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Vet Medicine Expands Afterschool Science Program Nationwide
Indiana Ag Connection - 11/13/2017

An afterschool role-modeling program aimed at diversifying the veterinarian-scientist workforce is expanding with the help of four veterinary schools and colleges that received grants to partner with the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.

This is How We "Role," is a program designed to increase awareness of the vital role that veterinarians play in keeping people and their animals healthy.

The program focuses on elementary school students, a group that is particularly important to reach regarding the importance of veterinary medicine. It is supported by the Science Education Partnership Award program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

A team of experts from Purdue, led by the College of Veterinary Medicine, developed interactive science and math experiences for students in kindergarten through fourth grade, with a focus on those who are educationally disadvantaged due to socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity.

Now the program will be expanded beyond Purdue University to additional regions of the country through grants of $5,000 each. The grants were awarded to Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine and Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Additionally, Purdue's College of Veterinary Medicine and Evaluation and Learning Research Center provide grant recipients with online professional development training for delivering the program in a culturally responsive, age-appropriate manner; lesson materials including instructions, handouts and activity sheets; and tools for assessing the program's impact both on the elementary school students and veterinary student role models.

"Impact assessments are especially important and we are excited about the help our partner institutions will provide in measuring the results of the program," said Dr. Sandra San Miguel, principal investigator and Purdue Veterinary Medicine associate dean for engagement.

The assessments will focus on changes in the children's attitudes toward veterinarian scientists and knowledge of veterinary science, as well as their perceptions of themselves and their capability to achieve success. The program's effect on the veterinary student role models also will be assessed by measuring their likelihood to continue community service in the future and their ability to interact effectively with future clients.

To be eligible, the grant recipients were required to organize role model teams consisting of at least one veterinarian on faculty and at least six veterinary students. Priority was given to veterinary colleges with student role model teams that represented diversity in the profession (i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, geographic origin, specialty/research interest), as well as those that could demonstrate community partnerships ensuring culturally-responsive program delivery to audiences that include educationally disadvantaged children in underserved communities.

"These children have already developed creative problem-solving skills and have experience overcoming unexpected challenges, and both of those qualities are essential for good scientists," said San Miguel. "They are the future veterinarian-scientists who are going to find cures for cancer and change our world so we need to instill a passion in them for this work early on in their education."

Developed through a collaboration among elementary school teachers, experts at Purdue and the Kingston Bay Group, an education consulting agency, the SEPA-funded This is How We "Role" program was launched in 2015 with veterinary lessons in English and Spanish that meet Next Generation Science Standards. According to San Miguel, they hope to have the program at eleven additional U.S. colleges of veterinary medicine within the next two years.

The next cycle for awarding grants to additional program partners will begin in January.

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