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COLLEGE STATION, TX- Out of 57 applicants, Dr. Sarah Hamer,
assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary
Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), placed third in the Young
Investigator Competition at the Merial NIH National Veterinary
Scholars Symposium for her research on infectious zoonotic
To compete for the award, which was sponsored by the American
Veterinary Medical Association and American Veterinary Medical
Foundation, the applicant must be a veterinarian and fairly new
into their research career. Hamer won third place based on
her research on the various roles wild birds play in carrying and
moving ticks and pathogens of importance for human and animal
health, including the Lyme disease pathogen.
"We found that many species of wild birds not only serve as
reservoirs for these pathogens, but they actually move the tick
around. Some of these birds are neotropical migrants.
They picked up ticks and pathogens in South America and within a
few days they arrived in the Midwest," Hamer said.
She said she hoped this research would show the important roles
birds play in the ecology of zoonotic diseases.
"I study these pathogens as they are maintained in wildlife
populations. I hope to understand what the important key players
are in disease cycles before they bridge over to humans," Hamer
The abstract she presented for this competition, The Complex
Interface Among Wild Bird Populations, Tick Borne Pathogens, and
Human Health, was comprised of previous data she has gathered in
the Midwest and new ideas she has now. Hamer said some of the
information she presented is based off the data in her new paper
appearing in October in Emerging Infectious Diseases. She added
that she is still continuing research on the topic and recently
started collecting data from wild birds in Texas.
Twelve of the 57 applicants were invited to the symposium, with
the top five presenting their abstract, and three people placing in
Dr. Bhanu Chowdhary, professor and associate dean for Graduate
and Research Studies, attended Hamer's presentation and said she
deserves the award.
"I congratulate her for this extraordinary achievement because
she competed nationally and was in the top three," Chowdhary
said. "It is a major recognition and the college as a whole
is proud of her."
Hamer said her line of research was unique at the
"The biomedical research I presented began with a field-based
approach starting with wildlife populations in their natural
habitat," she said. "I was really pleased that it was well
received by the audience."
The twelve applicants also attended a Becoming Faculty Workshop
held by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund in conjunction with the
Hamer said the workshop was geared toward giving new faculty
members advice on how to succeed in academia. She will teach
her first class, an undergraduate VIBS epidemiology course, at the
CVM in the Spring 2013 semester. Hamer is also working on
developing a new course in wildlife disease ecology and
This symposium also invited summer research programs from over
30 veterinary medicine colleges in the United States, Canada, the
NIH, and medical schools. From the CVM, Dr. Bhanu Chowdhary,
professor and associate dean for research and graduate studies; Dr.
C. Jane Welsh, assistant dean for research and graduate studies;
Dr. Roger Smith, professor; and Dr. Ann Kier, professor, took their
14 students from the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Scientist
Research Training Program (VMSRTP) to the symposium. Smith
said these students presented posters describing the results of a
research project they spent working on the whole summer. The
students also got a chance to attend scientific sessions and
presentations such as those from the Young Investigator award.
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843
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