One Health Research in Mongolia

Contributed by Samantha Lawton, Class of 2017

Sam Lawton, Class of 2017 with a lamb in Mongolia. (Photo: Soyolbolod Serguleng)

Sam Lawton, Class of 2017 with a lamb in Mongolia. (Photo: Soyolbolod Serguleng)

Sain baina uu (that is Hello in Mongolian)! During June and July of 2015 I had the fantastic opportunity to travel to Mongolia for five weeks in order to complete a STAR project (Students Training in Advanced Research). My project was assessing the prevalence and distribution of intestinal parasites in small ruminants and dogs. Mongolia was an excellent place to conduct this research because people, their livestock and their dogs interact closely and many people are reliant on animals for food and fiber. Therefore, intestinal parasites, and targeted strategies to reduce parasites, could have impacts on animal health, economic health and even human health in the case of some intestinal parasites, like Echinococcus, where humans can be infected if they consume parasite eggs shed in dog feces.

In the field, collecting samples. (Photo: Soyolbolod Serguleng)

In the field, collecting samples. (Photo: Soyolbolod Serguleng)

A friend/previous mentor connected me with this project when I approached her about opportunities to experience fieldwork. I wanted to gain fieldwork experience because I have always thought that field research was something I might like to do in my future but only had short experiences. This summer did confirm that I really do love international fieldwork and I want to incorporate it into my career. Continue reading

Serving Pets of the Homeless in Sacramento


Veterinary student presenting a holiday gift basket to a Mercer Client with patients enjoying their new sweaters.

For more than 20 years, the Mercer Veterinary Clinic has provided essential free veterinary care to the pets of Sacramento’s homeless citizens. DVM students from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine operate the monthly clinic with the help of veterinarians and faculty from the school, community veterinarians who serve on the Mercer Clinic Board of Directors, and an invaluable number of undergraduate students from UC Davis.

Services include a wide range of medical care including spay and neuter surgeries, provision of prescription medications, physical exams and diagnoses that result in treatments, surgical repair, and preventive medical treatments. This year, the dedication of the clinic’s volunteers was recognized by three awards—including a Presidential Award for Community Service—complete with a plaque, pin and certificate signed by President Obama.


Rachel Ferris

Third-year veterinary students Rachel Ferris and Byron Lee recently shared a photo essay that captures some of the experiences at the clinic. Rachel started volunteering while an undergraduate at UC Davis in 2009. The following year, she took over as the undergrad coordinator and stayed involved after coming to veterinary school. She served as the head coordinator her second year of vet school.


Byron Lee


Byron got involved in volunteer work through a club in high school and wanted to continue some kind of outreach. He served as the historian during his second year of vet school. “I really like helping people. The challenge with Mercer Clinic is figuring out what we can do with the least amount of money. We learn to make do with what we have.”

Photos Courtesy of Byron Lee Continue reading

Learning Compassion and Research in Uganda

Contributed by Cody Blumenshine, Class of 2018

Cody Blumenshine surrounded by village kids in Uganda.

Cody Blumenshine surrounded by village kids in Uganda.

My interest coming into veterinary school has been to pursue a career in zoonotic disease research. With my interest in zoonotic diseases, the idea of One Health resonates with my perspective on life. I was fortunate to find a research project with Dr. Beatriz Martinez Lopez that allowed me to incorporate a One Health approach. With aid from the Office for Global Programs and Students Training in Advanced Research, I was able to spend six weeks in Nwoya District, Northern Uganda, performing research on African Swine Fever (ASF). ASF is not a zoonotic disease, but because of the disease dynamics in how the hosts, people, and the environment interact, it embodies One Health.

At the beginning of my stay I was very fortunate to have a friend and colleague, Dr. Esther Kukielka, aid me. She helped me prepare for my research, but she also helped me transition into the lifestyle and expectations that were associated with staying in Uganda. The latter was more important to me, because this was my first international travel experience. Esther introduced me to locals, team members, and she made sure I was well situated with the accommodations of our mud-hut in the village of Lutuk. Prior to leaving, Esther allowed me to help facilitate a participatory epidemiology exercise for her study. The exercise consisted of using group activities with local pig farmers to gain a deeper understanding of their collective knowledge of ASF. Continue reading

The Value of Interning at the National Institutes of Health

Steven Hsu, Class of 2018, spent eight weeks this past summer as an intern with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. I spent a little time chatting with him about his experiences and his path to veterinary medicine.

Steven Hsu, Class of 2018, admits to "geeking out" over nifty slides.

Steven Hsu, Class of 2018, admits to “geeking out” over nifty slides.

How did you decide on a career in veterinary medicine? Did you have a bunch of animals growing up?

I love animals, but I didn’t have any while I was a kid. I was born in Taipei, Taiwan and when we moved to the U.S., we lived in a city in Southern California. But in high school, I was really interested in medicine and figured veterinary medicine would be an easy way to merge my love for animals with an interest in medicine. I also volunteered at a local shelter during high school in Rancho Cucamonga—that helped solidify my career choice.

How did you hear about the internship opportunity at NIH?

One of my instructors, Professor Kevin Woolard recommended it. He taught numerous class pertaining to pathology, which I really enjoyed. If memory serves me right, he did his DVM and Ph.D. at North Carolina State, and did his post-doc at NIH.

What were some of the highlights of your visit/internship?

The directors, Drs. Mark Simpson and Charles Halsey, took our group of six veterinary students across Maryland on field trips—to the FDA, and different laboratory animal facilities around the Bethesda campus. We visited laboratories that studied frogs, zebra fish, primates, and of course, rodent facilities. It was my first time out east—my first time traveling past Texas actually. I met five other veterinary students from across the nation and Canada and it was interesting to see how different and yet similar we are—there was a lot of diversity among our backgrounds and interests. I learned I didn’t want to just focus on diagnostic applications of vet med. Those field trips were really helpful in seeing various careers and choosing what I’d like to do and what not to do. Even though I was sure about a career in veterinary pathology, I didn’t realize the variety of career choices within the field and the value of mentors to help guide me through the process.

Steven Hsu, on far upper right, spent eight weeks over the summer with this group of fellow veterinary students from across the US and Canada.

Steven Hsu, on far upper right, spent eight weeks over the summer with this group of fellow veterinary students from across the US and Canada.

Continue reading

Thinking Outside-the-box Proves Valuable to Fieldwork

Roxann with lambFormer VSTP Pfizer Fellow Roxann Brooks Motroni on thinking outside-the-box for career options and appreciating California’s cattle ranchers

Roxann Brooks Motroni – a Veterinary Scientist Training Program (VSTP) Pfizer Fellow – holds a PhD in Comparative Pathology (2012) and a DVM (2013) from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She was an important part of the team working on developing a vaccine to prevent foothill abortion in cattle under Professor Jeff Stott.  She sat down with us by phone recently to share her experiences at the school during a pivotal time for the foothill abortion vaccine and what she is doing now as an AAAS Fellow for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington DC.

Tell me a little about your background. What got you interested in veterinary medicine?Like every other veterinary student, I wanted to be a vet since I was three and never thought of anything else. I’m originally from Virginia. At 16, the state of Virginia offered a ‘Governor’s School of Agriculture’ at Virginia Tech that gave me the opportunity to work in a research lab. Through participating in this program I realized I really liked research. It was my first time thinking outside-the-box about my career choices and I pursued every research experience I could. I ended up with a full scholarship to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where I studied biology. This was the time when West Nile Virus entered the U.S., and it got me thinking about infectious diseases and the wildlife-livestock interface. For example, how wildlife management protects livestock and how cattle can graze without effecting wildlife.  Continue reading