Student researchers show value of medical studies

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Hundreds of veterinary students presented research results and heard how they are contributing to global health.

About 550 veterinary student investigators were among the 660 attendees at this year's National Veterinary Scholars Symposium, held Aug. 2-4 at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. The event is a showcase for research by veterinary students who finished research internships this summer.

Dr. Roger Smith, a coordinator of this year's symposium and a professor of veterinary pathobiology at Texas A&M, said the event lets students not only show what they have accomplished but also see what others have done and meet peers, faculty members, and representatives of the institutions that are accepting applications for residencies and graduate programs. It also is a wonderful opportunity, he said, to learn more about the state of research in veterinary medicine and comparative biomedicine.

Texas A&M has sent students to the symposium for about 15 years. Dr. Smith said he and others with Texas A&M saw an opportunity to extend hospitality to attendees this year, with a bonus of showing guests the veterinary college's facilities that opened two years earlier.

Shaina Brown presents research findings to Dr. VandeWoude
Shaina Brown, a veterinary student at Colorado State University, presents research findings to Dr. Susan VandeWoude, who is associate dean for research and graduate education at CSU's College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. (Photos courtesy of Boehringer Ingelheim)

Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe, CEO of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, said this year's attendees included students from Canada, France, and, for the first time, Germany. All of the students he met described how much they enjoyed their research experience and said they would at least consider careers in biomedical research.

"We certainly don't expect all of these students to pursue careers in research," he said. "But every single one of them has a better understanding of the biomedical research enterprise and how it serves as the foundation for a science-based profession and evidence-based medicine."

Dr. Palmer
Dr. Guy H. Palmer

The research program helps students understand the research process, from getting grants through sharing results at a scientific meeting, Dr. Maccabe said. And each year's scholars symposium shows the roles of clinician researchers in ensuring clinical practices are based on evidence.

Dr. Smith said three plenary addresses he attended illustrated this year's themes on the roles of veterinary medical scientists in global health and the translation of research into action: Dr. Corrie C. Brown's session on veterinarians' contributions to global food security, Dr. Wondwossen A. Gebreyes' session on the roles of veterinary medicine in addressing global capacity in health services, and Dr. Guy H. Palmer's session on veterinary medicine's influence on sustainable development. Dr. Brown is an author on transboundary disease and diagnostics and a professor at the University of Georgia, Dr. Gebreyes is a professor and executive director of the Global One Health initiative at The Ohio State University, and Dr. Palmer is a professor and senior director of global health at Washington State University.

Asked about memorable presentations, Dr. Maccabe also noted the lecture by Dr. Palmer, who described how veterinary medicine can contribute to global food security, reduce poverty, improve child and maternal health, and empower women and girls. He also described a session by Dr. Brian Gilger, an ophthalmology professor at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine who said all of his research is intended to improve the quality of care for his patients—illustrating that veterinarians can practice medicine and work to improve it. He also was one of the recipients of this year's AVMA Excellence in Research Awards (see story).

The symposium's supporters include the National Institutes of Health, Boehringer Ingelheim, the AAVMC, the AVMA, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and, this year, local institutions including Texas A&M University and the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation.