For Virtual Rider, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Dean, Pelotonia is Personal

Rustin Moore on Kristine memorial bench with dogs

In the final few days leading up to Pelotonia 2010, Rustin Moore, DVM, PhD, was thinking a lot about cancer and the devastating impact it has had on his family, friends and co-workers. He was heartbroken and angry, and determined to do something.

“At the time, I was the Acting Director of the Veterinary Medical Center (at The Ohio State University) and Kristine McComis was the assistant to the director,” Moore said. “She had been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer a month before and she died on August 18, 2010.”

Moore was very close with McComis and her family, and was asked to give the eulogy at her memorial service.

“I wasn’t signed up for Pelotonia, but was working on the eulogy and decided to sign up as a Virtual Rider the Thursday night before Pelotonia,” he said. “I created a story (about McComis) and links to pictures of her (on his Pelotonia profile). So many people knew her and loved her and, within two days, I was amazed by how much money I had raised.”

This year will be the seventh year that Moore — now the Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Ruth Stanton Chair in Veterinary Medicine — has been part of Pelotonia.

He’s ridden three times, “but mostly, because of a lack of time to train, and because I’m more of a walker, I’ve been a Virtual Rider,” Moore said.

He’s part of Pelotonia for two primary reasons.

“The first is to keep Kristine’s memory alive,” said Moore. Kristine's mother, June McComis and aunt, Janet Anderson donated a bench, stone and an endowed Japanese Red Maple tree on the campus of the College of Veterinary Medicine as part of her memorial. On the stone is a bronze plaque that reads, in part:

Kindness and compassion embodies her

Graceful and gentle as a kitten’s purr

Inner courage and strength abound

Respect and trust always surround

These words come from a poem Moore wrote about McComis soon after she was diagnosed. He gave a framed copy of it to her — and has another in his office.

Rustin Moore and Kristine McComis

The second reason he’s a Pelotonia Virtual Rider is similar: “I’ve had several family members die from cancer. And we’ve had several people, here in the College, who’ve had cancer and conquered it, or are currently battling it, or have lost their battle.”

Moore and the College of Veterinary Medicine are part of the battle to beat cancer, and have numerous connections with The Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

“We feel very connected with them and have a great relationship,” Moore said.

The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine developed a commercial feline leukemia vaccine in 1984. Researchers from the College continue to work on cancer-causing viruses and immune-system diseases, often in conjunction with researchers from the OSUCCC – James.

“We have a large clinical trials program, one of the largest in the country, with about 20 to 25 active trials, and about half are related to cancer,” Moore said.

The prevalence of cancer in dogs and cats is on the rise and “we’ve found that dogs, and to a lesser extent cats, are a more predictable model (than mice) to determine if a new type of cancer therapy works. Their cancer is naturally acquired (unlike laboratory mice), and they live in the same environment as people.”

The data gathered from these clinical trials helps to determine if these new drugs are effective and ready for the next step: Clinical trials with human patients. The dogs and cats involved in the trials often benefit from the new therapies they receive in the trials.

The first time Moore rode in Pelotonia, the route – and thousands of cyclists – went down Olentangy River Road, and under the pedestrian bridge on campus that connects the College of Veterinary Medicine with the main campus.

“There were people from the College up there, cheering,” Moore remembers. “I was only going to ride 25 miles, but when I saw them, I got chills. It was so inspiring and I decided to ride 50 miles. For Kristine.”

For more on Kristine's legacy, view her memorial page created by Moore on the College of Veterinary Medicine website.