So I thought I would use my first post to talk a little bit
about what I did this summer. Because, really, the best part
of vet school are the opportunities and experiences it provides
outside the classroom. During my first year, I applied and
ultimately was accepted to participate in the Veterinary Medical
Scientist Research Training Program, a program available here at
A&M that allows first and second year vet students, guided by a
faculty mentor, to conduct their own research projects for 12 weeks
during the summer.
Now, you might be asking yourself a couple of questions.
First, you might ask, "Why exactly would you want to spend your
summer in a lab pipetting solutions into test tubes?" And, in
fact, that's an excellent question. Who would want to do
that? I wouldn't, and so I didn't. The best part of
this program is that I got to choose my mentor Dr. Chuck Long and
my project, both of which exposed me to a variety of activities and
challenges I didn't expect when I applied to the program.
Sure, I had to pipette every once in a while, but I also worked
with disease-resistant cattle, helped with surgery on research
pigs, and killed bacteria with genetically modified milk.
Research isn't constant monotony in a fluorescently lit
Another question you might have is, "What does veterinary
medicine have to do with research?" That is the question that
the other half of the program aimed to answer. Once a week,
Dr. Roger Smith, the program coordinator, gathered us, the 14
participating students, for lunch as he or a guest explained the
innumerable opportunities for veterinarians in research. We
also took field trips to different labs and facilities to meet
veterinarians either treating research animals or conducting their
own research. We went to the Center for Biodefense &
Emerging Infectious Disease in Galveston and met Dr. Frederick
Murphy, the veterinarian who helped discover the agent behind
Ebola. At the Texas Heart Institute, we saw the pristine
facilities where livestock are kept in the hospital basement in the
middle of Houston. Finally for our symposium hosted by
the University of Florida at the end of the summer, we went to
Disney World where, besides having fun at the parks, we met other
students from across the nation and learned about the newest
research in both animal and human health.
Which brings me to the point that stands out among all the
lessons I've learned this summer. Sure, I learned about
cloning and genetic modification and bacteria and that if you give
anything the right hormones, you can make it lactate. The
main idea, though, that this program brought to my attention is
that veterinarians provide a unique viewpoint to research.
Not only do they have the training and compassion to provide the
medical care for research animals so that studies can be performed
humanely, but veterinarians also have insight to animal health and
physiology required for the success of biomedical research as a
whole. Although all of us who participated in the program
this summer may not go on to careers devoted to research, we all
have a greater appreciation for the roles we can all play. If
you'd like to learn more about the program, head over to /vmsrtp/.