More than 200 students from 42 veterinary schools in the U.S. and six other countries will forego vacation this summer and spend time in labs and classrooms. They will conduct hands-on research, network with academic and industry leaders and develop presentations of their research that they will share at a symposium in Boston in late July.
This group of promising veterinarians, most of whom are between their first and second years of veterinary school, will gain practical insight into the skills required and opportunities for careers in biomedical research. They also will help advance understanding of diseases affecting animals and humans, such as cancer and diabetes, and research public health threats like antibiotic-resistance and emerging diseases. The students are the latest of about 3,500 to participate in the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholars program, which marks its 30th anniversary this year.
As the founding sponsor of the program, Boehringer Ingelheim funds a challenge grant supporting $5,000 stipends for half of the veterinary students participating this summer, which is matched by the participating universities for the remaining participants. That assistance supports students conducting research in laboratories at virtually all accredited schools of veterinary medicine in North America, as well as in Germany, France, and The Netherlands. As part of the program, students also participate in seminars and discussion groups on the scientific process, research techniques, ethics and career opportunities.
Each Veterinary Scholar is assigned a mentor and laboratory, and conducts a hypothesis-driven research project developed by the scholar and mentor. The research project is typically conducted over 10-12 weeks. At the end of the program, scholars present their findings to peers and attending faculty. Scheduled activities supplement the research work, providing opportunities for students to learn about the broader aspects of research.
"The Veterinary Scholars program provides an invaluable opportunity for students to learn the basic laboratory and data-analysis skills that set the foundation for scientific rigor. They learn to develop a compelling hypothesis and gain exposure to the complexity and iterative process involved in proving concepts, as well as the critical thinking and communications skills required to translate and present their theories and findings to others," explained Roberto Alva Valdes, DVM, MS, PhD, executive director of the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholars Program.
"Students who have participated in this program have gone on to pursue impressive careers advancing both veterinary and human health care and paying it forward by nurturing subsequent generations of veterinary students, and their contributions over the years are immeasurable," he said.
At the conclusion of the summer program, students have the opportunity to present their research findings at the annual National Veterinary Scholars Symposium. This year's Symposium, hosted by Tufts University, will be held July 26-29 in Boston. In addition to scientific sessions and keynote presentations, students have the opportunity to learn more about potential careers in biomedical research, as well as practical topics, such as grant and manuscript writing and time management. The Veterinary Scholars also have the opportunity to network with each other and with mentors from academic, industry and government backgrounds.
The Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholars Program and Symposium have grown over three decades from sponsorship of a handful of students to a well-established and highly competitive program. The number of sponsored students and participating schools has more than doubled since 2000, from 54 students at eight schools to more than 100 students at 42 schools in 2019.
Since its inception, more than 3,500 veterinary students have participated in this annual program and benefited from the experience and exposure to career pathways. The impact is significant to the students involved, to industry and to human and animal patients. Veterinary Scholar alumni now work in a variety of careers and settings, researching cures for cancer in humans and dogs, developing vaccines for emerging diseases in livestock, advancing regulatory standards and monitoring public health threats, and teaching and mentoring tomorrow's innovators and veterinarians.
Read more about the contributions of some of these previous Veterinary Scholars here.