The complex problems presented by human and animal medicines today are ideally approached by investigators with broad experience in numerous species and who understand biology in both molecular and whole animal contexts. Veterinary scientists have played key roles in the fields of stem cell biology, molecular immunology, transgenic animals, and virology (amongst many other biomedical-related fields). Veterinary scientists address scientific problems in multiple species at the molecular level and apply that knowledge to whole animal physiology.
Basic biomedical advances obtained in multiple species drive progress in human medicine. Individuals with comparative medicine training, coupled with rigorous research experience, are particularly well equipped to identify unique features of various animal models for human disease, and to press forward frontiers in both human and animal health. Veterinary scientists make key biomedical advances directly applicable to human medicine.
Epidemics arise when infectious diseases move from animals to humans then acquire the ability to move between human individuals. Veterinary scientists are highly skilled at understanding how diseases spread between multiple species, as well as how they spread within populations of the same species. Recent public health outbreaks of Ebola virus, SARS, and West Nile Virus illustrate this point well. Veterinary scientists have played important roles in diagnosing these outbreaks and in developing responses to outbreak containment. Veterinary scientists thus, play crucial roles in protecting public health.
Preparing for the Future
Biomedical Research is entering an era that requires the application of molecular knowledge to organismal physiology. Individuals trained in comparative medicine will be uniquely qualified for making advances in Biomedical Research, and for addressing worldwide public health, biosafety, and bioterrorism issues. Nationwide there is a great shortage of individuals with this training.
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Why Combined Degree Studies at Penn?
Penn Vet provides an outstanding environment for the training of future leaders. The School is in the heart of a large biomedical research campus perfectly suited for combined degree studies. Students have more than 500 research laboratories to choose from for their doctoral research, and benefit from two world-class veterinary hospitals for their clinical training (Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital, with one of the largest emergency case loads in the nation, and George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals with one of the largest equine case loads). Each year the University of Pennsylvania ranks near the top of the nation with regard to research funds from the National Institutes of Health, and ranking of its individual schools. The University consists of a vast network of research laboratories and core facilities, and operates many multidisciplinary research institutes and centers.
Penn Vet was founded in 1884 and currently ranks near the top of all veterinary schools in NIH funding. Penn Vet consists of four departments with 130 faculty members. The School maintains close ties to the Penn School of Medicine, our nation’s oldest medical school, which also ranks near the top of all medical schools in research and NIH grants. Penn Vet operates 12 multidisciplinary research centers and faculty members participate in numerous research centers and graduate groups throughout the Penn campus. Students in the VMD-PhD program become active members of the entire University research environment and perform their thesis research with any of the 500 biomedical faculty members within the University. An extraordinarily rich environment for combined degree studies is provided by the 500 active research laboratories, the vibrant Biomedical Graduate Groups, the multiple seminar series throughout the University, and the numerous campus-wide Institutes and Centers.
Students receive outstanding veterinary didactic and clinical training at two locations. Small animal clinical training is performed at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (Ryan) located on the main Penn campus. Ryan opened in 1981 and enjoys a worldwide reputation for excellence. This hospital has the largest small animal caseload of any veterinary school in the United States (31,000 cases per year) and one of the busiest emergency units in the world with 13,000 patient visits annually. Students receive clinical training on large animals at the George D. Widener Hospital located on the New Bolton Center Campus in Kennett Square (45 minutes from Philadelphia). The Widener Hospital for Large Animals sees 6,000 large animal patients annually and carries the largest equine caseload in the U.S. Both hospitals are well equipped with excellent clinical facilities.
The outstanding University-wide Biomedical Research environment and the rich Clinical Training Programs at the School of Veterinary Medicine are woven together to produce an unparalleled environment for VMD-PhD combined degree studies.
The VMD-PhD Program at Penn: History & Expansion
The VMD-PhD Program at Penn has been in existence since 1969 and is the most accomplished program of its kind in the nation. The VMD-PhD Program has been enormously successful. It was initially directed by Dr. Ralph Brinster, a pioneer in production of transgenic animals and reproductive biology. The Program has been continually funded by the National Institutes of Health via Penn's Medical Scientist Training Program, and more recently was awarded an NIH Training Grant (T32) for students in infectious disease disciplines. Additional funding comes from private sources such as Pfizer Animal Health and the Armour-Lewis Foundation. Program graduates are exceptionally well-qualified to integrate multiple levels of science ranging from molecular biology to whole animal physiololgy. More than 85% of Program alumni are in careers involving biomedical research. Penn Vet VMD-PhD alumni represent a rich pool of talented interdisciplinary scientists whose expertise greatly enriches the scientific community. Our graduates show a high level of achievement, a steady positive progression in seniority of academic faculty or industry positions, and command a collective funding base of over 100 million dollars.
The National Academy of Sciences has published several reports demonstrating an acute national shortage of veterinarian-scientists needed for industrial, academic and government positions. To help meet this need, the VMD-PhD Program at the University of Pennsylvania has doubled in size since 2002 and is projected to double again during the next five to eight years. Our applicant pool is expanding and we anticipate further increases in the future. This important and exciting expansion will provide a pipeline of talented scientists for industrial, government and academic positions, augment the biomedical enterprise and meet a pressing national need.
The VMD-PhD Program receives support from numerous sources.
- MSTP Grant GM07170
- T32 Grant AI070077
- Pfizer Animal Health
- Mindy and Andy Heyer Endowment
- Armour-Lewis Foundation
- School of Veterinary Medicine
- Department of Pathobiology
- Department of Animal Biology
- Center for Infectious Disease
- Office of the Associate Dean for Research
Alumni Reunion Symposium Support
- NIH T32 AI070077
- NIH T35 RR07065
- NIH T32 RR07063
- Office of the Vice Provost for Research
- World Cafe Live
- Penn MD-PhD Program
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