USask Fall Convocation includes graduates based at WCVM

A group of higher education students based at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) will receive their graduate degrees and certificates during the University of Saskatchewan’s 2023 Fall Convocation ceremonies on Nov. 8.

By Cat Zens

Nine students will receive their Master of Science (MSc) degrees, while six will receive Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees. These students, whose supervisors represent all five of the WCVM’s departments, have been involved in research ranging from hoof-related lameness in feedlot cattle to how dog-human interactions have affected remote Saskatchewan communities.

Additionally, four students will receive graduate certificates for completing small animal rotating veterinary internships at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. Another two students will receive graduate certificates for completing small animal specialty veterinary internships in the veterinary teaching hospital. One student will also receive a graduate certificate in veterinary diagnostic pathology.

The students’ accomplishments will be recognized during the USask fall convocation ceremonies, which begins at 9 a.m. on Wed., Nov. 8, at Merlis Belsher Place in Saskatoon, Sask.

Department of Veterinary Microbiology

Toni-Anne Saworski, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Emily Jenkins

Research focus: using DNA metabarcoding (used for large-scale taxonomic identification) from fecal egg counts to characterize and differentiate common parasites that are in domestic horses. found

Émilie Bouchard, PhD program
Supervisor: Dr. Emily Jenkins
Dissertation title: “Foxes and lynx as sentinels for Toxoplasma gondii across the Canadian North”
Click here to read dissertation.

Snapshot: Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite with significant human health concerns. The parasite is especially a concern to Arctic and subarctic regions, where food-borne transmission of the parasite may be altered because of demographic and environmental changes. In her research work, Bouchard assessed lynxes and foxes in Canada’s North to better understand T. gondii in rapidly changing Arctic ecosystems. Her findings will inform future risk assessments to determine human and animal health risks in these regions.

Scott Dos Santos, PhD program
Supervisor: Dr. Janet Hill
Dissertation title: “Defining the LEGACY of the maternal vaginal microbiome in microbial communities of the infant gut”
Click here to read dissertation.

Snapshot: Studies have shown a growing need for research highlighting the acquisition and development of human microbiomes from birth. Dos Santos studied the composition and development of the infant stool microbiome immediately following birth using culture-based and culture-independent methods. This research ultimately showed that gestational environments are essentially sterile until birth and that the maternal vaginal microbiome appears to have little impact on the composition and maturation of the infant stool microbiome.

Christopher Zinck, PhD program
Supervisor: Dr. Maarten Voordouw
Dissertation title: “Variation in fitness and infection phenotype among strains of Borrelia burgdorferi emerging in Canada”
Click here to read dissertation.

Snapshot: Zinck explored evolutionary virulence theory, which explains why pathogen-induced damage to the host is adaptive in strains of Borrelia burgdorferi in Canada. He found significant variation among B. burgdorferi strains while also suggesting that strains with tissue abundance are prone to have greater transmission to feeding ticks. He also found sex-specific differences in B. burgdorferi strains — specifically that ticks feeding on male mice are more likely to be infected than those who feed on female mice. As well, females are found to have a much stronger antibody response to the pathogen. This research helps us better understand how pathogens transmit to hosts.

Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences

Fabar Ibtisham, PhD program
Supervisor: Dr. Ali Honaramooz
Dissertation title: "In vitro spermatogenesis using neonatal piglet testicular tissues”
Dissertation under embargo.

Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences

Jennifer Pelchat, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Barbara Ambros
Research focus: veterinary anesthesia

Jessica Sharpe, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Behzad Toosi
Thesis title: “The EphB4 receptor tyrosine kinase: a comparative study of the expression and function in canine and human osteosarcoma”
Thesis under embargo.

Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences

Sarah Erickson, MSc program
Supervisors: Dr. Murray Jelinski and Dr. Karen Shwartzkopf-Genswein (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)
Thesis title: “Epidemiology of hoof-related lameness in western Canadian feedlot cattle”
Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: In her thesis, Erickson described the epidemiology of hoof-related lameness (HHL) in western Canadian feedlots with an emphasis on digital dermatitis, a highly infectious disease in cattle. She found that factors such as age, sex and feedlot population size play critical roles in the development and incidence risk of HHL and digital dermatitis in feedlots.

