College seeks donations for faculty-initiated Veterinary Public Practice and Public Health Travel Scholarship

Fourth-year veterinary student Sam Grossberg attended a meeting at the White House with the USDA One Health Coordination Center team during one of his external rotations.

Fourth-year veterinary student Sam Grossberg’s education would not have been the same without his external rotations away from Blacksburg.

“Some of my most memorable rotations have been with the USDA and CDC where I’ve worked with teams that impact zoonotic disease control, policy, human health, and animal health at the population level every day,” said Grossberg, who is a public and corporate track student from Rockville, Maryland. He added, “I now have a much better idea of the kind of career I want to have as a public practice veterinarian thanks to an array of fantastic externships.”

Public and corporate track students like Grossberg complete eight veterinary public practice rotations, while Master of Public Health students do a nine-week practicum and capstone. All fourth-year veterinary students are required to do at least one three-week public/corporate clerkship, which provides hands-on experience in order to broaden the student’s understanding of the scope of veterinary medical practice. Students have developed health plans for working dogs returning from Iraq for the Department of Homeland Security, participated in research, learned about working with service dogs, worked at federal import stations to learn about health requirements for the importation of livestock, seen foreign animal diseases first-hand at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, and participated in a myriad of other experiences.

Although the opportunities are endless, the high cost of travel and housing can often be a limiting factor when students plan their training experiences. The newly launched Veterinary Public Practice and Public Health Scholarship aims to change that.

Grossberg assisted the veterinary and wildlife biology team on a bison anesthesia research project while on rotation with the USDA National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, CO. (Photo courtesy of Bison anesthesia project)

“We believe strongly in the value of these experiences, yet recognize the financial challenges our students face. In order to help alleviate the burden of unmet travel costs, a small group of program faculty came together to create this scholarship fund with the goal of inspiring students to plan big and be the force that can change the world,” said Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine. She was joined by Susan Marmagas, interim director of the public health program in the Department of Population Health Sciences, in initiating the scholarship.

“With no financial help, public and corporate students must work some magic in finding safe and comfortable places to stay in close proximity to these key external rotations,” Grossberg said. “The price of getting to these experiences and staying for three to six weeks can become very steep.”

Current students and recent graduates agreed that their domestic and international travel experiences proved invaluable. Fourth-year student Betsy Schroeder of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, who is in the DVM/Ph.D. dual degree program, spent six weeks in Ethiopia to help set up a rabies control and surveillance program and will be working with the Indiana State Health Department in Indianapolis after graduation for CDC’s 2016 Epidemic Intelligence Service Fellowship. Carling Sitterley, who is now assistant director of admissions and student services after graduating with both her DVM and MPH at the veterinary college in 2014, spent a month in Thailand for her Master of Public Health practicum.

To donate, please contact the college's development office at 540-231-0465 or vetdev@vt.edu or send a check payable to the “Virginia Tech Foundation” to the College of Veterinary Medicine Development Office at 225 Duck Pond Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061. Be sure to indicate that the gift is for the Veterinary Public Practice and Public Health Travel Scholarship.