CMP Alumni

Dashek was born and raised in Franklin, Wisconsin. He earned a degree in biology at the University of Wisconsin. After graduating, he worked for a couple of years as a research technician in an ophthalmology lab studying glaucoma. It was there that he realized the importance of veterinary medicine in the laboratory setting. He went on to earn his DVM at the University of Wisconsin. He later earned a master’s degree while working in an epigenetics laboratory. Dashek joined the Mizzou CMP and completed his PhD research in the lab of R. Scott Rector, PhD, FTOS, FACSM, an associate professor with co-appointments in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology and Medicine-Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Missouri-School of Medicine.

Dashek currently has a position as an Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri.

Dr. Sarah Hooper is a postdoctoral researcher working with the US Forest Service Northern Research Station. Her primary research interest areas are nutritional ecology and wildlife disease. Her research has focused on enhancing in situ and ex situ conservation efforts through early disease detection and disease mitigation with an emphasis on host-pathogen interactions. The focus of her postdoctoral research is understanding the nutritional and metabolic mechanisms that affect the behavior, fitness and reproductive success of wildlife. She received her BSA in avian biology and her DVM from the University of Georgia. She completed a residency in Comparative Medicine and received her PhD in pathobiology (nutrition emphasis) from the University of Missouri.

Marina graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2011. She completed her residency training in 2014 and her PhD in 2016. Her graduate research focused on the generation of novel cell ablation models in the rat and zebrafish. Marina is currently a Senior Associate Consultant Veterinarian at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL.

Beth received her veterinary degree from the University of Missouri. She completed her residency in 2015. While at Mizzou, she performed comparative orthopedic research in Dr. Jimi Cook’s lab. Beth served as a Clinical Veterinarian at the University of Pittsburgh for 5 years and currently is the Senior Research Veterinarian at VA Tech.

Allison attended veterinary school at the University of Illinois. She joined the Comparative Medicine Program at MU immediately after graduating in 2010 and went on to complete her residency training in 2013 and her Ph.D. in 2014. Her research interests included biomedical engineering with an emphasis on cardiovascular biomaterials and nanoparticles. Allison is now serving as a Clinical Veterinarian at the University of Chicago where her faculty appointment is in the department of surgery at the medical school.

Cynthia received a B.S. in Biology from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY. She earned her D.V.M. from the University of Tennessee and completed her Comparative Medicine training at the University of Missouri in 2014 with a Master’s degree. Her M.S. work focused on investigating the role of the immune system on the brain and behavior. Cynthia currently works at Jackson Laboratories as a Clinical Veterinarian.

Tamila graduated from Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008. After two years in private practice in Texas and New Mexico, she joined the Comparative Medicine Program at MU. Her research interests involved prostate cancer-targeting, peptide-based radiopharmaceutical development and evaluation of those compounds in xenografted murine models in the laboratory of Dr. Jeff Smith. Tamila completed her training in 2014 and is currently the Director of Veterinary Services at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Hanni graduated from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. She completed her residency training in 2009 and her Ph.D. in 2011. Her graduate research focused on the pathogenesis of pneumonic plague in rats and mice, with special focus on Y. pestis iron transport mechanisms. Hanni is currently a Veterinary Medical Officer at the Food and Drug Administration where she participates in the review of animal models proposed for use in development of medical countermeasures.

Chris graduated from NC State with a B.S. in Microbiology in 1999 and D.V.M in 2004. He completed a small animal clinical internship in Tampa, FL before attending the University of Missouri Comparative Medicine Program. Chris completed his residency in 2008, followed by a Ph.D. in 2010 in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology in conjunction with the Harry S Truman Memorial Veterans Affairs Hospital. He is currently the Senior Associate Director, Office of Laboratory Animal Resources at the University of Colorado.

In the Spotlight

Dr. Besch-Williford
Dr. Besch-Williford

Dr. Besch-Williford was recently awarded the Nathan R. Brewer lifetime achievement award.  I had the opportunity to interview her as an alumna of the University of Missouri laboratory animal science training program. 

  • Congratulations on your Nathan R. Brewer Lifetime Achievement Award. How did you react when you learned you’d been awarded the honor?

