Aggie Veterinary Student Awarded For Research On Down Syndrome Fracture Healing

Story by Megan Bennett, VMBS Communications

Kayleigh Shumaker gig 'ems next to the AAVMC conference sign
Kayleigh Shumaker at the 2023 National Veterinary Scholars Symposium

Second-year veterinary student Kayleigh Shumaker has received two prestigious awards for her research on Down syndrome at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS).

Shumaker was one of five students nationwide, and the first ever from Texas A&M, selected for the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s 2nd Opportunity Summer Research Stipend, as well as the sole recipient of the Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) Veterinary Student Award.

The 2nd Opportunity Summer Research Stipend of $6,000 will support Shumaker’s second summer participating in the VMBS’ Veterinary Medical Scientist Research Training Program (VMSRTP), which allows veterinary students to conduct full-time research during a 13-week period in the summer under the advice and direction of a faculty mentor.

As the BI Veterinary Student Award recipient, Shumaker will receive a $1,500 award, travel to Minnesota, and attend the 2024 National Veterinary Scholars Symposium in August to give a plenary oral presentation on her VMSRTP research project.

Significant Research

Shumaker began studying delayed and impaired fracture healing in individuals with Down syndrome in summer 2023 under the mentorship of Dr. Larry Suva, head of the VMBS Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology.

“My project was looking at altered angiogenesis, or blood vessel formation, as a potential mechanism behind impaired fracture healing in Down syndrome,” Shumaker said. “People with Down syndrome are predisposed to low bone mineral density and are at increased risk of fracture nonunion, or fractures that don’t heal. This is a huge problem because fractures that don’t heal have a real impact on quality of life.

“What we found suggests that changes in blood supply and blood vessel formation are partially responsible for these fractures not healing, which is exciting to uncover and prompts more questions, as research always does,” she said.

Shumaker will continue her work in Suva’s lab during her second summer in the VMSRTP, working with Ph.D. student Catrina Silveira, DVM, to continue studying angiogenesis in fracture healing and contribute to other similar projects.  

“We are, indeed, proud of Kayleigh as an outstanding representative of the VMSRTP as well as of the Texas A&M Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program,” said Dr. Dana Gaddy, a VMBS professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences and VMSRTP director. “We are delighted to champion Kayleigh’s success and welcome her back to VMSRTP as a senior scholar as well as to Dr. Suva’s lab to work with Dr. Silveira to understand compromises in fracture healing in Down syndrome.”

New Career Goals

Shumaker first developed an interest in research because of her desire to pursue a career in small animal surgery.

“I had zero research experience coming into vet school, but I knew I had an interest in small animal surgery and part of pursuing an internship and residency is getting research experience,” she said. “So, I applied to the VMSRTP, which ended up being a highly impactful experience with great mentorship that encouraged me to pursue research for another summer.”

Her ultimate career goal is to work as a veterinary surgeon in academia so that she can continue to pursue research while also teaching and caring for patients.

“These awards are a testament to trying new things and the excellent mentorship I received through the VMSRTP,” Shumaker said. “If it weren’t for the support from Dr. Larry Suva, Dr. Dana Gaddy, Dr. Catrina Silveira, and others in the lab, I would not have been able to complete my project and certainly would not have received these awards.”


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Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of VMBS Communications, Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences,, 979-862-4216

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