Hundreds attend Merial-NIH
research symposium in Orlando 

Dr. Maureen Long and other UF research faculty members in Orlando, 2011.

Dr. Linda Hayward and Dr. Maureen Long of UF sit with Dr. Stephen Barthold of UC/Davis, winner of the AAVMC-Merial Excellence in Research Award, during the recent symposium.

Against the exotic backdrop of the Disney Yacht and Beach Club Resort in Orlando, the University of Florida hosted the 11th annual Merial-NIH Veterinary Scholars Summer Research Program and Symposium Aug. 4-7, drawing 337 students from all over the U.S., as well as Canada, France and the Netherlands.

Merial began offering the program in 1998, in collaboration with veterinary colleges in the U.S. and the National Institutes of Health, as a means of enhancing training for veterinary students interested in biomedical research. Students apply for a summer research stipend and undertake a hypothesis-driven research project mentored by a university faculty member.

At the symposium —  the culmination of the summer program — all participating students present posters demonstrating the outcomes of their research projects.

UF student Krista DeRespino, right, with her poster. At center is Dr. Bob Bonde, center, who is speaking with Dr. Ted Mashima of AAVMC.

The responsibility for organizing and hosting the symposium falls to a different college of veterinary medicine in the U.S. each year. This year, UF partnered with Disney’s Animal Programs to offer the event at the resort.

This year’s symposium theme was “Conservation Medicine and Human Health” and included two keynote addresses. Dr. Lyle Moldawer from the UF College of Medicine, spoke about harnessing the power of the genome to better understand the immunological response to injury, and Dr. Peter Anderson from the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Biosciences talked about biomedicine from the sea.

 A diverse group of UF faculty members served as guest speakers during the event. Topics included gene therapy, stem cell therapy, marine animal conservation and the impact of environmental toxins.

 Dr. Scott Terrell, director of Disney’s Department of Animal Health, addressed the group and provided an introduction to a behind-the-scenes tour of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

 “The most popular breakout session, which was standing room only, was a talk given by Dr. Craig Pelton of the UF Aquatic Animal Health program,” said Dr. Charles Courtney, the UF veterinary college’s associate dean for research and graduate studies. Pelton spoke on the rescue and rehabilitation of oiled sea turtles following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Concurrent with the event is a Young Investigator Program sponsored through the Burroughs Wellcome Trust. The program allows a select group of new graduate veterinarians pursuing advanced research training through doctoral or post-doctoral programs to receive insights into navigating an academic research career through a series of presentations by notable speakers. Five finalists are chosen to present their work, and three Young Investigator Awards, each carrying a $500 prize, are presented each year.

 First place this year went to Derek M. Foster, N.C.State; second place honors went to Carrie J. Finno of the University of California, Davis; and third place went to Margaret M. Brosnahan of Cornell.

The Merial Research Award for Graduate Veterinarians went to Dr. Jennifer Thompson, a Ph.D. student at Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph.

 The  inaugural Merial-AAVMA Excellence in Research Award was presented this year to Dr. Stephen Barthold, the Distinguished Professor of Veterinary and Medical Pathology at the University of California, Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine.






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August 2011

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