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Training Leaders in Ensuring Global Food Security

By: Ashley Berke and John Donges Published: Sep 6, 2017
Melanie Kirshenbaum

Melanie Kirshenbaum of Westchester County, N.Y., is the first student to receive new
scholarship funding for the VMD-MBA degree program at Penn Vet’s Center for Animal Health and Productivity and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The VMD-MBA combined-degree program is supported by the Robert Marshak-Vernon Hill Scholarship Fund, named in honor of Dr. Robert Marshak, Penn Vet Dean from 1973 to 1987. Established with a generous $1 million gift from Vernon and Shirley Hill, the fund supports the training of leaders and entrepreneurs with the vision to advance both the science and business of food animal production in order to help ensure global food security.

Marshak-Hill scholars are required to develop projects that explore the applications of economic and business principles to the health and productivity of livestock industries. The integrated training emphasizes innovative solutions to the complex business, health, environmental, and societal challenges associated with intensive and small-scale livestock and poultry production, especially in a global environment with a rapidly increasing demand for animal-sourced protein.

“The combined-degree program provides students with unique, interdisciplinary knowledge that helps to ensure veterinarians have an important voice in addressing issues of food security, both in Pennsylvania and globally,” said Penn Vet Dean Joan Hendricks.

A fourth-year student at Penn Vet, Kirshenbaum is interested in global health and agricultural development. After finishing her undergraduate studies in economics at Cornell University, she worked with international development organizations. She is pursuing the combined VMD-MBA degree in recognition of the integrated nature of health, food, and economic security, as well as the power of industry and multilateral organizations to contribute resources and sustainable interventions in these fields. “An economic and industry-focused approach to global food security, health, and sustainable development, rooted in science, will be especially important in the coming years,” said Kirshenbaum. “I’m excited about this opportunity to expand my knowledge of these areas, and I’m pleased to be part of the ongoing collaborations between Penn Vet and Wharton.”

“We are all excited about Melanie’s acceptance into the program,” said David Galligan, VMD, MBA, Professor of Animal Health Economics and Director of the Center for Animal Health and Productivity. “The integration of Penn’s VMD and MBA programs creates an important focus on emerging global food security issues and enables us to train the next generation of veterinarians to deal with these concerns.”

The combined VMD-MBA degree program at Penn Vet and the Wharton School was originally established in 1981. Galligan oversees the updated program and mentors the Marshak-Hill scholars. Those completing the multi-year program will obtain their veterinary and MBA degrees as well as a certificate in Food Animal Production Medicine. Marshak-Hill graduates will have unique qualifications for leadership roles in food animal agribusiness, government, non-governmental organizations, public health, research, and academia.