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First student graduates new veterinary program
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Lauren Bright may not consider herself a pioneer, but she has blazed a trail for Mississippi State University veterinary medicine students interested in medical research careers.
In 2008, Bright became one of the first two students admitted to the newly combined doctor of veterinary medicine-graduate degree program at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, in which students earn a DVM and a Ph.D. at the same time. This May, she will become the program’s first graduate, when she receives her DVM degree in May 2014. She will receive her Ph.D. in spring 2015.
“Being the first person at CVM to take on the challenge of doing not one, but two, of the hardest terminal academic degrees simultaneously, instantly marks you as unique,” said Dr. Cyprianna Swiderski, Bright’s advisor in the combined degree program and an associate professor in the college’s Department of Clinical Sciences. “Even in established combined programs, students encounter unforeseen obstacles that keep them from completing one or both degrees. She placed a lot of trust in us to guide her through a very difficult process that was untested here.”
Two students per year can enter the college’s seven-year integrated learning process, which provides the necessary skills and knowledge for future animal and human health researchers, who are in high demand.
Bright, a native of Spartanburg, S.C., had her sights set on human medicine as she approached college. Her path veered, though, after a high school neuroscience project took her to the University of South Carolina.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then as I got older I wanted to be a physician,” Bright said. “But when I got involved in the neuroscience project, I knew veterinary medicine was my calling because I absolutely loved the work I was doing in the laboratory, working with rats.”
Bright graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in animal and veterinary sciences. When she was applying to veterinary schools, she got a letter inviting her to apply to MSU’s brand new combined degree program.
“I hadn’t really imagined anything beyond being a veterinarian,” Bright said. “However, once the door was opened with the dual-degree program, I decided it would be an amazing opportunity.”
She has not looked back since, despite the daunting workload.
“There were times when I had to make decisions about what to focus on,” she said. “Do I study for a test for vet school or do I work on this research task? It is stressful at times, but you find a balance.”
Bright’s personality and previous research experience helped her deal with the program’s challenges.
“Lauren is intelligent and level-headed, qualities that help her work through challenges without becoming overwhelmed when responsibilities and deadlines begin to pile up,” Swiderski said. “She likes research. She is an independent thinker and a problem solver. She doesn’t mind hard work and catches on to difficult concepts at lightning speed. She has even helped my laboratory to adopt new disease investigation methods.
“In the face of the problems she encountered, she honored an extensive list of deadlines and published two first-author publications related to her research, which she presented both regionally and internationally,” Swiderski added.
After graduating with her DVM, Bright will concentrate on finishing her Ph.D.
After that? She’s not sure, but she has many options.
“It’s amazing how many choices are before me because of the doors the Ph.D. opens,” Bright said. “Everything in veterinary medicine is so interesting to me that I haven’t quite made up my mind.”
Currently, she is interested in pursuing specialty training, probably in either laboratory animal medicine or emergency and critical care medicine.
“I like the adrenaline rush of emergency medicine,” Bright said. “You never know what is coming in the door when you get to work. But I also like research, so I can see myself doing both.”
Contact: Karen Templeton, 662-325-1100