UF veterinary student received AKC scholarship

Riley and Melonie

Melonie Zuercher and her dog, Riley.

Third-year UF veterinary student Melonie Zuercher has received a 2020-2021 American Kennel Club Veterinary Outreach Scholarship.

This scholarship, which the AKC offers each year, is awarded to veterinary students who have a background of participation in AKC events and programs, and who seek to promote animal health and medicine in addition to demonstrating significant academic achievement and extracurricular activities.

Zuercher credits her 2-year-old Belgian Malinois, Riley, who came into her life before she started veterinary school, with being the calalyst to her growing interest and involvement in purebred dogs and dog training.

“If it was not for Riley being in my life, I would not have met my wonderful dog trainer, who encouraged me to attend the local AKC events and to join the local dog club,” Zuercher said.

She became involved with the Greater Gainesville Dog Fancier’s Association, which allowed her to meet and exchange ideas with local breeders about promoting the health and preservation of their favorite breeds. She also grew active in UF’s theriogenology club, in which she serves as treasurer.

Along the way, Zuercher worked with Riley, who excelled in a variety of competitions and programs.

“She is more than just a pet to me, and deserves an enriching, need-fulfilling life just as I believe every dog does,” Zuercher said.

As the Florida Veterinary Medical Association’s 2019 Research Scholar, Zuercher completed a research project that evaluated the usefulness of ultrasound versus computed tomography in the diagnosis, characterization and staging of gastric tumors in dogs. She presented this research in poster form at the 2019 National Veterinary Scholars Symposium, and as a presentation to the FVMA Foundation Board at the 2019 National Gulf-Atlantic Veterinary Conference.

“Developing a passion for canine research was an unexpected outcome of my research project,” Zuercher said, adding that she hopes to have this research published in the coming months, as well as to complete another project prior to graduation.

“My experiences with the local dog club, in the theriogenology department at the University of Florida, and through my research project, have formed a strong foundation for the type of future I want as a small animal veterinarian,” Zuercher said. “My desire is to continue canine research even after I graduate, as well as be able to work as a team with breeders to make the best decisions for their dogs.”

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