminants in the environment, such as cadmium, can interrupt RNA splicing — suggesting that these defects can be caused by exposure to chemicals. Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode that lives in soil environments, was used as a model organism in this research and screened against 4,665 environmental chemicals that induce RNA splicing errors.

Breanna Arnold, PhD program
Supervisor: Dr. Gillian Muir
Thesis title: “Effects of repetitive intermittent hypoxia after acute and chronic spinal cord injury.”
Click here to read her thesis

Snapshot: Arnold evaluated the effects of acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH) — a brief exposure to low levels of oxygen — as a potential therapy for spinal cord injuries. Using rats with both acute and chronic spinal cord injuries, she assessed the effects of AIH on the recovery of motor function, markers of spinal plasticity in spinal motor neurons, inflammation in the lesion site and front leg muscle atrophy.

Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences

Siu To Koo, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Tony Carr
Research focus: “Investigating the effect of Yunnan Baiyao, a traditional Chinese medicine, in dogs’ platelets.”

Snapshot: Yunnan Baiyao (YB) is a traditional Chinese medicine that’s often used to treat bleeding in veterinary patients, but no information is available on its efficacy and its impact on blood clotting in healthy animals is still undetermined. To Koo’s project studied the efficacy of YB by using a platelet aggregation test to measure its impact on a group of healthy dogs with a mild bleeding tendency induced by acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin).

Eric Walther, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Monique Mayer
Thesis title: “Segmentation in the canine head.”
Click here to read his thesis

Snapshot: Walther’s research work focused on the lack of agreement between veterinary radiation oncologists on the location of normal tissues and tumours, the impact of this lack of agreement on dosages, and whether agreement could be improved.

Alison Williams, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Valerie MacDonald
Research focus: “Prospective evaluation of the use of 18F-FDG PET/CT for detection of lymph node metastasis in canine mast cell tumours.”

Snapshot: Williams’ project evaluated the combination of positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT) improves oncologists’ ability to detect metastatic lymph nodes in canine mast cell tumours. 18F-FDG PET is a highly sensitive imaging tool for the detection, staging, restaging and assessment of therapy response in oncology.

Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences

Mustaq Ahmad, MSc program
Supervisor: Drs. Diego Moya and Greg Penner
Thesis title: “Effects of flavouring additives on feed intake and immune function of newly received feedlot cattle.”
Click here to read his thesis

Snapshot: Six pens of 15 Angus/Hereford steers each were used to assess the effects on adding flavours to the food of feedlot cattle. Ahmad assessed the effects of three different diets: a standard diet, a diet with added sweeteners and a diet with a mix of basic tastes using a monitoring system to gain insight on the steers’ feeding habits. He also collected data on chute behaviour, flight speed and blood, hair and saliva samples.

Mohanathas Gobikrushanth, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Dinesh Dadarwal
Research focus: Uterine microbiome of healthy postpartum dairy cows.

Snapshot: Gobikrushanth’s research project focused on whether there’s variation in uterine microbial population due to uterine sampling techniques and stages of the estrous cycle in healthy, postpartum dairy cows.

Paisley Johnson, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Cheryl Waldner
Thesis title: “Estimating diagnostic test performance and examining effective testing strategies for the control of Johne’s disease in western Canadian cow-calf herds.”
Click here to read her thesis.

Snapshot: Johne’s disease is a chronic condition caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis that affects the intestines of cattle. Although animals usually remain asymptomatic for a period of two to six years or even indefinitely, they can still spread the disease to others in their herds. There is no treatment or vaccine for Johne’s disease and methods for testing and removing infected animals from the herd are limited. Previous research has targeted dairy cattle, but Johnson investigated the disease in beef cattle that are at a greater risk of transmission because of intermingling. In her work, Johnson reviewed the literature to fill the gap for tests as well as strategies to limit Johne’s disease in beef cattle in Western Canada. She also evaluated blood and fecal tests for diagnosing Johne’s disease.

Madelena Pedersen-Macnab, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Yolande Seddon
Thesis title: “The effect of environmental enrichment on the immune response and measures of disease resilience and welfare in pigs.”
Click here to read her thesis

Snapshot: Pedersen-Macnab used two groups of pigs (a control group and a group provided inedible point-source enrichments) to evaluate behaviour and immune response within each group. Among the two groups, Pedersen-Macnab monitored behaviour, productivity, complete blood counts and mortality. These things were measured over three stages of the experiment (quarantine, disease challenge and finisher). Another aspect of Pedersen-Macnab’s experiment explored the relationships between the pigs’ social behaviours and growth, blood values and disease resilience.

Michelle Tucker, PhD program
Supervisor: Dr. James Carmalt
Thesis title: “Feasibility of individualized airway surgery in horses.”
Click here to read her thesis

Snapshot: This research project aimed to investigate upper airway surgeries for recurrent laryngeal neuropathy (RLN) — also known as roaring in horses. Using 28 equine larynxes and four different surgical procedures, Tucker simulated inhalation to test airflow. The study’s overall objective was to develop diagnoses specific to patients that would enhance treatment of upper airway disorders.

