Nick Dervisis of Blacksburg, Virginia, assistant professor of oncology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, recently received the Zoetis Award for Research Excellence at the college’s 27th Annual Research Symposium.

Established in 1985 as the Pfizer Award for Research Excellence, the Zoetis award is a nationally recognized honor for a faculty member at each veterinary school in the United States. The award seeks to “foster innovative research, on which the scientific advancement of the profession depends, by recognizing outstanding research effort and productivity.”

Since joining the veterinary college’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences in 2012, Dervisis has helped build a successful oncology service at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital that offers state-of-the-art services for cancer patients and opportunities to participate in clinical research. The oncology service investigates spontaneously occurred tumors in dogs and cats with similarities to those in humans.

“In the past 3.5 years, Dr. Dervisis has led the development of a progressive oncology service that sees one of the largest caseloads in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital,” said Greg Daniel, head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. “The oncology service also has the largest number of clinical trials.”

Last summer, the oncology service achieved what Daniel described as “an important milestone and recognition of our program” when it attained membership status in the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research and Comparative Oncology Trial Consortium. Clinical trials at the veterinary college explore new cancer treatments, such as a nanoparticle infusion plus a laser treatment to target solid tumors, as well as new diagnostic approaches, such as using MRI to differentiate between benign and cancerous lymph nodes.

“Oncology is a discipline that easily fits into a translational research model that uses animal disease to better understand human health,” Daniel said. “Having an oncology service linked to a significant research program brings new technologies and treatments to our patient populations.”

Since his arrival, Dervisis has served as the principal or co-principal investigator on 11 grants totaling more than $362,000 and authored or co-authored six peer-reviewed publications. In addition to his teaching responsibilities in the veterinary college’s graduate and professional curriculum, Dervisis is also the advisor of a Ph.D. student and co-advisor of seven other Ph.D. and master’s degree students. He also helped establish a fully accredited oncology resident program.

Before joining the veterinary college, Dervisis held positions as assistant professor, researcher, and medical oncology resident at Michigan State University. Before that, he was a research assistant at the Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dervisis earned his doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Aristotle’s University in Thessaloniki, Greece. He also completed a doctorate in comparative medicine and integrative biology from Michigan State University. Dervisis is board certified in oncology from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine is a leading biomedical teaching and research center, enrolling more than 700 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, master of public health, and biomedical and veterinary sciences graduate students. The college is a partnership between the land-grant universities of Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland. Its main campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, features the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and large animal field services which together treat more than 79,000 animals annually. Other locations include the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia, and the Gudelsky Veterinary Center in College Park, Maryland.

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