August 06, 2018

Annual National Veterinary Scholars Symposium Showcases Young Talent and Value of Hands-on Research Opportunities for Students

University of Wisconsin’s Dr. Andrew Lewin Recognized with the 2018 Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Graduate Award and Kathryn Taggart from University of Florida Receives the 2018 Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Research Scholar Award

College Station, Texas (August 6, 2018) – More than 650 veterinary students from across North America and Europe, as well as animal health researchers and leaders from more than three dozen top veterinary schools, convened this weekend at Texas A&M University for the 29th annual National Veterinary Scholars Symposium.

The National Veterinary Scholars Symposium, the premier annual scientific colloquium which showcases research accomplishments by veterinary students completing summer research internships, provides an opportunity for students participating in the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholars program to present their research findings by oral and/or poster presentation. In addition to scientific sessions, students have the opportunity to learn more about potential careers in biomedical research, as well as related, practical topics such as grant and manuscript writing and time management. The Veterinary Scholars also have the opportunity to network with each other and with various mentors from academic, industry and government backgrounds. 

Presentations and panel discussions at this year’s National Veterinary Scholars Symposium – from academia, government, private research institutions and industry – provided students with exposure to and perspective on a variety of topics intersecting animal and public health, including global food security and sustainability, emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance. 

The mission of the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholars Program is to provide an opportunity for veterinary schools to introduce first and second-year veterinary medical students to biomedical research. By providing a supportive environment in which students can experience research in an established laboratory, complemented by seminars and discussion groups on the scientific process, ethics, and research opportunities, the participants gain practical insight into the skills required and opportunities for careers in biomedical research. 

“Innovation in both animal and human health is inextricably linked, and to address unmet clinical need in both areas we need motivated and skilled scientists and researchers,” said Dr. Fabian Kausche, Global Head of Research and Development for Boehringer Ingelheim’s Animal Health business. “Over the last few decades, more than 3,000 veterinary students have participated in this annual program and benefited from this tremendous experience and exposure to career pathways. The impact of such experiential learning programs to the students involved, to industry and to human and animal patients is significant.” 

At each of the more than three dozen participating institutions, Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholars are assigned to a mentor and laboratory. Each scholar conducts a hypothesis-driven research project developed jointly by the scholar and mentor. The research project is typically conducted over a 10-12 week period during the summer. At the end of the program, scholars present their findings to their peers and attending faculty. Scheduled activities supplement the research work, to provide opportunities for the students to learn about the broad aspects of research.

The Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholar Program and the associated Symposium have grown over nearly three decades from sponsorship of a handful of students to a well-established and highly competitive program. The number of sponsored students has grown from 54 at eight schools in 2000 to nearly 200 students at 38 schools in 2018. Attendance at the annual Symposium has increased from 43 to more than 650 during the same period.

2018 Boehringer Ingelheim Award Winners

As part of the Veterinary Scholar Program, each year Boehringer Ingelheim presents awards to one graduate student and one undergraduate student for exemplary research projects. This year’s winners were recognized this weekend at the National Veterinary Scholars Symposium.

The 2018 Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Graduate Award was presented to Dr. Andrew Lewin, who is completing his residency in comparative ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine, for his work in infectious ocular disease and glaucoma in several animal species. Lewin has been inspired to focus on infectious ocular disease through his work as a shelter veterinarian before starting his residency. As part of his research, Lewin established a nationwide network of cat shelters to provide quantitative clinical scores and eye swabs for cats with ocular and respiratory infections to determine the epidemiology of these pathogens nationwide, which had never been done before. He also obtained viral isolates for genomic sequencing and phylogenetic analysis, making other downstream analyses possible with these samples and the data set.

The 2018 Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Research Scholar Award was presented to Kathryn C. Taggart, an undergraduate student at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, for her study of dilated cardiomyopathy in Dobermann Pinschers, a common and devastating disorder that is poorly understood, and for which early recognition is difficult and response to treatment has not drastically changed over last few decades. Taggart has prepared a scientific manuscript of this work as a first author, and the manuscript has been accepted for publication in a respected peer-reviewed journal.