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June 21, 2017

Since 2005, Morris Animal Foundation has encouraged veterinary students to pursue research careers through its Veterinary Student Scholars program. This year, the program is funding 20 students conducting summer research projects at 20 different schools of veterinary medicine in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

“The Veterinary Student Scholars program provides summer research opportunities for students that ignite their interest in research careers,” said Barbara Wolfe, DVM, PhD, DACZM, Chief Scientific Officer of Morris Animal Foundation. “This summer, we have an amazing group of students involved with our program, and we are excited to see the outcomes of their research.”

The student scholars program was created to tackle the growing shortage of animal health scientists needed to pursue answers to complex questions impacting animal health. Dr. Mark L. Morris Sr., who established the foundation in 1948, noted even then that “the most important element in veterinary research is people, and the Foundation can make its greatest contribution to veterinary medicine by providing opportunities for students to become skilled in veterinary research.”

In 2017, the Foundation is funding $100,000 in grants. A few of this year’s funded students and their areas of study include:

  •  Jennifer Schefski, Colorado State University, is investigating an alternative, inexpensive therapy for dogs that have been bitten by rattlesnakes. Each summer, the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University treats about 40 dogs with snakebite wounds; 95 percent of these patients survive but can have significant pain and suffering during recovery.
  • Jalika Joyner, North Carolina State University, is studying the shared pathogenicity (the ability of an organism to cause disease) of Salmonella species among mountain gorillas and livestock in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Mountain gorilla populations often are negatively impacted by shared diseases with domesticated livestock as well as humans.
  • Patrick Hepner, Iowa State University, is trying to develop a better understanding of corneal sequestrum in cats. Sequestrum refers to the development of dark plaque on the cornea on degenerating or dead tissue.
  • Kristine Hill, Ross University in St. Kitts, is conducting a survey of late-stage embryonal deaths in leatherback sea turtles, now considered a vulnerable species. The turtles have low hatch success in general at around 50 percent, but in St. Kitts the success rate is below 5 percent. Her research goal is to better understand the cause of this low rate through postmortem evaluations of embryos.

“By offering research training opportunities for veterinary students, the Foundation is helping to build the next generation of scientists who will be asked to tackle some highly challenging health problems,” said Dr. Wolfe. “As a profession and as individuals concerned about improving animal health, we want to do all that we can to support these students in their research endeavors and interests.”

About Morris Animal Foundation

Morris Animal Foundation is a global leader in funding scientific studies that advance the health of companion animals, horses and wildlife. Since its founding in 1948, the Foundation has invested over $113 million toward more than 2,500 studies that have led to significant breakthroughs in diagnostics, treatments, preventions and cures to benefit animals worldwide. Learn more at Morris Animal Foundation.