“The notification of the award came through an email.  My first reaction was one of disbelief – I had to go next door [to Dr. Craig Franklin’s office] to make sure this had actually happened.  It took a long time to sink in.”

  • What does being awarded the lifetime achievement award mean to you?  What is its significance?

“Winning this award is a great honor.  It is very humbling and exciting.  To me, it confirmed the fact that no one can have a career on their own.  Many other people have helped shape my career by giving their time, knowledge and support.  I feel that they are a part of this award, too.  This is truly an award to the entire lab animal community, not just me.”

  • What attracted you to the field of lab animal medicine?

“When I started veterinary school, I wanted to become an equine practitioner.  During my second year, we had a pathology class and I discovered that I loved pathology!  During my third year, we had a lab animal medicine class that was taught by a professor (Dr. Sheldon Bivin) who had been through the lab animal training program at the University of MO and fashioned that curriculum into a course suitable for veterinary students.  We received hands on experience with animal diseases, facility management, and day-to-day research activities.  I found that laboratory animal medicine married clinical medicine, pathology and research as well as provided the opportunity to be involved with many species.” 

  • What aspects of your career have you found most rewarding?

“I love being involved in such a rich learning environment.  I enjoy being around people who are bright, engaged in their work and willing to share their knowledge.  Everyone in the laboratory animal field is driven academically and wants to improve animal and human health.

I also find sharing information with people and teaching very rewarding.  To me, teaching something means that you yourself learn more.  It is so gratifying to watch those that you have taught grow in their own knowledge and go on to teach others!”

  • Is there any one person or event who/which has most influenced you professionally?

“There are many people who have influenced me over the years so it is difficult to choose just one.  However, these people all have the same things in common; they have all been passionate about their work and they have all been driven to make a positive difference for others.  And that inspires me.”

  • Could you describe your career path?  How did you get your job? What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?

“Following graduation from veterinary school I spent a few years in private practice to hone my clinical skills before going into the residency program at the University of Missouri.  When I had passed my ACLAM boards and was finishing my PhD I started looking for job openings.  I wanted a position that mirrored what I had experienced at MU under the mentorship of Dr. Joe Wagner.  Joe asked me if I wanted to stay on at the University as an instructor until they could procure funding for a permanent position.  Of course I said yes!  A permanent position materialized and I served as a Professor in the Veterinary Pathobiology department until 2012.  I then transitioned into a management role at IDEXX BioResearch, where I am serving currently.”

  • What are the most valuable skills in your job? Which experiences enabled you to develop these skills?

“One of the most valuable skills in my job is networking.  I try to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to acquire knowledge and advice from others, especially in the area of people and resource management.  When I see someone who has a skill or trait that I admire, I ask them how they do it.  I still seek out mentorship.”

  • Do you have a basic philosophy for your professional career?

“Keep learning, improving your skills, and then share that information so that you can help others.”

  • What advice would you give someone who is new to the field of lab animal science?

“The greatest thing about this field is the people who are in it.  Make an effort to network.  People in this field, unlike many others, will openly share their knowledge and experience.  This is a small community but there is a lot of teamwork. 

In this field there are a lot of day-to-day challenges which is part of what makes it so exciting.  Take advantage of the challenges and rise to them!  It may help those who are new to the field to ask the same question I ask myself every day – Do I have what I need to my tasks for today?  And if not, “What do I need to get there?” 

  • What motivates you to continue in this field of lab animal science?

“I like it!  This field provides me with opportunities to do exactly what I wanted to do when I graduated from the Comparative Medicine Program at MU.  Things may look a little different now [at IDEXX] than when I was in my position at the University, but I still get to keep my hand in pathology, diagnostics, teaching and research – all the things I truly enjoy.”

  • How has the field of lab animal science changed in the last 20 years?

“There is much more attention to animal husbandry and the ways we address animal health.  There are new challenges which are associated with the new ways that animal models are used and how they are made.  There are differences in the way we address responsibilities in the field.  There has been a change in the numbers and types of species that are used.  There have been great advances in communication which has facilitated contact and interactions with others. Today you can ask questions and get feedback almost instantly, which is something that rarely happened 20 years ago.”

  • How has it stayed the same?

“The people in the field have stayed the same.  They still have lots of initiative.  They are driven and rise to the challenge of their responsibilities.”