Donor Support Fosters Passion for Research

veterinarian with dog
Dr. Sarah Michalak’s CCAH-funded research, conducted while a student in the STAR program, was recently published. (Photo: Mike Bannasch)

Donor Support Fosters Passion for Research

**This article appears in the Spring 2023 issue of CCAH Update.**

Early in her veterinary studies, Dr. Sarah Michalak knew that she wanted to pursue research, but she needed a mentor to direct that passion. She found one in Dr. Sara Thomasy, an ophthalmology professor with a long history of mentoring both undergraduate and DVM students. Together, they embarked on a research project through the school’s Students Training in Advanced Research (STAR) program, which involved Michalak taking the lead on a CCAH-funded clinical trial testing the efficacy of a topical medication for a canine eye disease.

Michalak, now a resident with the hospital’s Internal Medicine Service, started the project during the summer following her second year of DVM studies. While most STAR projects last for 10 weeks, the ophthalmology clinical trial lasted for a year, so Michalak continued working on the study into her third year of veterinary school. The data collection was completed during her fourth year.

“Dr. Michalak’s project was highly ambitious because she demonstrated an incredible aptitude and capacity for research,” said Thomasy. “She was essential to structuring the clinical trial in a very organized, intuitive way and she performed all the data analysis for this project.”

Following graduation, Michalak completed the manuscript during her one-year rotating internship at Colorado State University. She returned to UC Davis the following year to begin her residency and during her first week, learned the manuscript had been accepted for publication. The research, which demonstrated that the drug Ripasudil was well-tolerated in dogs with primary corneal endothelial degeneration (showing that 62% of eyes treated showed improvement or stability), was published in the journal Translational Vision Science & Technology.   

“Dr. Thomasy has become one of my greatest role models and has supported me through every step of my career,” she said.

Michalak’s love of research may translate to a career in academia soon, where she hopes to pay that mentorship forward.

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