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Graduate Students Get a Little Help from Corporate Friends
by Lianne Carr

In the 1990s, a combination of industry’s need for toxicological pathologists and the need for minorities in veterinary medicine led to the creation of the Pfizer Minority Fellowship in Toxicologic Pathology.

Dr. Roberto Guzman, the first Pfizer fellow at Illinois, says, “With this fellowship I received broad and excellent pathology training in the traditional setting of a busy diagnostic laboratory while allowing enough flexibility to pursue interests not typically available in residency programs, such as a summer internship.”
[Dr. Tanasa Osborne]
Now in the first year of a five-year combined residency and PhD program, Dr. Tanasa Osborne is just beginning to realize the benefits of her fellowship.

Dr. Guzman credits the program with influencing his career choice. “It gave me a firsthand experience of the role of a veterinary pathologist in the pharmaceutical industry and confirmed my commitment and desire to pursue a career in toxicologic pathology.”

Now a research associate with Pfizer, Dr. Guzman says, “Pharmaceutical companies are the major employers of veterinary pathologists, and with the increased demand for this specialty, partnerships between academia and industry are necessary to assure a continuous supply of well-qualified pathologists.”

A second recipient of the Pfizer Minority Fellowship in Toxicologic Pathology, Dr. Tanasa Osborne, entered the program last fall.

“I was specifically interested in the University of Illinois Toxicologic Pathology program, but initially I wasn’t aware that there was a Pfizer fellowship available,” says Dr. Osborne. “Dr. Wanda Haschek-Hock encouraged me to apply, and I was fortunate to receive the fellowship.”

According to Dr. Haschek-Hock, professor in veterinary pathobiology, “Because this fellowship is more tailored than the traditional pathology graduate student position, it allows a focus on toxicologic pathology that is not normally available.”

She says that Illinois is one of only two universities with formal training programs in toxicologic pathology, according to a recent survey.

A similar program was recently created in pharmacology. Dr. Kylie Kavanagh is the first resident to participate in the University of Illinois/Pharmacia Corporation Residency in Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology. The three-year program is designed to train candidates for a career in academic, regulatory, or industrial pharmacology while providing the knowledge and skill to pass the examinations for board certification, according to Dr. Tomas Martìn-Jimènez, assistant professor in veterinary biosciences.

The program begins at Illinois with coursework and research. Then candidates spend a year in Kalamazoo, Mich., completing an externship at Pharmacia Corporation, where they attain broader experience in regulatory and/or industrial pharmacology. The final phase, consisting of clinical rotations and finishing research at the College, satisfies the requirements to sit for the board examination of the American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology.

A less formal but equally advantageous partnership exists between Pfizer Animal Health and the anesthesiology section at Illinois. For three years Pfizer funded the studies of Dr. Kurt Grimm, now a visiting assistant professor of anesthesiology.

According to Dr. William Tranquilli, professor of anesthesiology, Pfizer continues to provide funds to be used by residents and for research. He stresses the importance of establishing a good relationship with industry contacts and also credits College administrators for their support in allowing time for industry relationships to develop.

Noting that the partnership with Pfizer is built on quality research and continuing education programs, Dr. Tranquilli says, “Pfizer supports us because they believe in the contributions we make to veterinary anesthesia.”

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