RDSC Offers Unmatched Immersion into R&D
On Sept. 16, the 2016 Annual Military Veterinary Research and Development Short Course wrapped up another successful year in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The annual five-day R&D Short Course, which this year spanned Sept. 12-16, serves as the principal recruiting tool geared towards Veterinary Corps Officers - typically captains and majors - moving into the next step in their careers.
"They're at a point where they're considering 'Do I want to stay in the Army?' or 'Do I want to leave the Army?'" explained Lt. Col. Sarah Bro, executive officer for the Animal Care and Use Review Office, part of the Office of Research Protections for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, and second-year course director for the R&DSCR. "This is a tipping point for many of them. If they want to stay in the Army, this course offers an overview of the viable options for further training and specialization in the research and development fields within the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps."
The course exposes participants to research and development specialization offered via the U.S. Army Long Term Health Education and Training program, providing a unique glimpse into the career opportunities available and giving attendees the exclusive opportunity to really see what a day would be like in the life of a lab animal veterinarian (Army Occupation Code 64C), a pathology veterinarian (AOC 64D) or a scientific researcher in comparative medicine (AOC 64E).
Sponsored by the USAMRMC, the course provides 40 total hours of education, training and exposure related to DOD research and development mission requirements. This year's class had 15 participants from both within and outside of the continental U.S.
In only five days, participants visited six different U.S. Army institutes, which this year included: the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute; the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases; the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense; the Joint Pathology Center; and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
From hands-on animal interactions to facility tours, and one exceptionally notable nuclear reactor tour, day 1 at the USUHS and AFRRI had participants off to an exciting start to the course week. Day 2 at the USAMRIID provided an inside look at the Biosafety Laboratory setting with a BSL-4 suit up tour, while day 3 involved exclusive tours of both the new and old USAMRICD facilities. Day 4 at the JPC featured a particularly memorable behind the scenes tour of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, and participants ended the week on a high note with a blast simulation and tour of facilities at the WRAIR.
"This course offered an unmatched opportunity for immersion into the 'R&D world' and firsthand experience/exposure to how veterinarians contribute to supporting the Warfighter in areas of pathology, lab animal and Ph.D. specialties," said participant Capt. Teresa Vaughn.
Collectively, what participants seemed to value most at the end of the day was the interaction and dialogue they were able to have with actual staff and residents. This opportunity to catch a glimpse of the real inner workings of those specific career fields within each institute serves as the bedrock of the course.
This year's training had a particularly positive turnout, with 14 of the 15 attendees stating they now plan to apply for research and development specialization through the U.S. Army LTHET program.
"This course has made a significant impact on my future career plans and was a worthwhile experience," said participant Capt. Leah Ramey.
"This course has 100 percent changed my career trajectory in the Army," said another participant of this year's course, Capt. Jessica Perpich.
Overall, "[the course] was highly successful this year in terms of a recruiting tool," said Bro. "For every single site there is a person on the ground running the entire program for the day, arranging for speakers, meeting space and coordinating activities; success could not have been accomplished without the help and expertise of each and every one of those individuals involved."
Application submissions for the 2017 Annual Military Veterinary R&DSC will open next spring.