When Jessie Duffield, a yellow Labrador retriever, bit into a "ribbon" of linked frankfurters to officially open the doors of the Center for Companion Animal Health (CCAH), it wasn't obvious that this special guest was in remission from cancer.
Jessie was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2000 and underwent treatment at UC Davis. Yet her recovery represents more than a successful course of therapy. Jessie represents the powerful bond that leads animal lovers to seek out the most sophisticated veterinary care available for their pets and support advanced investigations in animal health such as those taking place at the Center for Companion Animal Health.
Officials opened the $16 million building July 14, 2004, when guests and their pets enjoyed tours of the newest facility of the School of Veterinary Medicine and learned of an advance in feline genetics.
The new center unites existing facilities and expands services. For example, the expansion triples capacity for oncology services, supporting up to 3,600 patients per year with chemotherapy, radiation procedures, immunotherapy and other innovative remedies.
The glass-fronted, two-story structure contains 36,000 square feet of clinical and research space that, in addition to the cancer units, houses a linear accelerator, physical therapy facility and a comfortable reception area for specialty services in ophthalmology, behavior, neurology, cardiology, companion avian/exotics medicine and dermatology. Outside, a memorial garden honors the ancient bond between dogs and humans.
Upstairs, laboratories support the investigation of naturally occcurring cancers and genetic diseases in small animals. These labs are also especially equipped to help teach veterinary students, train specialty residents and mentor graduate researchers.
The center is also the home base for faculty programs dealing with infectious disease, shelter medicine, behavior, nutrition and the varied roles of animals in society.
While veterinarians began seeing patients at the center in May, officials used the July 14 event to celebrate and thank friends of the school.
SUPPORTED BY LOVE FOR ANIMALS
Dean Bennie I. Osburn told about 200 guests, "It is a major point of pride," that the Center for Companion Animal Health, constructed entirely with private donations, is the largest privately funded facility on the UC Davis campus.
Master of ceremonies Niels C. Pedersen, director, thanked faculty, staff, and friends of the school for their determination, guidance and extraordinary contributions that have provided "the basic blocks that give you the dedication and encouragement to go forward" on a capital project.
Other speakers shared their views about the importance of animals in our lives and the demonstrated commitment of veterinary faculty and staff. Susan Koret of the Koret Foundation stated, "Like many other pet owners, I have received excellent care for my own animals over the years."
Terry Hughmanick, representing the Paul and Borghild Petersen Trust, for whom the radiation oncology unit is named, described cancer's impact. "Many of us have been touched by this disease, not to mention our animals." The battle against cancer, Hughmanick added, "will be fought on scientific battlefields across the country. We're confident that this facility will be a weapon against this dreaded disease."
Also speaking about the need for scientific and medical progress was Gordon P. Theilen, professor emeritus of surgery/oncology. "The beautiful building with clinical and research facilities together…brings events, animal needs and human endeavors together with the physical structure." Theilen is a founding member of the Comparative Cancer Center, now the Center for Companion Animal Health. He cited several examples to illustrate how many apparently small events have been responsible for great scientific advances. He described his professional opportunities to initiate RNA tumor virus research and his mentorship of graduate student Max Essex, who later suggested the connection between feline or bovine leukemia viruses and AIDS. Theilen also said that the availability of samples from clinical cases brought clinical and basic research faculty members together as a team to unravel mysteries of basic research. Of all these elements, Theilen acknowledged, "The clients who come through the clinic doors are the first and foremost aspects of success for this facility."
VETERINARY GENETICS DISCOVERY
Geneticist Leslie A. Lyons announced a breakthrough in feline genetics. "We have discovered the genetic mutation that causes polycystic kidney disease in cats." Up to 80% of "fancy" cats are susceptible to this serious disease, also known as PKD, which also occurs in people. PKD is a particular problem in Persians and related breeds, Lyons explained. Lyons also announced the imminent development of a new diagnostic test. Lyons said, "Now, we can identify cats before the disease occurs—and before breeding. We can slowly eradicate this disease."
Michael Duffield's remarks drew attention once again to Jessie, the dog's importance in the Duffield family, and the importance of research for long-term solutions in animal health. Jessie's current health status, he said, is "due to the tender loving care of individuals here." Explaining relationships with Jessie and other pets, Duffield said, "They're family. You don't really think of them any other way." When animals are diagnosed with an illness, he explained, their owners face fear and helplessness. "You do everything you can for them…I look at the Center for Companion Animal Health with a sense of hope," Duffield concluded.
After the ribbon biting, Theilen and Pedersen conducted a more traditional ribbon cutting, complete with a pair of 4-foot long scissors. Inside, the business of saving lives continued as clients met with clinicians and animals underwent scheduled cancer therapy sessions.
Learn about polycystic kidney disease in the Center for Companion Animal Health Update
Appointments: Please consult your veterinarian, or call (530) 752-1393
Media contact: Lynn Narlesky, Dean's Office, (530) 752-5257