Department of Veterinary Pathology

Meghan Baker, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Trent Bollinger
Thesis title: “The epidemiology of chronic wasting disease on Saskatchewan cervid farms (2002-2017).”
Click here to read her thesis

Snapshot: Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a type of degenerative brain disorder known as spongiform encephalopathy that is transmissible between species of the deer family. Baker assessed existing records of farmed elk and white-tailed deer over a 15-year period from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Agriculture. Her thesis summarized the disease’s epidemiology in the two species and developed a risk assessment to determine infection probability.

Javier Barrera, MSc program
Supervisor: Drs. John Harding and Susan Detmer
Thesis title: “Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus: pathological effects on the placenta and transplacental transmission.”
Click here to read his thesis

Snapshot: Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) is a virus in the swine industry that has a major impact on the industry and economy. However, not much is known about how the virus is transferred through the placenta or its pathophysiology. This thesis evaluated the characteristics of placental tissues affected by PRRSV and how the virus travels across the transplacental barrier. Barrera used 38 pregnant pigs in the study: 31 were inoculated with PRRSV type two and seven sows were used as a control. Four different fetal groups were evaluated from these pigs, including uninfected, placenta-only infected, high viral load viable (HVL) and HVL-meconium stained.

Michael Zabrodski, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Elemir Simko
Thesis title: “Surveillance and improved control of American foulbrood in Saskatchewan honey bees through the detection of Paenibacillus larvae spores in pooled, extracted honey.”
Click here to read his thesis

Snapshot: American foulbrood (AFB) is a devastating disease for North American beekeepers. The bacterium, Paenibacillus larvae, causes AFB and its spores are incredibly resistant. Antibiotic drugs are the only way to keep the disease dormant. In his research, Zabrodski used spore detection to determine the risk of AFB in honey within antibiotic-reliant apiculture. Commercial honey bee operations in Saskatchewan with antimicrobial use history and recent AFB outbreaks were characterized and sampled to compare spore detection and predictive ability.

Christina Mackesey, MVetSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Nicole Fernandez

Rina Nabeta, MVetSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Melissa Meachem
Thesis title: “Identification of potential plasma protein biomarkers for feline pancreatic carcinoma by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry.”
Click here to read her thesis

Snapshot: Similar to humans, pancreatic cancer brings a devastating diagnosis in cats. Biomarkers in human blood have been identified in relation to abnormal cell growth in the pancreas. Nabeta’s research focused on whether similar biomarkers can be identified in cats’ plasma to identify pancreatic cell growth by using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry.

Ivanna Kozii, PhD program
Supervisor: Dr. Elemir Simko
Thesis title: “Neonicotinoid toxicity in reproductive honey bee castes.”
Click here to read her thesis

Snapshot: Increased exposure to pesticides — specifically neonicotinoid insecticides — have resulted in increased loss of pollinators in recent decades. Pesticide risk assessment is currently based on worker bee mortality in response to pesticide exposure. However, this leaves out the reproductivity of queen and drone bees. Kozii’s study evaluated the anatomy of a normal queen bee’s reproductive tract so further comparisons could be done. Then, the effects of thiamethoxam, a commonly used neonicotinoid pesticide, were evaluated on developing queens.

Asha Perera, PhD program
Supervisor: Drs. Catherine Soos and Karen Machin
Thesis title: “Validation and use of novel techniques to study the impacts of large-scale environmental changes on the health of wild waterfowl.”
Click here to read her thesis

Snapshot: When wildlife are stressed, it can result in an increase of glucocorticoids, a class of steroid hormones. The increase in this hormone can cause decreases in health and reproduction. In Perera’s PhD research, she evaluated feather corticosterone and nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry (NMR)-based metabolomics to measure wild birds’ stress responses in instances of changing environments.

Clinical Internships

This one-year certificate program serves as the first step in preparing candidates for clinical residency/graduate degree training programs that lead to board certification in a specific specialty – such as medical imaging or small animal surgery.

Graduate certificate in small animal rotating veterinary internship

  • Wei Chun Huang
  • Amanda Dela Plata
  • Sonya Shaw
  • Rachel Whitehorne Siddall
  • Elroy Williams
  • Gwo-Yuan Yang
  • Yat Yeung

Graduate certificate in small animal specialty veterinary internship

  • Shayna Levitt
  • Daniela Losada Medina
  • Tsung Han Tu
  • Jessie Vandenbruggen
  • Claire Whittaker
  • Michelle Yee

Advanced Veterinary Diagnostic Pathology

The Certificate in Veterinary Diagnostic Pathology (CVDP) provides graduate students with advanced training in various aspects of veterinary diagnostic pathology under the supervision of experienced veterinary diagnostic pathologists. 

Graduate certificate in veterinary diagnostic pathology

  • Ashish Gupta
  • Pini Zvionow