Shelter Medicine Research


Clinical research in shelter medicine

Penn Vet’s Shelter Medicine Program trains future shelter veterinarians to become researchers through the Rosenthal Penn Vet Shelter Medicine Student Research Fellowship, collaborating with faculty members across campus to conduct studies helping shelter animals, and via evaluation of education programs and initiatives at the school. 

By making the university a resource, we are able to directly help animals in our community and also create recommendations, protocols, and strategies that directly improve animal welfare and treatment across the field. Shelter medicine’s research researches not only treatment protocols, but focus is broad and deep, from studies of best practices in shelters, to clinical studies to provide cancer care for shelter animals, to comprehensive evaluation of outreach and educational programs for our students and also the community.

Contact Shelter Medicine

Dr. Brittany Watson, Shelter Medicine

Brittany Watson, VMD, PhD, DACVPM
Director, Shelter Medicine & Community Engagement

Rosenthal Penn Vet Shelter Medicine Student Research Fellowship

To encourage authentic and purposeful engagment in the shelter community from veterinary students and future professionals through mentorship and create new research data to help shelters and animals in the community. 

Shelter medicine is a growing field in veterinary medicine.  However, student support both for entering this career has traditionally been difficult to attain.  Although the public health service loan forgiveness and income based repayment programs can help make the salary more accessible, students crave the mentorship that exists from creating a long time relationship with an academic program and their faculty.  Historically, financial and time restrictions have existed for faculty and students to work together.  Funding a research study or project can become a hurdle that stops collaboration and new information from reaching the field. 

This program provides scholarship support and research funding for two students per veterinary class to engage in a three-year training program in shelter medicine.  Students take all shelter electives while developing, executing, evaluating, and submitting for publication a research project that directly helps shelter animals.

Research Topics

Potential research topics include: 

  • Effective behavioral enrichment
  • Upper respiratory disease prevention
  • Decreasing stress in shelters
  • Effective adoption strategies
  • Interventional programs for preventing surrenders in shelters
  • Disease profiles
  • Shelter protocols for improving animal health