Audrey pauses for a moment when she’s asked why she is pursuing a degree in veterinary cancer epidemiology.
“This is a sad story,” she says, “but it was a pivotal event in my life.”
Audrey is currently participating in a Morris Animal Foundation training program that helps aspiring veterinary oncology researchers pursue new avenues in veterinary cancer care at Colorado State University. Her journey to this program began 10 years ago after her first child, Aidan, was born with a rare but fatal birth defect.
“The doctors couldn’t tell me anything, couldn’t answer any of my questions,” Audrey says. “They said they didn’t know enough about this disease.”
One year later, Audrey took a course in epidemiology as part of her veterinary school curriculum and she instantly knew she had found not only her calling but also a way to honor her son’s memory.
“It just clicked for me. I knew that I needed to become an epidemiologist in order to find the cause of rare diseases,” she explains. “The cancer bug really bit junior year. I especially wanted to focus on the epidemiology of cancer prevention, a growing field in human medicine but relatively new to veterinary medicine.”
Audrey credits her Morris Animal Foundation grant for allowing her to pursue her passion.
“It would’ve been impossible for me to pursue this unusual course of study without my Morris Animal Foundation fellowship,” she emphasizes.
This fellowship training program is one of a number of programs that Morris Animal Foundation launched after the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) identified “a shortage of veterinarians participating at all levels in the biomedical research enterprise.”
The Foundation’s training grant programs are currently funding 67 investigators. In the past eight years alone, the organization has awarded $13.9 million for training grants. These grants have included funding for salaries for postdoctoral fellows, fellowships earmarked for the advanced training of practicing veterinarians, funding for programs that help veterinarians pursue PhDs and seed money to assist young scientists in developing independent research laboratories. Morris Animal Foundation also funds a summer scholar program to introduce veterinary students to the importance of research in advancing animal health.
For Audrey, her Morris Animal Foundation grant allowed her to pursue her passion for cancer epidemiology and to carve out a unique niche for herself. As she finishes her training and responds to exciting job offers, she is looking forward to starting her own research program.
“I knew I was climbing out on a limb when I began this course of study,” she says. “I’m glad Morris Animal Foundation decided to climb out there with me!”
Morris Animal Foundation is one of few organizations in the world that invests in research that leads to veterinary medical advancements. Our funding provides researchers with the tools they need to create new knowledge that will advance animal health. If you would like to help further our mission, click here.
By: Kelly J. Diehl, DVM MS, DACVIM