Around The College

SRC Specialist Calls New Position ‘Dream Job’

For many, choosing a career path can take years of trying on many different hats before one finds just the right fit. That’s not so for Rhett LaPorte, the newest staff member with the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Southeastern Raptor Center.

Since seeing an SRC educational program presented to his sixth-grade class in his hometown of Birmingham, LaPorte said he knew what he wanted to do—join the SRC team.

He was hired recently as a raptor specialist with the SRC. “It is my dream job,” LaPorte said. “I had always hoped, but never expected, this would happen.”

LaPorte said he was captivated by the birds from the moment that Marianne Hudson, assistant director of Education and Raptor Training, came to his middle school with a raptor program more than a decade ago.

“I was fascinated, and I knew then that I wanted to do something with animals,” he said.

When it came time to apply for college, LaPorte said Auburn University was his first and only choice. “I started in a pre-veterinary program,” LaPorte said. “I was fascinated with the birds and wildlife, but veterinary medicine did not appeal to me as much as wildlife.”

LaPorte graduated in 2015 with a degree in wildlife management and ecology.

“Since my freshman year, I had worked as a volunteer with the raptor program,” he said. “After I graduated, I was able to work for a year as a temporary employee. Then the full-time position opened up for a raptor specialist.”

As a raptor specialist, LaPorte is a trainer and has responsibilities helping volunteers learn to properly train and care for the raptors. He also conducts educational programs throughout the state and at the SRC for special tours and events.

“We are best known for the eagles and their free-flights at home football games,” LaPorte said.

LaPorte said that some 300 training flights are conducted every year with each eagle before the first game of the season. “The eagles are well trained and have gotten a lot of exposure to performing before they ever take that first real pre-game flight,” LaPorte said.

LaPorte has worked with the eagles’ pre-game flights for the past five years. “Mostly, I have been a sideline assistant,” he said. “This season, I will actually be conducting some of the flights. It is going to be exciting.”

College of Veterinary Medicine Names Bailey Auditorium for Martha Tatum Newsom

In a ceremony held Sunday, Feb. 26, the 82-seat auditorium located in the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) was officially named in honor of the late Ms. Martha Tatum Newsom of Newnan, Ga.

Ms. Newsom, who died Feb. 3, 2015, was a retired elementary school teacher and a 1965 graduate of the Auburn College of Education. Ms. Newsom was an avid animal lover and generous veterinary medicine supporter.

In recognition of her exemplary teaching and generosity to the College of Veterinary Medicine, the auditorium was named in her honor with a plaque which reads, “This auditorium honors the memory of Ms. Martha Tatum Newsom, an exceptional educator, animal lover, and loyal 1965 Auburn alumna.”

“It is with great pleasure that we dedicate this auditorium to the memory of Martha Tatum Newsom,” said CVM Dean Calvin Johnson.

“Martha was a phenomenal teacher,” said long-time friend and colleague Ruth Ann Embrey of Newnan. “She loved children and was one of the best teachers I have ever known.”

Ms. Newsom also was an avid doll collector. “She had dolls displayed in every room of her home,” Ms. Embrey added.

Many were donated to the Alpha Delta Kappa teaching sorority and sold to raise funds for a scholarship in Ms. Newsom’s honor that was awarded to a Newnan High School student entering the field of education, Ms. Embrey said.

Ms. Newsom remained a staunch Auburn fan throughout her life—considering herself to be its number one fan—and for many years, on her birthday, she would bring a carload of young teachers to Auburn for lunch, shopping, and a driving tour of the AU campus.

Ms. Newsom was a native of LaGrange, Ga., and a 1961 graduate of LaGrange High School. She began her teaching career at Howard Warner School in Newnan, and spent the majority of her career teaching at Elm Street Elementary School. She retired from Newnan Crossing Elementary following a 30-year teaching career in Coweta County, Ga.

