Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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New book about UVA Wise’s first chancellor

Michael “O.D.” O’Donnell is celebrating the release of his fourth and latest book, Joseph Charles Smiddy: Papa Joe, at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. 

According to its author, the book’s purpose is to “inform the reader about the life and impact of Mr. Joseph Charles Smiddy,” who served as the college’s first Chancellor. 

“This book is a combination biography, testimonial and love letter to my patron, boss, and friend. Mr. Smiddy hired me more than a half-century ago,” said O’Donnell who is the longest-serving employee of UVA Wise in its history and is associate professor emeritus of French. 

O’Donnell said that, while much has been written about Smiddy, this newest work uses others’ ideas of how Smiddy impacted their world. O’Donnell begins with his own story. 

“When I think back 50-plus years ago and try to remember my first impression of the man who was my boss, and later became my mentor, colleague, surrogate father and, finally, friend, the word that comes to mind is ‘integrity,’” O’Donnell said in a statement. 

As he captures the many reasons why he chooses the word “integrity” and illuminates the characteristics others feel define Smiddy, O’Donnell is also making his own positive impact through this publication. 

Proceeds from the book, which can be purchased at the college’s bookstore, will be donated to the “O.D.”/Michael E. O’Donnell Scholarship, which in turn helps students attending UVA Wise. 

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Wytheville-Wythe-Bland Chamber of Commerce hires Assistant Executive Director

The Wytheville-Wythe-Bland Chamber of Commerce has hired Alison Pollard as the Assistant Executive Director.

Alison grew up in Draper and attended Pulaski County High School and then Radford University. She then joined the U.S. Army as an Imagery Analyst in the Military Intelligence Corps. She served in several oversees locations such as Germany, Macedonia, and Qatar as well as several stateside locations.

For the last nine years Alison has been a co-owner of a business located in Rural Retreat that has been a member of the Wytheville-Wythe-Bland Chamber of Commerce. She has been active in the community, serving as Girl Scout Leader, PTO President, Youth League Coach, Young Life Leader, and multiple roles in her church.

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Linda Dahlgren, professor of large animal surgery, receives the 2021 Zoetis Award for Veterinary Research Excellence from S. Ansar Ahmed, associate dean for research and graduate studies at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Vet school professor wins award for research

Linda Dahlgren, professor of large animal surgery at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine (VMCVM), was awarded the 2021 Zoetis Award for Veterinary Research Excellence, which acknowledges researchers whose innovative studies have advanced the scientific standing of veterinary medicine.

The award recognizes her work in comparative musculoskeletal research investigating regenerative medicine therapies for tendon, ligament, and joint disease in horses and the translation of these findings to human medicine.  

Dahlgren uses her equine background to advance the health of horses while applying what she learns in horses to advance human medicine.

Dahlgren’s position at the VMCVM encompasses clinical practice in large animal surgery, DVM and graduate student teaching, and her research. However, her early-career goal as a surgical resident was focused on starting her own private practice.”I’d never done anything in the lab, but I had a mentor who researched mycoplasma. He taught me how to grow some tendon cells and design a project, and I discovered that I enjoyed it. There are many similarities between the problem-solving in research and the diagnostic work we do in the hospital. It’s a similar thought process, and I like the problem-solving aspect of it,” Dahlgren said in a statement.

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Roanoke store partners with virtual women’s summit

VAG CON is a free annual summit designed to connect & empower women from around the world through a virtual summit on April 22nd – 24th. 

The mission and vision of VAG CON is to bring together women from diverse backgrounds to talk about taboo topics on womanhood, motherhood, body image, sexuality, gender roles, domestic violence, and other traumatic circumstances. All the while openly conversing in a peaceful and respectful manner. 

On Friday, April 22nd, Celina DeLeon will speak on “Ayahuasca and Abhyanga – Principles of Radical Self-Care.” DeLeon is the founder and director of Circle of Sacred Nature 501c(3) church. 

On Saturday, April 23rd, Roanoke-based Waynette Anderson will speak through her new speaking platform called, “Grace & Grit.” The title of her presentation is “Achieving Your Vision in the Face of Adversity.”

On Sunday, April 24th, April Davis from The Vagina Blog will present as the keynote speaker on the “Rites and Rituals of the Menstrual Cycle.” Davis says. Davis has over 40,000 followers on Instagram. 

VAG CON is grateful to partner with The WellNest, a social gathering community for reconnecting and slowing down. The WellNest is located at 16 Church Ave. SW in downtown Roanoke and offers retail merchandise, multifaceted gathering space, plus an array of collaborative holistic services, classes, seminars, workshops, and events. Learn more about The WellNest on their website or on their Facebook 

VAG CON: A Free 3-Day International Virtual Event 

When: Friday, April 22nd to Sunday, April 24th 2022