The VMD-PhD program involves multiple components and vast research opportunities are available to students. To effectively navigate the program, students receive extensive advising throughout their education. Prior to entry, students are provided with a package of information describing the program and its complexities. The first week at Penn, each student meets individually with the Program Director who charts out a tentative curricular plan tailored to the interests and needs of the student. Students also attend the Vet School and their respective Graduate Group orientation meetings during this week. Each student is also assigned a faculty mentor who is a member of the VMD-PhD advisory committee. These faculty mentors meet frequently with the students to monitor progress, to provide advice, and to serve as role models (many advisors are VMD-PhD graduates, themselves). The Program Director meets with students as a group numerous times throughout the year and is available for one-on-one meetings as necessary. Additional advising is provided by the individual Graduate Groups. Each Graduate Group provides a committee that offers advice on course selection and laboratory rotations. Ultimately each student chooses a faculty mentor for the thesis phase of their work. This mentor provides an important advising function on the doctoral portion of the program. In addition, each student meets every 6 months with a thesis committee that provides direction on their research project. Toward the end of the program students meet with the Associate Dean of the Vet School for advice on clinical rotations, internships, and residencies.
Additionally, during the Summer months, VMD-PhD students meet weekly with the Program Director and about 20-24 other veterinary students performing research at Penn. At these meetings speakers are invited who provide information on careers in academia, the pharmaceutical industry, or government agencies. These meetings also cover topics such as grant writing, funding opportunities, and presentation of research in oral, poster, and written formats. Students also meet twice per year for social events including a Bar-B-Q picnic and a formal dinner at the Program Director’s home. Each month VMD-PhD students participate in a monthly Combined Degree Series in conjunction with the MD-PhD students at Penn. These monthly events provide students with opportunities to present scientific and clinical work in a Grand Rounds format. Some of these meetings focus on advising how to choose a research rotation lab, how to select a residency or postdoc, and how to navigate the program in general. Finally, students meet once a year each August for the Combined Degree Retreat in association with the MD-PhD students at Penn. This meeting includes student presentations, student posters, clinical specialty meetings, and an outside speaker. In summary, students receive extensive advice during their stay in the program and receive extensive information on career opportunities upon completion of the program.