Budding researchers gather at Veterinary Scholars Symposium

More than 550 veterinary students from around the world gathered August 3-5 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the 34th annual Veterinary Scholars Symposium (VSS). Participants presented results from weeks of mentored research and celebrated the achievements of two symposium participants.

VSS Posters
Veterinary students present their research during the Veterinary Scholars Symposium in Puerto Rico this summer.

The symposium is the culmination of the 2023 Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholars Program, which was created to introduce veterinary students to biomedical research and expose them to potential careers outside the examination room.


Every year, leading researchers from across academia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) work with program participants on original research relevant to animal and human health in such fields of study as emerging infectious diseases, toxicology, oncology and chronic diseases, as well as advances in conservation and sustainable agriculture.

Each VSS participant is assigned a mentor and a laboratory to conduct a hypothesis-driven research project. The project is typically conducted over a 10- to 12-week period during the summer.

Participants summarize their research findings and work over the course of the summer on a poster, which they present to biomedical researchers, industry experts, and public health officials as well as other veterinary students at the symposium.

"These students will soon be on the front lines of monitoring and protecting animals and humans from tomorrow's emerging diseases and increasing the efficiency and sustainability of our livestock industry as well as increasing the lifespan and quality of life for pets," Caroline Belmont, head of U.S. Animal Health Innovation for Boehringer Ingelheim, said in a statement. "That is why we are continuing to invest in their growth, to offer hands-on learning opportunities such as the Veterinary Scholars Program, so that they can gain the experience and perspective needed to spark innovation and practical solutions to future societal needs."

Nearly 6,000 students have received stipends from Boehringer Ingelheim to conduct research since the program started in 1989.

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) awarded a total of $30,000 to five veterinary students to attend the Veterinary Scholars Program: Kimaya Bakhle, Cornell University; Caitlyn L. Burke, Mississippi State University; Amelia Corona, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Emma Marshall, University of California-Davis; and Meagan Rockow, Colorado State University.


Two VSS participants were recognized at the symposium for their early contributions to research advancing animal and human health.

VSS BI Award Winners
Veterinary Scholars Program award winners Kimaya Bakhle (left) and Dr. Anna M. Hassebroek

Dr. Anna M. Hassebroek received the 2023 Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Research Award for Graduate Veterinarians, which recognizes graduate veterinarians who have completed or will soon complete a PhD program or are in their final years of residency training.

Dr. Hassebroek is an anatomic pathology resident and PhD candidate at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a master's in public health, Dr. Hassebroek worked as a biostatistician for nearly a decade before pursuing her veterinary degree at Purdue University. Her research interests include pathogenesis of emerging zoonotic viruses and vaccine development.

Kimaya Bakhle, a combined DVM-PhD program student at Cornell University received the 2023 Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Research Award for Veterinary Students.

Bakhle attended Purdue University for her undergraduate studies, where she studied biochemistry. After graduating, she spent a year conducting research at Purdue's College of Veterinary Medicine, studying alterations to the blood-brain barrier during formation of brain metastases and drug-metabolizing enzyme activity in dogs with bladder cancer. These experiences led her to Cornell's dual-degree program, where she spent her first rotation identifying potential microRNA biomarkers of breast cancer using mammary stem and progenitor cells from six species.