Training program brings veterinary pathologists to NIH

Participants complete residencies at veterinary colleges, dissertation work at National Institutes of Health
Published on
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

Genetic causes of breast cancer and leukemia were the topics of dissertations by the first two veterinary pathologists to complete a joint training program between the National Institutes of Health and five veterinary colleges.

The NIH recently held a symposium to highlight the program's early progress and participants' contributions to biomedical research. The Comparative Biomedical Scientist Training Program Symposium took place Oct. 2-3, 2008, on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md.

Dr. Schantel Hayes
Dr. Schantel Hayes is a participant in the joint training program for veterinary pathologists between the National Institutes of Health and five veterinary colleges. She currently is studying genetic causes of obesity at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The National Cancer Institute launched the veterinary training program in 2003, and four other NIH institutes have joined. The NCI has partnered with the veterinary schools/colleges in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, and North Carolina. Ten veterinarians are training in the program, which starts with a pathology residency at one of the veterinary colleges and ends with dissertation work at an NIH institute.

"It provides us the opportunity to train additional pathologists for a global need," said Dr. John Cullen, who directs the program at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Cullen noted that the program combines anatomic and investigative pathology. Also, the program allows veterinarians to develop relationships with other scientists—working together to improve animal and human health so that the idea of "one medicine" is more than an idle concept.

Dr. Willie Reed, dean of the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, said the program specifically helps meet needs for veterinarians in biomedical research and pathologists at veterinary colleges.

"It allows our faculty and students access to cutting-edge research conducted by world-class NIH scientists," Dr. Reed added.

Last year, Drs. Mark Hoenerhoff and David Caudell were the first veterinarians who completed their PhDs through the program.

"As veterinarians and as pathologists, we have a great opportunity to really make a difference in biomedical research through using our knowledge of biological systems to solve problems relating to human health," said Dr. Hoenerhoff, who completed his training at NCI and now conducts research at the NIH National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Dr. Hoenerhoff studied the BMI1 gene in vitro and in mice. The gene can contribute to the development of breast cancer. Dr. Hoenerhoff's team found that overexpression of BMI1 in conjunction with overexpression of Hras, an oncogene commonly overexpressed in a number of cancers in humans, augments tumorigenesis.

Dr. David Caudell focused his work at the NCI on leukemia research in rabbits and mice. Studying the role of chromosomal translocations, Dr. Caudell generated transgenic mice that expressed a CALM-AF10 fusion gene. Almost half the mice developed acute leukemia—providing experimental confirmation that this fusion, isolated from patients with some forms of leukemia, is leukemogenic.

Dr. Caudell said he enjoyed the chance to pioneer the veterinary training program at the NIH. "It's been really great watching the program evolve, watching it grow exponentially."

Dr. R. Mark Simpson, director of the Molecular Pathology Unit within the NCI Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics, was the founder of the training partnerships with the veterinary colleges. He said the NIH institutes benefit from veterinarians' comparative perspectives in problem solving, hypothesis testing, and critical thinking.

Dr. Simpson also received the 2008 Leading Diversity Award from the NCI for recruiting and mentoring African-American veterinarians and veterinary students.

"We have been successful in our ability to include underrepresented minority veterinarians, in large part, due to combined efforts in building a network of supportive programs and people at both the NIH and our veterinary college partners," he said.

Dr. Simpson said the joint training program's ultimate goal is to prepare interdisciplinary, comparative biomedical scientists who will help lead the research teams of the future—opening new synergies to address public health challenges impacting humans, animals, and the environment.

Information is available at