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Recruiting Veterinary Students Into Research
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Veterinary college tends to produce clinical practitioners despite the graduates' ideal preparation as researchers, a national problem Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine is hoping to address through a summer research program.
Dr. Jerald Ainsworth is director of the Summer Research Experience for Veterinary Students at MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine. He said veterinarians' broad scientific background in anatomy and physiology and multiple animal species prepares them well for careers in research.
"However, even if veterinary students have a burning desire to be in research, after about a year in vet school, most, if not all, have decided to pursue a career in clinical practice," Ainsworth said.
This is the second year MSU's veterinary college has offered the Summer Research Experience for Veterinary Students. This year, the 10-week program is funded by a grant from Merck-Merial that gives students a $4,000 stipend for their work. This year's program started May 22 and will end the last week of July.
"The program is geared for students to take during their summer breaks," Ainsworth said. "We will accept any veterinary student who does not have a Ph.D."
Five MSU veterinary students are involved in the program this summer, but Ainsworth said the college hopes to expand to nine students in the future. Students are encouraged to participate in the research experience program more than once.
The application process takes into account the student's class standing and desire for being involved in the program. They must identify a faculty mentor and submit a research proposal for their work. Once in the program, students spend the first week in class.
Morning lectures cover ethics in research, scientific misconduct, humane use of animals in research, biostatistics, experimental design and more. Afternoons are spent touring MSU lab facilities and in wet labs familiarizing students with procedures and equipment integral to research.
Tomas Pansky, a second year veterinary student from the Czech Republic, is working on two projects for the Summer Research Experience for Veterinary Students. He already holds a master's degree in poultry science before becoming a veterinary student.
"I saw this as an interesting opportunity to combine practical medicine with research," Pansky said.
He is working with Drs. Andrew Mackin and Ainsworth. One project is studying the long-term results of using feeding tubes for dogs. In the other project, he is studying a particular blood factor's ability to accurately detect the presence of a certain cancer in dogs.
While Pansky said he doesn't expect to become a pure researcher, he does hope to combine research with his work in practical medicine.