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Inaugural Penn Vet New Bolton Center, MARS Equestrian™ research program to accelerate transformative advancements in equine musculoskeletal health

By: Hannah Kleckner Hall Date: Nov 17, 2020
The standing robotic computed tomography (CT) system at New Bolton Center
Backed by leading experts from MARS Equestrian™, Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center and the WALTHAM™ Equine Studies Group, the MARS Equestrian™ Early Career Investigator program is set to pioneer novel discoveries in equine health through an invaluable mentorship experience. Photo courtesy of James Graham Photography.

Together with MARS Equestrian™, the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) has launched an innovative educational research program dedicated to advancing critical frontiers in equine health.

At its core, the MARS Equestrian™ Early Career Investigator program is providing aspiring veterinary researchers with an exceptional, multidimensional mentorship experience guided by a team of leading Penn Vet researchers and animal health experts from MARS Equestrian™ and the WALTHAM™ Equine Studies Group.

Dr. Sarah Ciamillo, the MARS Equestrian™ Early Career Investigator
Dr. Sarah Ciamillo

Sarah Ciamillo, DVM, of Boonton Township, New Jersey, has been selected as the first Early Career Investigator for the newly minted program. "As a long-time equestrian, equine advocate, and new equine veterinarian, there is nothing more important to me than the future health and welfare of the horse,” said Ciamillo.

In her role, Ciamillo is refining a set of comprehensive skills necessary for a burgeoning career in veterinary medicine research, from data collection and analysis to stewardship and public service. The most compelling element of the Early Career Investigator program, however, is the immersive opportunity to assist in developing novel and transformative clinical techniques.

Specifically, Ciamillo is assisting a team of Penn Vet New Bolton Center researchers in a dynamic, first-of-its-kind study assessing equine bone characteristics and limb biomechanics using New Bolton Center’s advanced diagnostic imaging technologies – including its revolutionary standing robotic computed tomography (CT) system.

Ultimately, the researchers hope to use the findings to understand bone and joint injury in horses and develop preventative tools that would improve the health and well-being of equines across all discipline spectrums.

Penn Vet’s Dr. Kyla Ortved, assistant professor of large animal surgery at New Bolton Center, is serving as the primary mentor and lead researcher for this Early Career Investigator project. A clinical expert in equine orthopedic surgery and sports medicine, Ortved’s research program seeks to better understand attributes of the equine joint in order to improve clinical outcomes associated with osteoarthritis following injury in horses.

“Mentorship is a cardinal element of individual career success, particularly in the veterinary medicine field,” said Ortved. “The MARS Equestrian™ Early Career Investigator program’s unique platform will provide junior researchers with an unparalleled learning experience while simultaneously fostering fundamental discoveries in vital areas of research that will unequivocally improve the lives of our equine partners.”

Ciamillo also has the opportunity to work alongside other leading Penn Vet faculty including Dr. Dean Richardson, chief of large animal surgery at New Bolton Center; Dr. Darko Stefanovski, associate professor of biostatistics; and Dr. Andrew van Eps, associate professor of equine musculoskeletal research.

“The MARS Equestrian™ Early Career Investigator program is more than just an immersive experience into a practical and applicable learning environment,” said Dr. Bridgett McIntosh, Director of MARS Equestrian™. “By coupling New Bolton Center’s prowess as an innovator in equine health with MARS Equestrian’s™ commitment to enriching lives through equestrian sport, our hope is to make a lasting impact on equine health through future generations of veterinarians, ultimately creating a better world for our horses.”

Dr. Pat Harris, head of the equine studies group at the WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute and Director of Science for MARS Horsecare shared “I am incredibly excited to be part of this important initiative championing the development of new researchers whose work will be vital in helping to advance frontiers in equine health and science.”

“Through this extraordinary opportunity to work alongside trailblazers in various facets of the animal health field, we hope to inspire more young people interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine and research at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center, these budding veterinarians will be at the nexus of creating the clinical solutions of tomorrow, for some of the most complex and challenging conditions facing our equine partners,” said Christa Schmidt, who presently serves on Penn Vet’s Board of Overseers.

“The MARS Equestrian Early Career Investigator Program is providing crucial training in research areas that are fundamental to advancing the field of equine veterinary medicine,” added Ciamillo.  “I am incredibly grateful to my mentors at New Bolton Center and to MARS for this unique opportunity to play an integral role in this field of research, develop critical thinking and benchtop skills, and as a result, contribute to my ultimate career goal – to make a lasting difference for horses and humans alike."

For more information about MARS Equestrian’s™ commitment to improving the lives of horses, pets, and the people who love them, please visit


About MARS Equestrian™

MARS Equestrian™ Sponsorship by Mars, Incorporated is the link between our iconic brands and the equestrian community. For generations, Mars has celebrated a rich equestrian heritage, and through purposeful partnerships, MARS Equestrian™ is committed to the sport and building an enduring legacy. From world-class competitions across all equestrian disciplines, to stewarding the power of horses on society and sustainability, MARS Equestrian™ is dedicated to our purpose to improve the lives of horses, pets, and the people who love them. Check out our website at and social media @marsequestrian.

About WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute

The WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute is Mars Petcare's pet research center. Our work focuses on the nutritional and behavioral needs of pets, as well as preventive health. We use this knowledge to support development of innovative products and services, advancing science to deliver our Purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS™.  The WALTHAM™ Equine Studies Group, which is headed by Professor Pat Harris, MA, PhD, VetMB, DipECVCN, MRCVS, is dedicated to advancing the science of horse nutrition and provides the scientific support for MARS Horsecare globally including the BUCKEYE™ Nutrition, SPILLERS™, and WINERGY™ brands. By collaborating with key research institutes and universities around the world its work remains at the forefront of equine nutritional science.