Jose Antonio Guerra, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Keri Thomas

Research focus: testing the use of alpha 2 agonist (xylazine) for regional neural blockade in combination with a short-action local anesthetic drug (lidocaine) to determine if it results in increased duration of sensory blockades.

Sulove Koirala, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Matheus Costa
Thesis title: “Streptococcus equi subsp. Zooepidemicus infection in pigs: vaccine evaluation and environmental survival studies”
Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemicus is a significant concern in swine in North America, given its association with high mortality and abortion rates. However, there is no approved vaccine for the disease. In his research, Koirala assessed the efficacy of a novel live attenuated vaccine to prevent the disease and determine the viability of the bacteria in different farm-like conditions to prevent clinical signs and deaths in pigs.

Daniël Kos, MSc program
Supervisors: Drs. Murray Jelinski and Tony Ruzzini
Thesis title: “Antimicrobial resistance in the microbiome of feedlot watering bowls and bovine respiratory disease associated pathogens”
Click here to read thesis. 

Snapshot: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), when infectious microorganisms no longer respond to microbe-fighting drugs, is a worrying issue in livestock health. AMR specifically poses a threat to current treatments for bovine respiratory disease (BRD) – a life-threatening disease in cattle that is costly to the beef industry. Since monitoring AMR in cattle microbiomes is invasive and expensive, researchers are using the animals’ water bowls as an effective way to monitor AMR. Results of Kos’s work will help researchers better understand how water bowl-dwelling organisms and pathogens interact and expand on previous research that’s monitoring the impact of AMR on bovine respiratory disease. 

Madelana Lazurko, MSc program
Supervisor: Dr. Cheryl Waldner 
Thesis title: “Technology adoption, management practices and vaccine use in Canadian cow-calf herds

Snapshot: Lazurko conducted a survey of eastern and western Canadian livestock producers to learn more about the types of technology and management practices that they use in their operations. Compared to responses collected in previous surveys, the use of modern technology, management procedures and vaccine use has improved among members of Canada’s beef cattle industry. However, there’s still room for improvement. Implementing current technology adoption and management practices — including vaccination protocols — will play a major part in the long-term economic sustainability of the industry.

Jordan Woodsworth, PhD program
Supervisor: Dr. Tasha Epp
Dissertation title: “Dogs have love medicine: a case study exploration of the dog-human interface in a remote Saskatchewan community”
Click here to read dissertation.

Snapshot: Due to limited veterinary services, remote and Indigenous communities in Canada report challenges with care and control of dog health, welfare and populations. To help these communities develop optimal outcomes at the dog-human interface, Woodsworth collaborated with researchers, service providers, decision-makers and community members to create a community-oriented approach to improving dog health while incorporating Indigenous methodologies. The study’s outcomes can provide opportunities for enhanced veterinary and medical care in small communities.

Department of Veterinary Pathology

Jenna Thebeau, MSc program
Supervisors: Drs. Tony Ruzzini, Bruce Wobeser and Sean Prager
Thesis title: “Predisposing factors for European foulbrood disease in honey bee colonies pollinating blueberries”
Thesis under embargo.

Ursula Perdrizet, PhD program
Supervisors: Drs. Vikram Misra and Trent Bollinger
Dissertation title: “DNA viruses of big brown bats: lesions, pathogenesis, and innate immune response”
Click here to read dissertation.

Snapshot: Bats are singled out as the leading indicators of mass disease outbreaks. Is there a specific characteristic about bats that makes them more prone to spreading zoonotic disease? This is the central question that Perdrizet aimed to answer in her research work. In her investigation, she found that bats are likely not unique disease hosts, and their relationship with viruses is similar to other mammalian species.

Clinical Internships

This one-year certificate program prepares candidates for clinical residency/graduate degree training programs that lead to board certification in specific areas like medical imaging or small animal surgery.

Graduate certificate in small animal rotating veterinary internship

  • Shogo Kimura
  • Tsz Kit Lai
  • Tanarut Laudhittirut 
  • Dalma Orban 

Graduate certificate in small animal specialty veterinary internship

  • Rachel Siddall (dentistry)
  • Kimberly Williams (medical oncology)

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

  •  Christina Mackesey