White Coat Ceremony for AU CVM Class of 2018

The 123-member Class of 2018 received their white coats during a ceremony Jan. 28. The white laboratory coat is a symbol of medical professionalism that marks a turning point from classroom study to the clinical phase of veterinary education.

Friends, family and colleagues came together to celebrate this achievement of the students’ professional journey. Guests had the opportunity to tour the AU CVM campus and facilities then partake in an informal reception in advance of the ceremony.

Before the donning of the coats, students and attendees were addressed by Dean Calvin Johnson. Dean Johnson shared words of encouragement and invigoration. “Pursue your clinical training with passion,” Dr. Johnson stated. “Try to develop skills that will make you excellent and well recognized and committed to the service of the community and public at large.”

Class of 2018 President Maggie Thompson and Vice President Alan Bocage took to the stage to introduce their classmates as they received their white coats. Thompson and Bocage gave light-hearted remarks on each recipient which kept the crowd cheering and laughing throughout the ceremony.

Thompson was the last student to receive her coat, then proceeded to address the crowd with closing remarks. On behalf of the entire class, she thanked friends and family for their continuous support, as well as the leaders of the college, clinicians, professors and support staff for their hard work and dedication.

Hyperbaric Therapy


Pet owners now have the option of receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a part of their animals’ healing and recovery treatment through the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The new veterinary hyperbaric chamber was installed recently in the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital. Although hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used worldwide in human medicine, its use in veterinary medicine is relatively new, occurring primarily during the past decade. Hyperbaric chamber technology is being used by a small number of veterinary practices and an even smaller number of academic institutions throughout the United States.

Auburn is one of the small number of veterinary medicine colleges offering hyperbaric oxygen therapy, according to Dr. Lenore Bacek, assistant clinical professor and head of the Emergency and Critical Care service section.

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is beneficial for a variety of medical conditions including wounds, snake bites, neurological diseases and rehabilitation, smoke inhalation and carbon dioxide toxicity, near drowning and choking, pancreatitis, among others,” Dr. Bacek said. “Treatment in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber increases pressure around the patient and causes the body to dissolve more oxygen into the blood, thus improving and speeding up the healing process.”

During veterinary hyperbaric oxygen therapy the patient is placed safely and comfortably in a hyperbaric chamber designed specifically for small animals. At a maximum of 2 Atmospheric Pressure (ATA), and closely monitored by trained staff, 100 percent pure oxygen treatments are given one to two times daily. Treatments may last from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the prescribed therapy, Dr. Bacek explained. The total number of treat-ments necessary varies according to the type of treatment and the patient’s response. Most patients appear calm and relaxed during hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Many even fall asleep.

“We will be offering hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a package service,” Dr. Bacek said. “When a patient undergoes hyperbaric oxygen therapy, treatment will be customized to the specific treatment program and recovery plan.”

Therapy sessions are continuously monitored by certified technicians and veterinarians, with some 15 CVM technicians and veterinarians currently trained and certified to administer hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Dr. Bacek said. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy also is available to referring veterinarians for their patient-clients.

According to publicly available medical literature, hyperbaric oxygen therapy results in reduction in swelling, stimulation of new blood vessel formation into the healing/swollen tissue, a reduction in pressure caused by head or spinal cord injuries, improved wound healing, and improved infection control. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be of great help to veterinary patients by speeding up the healing process and may reduce or eliminate the need for more invasive procedures such as surgery, oftentimes resulting in a net savings of time and cost of treatment for pet owners.

For more information about the hyperbaric oxygen therapy at Auburn CVM, contact the hospital at 334.844.4690, or visit its web site at

CVM’sDr. Akingbemi


Dr. Benson Akingbemi, a professor of anatomy and developmental biology in the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology in Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has been named to a three-year term (2017-2020) on the Research Affairs Core Committee of the Endocrine Society.

“I am pleased to be asked to serve on this committee,” Dr. Akingbemi said. “Since postdoctoral training, the Endocrine Society had afforded me several opportunities for professional growth. With this appointment, I look forward to working with colleagues in the Research Affairs Core Committee to identify new ways to support members’ needs and interests in endocrine research in line with the society’s overall goal to advance the field of endocrinology and improve public health.”

