Underrepresented students participate in research summit at veterinary college

poster sessionParticipants browse research posters by Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine graduate students.

This year, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine participated in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)/Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) Research Summit as a way to showcase the many opportunities available to those practicing in the One Health arena—protecting and enhancing animal, human, and environmental health and welfare.

With a goal of building partnerships to promote research initiatives with HBCU/MSI institutions, and to improve diversity and inclusivity by recruiting underrepresented minorities as graduate students, the summit is a part of the University’s larger diversity efforts.

“Collaborative opportunities such as this summit are an important means to help provide a creative, innovative and comfortable learning environment for our students, faculty and staff,” stated Ed Monroe, professor of internal medicine and chair of the veterinary college's Community and Diversity Committee. “Many studies have demonstrated that a diverse environment has positive learning benefits for all students.”

Now in its third year, the HBCU/MSI Research Summit engaged participants from 18 colleges and universities across the nation over the course of two days. Day one featured panel discussions and poster presentations, as well as separate breakout groups for participating students and faculty.

Students met with HBCU/MSI alumni at Virginia Tech and were able to discuss their experiences in depth. Faculty spoke on the importance of establishing an understanding of inter-institutional partnerships. These breakout groups were followed by dinner at The Inn at Virginia Tech where all participants were able to mingle and discuss their particular interests.

Day two allowed participants to select specific colleges or departments across campus to visit. Students and faculty from four universities—Hampton, Howard, Virginia State and Fayetteville State—chose to spend their second day at the veterinary college.

Llaran Turner, a sophomore biology major from Hampton University located in Hampton, Virginia thoroughly enjoyed her experience on day two. “This experience has allowed me to learn more about veterinary medicine and how the field can be as influential as doing research with humans.”

Day two at the veterinary college began with a synopsis of the three offered post-baccalaureate student programs—Veterinary Medicine, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences, and Public Health. This was followed by a seminar on specific diversity and inclusion efforts and policies.

Next, current graduate students presented posters highlighting their research discoveries and elucidated how the research fell under the broad One Health spectrum.

To conclude the day, all participants ate lunch and were able to explore their experiences during the summit, as well as make important career and research connections.

Faculty participant and director of the Hampton University Cancer Research Center, Luisel Ricks-Santi is looking forward to the possible research partnerships that presented themselves during the summit. “The summit opened my eyes to the world of veterinary medicine and how it could contribute to biomedical sciences. I also met several investigators that I look forward to collaborating with.”

In the future, the veterinary college will continue to play an active role in the event.

“This summit was an excellent opportunity to showcase our broadly impactful major research themes and graduate training programs to our HBCU/MSI potential research partners. Our biomedical and public health areas of research in One Health Medicine resonated with our guests. We had 16 posters presented by our graduate students, who represented our major research themes—Infectious Disease, Inflammatory/Immune-mediated Diseases, Integrative Oncology/Regenerative Medicine, Neuropathobiology, and Public Health,” explained Ansar Ahmed, associate dean for research and graduate studies at the veterinary college.

“Our students engaged our HBCU/MSI faculty and students about student life here at VMCVM and research opportunities. Our faculty in the public health department, already work with HBCU/MSI institutions. My hope is to build on this event to broaden and enhance research partnerships, and increase diversity in our graduate program.”

-Written by Sarah Orren

Learn more about this event.