Three reports by the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science have argued for increased efforts to expand the number of veterinarians in research careers. Veterinary students receive extensive training in the comparison of multiple animal species and the application of knowledge across species boundaries. As such, veterinarians are well attuned to the identification of animal models that might serve as models of human disease. However, a relatively small number of veterinarians are actively involved in biomedical research. Exposure of veterinary students, early in their training, to biomedical research has been shown to increase the numbers of veterinarians who pursue biomedical research careers. For the past 22 years the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, has administered a short-term summer research program for first and second year veterinary students to participate in research training. This program has enabled 317 different veterinary students to perform biomedical research with 134 different faculty members at Penn. Veterinary students, with the help of an executive committee, identify faculty sponsors at Penn. A core of 33 well-funded and experienced faculty serve as training mentors. Students write a research proposal that is well defined and addresses an interesting problem in biomedical research. Applications are reviewed with respect to the credentials of the student, merit of the research proposal, and training environment of the sponsor's laboratory. Students perform research in the mentor's laboratory during the months of June, July, and August and participate in weekly seminars that provide training in grant writing, data presentation in written, poster and oral formats, and information on career opportunities in academia, industry, and government. Students also participate in trips to NIH, the Philadelphia Science Center, and the Merial-NIH Veterinary Scholars Symposium. Students present their research oraly and in poster format, and must submit their work in the form of a written scientific manuscript. Thus students receive training in all aspects of biomedical research. Our outcomes data indicate that Program graduates are much more likely to pursue further education and graduate studies, and are much less likely to pursue private practice clinical careers.
The National Academy of Sciences has identified a critical shortage of veterinarians in biomedical research careers. The proposed training program provides veterinary students early in their veterinary school careers with training in all aspects of biomedical research, and provides them with information and advice on biomedical research careers. Outcomes data indicate that Program graduates are much more likely to pursue further education, including PhD training, and are much less likely to pursue private practice clinical careers.
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