TVMF Lends a Helping Hand to Student Researchers
Every year, the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation (TVMF) funds a grant to the Texas A&M University (TAMU) Veterinary Medical Scientist Research Training Program (VMSRTP). TAMU’s research program ensures that veterinary students will continue to be introduced to research and the benefits research has on the profession and the practice of veterinary medicine. Student fellows conduct full-time research during a 12-week period in the summer, with the advice and direction of a faculty mentor. In addition to conducting research, students participate on field trips to other research sites to broaden and enrich their exposure to veterinary research. The program concludes with a research conference and a closing banquet.
This year’s TVMF grant recipients were Marselle Kovarsky and Cassandra Tansey. Kovarsky chose to work with Mary Nabity, DVM, PhD, DACVP (Veterinary Pathobiology), and she is working closely with graduate student Jessica Hokamp, DVM, DACVP. Her project is "Urine and serum protein characterization and comparison with renal biopsy findings and clinical data in dogs with proteinuric renal diseases.” Tansey worked with Dr. Gary Adams in Veterinary Pathobiology this summer. Her project is “Evaluating the in silico modeling for predicting host-pathogen interactions in salmonella infections.”
Kovarsky grew up in Plano, Texas, in a close-knit family with many siblings of the four-legged variety. While she was a young Girl Scout, a trip to a veterinary clinic and witnessing a bladder stone removal surgery solidified her desire to pursue veterinary medicine. Watching intently, Kovarsky found herself idolizing the caregivers. “Those veterinarians could do anything, from saving dogs and cats to saving the world!" she said. "I wanted to be just like them.”
Kovarsky is no stranger to the field of research, but it was after her first-year mentor and program coordinator Dr. Roger Smith nominated and personally asked her to apply that she became interested in the VMSRTP. Having dogs of her own, Kovarsky chose to research chronic kidney disease because the research could, in her words, "have a significant clinical impact in the future. My findings could result in earlier detection and therefore more timely treatment of chronic kidney disease, thereby enhancing the health and welfare of dogs suffering from this condition.”
Throughout the summer, Kovarsky received valuable motivation and support from Drs. Mary Nabity and Jessica Hokamp, which inspired her to remain curious, ask questions, work hard and push further to accomplish her desired goals. She couldn’t have been more pleased when her completed data showed promising results.
Kovarsky has many things to be proud of, including being accepted into the College of Veterinary Medicine a year early. “It’s no mystery how difficult it is to gain acceptance to the Aggie Vet School after four years of undergrad,” said Kovarsky. “But to be welcomed into the Class of 2016 after only three years of undergrad, on my first try, is an accomplishment that can’t be understated, especially if you ask my mom and dad!” Kovarsky is also extremely proud to have recently received her bachelor of science degree from Texas A&M in biomedical science, graduating magna cum laude.
So far, Kovarsky’s favorite thing about veterinary school is that it teaches her real-world application. “I take pride in learning as much as possible because I know one day I will apply the techniques in real-world situations to help those creatures that may not be able to help themselves,” she said. Kovarsky is also refreshed by “how we as students are treated with respect by the professors. They consider us colleagues and truly want us to succeed.”
So what does the future hold for the ambitious young veterinary student and die-hard sports enthusiast? Kovarsky said, “I believe in keeping my options open and seeing where life takes me. But if I looked into my crystal ball, I’d hopefully see myself either finishing up a residency in a particular specialty or working as a full-time DVM in a small animal clinic in the North Texas area.”
Raised by two Air Force parents and the oldest of five, Tansey grew up in Fort Worth. As if a family of seven was not big enough, a menagerie of animals surrounded Tansey in her youth, including dogs, cats, birds, pet rats, ducks, snakes, chickens and guinea hens, to name a few. Tansey seemed destined to become a veterinarian, but it was not until the fifth grade that Tansey knew for sure that she wanted to be a veterinarian when her Great Dane Duchess decided to give birth to 15 puppies in her bedroom. She woke up to find a few brand new puppies on her floor and watched Duchess give birth to a few more before she realized that she should probably go wake one of her parents up. “We spent the next several weeks bottle-feeding them, and I knew that I just had to be an animal doctor when I grew up,” Tansey said.
