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Hatching scientists
  1. Fran Taylor-Brown

Abstract

The Cornell University Leadership Program for Veterinary Scholars is a 10-week summer programme for veterinary students who wish to pursue a science-based career. Fran Taylor-Brown of the Royal Veterinary College was one of three UK students who was chosen to participate last year

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I HEARD about Cornell's leadership programme through a research scientist at the Royal Veterinary College, Dr Mandi De Mestre, who happens to be a programme alumnus. I subsequently learned that a number of staff clinicians had attended the programme and spoke of its benefits. Applications are invited from all over the world, and last year the 23 participants were from the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. The three UK students chosen to attend received a Wellcome Trust scholarship, which covered the programme's cost.

During the programme, participants live in a house of residence on the Cornell campus within the scenic Finger Lakes of upstate New York. Living here was ideal for preparing material for workshops and for socialising. We were given access to the facilities on campus, including museums, libraries, art galleries and sporting facilities. In addition, our free weekends were used to visit New York, Niagara Falls and to make a camping trip to the Adirondacks.

One of the main features of the programme is the opportunity to undertake a research project, which continues for the duration of the programme, culminating in presentation of the findings. I undertook my project in the Cerione Laboratory under the mentorship of Richard Cerione and Marc Antonyak, investigating the role and regulation of human cancer cell-derived microvesicles. We managed our research responsibilities around attending workshops and other events that were arranged as part of the programme.

Field trips and workshops

One of my personal highlights was a field trip to Washington DC, where we visited the National Institute of Health and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. The two sites were very different, but equally outstanding, and we were given an insight into the work carried out by some of the scientists at each facility. In preparation for the visit, we looked at the various research areas being presented, and this made for some interesting discussions with the scientists.

Participants also undertake modules and workshops that focus on developing leadership skills and understanding their attendant responsibilities. A workshop on emerging diseases explored bioterrorism aspects of infectious diseases. In another workshop, a senior executive from Pfizer facilitated a drug design and development workshop, which involved setting up mock companies competing to get a drug to market. In addition, a team from Merck discussed different careers available to veterinarians in industry, and explained the application process.

I always knew that I wanted my veterinary career to involve clinical work and research, but was unsure about how to go about it. We heard about the career paths of a number of veterinary graduates, who shared the benefits and pitfalls of their personal choices with us, and made suggestions on how we might pursue our own career goals. We discussed internship and residency training, graduate research training, careers in industry, public service careers and translational science. The focus was on helping us to make informed graduate choices and, later, career choices.

I thoroughly enjoyed the programme, especially working in the lab and developing my critical thinking and scientific skills. The various workshops gave me the opportunity to explore different career options, and gave me a framework around which to pursue my career goals. Having the opportunity to meet and develop good friendships with fellow veterinary students who also wish to follow a non-conventional career path was brilliant.

I hope that I can use the skills I learned from the programme to achieve my own career goals, and also to offer support to other veterinary graduates who wish to pursue veterinary careers beyond general practice.

▪ More information about the programme is available at www. vet.cornell.edu/oge/leadership

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