As a committee member, Dr. Akingbemi will help identify emerging research opportunities and develop strategies for promoting project priorities to funding agencies. His first assignment is to participate in the society’s “Hill Day” on March 15, in which members meet with congressional representatives at the Capitol to advocate increased research funding, including for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The 100-year-old Endocrine Society is the largest global membership organization representing professionals from the field of endocrinology. Membership is comprised largely of academic professionals, medical doctors and scientists. Society members represent 122 countries, with its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Akingbemi joined the CVM faculty in 2004. He received the DVM, Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Beginning during his postdoctoral training, he has worked in the areas of molecular toxicology, investigating the effects of environmental agents on male reproduction for more than 20 years.



Most will agree that seeing the eagle fly to open Auburn University home football games is one of the most exciting and dramatic pre-game traditions in Southeastern Conference sports. Few might think about the vastness of the behind-the-scenes activity and responsibility involved with caring for AU’s eagle and its other raptor programs.

The efficiency of that work has been dramatically improved with the addition of an online case management software, “RAPTORMED.”

RAPTORMED, developed by Dr. Dave Scott, a veterinarian with the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville, N.C., was purchased by the Southeastern Raptor Center at Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2015. Expanding its software this year, the center now uses RAPTORMED’s complete case management system including a web site with information fully accessible to the public.

“I cannot overly describe how much RAPTORMED has helped us in our operation,” said Dr. Seth Oster, an assistant clinical professor in the CVM’s Avian Service, who also serves as the primary veterinarian with the Southeastern Raptor Center.

“Before, all of our medical case records were manually developed and managed,” Dr. Oster said. “This took hours for a staff that basically is comprised of two full-time employees and a small group of volunteers.”I

n addition to improving the process and management of medical case records, Dr. Oster says RAPTOR MED also generates a number of reports and other documents that are federally required for raptor care programs.

RAPTORMED is designed for simplicity, Dr. Oster adds.

“The program has multiple screens,” he said. “The first is a list of the birds currently being cared for and treated at the center. There also is some center history that includes the total number of patients treated to date, the number admitted in the current year, the number released, and other data.

”Searchers can click on the case number link to go to the next screen, which is the case record for that individual bird.

“It is a full and complete on-line medical record system,” Dr. Oster said.

RAPTORMED has proven to be valuable for teaching and research as well, according to Dr. Oster.

“We have a large number of veterinary students who serve part of their educational training in the avian service area,” he said. “RAPTORMED has made it much easier for those students to access patient case information for their training and educational needs.”

The program also has value to researchers.

“The records are an effective method of obtaining case information, and will allow for further research opportunities in the future,” Dr. Oster said.

The Southeastern Raptor Center at the CVM handles some 350-400 birds of prey annually, according to Dr. Oster. All patients are brought in by individuals or conservation groups. These birds are treated for medical illnesses or injuries, rehabilitated to the extent possible, and ultimately—birds whose recovery is sufficient to ensure survival—are released back into the wild.

Center staff members also conduct programs throughout the Southeast using non-releasable raptors to educate. For more information about the Southeastern Raptor Center, or, to access RAPTORMED, visit the center’s web site at:

Faculty Join Ophthalmology Service, Teaching Ranks

The college welcomed to the Department of Clinical Sciences and the Ophthalmology Service two new faculty who expand research and clinical education.

Dr. Richard McMullen, Jr.


It has been said that fulfillment is in the journey, not only in the destination. That almost certainly may be said for Dr. Richard J. McMullen, Jr., who joined the College of Veterinary Medicine faculty earlier this year.Dr. McMullen, one of the CVM’s new faculty in equine ophthalmology, comes to Auburn from four years of private practice in Munich, Germany—where he established an equine-only ophthalmology service—by way of an earlier academic stint with North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and a military career that got him started.