Tansey applied for the VMSRTP because she wanted to learn how to perform medical and scientific research. “I majored in sociology at Rice University, so I had a very minimal background in scientific research," she said. "I think that understanding how research is performed is an extremely important part of veterinary medicine. As a clinician, you need to understand how to read and interpret research to keep up with advances. As a specialist, you need to be able to perform research.”
Tansey chose her topic because it has the potential to provide new targets for disease intervention and minimize the use of animals in research. Tansey said, “I think animal research is necessary and beneficial to medicine, but I also think that it should be utilized wisely and with an eye toward reducing the number used and maximizing the chance of success.”
One of the reasons Tansey enjoys veterinary medicine so much and was inspired by this research project is because, in her words, “it allows practitioners to heal animals while also contributing to the betterment of human health. The research that I conducted this summer was fairly basic, but it could lead to better vaccines for animals and healthier lives for people.”
Tansey has the general idea that she wants to practice laboratory animal medicine. “I enjoy public health, research and pathology, and lab animal medicine incorporates all of those, as I discovered when I took a lab animal elective last spring,” she said. If Tansey decides to pursue a specialty within veterinary medicine, she’d like to become a Diplomate of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine.
This past spring, Tansey received her Aggie ring. “Officially becoming part of the Aggie family was very exciting for me,” Tansey said. “I’d always heard that from the outside looking in, you can’t understand it, and from in the inside looking out, you can’t explain it. After two years in College Station, I see how apt that saying is, and getting my Aggie ring symbolizes all of the hard work I’ve done to get to this point.”
In her spare time, you can find this busy veterinary student playing and watching sports and reading fiction. Although when asked what her hobbies are, Tansey said, “I used to have lots of hobbies, passions and interests; then I became a veterinary student. Kidding. Sort of.”
TVMF Heads to College Station for Our Oath in Action Day
On October 26, which is National Make a Difference Day, TVMF will participate in the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s Our Oath in Action Day (OOIAD). OOIAD is an opportunity for members of the veterinary community to bring their skills and knowledge to bear on service projects that will engage and educate pet owners and animal lovers on a range of topics related to animal healthcare.
Here in Texas, local veterinarians, students from Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and TVMF will be in College Station to help educate pet owners about holiday pet toxicities. The event, which will take place three hours before the Aggie football kickoff in a booth in the Fan Zone in front of Kyle Field, will help answer questions like "Is your home hazard-free?" and "Does your pooch sniff out chocolate?" With the holidays right around the corner, many things that make the holidays so merry could be harmful to your pet’s health. Stop by the Our Oath in Action Day booth in the Fan Zone in front of Kyle Field for some helpful pet poison tips to get you ready for the holiday season!
Memorial Gift Program
The death of a pet is difficult for both clients and veterinarians, but it’s especially hard on your client. Helping them through the grieving process is a vital part of any practice. The Memorial Gift Program is an excellent way for veterinarians to show they care about a client’s loss by making a contribution in the pet’s honor to TVMF. The program is simple, tax deductable and helps fund the efforts of the Foundation, including the Emergency Student Fund Grant, dictionaries for new veterinary students, scholarships and the New Graduate Program. It also supports the Mark Francis Museum of Veterinary History within the TVMA building, and various other ways of educating the public about veterinary medicine. Nothing you can do will have a more positive impact on your practice and say “We Care,” like this program. Not only will it help retain current clients, but it will also aid in the recruitment of new clients. Word of mouth is the most powerful advertising anyone can have.
For information on becoming involved in the Memorial Gift Program call the TVMF office at 512/452-4224, or visit the Foundation website, tvmf.org.