Veterinary students share research at scholars symposium

Nearly 600 veterinary students representing three dozen veterinary schools from the United States, Canada, and Europe participated in a summerlong research program. Their work culminated in a presentation of their findings at the National Veterinary Scholars Symposium, held Aug. 4-6 this year at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

Mentored by researchers from academia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Institutes of Health, students conducted original research in areas such as emerging infectious diseases, toxicology, oncology, and chronic diseases, as well as advances in conservation and sustainable agriculture.

Franchesca Rollerson-Clark and Stephanie Martinez, PhD, in the lab
Franchesca Rollerson-Clark, a second-year veterinary student at Kansas State University and a Veterinary Research Scholar, studies canine anti-epileptic drug interactions in the laboratory with faculty mentor Stephanie Martinez, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Physiology. (Photo by Joe Montgomery)

This year marked the first time that program participants worked directly with USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists researching diseases that could affect livestock and public health and advancing sustainable approaches for agriculture and food production.

Under a new collaboration between the USDA and Boehringer Ingelheim, 12 students spent the summer at one of nine USDA sites working with an ARS scientist on a research project, with Boehringer Ingelheim and USDA covering all costs for the students.

In addition to Minnesota’s veterinary college, the symposium was sponsored by the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, the AVMA, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, Boehringer Ingelheim, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the NIH, and the USDA. Every year, the AVMA provides stipends for five veterinary students conducting a second year of summer research.

Dr. Vivek Kapur, a professor of microbiology and infectious diseases at Pennsylvania State University, gave the symposium’s keynote address, on SARS-CoV-2. Plenary addresses on the applications of veterinary genetics were given by Drs. Danika Bannasch, a professor at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and Molly McCue, associate dean of research at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

Along with the student poster presentations, the symposium featured several breakout sessions and a Combined Degree Colloquium for students pursuing dual veterinary and PhD degrees.

Yi Wen presents her results
Kansas State second-year veterinary student Yi Wen did summer cancer research at Johns Hopkins University and presents her results at the National Veterinary Scholar Symposium. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Katherine Stenske KuKanich)

During the symposium, the AVMA and AVMF sponsored a competition for the best scientific presentation by a veterinarian currently enrolled in or within one year of completion of a graduate degree program. The winners of the AVMA/AVMF Early Stage Investigator Awards were Dr. Lynn Pezzanite, Colorado State University, first place; Dr. Rosemary Bayliss, North Carolina State University, second place; and Dr. Alexa Spittler, Colorado State University, third place.

Boehringer Ingelheim presented its Animal Health Veterinary Graduate Award to Dr. Ashley Rasys, University of Georgia, and its Veterinary Student Award to Sydney Womack, Cornell University.

A version of this article appears in the October 2022 print issue of JAVMA.