Dual Degree Program Receives Prestigious NIH Award


Dual Degree Program Receives Prestigious NIH Award

The UC Davis Veterinary Scientist Training Program (VSTP) celebrates its 20th year of preparing the next generation of veterinary scientists with a prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) award. This is the first year that NIH has granted the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) award to colleges or schools of veterinary medicine as the lead institution to support students in a dual degree DVM-PhD program. UC Davis is one of only three veterinary schools selected for this award, along with Colorado State University and the University of Pennsylvania.  

"This is an important moment as it shows the recognition that veterinary medicine is receiving as a leader in health overall, not just animal health," said Michael Lairmore, dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. "We are proud to be one of the institutions to steward these grants and we're excited to see the future achievements of the student grant recipients.”

Dr. Xinbin Chen, director of the VSTP, said this NIH award allows UC Davis to expand its VSTP training, including five new recruits this year. The funds will provide nearly $250,000 annually during the five-year award period.

“Having this additional source of funding opens new opportunities to expand recruitment,” Chen said. “For the past two decades, our program has generated a number of veterinary scientists who are now leaders in academics, government and industries. This award is a wonderful recognition of that success and helps us to continue mentoring leaders of the future.”

At UC Davis, VSTP students complete their first two years of DVM education, then step into their PhD training, where they are guided by a faculty mentor during their dissertation research. Students in their first part of DVM training are advised by the VSTP Mentoring Committee on selecting a faculty mentor, research opportunities, and how to prepare for a variety of career paths.

The following five UC Davis students have been selected as recipients for this MSTP award: 

Lizzy AshleyElizabeth Ashley, first year DVM student

  • Background: MS in Marine Biology from the University of Georgia before working with the school’s Sea Doc Society last year.
  • Research Interests: Wildlife epidemiology, disease ecology, One Health
  • Career goals: Inform decision-making for wildlife conservation and public health
  • Hobbies: Trail running, baking, herping, reading nonfiction, and anything involving the ocean

Olivia CordsOlivia Cords, second year DVM student

  • Background: BA Human Biology from Stanford
  • Research Interests: Epidemiology, Infectious Disease, One Health
  • Career/Life Goals: Epidemic Intelligence Service/Academia
  • Hobbies: Polo, backpacking and other outdoor activities


Katie GriffinKatie Griffin, second year PhD student

  • Mentor: Dr. Kent Leach, Graduate Group in Immunology
  • Background: BS Microbiology and a minor in Economics from UC Davis
  • Research Interests: Immunology and Bone Tissue Engineering
  • Career/Life Goals: Academia (Large Animal Surgery Clinician Scientist); Have a house with a huge library and enough property for horses
  • Hobbies: Baking, hiking/camping, pottery, retraining abused horses

Daniela JimenezDaniela Jimenez, first year DVM student

  • Background: B.A. in Biology from Washington University in Saint Louis, MO
  • Research Interests: Neuro-immunology, Gut Brain Axis
  • Career/Life Goals: Academia, clinician-scientist, good work-life balance
  • Hobbies: Reading, ultimate frisbee, hiking, taking selfies with animals

Aryana RazmaraAryana Razmara, second year DVM student

  • Background: BS in Biological Sciences from UC Davis and MS in Animal Science from Stanford
  • Research Interests: Oncology
  • Career/Life Goals: Residency; Clinical and research balance; Advocate for diversity in vet med/academia and animal welfare policy
  • Hobbies: Persian cook, hiking, painting


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