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Research program to accelerate equine musculoskeletal health

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Backed by leading experts from MARS Equestrian, Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center and the WALTHAM Equine Studies Group, the MARS Equestrian Early Career Investigator program is set to pioneer novel discoveries in equine health through an invaluable mentorship experience.
Equestrian Early Career Investigator program will provide aspiring veterinary researchers with multidimensional mentorship experience.

Together with MARS Equestrian, the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) has launched an innovative educational research program dedicated to advancing critical frontiers in equine health.

At its core, the MARS Equestrian Early Career Investigator program will provide aspiring veterinary researchers with a multidimensional mentorship experience guided by a team of leading Penn Vet researchers and animal health experts from MARS Equestrian and the WALTHAM Equine Studies Group, an announcement from Penn Vet said.

Dr. Sarah Ciamillo has been selected as the first early career investigator for the newly minted program. "As a longtime equestrian, equine advocate and new equine veterinarian, there is nothing more important to me than the future health and welfare of the horse,” she said.

In her role, Ciamillo is refining a set of comprehensive skills necessary for a burgeoning career in veterinary medicine research, from data collection and analysis to stewardship and public service. The most compelling element of the Early Career Investigator program, however, is the immersive opportunity to assist in developing novel and transformative clinical techniques, Penn Vet said.

Specifically, Ciamillo is assisting a team of Penn Vet New Bolton Center researchers in a dynamic, first-of-its-kind study assessing equine bone characteristics and limb biomechanics using the center’s advanced diagnostic imaging technologies — including its revolutionary standing robotic computed tomography (CT) system.

Ultimately, the researchers hope to use the findings to understand bone and joint injury in horses and develop preventive tools that would improve the health and well-being of equines across all discipline spectrums.

Dr. Kyla Ortved, assistant professor of large animal surgery at the Penn Vet New Bolton Center, is serving as the primary mentor and lead researcher for this project. A clinical expert in equine orthopedic surgery and sports medicine, Ortved’s research program seeks to better understand attributes of the equine joint in order to improve clinical outcomes associated with osteoarthritis following injury in horses.

“Mentorship is a cardinal element of individual career success, particularly in the veterinary medicine field,” Ortved said. “The MARS Equestrian Early Career Investigator program’s unique platform will provide junior researchers with an unparalleled learning experience while simultaneously fostering fundamental discoveries in vital areas of research that will unequivocally improve the lives of our equine partners.”

Ciamillo also has the opportunity to work alongside other Penn Vet faculty, including Dr. Dean Richardson, chief of large animal surgery at New Bolton Center; Dr. Darko Stefanovski, associate professor of biostatistics, and Dr. Andrew van Eps, associate professor of equine musculoskeletal research.

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