The Mizzou Veterinary Research Scholars Program is a program aimed at exposing veterinary students to research career opportunities through mentored research experience and creating a much-needed community of veterinary research scientists. Craig Franklin, DVM, PhD, DACLAM, Chris Baines, PhD, and Amy DeClue, DVM, PhD, ACVIM are the directors of the program and believe that it provides important opportunities for students. “Most veterinary students come to school with an idea that they’re going practice in small animal equine or food animal medicine or specialize in areas such as surgery, medicine, or radiology,” Franklin said. “There is also a huge need and tremendous opportunities for veterinarians to do research. They can pursue studies to better understand diseases in dogs, but they can also participate in human health. They are a go-to link for zoonotic diseases, which are animal-to-human transmission diseases.”
Through this program, students design and carry out research projects that focus on a variety of topics. These projects begin to take place in April, where students attend class once a week to learn and prepare for their project, but are mainly conducted and carried out during the summer months. During those early months students form a relationship with a mentor, who assists them through the entire process, from applying for grants to performing their experiments.
With all of the social distancing and quarantining that has been taking place due to COVID-19, plenty of changes have been made throughout Mizzou, and the Veterinary Research Scholarship Program is no different. “We’re on a week-to-week basis,” said Franklin. “Our class that meets once a week used to be in person with a lot of small group activities. We’ve had to adapt all of that to remote. All of our class materials are online from here until who knows when? The scholars have really adapted to this well and their excitement and enthusiasm have been contagious.”
Though there is a good amount of uncertainty, Franklin and the VRSP mentors have taken steps to prepare for students not being physically present in their labs. “We’ve asked our mentors and our students to do two things. Plan A is to design their projects as if they will be able to get in the lab come July. Plan B is to consider remote alternatives should that not be possible,” said Franklin. “All of the summer programs across the country are dealing with this and some have gone ahead and said they are going remote only. We are thinking ahead about how we are going to bring these students into the lab, so that we can ensure needs such as social distancing and appropriate decontamination procedures. Either way, we plan to give our students the best possible research experience possible.”