A California native, Dr. McMullen said he moved around a lot—even before joining the Army at the age of 18.

“My family was one of those that moved a lot, so I lived all over California growing up,” he said. “I joined the Army at 18 and was soon stationed in Germany.”

Dr. McMullen began pursuing his higher education during his military service in Germany, ultimately obtaining his veterinary degree from the Ludwig-Maxi-milians University College of Veterinary Medicine.

When asked about what drew him to the specialty of equine ophthalmology, Dr. McMullen said, “I was drawn to the eyes.”

“I had never spent any real time with horses, but I did have a bovine background and was drawn to treating large species,” he said. “I began working with horses towards the end of veterinary school and my interest in ophthalmology and horses seemed to match perfectly.”

Dr. McMullen served a residency and in a faculty appointment at N.C. State. He returned to Germany in 2012 where he entered private practice.

“I enjoyed private practice in Germany, but I missed teaching,” he said. “I suppose one might say that even though treating animals is my profession, my passion is really in broadening the profession by teaching future veterinarians.”

The field of ophthalmology is on the cutting edge of technological and medical growth and advancement, according to Dr. McMullen.

“As a veterinary medicine field, it is revolutionary,” he said. “Everything about it, for me, is intriguing.”

Dr. McMullen teaches classes in ophthalmology. He also will conduct research in the area of vision, equine recurrent uveitis and immune mediated keratitis, particularly, novel methods of disease management by intravitreal injections and photodynamic therapy.

In addition to his teaching and professional experience, Dr. McMullen’s credentials also include: Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Opthalmologists; Diplomate, European College of Veterinary Opthalmologists; Certificate of Additional Qualification, Equine Opthalmology, Zusatzeichnung Augenheilkunde–Pferde (Germany).

He holds veterinary licenses in Alabama and in Germany, and has received numerous professional honors and awards in the United States and Europe. Dr. McMullen also serves in editorial capacities for a variety of veterinary professional journals and publications, and is on the board of the International Equine Ophthalmology Consortium (IEOC), an organization created to improve and advance the quality of care and scientific research within the field of equine ophthalmology.

Dr. Shannon Boveland


Veterinary medicine faculty are passionate about their work, whether teaching, research, or patient care. For Dr. Shannon Boveland, the desire to serve in a clinical capacity and an opportunity to do so are the driving forces that brought her to the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Boveland joined the college this semester as an associate clinical professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Clinical Sciences. Her post is a clinical appointment with the Ophthalmology Service in the Wilford & Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital.

A Louisiana native, Dr. Boveland earned her DVM from Tuskegee University in 2000, interning there in Small Animal Medicine and Surgery. She completed her residency in ophthalmology at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Since 2009, Dr. Boveland worked at Tuskegee University holding various positions: director of admissions and recruitment; and associate professor, assistant professor, clinical lecturer, faculty fellow and instructor in the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery.

“My appointments at Tuskegee involved some clinical work, but I also was charged with a significant administrative work load,” she said. “My passion, though, has always been clinical service. The opportunity to be more involved in clinical service is what brought me to Auburn.”

Dr. Boveland said she has had professional interaction with the CVM for many years and has enjoyed that relationship.

“I have always liked the people here, the [Ophthalmology] Service and the professional environment at the hospital,” she said. “I am looking forward to working and teaching here.”

Her CVM teaching assignment includes classes in ophthalmology diseases. She also will be involved in research programs focused on clinical studies in ophthalmology as well as corneal diseases. She holds a veterinary faculty license in the state of Alabama and is certified by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists.

The college’s Ophthalmology Service provides comprehensive ophthalmic care to canine, feline, equine and exotic species. The service offers a full range of diagnostics, microsurgical techniques and therapeutic options for the treatment of ophthalmic disease. It treats a variety of eye disorders, including diseases of the ocular surface (corneal ulcers, dry eye), cataracts, inflammation of the eye, glaucoma, tumors, retinal diseases and eyelid abnormalities.