Who Will Fill in the Missing Piece of our Greatest Scientific Puzzles?

02/02/2015

Have you ever completed a puzzle only to find one piece is missing? Scientific discoveries are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They appear unshapely when viewed in isolation. Possible connections to other pieces (discoveries) jut out in many directions. At first, no clear connections can be seen. Slowly, though, when joined together, the pieces bring order, creating links, sharing connections, bridging knowledge, and deepening our view of a particular disease.

At its most basic level, science is about finding the missing pieces, and the people who fill the gaps are our funded researchers. In this difficult time of fiscal constraint for research funding, the AKC Canine Health Foundation’s Clinician-Scientist Fellowship Program is committed to nurturing our up and coming leaders in the field of canine health who are working to find the missing pieces of the puzzle. These leaders not only build on the scientific knowledge that has been gained by others in the field, but they also work closely with CHF donors and breed clubs to help all dogs live longer, healthier lives. 

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club (USA) is committed to moving science forward. The club recently initiated the support of a CHF Clinician-Scientist Fellow to work with Dr. Danika Bannish of the University of California, Davis. Under the guidance of Dr. Bannish, Emily Brown --  a DVM PhD student in the Veterinary Scientist Training Program (VSTP) at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine -- will conduct research on the genetics behind adult onset of Addison’s disease.

“Addison’s disease occurs at a higher rate in our breed than in the general dog population, and so we are genuinely interested in any research that might help determine a genetic predisposition or cause to Addison’s,” said Sue Dorschied, club president. “Having this information would help Toller breeders make more informed decisions and has the potential to significantly reduce Addison’s in Tollers.”

For CHF Fellows, commitment from our supporters can make an enormous difference in their research.

The impact of the CHF Clinician-Scientist Fellowship Program goes far beyond training and science; it creates lasting respect and collaboration between researchers and clubs. Dr. Eva Furrow, DVM, PhD, (class of 2014 Fellow) found the breed clubs she worked with fully invested partners in uncovering the complex genetic conditions found in dogs. “They have a great amount of knowledge on aspects of disease that cannot always be gained through reading scientific literature, such as whether they are observing a condition sporadically in a dog, only in certain lineages, or when particular diets are fed. This can be incredibly helpful in selecting the best approach to study genetic risk factors for a disease,” said Dr. Furrow.

Dr. Furrow goes on to say, “The Fellowship contributed to my realization that it is invaluable to have ongoing communications with breed clubs. Early in the process of formulating research projects, they guided me in how to prioritize the diseases selected for research to best benefit the breed. Later in the research process, when results were available, they helped find the best way to communicate the results to the public so they are not misinterpreted and are appropriately applied to the management of diseases.”

Receiving a CHF Clinician Scientist Fellowship makes a significant impact on the up and coming researchers in the field of canine health.

Dr. Lance Visser, DVM, MS, DACVIM (class of 2013 Fellow) was recognized this past summer as a 2014 ACVIM Resident Research Award Winner by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). The ACVIM Research Award is presented annually and recognizes ten active researchers who are on the cutting-edge of veterinary medicine.

Dr. Visser presented on “Echocardiographic Assessment of Right Ventricular Systolic Function Following a Single Dose of Pimobendan Versus Atenolol in Conscious Healthy Dogs: A Prospective, Blinded, Randomized, Crossover Study.” This is the same research he focused on through his CHF Clinician-Scientist Fellowship.

“Receiving the Clinician-Scientist Fellowship played a significant role in inspiring me to pursue a career as a clinician-scientist in academia. I've recently started my professional career as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Cardiology at the University of California, Davis. I hope to continue to perform clinical-based research very similar to the award-winning research we were able to perform thanks to the generous support of the AKC Canine Health Foundation Clinician-Scientist Fellowship,” said Dr. Visser.

Sue Dorschied echoes the benefits of working with up and coming researchers in the field of canine health. “Our club recognizes that funding for canine health research is increasingly difficult to obtain. We also realize that only a small percentage of veterinary students show interest and have enthusiasm for pursuing a career in canine health research. For these reasons we believe it is important to support promising, up and coming students and key thought leaders in the area of canine health.”

Breed clubs, donors like you, CHF-funded researchers, and our dogs are all pieces of the canine health puzzle. The interconnectedness of each of these “pieces” enables the puzzle take shape. Collectively, we help bring ideas together and in the process clear a path forward – forward toward better treatments and possible cures for the dogs we love. 

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Participate in canine health research by providing samples or by enrolling in a clinical trial. Samples are needed from healthy dogs and dogs affected by specific diseases.

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