The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine has taken another step forward in a process designed to ratchet up research activity in the clinical and biomedical sciences.

About 40 faculty members joined college and university administrators on Oct. 21 in a "Faculty Research Goal-Setting Discussion" designed to help develop strategies for growing the college's research program.

"We have a lot of challenges to face," said Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in introductory remarks, citing a shortage of research space and a very competitive funding environment for research proposals.

But he said opportunities exist for the college to build capacity and performance in this area and it must do its part to help Virginia Tech achieve the ambitious research goals it has set for itself.

Schurig said the college has strength in infectious diseases research and immunology, as well as comparative medicine, and should consider investing in "niches" where it can be successful and lead the university. He also cited the need to build its clinical research programs.

Moderated by Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies John Lee, the meeting focused on developing a blueprint for leveraging existing college strengths in a way that will build programs of national and international distinction.

The meeting picked up on themes that were developed during a research retreat held earlier this year in Roanoke. Topics considered during the event included an overview of the existing research portfolio, examining research focus areas, growing the clinical research program, acquiring new research positions, and addressing the laboratory space issue. Additional topics included the need to build strategic alliances with regional medical schools, building synergies with faculty at the Equine Medical Center in Leesburg and on the College Park Campus, and establishing priorities and action plans.

Faculty members serving as discussion leaders included Ansar Ahmed, professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP), and head of the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases (CIMMID); Stephen M. Boyle, professor, DBSP; Marion F. Ehrich, professor, DBSP; Martin Furr, Adelaide C. Riggs Chair in Equine Medicine, Equine Medical Center; X. J. Meng, associate professor, DBSP; David L. Panciera, professor, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS); Siba K. Samal, associate dean, Maryland Campus; and Craig D. Thatcher, professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS).

The day-long discussion program was featured as part of a series that Schurig is presenting as part of an overall institutional goal-setting process. Schurig was appointed the college's third dean in June and is leading an organizational planning and assessment process in the early stages of his administration.

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) is a two-state, three-campus professional school operated by the land-grant universities of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the University of Maryland at College Park. Its flagship facilities, based at Virginia Tech, include the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, which treats more than 40,000 animals annually. Other campuses include the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va., and the Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center at College Park, home of the Center for Government and Corporate Veterinary Medicine. The VMRCVM annually enrolls approximately 500 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and graduate students, is a leading biomedical and clinical research center, and provides professional continuing education services for veterinarians practicing throughout the two states.