There is an urgent need to increase the number of veterinarian-scientists with expertise in infectious disease research. Over 60% of all infectious diseases of animals can also affect humans, and incidences of new, emerging zoonotic infectious diseases are increasing. Five reports by the National Research Council of the National Academies point out that society?s need to protect against these threats is outgrowing the veterinary knowledge base. Our program seeks to directly address this national need through our VMD-PhD training program in infectious disease-related research which has a strong history of generating scientists in academia, industry, and government. This program is contained within the umbrella of our larger VMD-PhD program which has a 48 year track record of success. Our training program includes focused activies on infectious diseases including as a global heath course, a zoonotic and infectious disease discussion group, infectious disease-related seminars, annual infectious disease-related retreats, and externships at a government public health agency. This is coupled with infectious disease- related veterinary and graduate didactic education, rigorous biomedical PhD thesis research, and veterinary clinical training. The program is further supported by synergistic activities provided by the larger VMD-PhD and MD-PhD programs. Students receive VMD training at the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine, and PhD training within one of the Penn Biomedical Graduate Groups devoted to research in infectious disease-related research: (1) Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology, 2) Immunology, or 3) Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Our program brings together 32 faculty trainers with established research experience in the above disciplines. These faculty have a rich history of predoctoral and postdoctoral training and have trained nearly 400 individuals in the past decade. Throughout the program, VMD and PhD curricula are interdigitated and programs are in place to bridge the two training programs to provide maximal synergy. Extensive oversight and advising systems are also in place to provide an efficient and well structured program. Our tracking data indicate that over 80% of alumni are in research careers. In summary, we seek to address a pressing national need for more veterinarian-scientists through our VMD-PhD program in infectious disease-related research.

Public Health Relevance

As biomedical research advances and the threat of infectious diseases expands, there is a greater need than ever for veterinarians who are trained as investigators working at the intersection between medicine and science. The goal of the Penn VMD-PhD training program in infectious disease-related research is to identify, train and mentor a diverse group of outstanding men and women, and to help them become scholars and leaders of biomedical research in infectious disease-related topics.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Institutional National Research Service Award (T32)
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Microbiology and Infectious Diseases B Subcommittee (MID)
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Coomes, Stephanie
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University of Pennsylvania
Veterinary Sciences
Schools of Veterinary Medicine
United States
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