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Auburn University Students Named Morris Animal Foundation Veterinary Student Scholars

Date: 8/11/2010 4:50 pm

DENVER, Colo. — Morris Animal Foundation recently announced awards for 73 students from 36 schools in nine countries to participate in this year’s Veterinary Student Scholars (VSS) program. The students selected were awarded funding for research projects in the areas of small and large companion animal and wildlife health. This hands-on research experience will expose these students to research early in their careers, hopefully affecting their lives and the lives of the animals they study.

Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine students Bradley Johnson of Jacksonville, Ala., and Heather Weaver of Louisville, Ky., are named as 2010 Veterinary Student Scholars award recipients.

Johnson graduated from Auburn University in 2009 with a degree in poultry science. He is a 2005 graduate of Dade County High School in Trenton, Ga. Weaver graduated from the University of Louisville in 2004 with a degree in biology. She is a 1998 graduate of duPont Manual High School in Louisville.

“These awards support programs designed to attract young scholars in veterinary medicine to careers in biomedical research with the potential to explore new disciplines in animal health that will promote improved means of caring for, and treating, the health needs of animals,” said R. Curtis Bird, Ph.D., professor of molecular biology and cancer genetics and the director of Auburn University’s veterinary scholars research program. “This program provides an important means of attracting and training young veterinary students with the drive and ambition to do more to promote the well-being of animals.”

Allison Stewart, BVSc(hons), an associate professor in equine internal medicine, served as a mentor for both Johnson and Weaver whose research project is part of a study to help critically ill horses.

During stressful events such as exercise, transportation, and illness, the body increases its production of the hormones cortisol and ACTH, the substance that causes the release of cortisol. Information from human intensive care patients indicates during times of severe illness, the body’s supply of natural cortisol and ACTH is inappropriately low. It appears that supplemental therapy to supply cortisol improves survival rates for critically ill humans.

“Unfortunately, little is known about the effects of severe illness on cortisol and ACTH concentrations and release in horses,” said Dr. Stewart. “Recognition of inadequate cortisol and ACTH release may help identify individual horses that may benefit from low-level cortisone treatment. An insufficient hormonal response to the stress of illness could lead to the death of a critically ill animal. Recognition of those animals with inappropriate pituitary-adrenal function may lead to improved survival rates and shorter hospitalization stays.”

Since its inception in 2005, the Veterinary Student Scholars program has given more than 250 grants to students from more than 50 colleges and universities in 12 countries. Through the program, veterinary students or non-veterinary graduate students receive stipends of up to $4,000 to participate in clinical or basic animal health and/or welfare research.

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