Dual Degrees Mean More Work, More Rewards
by Jonas Siegel
Like the amphibians he studies, Craig Miller thrives in many types of
environments. The third-year DVM student can manage the clinical and research
demands of the College’s joint-degree program, and just about anything
else that he encounters along the way. It takes hard work to achieve two
degrees simultaneously, but certain students take on the challenge because
they enjoy the diversity of activities and opportunities that expanded
“The more I have going on, the more I am motivated,” says Casey Cadile,
another third-year DVM student, who decided the summer after her first
year of veterinary school to also work toward a master’s degree in veterinary
clinical medicine. As part of her master’s work, she is completing research
on the correlation between the presence of telomerase in tumors and the
tumor’s degree of malignancy.
Enrolling in the joint-degree program has added 10 to 20 hours of lab
work and extra course work weekly to her already-busy DVM schedule. But
she says the extra load hasn’t affected her DVM class work adversely.
Miller began his joint program the spring term of his first year. He
came to the College with an interest in wildlife medicine and soon learned
that his best opportunity to get involved in that area was through research.
Miller’s pursuit of a master’s degree allows him to complete research
on the decline of amphibian populations, which serve as indicator species
for their ecosystem. His research has given him the added experience of
writing grant proposals and doing in-depth data analyses.
coming to the College, Miller was awarded a Watson Fellowship that funded
a year of research on captive animal breeding throughout the world. He
traveled to 10 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia to gather
data, a process that helped him decide to pursue wildlife conservation
in his subsequent studies.
Craig Miller visited the International Wolf Center in
Ely, Minn., in 1998 while he was in the state to attend the summer Envirovet
intensive short course.
“The DVM is a great degree,” says Miller. “There are so many opportunities
beyond private practice.” The master’s degree makes a person even more
marketable, he says.
Pursuing a joint degree also allows students to learn more about a
wider range of subject matter. Tony Goldberg, a fourth-year DVM student,
is completing a master’s degree in epidemiology, fitting his research and
course work in any time he can, during the summer, at night, and on the
came to the College in 1996 after completing a Ph.D. in biological anthropology
at Harvard University. As part of his Ph.D. research, Goldberg studied
primate genetics in the rain forests of Uganda and Zaire. Being in those
countries has affected his research goals. “I saw first-hand how quickly
humans are encroaching on those ecosystems and how little time we have
to study them,” says Goldberg. The poverty and civil conditions of the
people and societies in Africa also opened his eyes to ways in which Americans
take for granted basic freedoms.
He decided to veer from the traditional post-doctoral student career
route and attend veterinary school. The College’s joint-degree program
was an opportunity for him to continue doing research, which he thoroughly
enjoys, as well as to receive his DVM. Goldberg’s present research on molecular
epidemiology, specifically in pigs, has been well received, in part, he
thinks, “because I have been able to apply some of the techniques I learned
The college’s joint-degree program caters specifically to this type
of interdisciplinary experience of its participants. The program’s very
nature provides opportunities for diverse study by requiring students to
participate in research as they learn clinical procedures.
While completing his DVM degree, Goldberg has gained invaluable experience
working with real animals and live viruses as opposed to just reading about
them. Getting close to what you study allows you to learn the intimate
details and makes academic material come alive.
It can also be terribly frightening, as in the case of Cadile. Last
year she was diagnosed with cancer and left school for a year of treatment.
she returned to class-es this year, Cadile has found that her research
on oncology has been intensified by her own experiences with cancer. She
returned to the same hectic class and research schedule and is hoping through
her renewed involvement to see how animal research and treatment of cancer
measure up to human treatment practices.
Casey Cadile learned to climb mountains in Alaska in August
1999 soon after recovering from cancer treatment.
Participants in the DVM/MS joint-degree program need to fulfill all
of the master’s degree requirements, including research and publishing,
on top of the DVM demands. After they are accepted into each individual
program, students work with advisors to customize a schedule that allows
them to meet the requirements and to figure out if any courses meet requirements
in both programs, according to Dr. Gerald Pijanowski, associate dean of
Academic and Student Affairs.
Dr. Pijanowski says that the purpose of the joint-degree program is
“to get those students who have an interest in academic medicine and research
jobs to participate in the program.” This has worked out well for Goldberg,
who will be joining the epidemiology faculty of the College when he completes
both of his degrees next fall.
After Miller finishes both degrees, which he estimates will take another
two years, he would like to go into private practice for a while and eventually
wind up in wildlife conservation, as he originally intended to do.
Cadile, on the other hand, plans to complete an oncology residency on
her path to becoming a veterinary oncologist.
For all three, the dual degree option offers a lot of opportunities—just
right for people who thrive on more of everything.