CVM Welcomes New Faculty
The MU College of Veterinary Medicine recently added two new faculty members to it Veterinary Medicine and Surgery Department. Dr. Fred Wininger is the new assistant professor in veterinary neurology and neurosurgery, and Dr. Patrick Pithua will serve as an assistant professor specializing in veterinary public health.
New Jersey native Fred Wininger attended veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania and undertook an internship at the University of Georgia. He then went on to complete a residency in neurology and neurosurgery while simultaneously earning a Master of Science at Washington State University. He is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
His appointment at MU marks a return to the CVM — he previously engaged in a fourth-year externship here. “I owe a lot of my career interests to MU,” he said. “It’s nice to come back.” He said he was drawn to a career as a veterinary neurologist because the field combines medicine, surgery, imaging and pathology. The strength of the program here, which has both a medical neurologist in Professor Dr. Dennis O’Brien and a surgical neurologist in Associate Professor Dr. Joan Coates, attracted him to Columbia.
“I’ve always loved teaching. The veterinary neurology program at MU allows me to teach and pursue my research interests while continuing to practice as a neurologist and neurosurgeon. I am fortunate to be a part of it.” Wininger said another draw was the relationship that has been cultivated between the CVM and the MU School of Medicine.
His appointment will see him spending 20 percent of his time teaching general neurology to veterinary students, and a teleconference advanced neurology elective to residents. He will spend 40 percent of his time on clinical duty, and the remaining 40 percent of his time will be devoted to research. His research interests include furthering minimally invasive surgeries and advancing diagnostic techniques for animals, such as functional MRIs that currently are only available for humans.
When he is not working, Wininger enjoys spending time with his Mantle Great Dane Ferdinand, a former patient that he treated for paralysis and later adopted.
Patrick Pithua received his PhD from the University of Minnesota where he studied the transmission dynamics of Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis in Holstein dairy cattle. He received his Master of Science from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Royal Veterinary College, University of London. His Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine was completed at Makerere University, Uganda.
Pithua’s childhood and adolescence in one of Uganda’s a subsistence farming communities heavily influenced his decision to enter veterinary medicine. Most families would raise goats, sheep, a few cattle and crops. In addition to what they raised to consume, many people would raise a few extra animals that they could sell in an emergency to cover unplanned expenses, such as a doctor’s fee if a child fell ill. Epidemics that wiped out livestock not only left families struggling to put food on the table, they were also psychologically devastating to people who also lost their financial security. Pithua said he initially wanted to be a doctor until he realized that veterinary medicine would allow him to help people continue their livelihoods.
After completing his veterinary education, he worked briefly in a mixed animal practice, but he kept returning to the question, “How can I be involved in a situation where I prevent diseases from affecting whole animal populations and not just focus on treating individual sick animals?”
He went to London to study epidemiology and was assigned to a project in southeast England in an area that had become a battleground over the transmission of bovine tuberculosis. Cattle farmers blamed the disease’s spread on badgers and wanted to exterminate the weasels. However, animal protection agencies said that cattle farmers who moved their herds into areas populated by badgers and destroyed their habitat were to blame. Pithua found himself looking at clusters of the disease in an effort to understand its transmission.
From England Pithua next went to Minnesota where the rural economy is dependent upon the dairy industry. There he became involved in a research project examining whether replacing raw colostrum from dams fed to newborn calves with a manufactured product could prevent Johne’s disease. He hopes to continue that research at the MU CVM and has applied for a grant to fund a study that will allow him to track cows into adulthood. Noting the growing number of sheep and goat farms in Missouri, Pithua also hopes to study Johne’s disease in small ruminants.
Pithua said he was attracted to the MU CVM because its public health program here is so new. “I want to be part of seeing a young program succeed,” he said. “There is more opportunity for innovation.”
He hopes to aggressively market the Masters of Public Health program at MU to increase enrollment, and over time, develop a comprehensive online program for practicing veterinarians that will bring the training into their living rooms.
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