TVMF Research Scholar: Cody Westmoreland, Class of 2026

Cody Westmoreland, TAMU-VMBS Class of 2026 and 2023 TVMF Research Scholar, spent his summer honing his interests an expertise in veterinary research. His project focused on determining the optimal volume of lavage required to decrease the bacterial load in subcutaneous tissue, a common challenge in veterinary surgical procedures. This research has the potential to improve patient outcomes and reduce the risk of post-surgical complications such as infections.

“In the field of veterinary surgery, surgical site infections (SSIs) are a recurrent challenge in managing surgical patients that can result in anything from incisional dehiscence to illness, sepsis, and, in some cases, death.” says Cody. “The prevalence of SSIs increases with emergent and abdominal procedures, and as the level of contamination of a wound increases, this further increases the risk for infection.”

Standards for surgical lavage have been established in veterinary medicine to remove bacteria from a wound site. However, as Cody sought in his research project, the quantity of lavage required for adequate reduction of bacteria in subcutaneous tissue has not been officially defined.

In his research, Cody utilized an artificial skin model to mimic the multiple skin layers that are exposed in veterinary surgery. They then applied a standard concentration of bacteria (~106 CFU/ml of isolated Staphylococcus pseudintermedius or Escherichia coli) to the model.

“I first swabbed for culture then inoculated the model for 20 minutes. Lavage volumes of 2.5 ml/cm, 5 ml/cm, and 10 ml/cm total were applied to our 8 cm incision at a constant rate and distance from the model,” Cody explained.

Then, the remaining sample was aspirated between each lavage. Each aspirated sample was plated, incubated for 24 hours in a 37 degree Celcius incubator, and then evaluated for total bacterial growth.

“What our data showed was that there was a logarithmic trend in the relative concentration of remaining bacteria with each subsequent lavage, with an initial 90% reduction with the first lavage (2.5 ml/cm) and another 90% reduction between lavage 1 and 3 (2.5 ml/cm to 10 ml/cm),” Cody reported. “A volume of 2.5 ml/cm demonstrated an adequate reduction of the bacterial load below a level of 105 CFU/ml in the subcutaneous tissue model, indicating removal below the standard bacterial concentration associated with infection.

This summer research program, thanks to our amazing directors and the support of the TVMF, helped me grow as a student researcher and future clinician-scientist. I hope that I can continue to utilize everything I’ve learned through my remaining time at Texas A&M and into my veterinary career –Cody Westmoreland

What could this research mean for veterinary medicine? Cody describes that, “Our data indicates that surgeons should consider a minimum of 2.5 ml/cm of lavage when aiming to decontaminate subcutaneous tissues. However, further work in clinical cases is required to evaluate for differences in live tissues compared to this model.”

In short, Cody Westmoreland, veterinary student and future member of the profession, discovered a baseline quantity for lavage in veterinary surgery. As a 2023 TVMF Research Scholar, Cody was able to present his research in front of the TVMA Board of Directors. Additionally, he attended the National Veterinary Scholars Symposium in Puerto Rico.

“I would like to thank TVMF for their support throughout my summer project, including presenting at the TVMA Board of Directors meeting this past March,” says Cody. “It’s not every day that surgical research and the ability to attend the National Veterinary Scholars Symposium (NVSS) in Puerto Rico comes around. When the opportunity to get first-hand experience learning all aspects of research arose, I just couldn’t pass it up.”

Cody is from Richmond, Texas, and plans to pursue a residency in small animal surgery or pursue general or emergency practice with a surgical emphasis. Thanks to the important support of TVMF, this is merely the beginning of his incredibly bright future and that of his colleagues.

To support veterinary students and their research training projects, please consider donating to TVMF’s Veterinary Student Support Program at or by calling 512-610-6671. You can have a direct impact on future veterinarians and researchers, transforming lives and offering invaluable educational experiences.