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Veterinary Investigator Program (VIP) Scholar Wins Award

Mr. Steven Friedenberg, a third year Cornell veterinary student, has received the prestigious Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) Ballard Award for research conducted during the summer of 2006. His project was supported by the Morris Animal Foundation's Veterinary Student Scholars Program and by the Cornell Veterinary Investigator Program (VIP).

The Veterinary Student Scholars Program is a new initiative by the Morris Animal Foundation to give students the opportunity to work on MAF-funded projects early in their careers and thereby motivate them to pursue a career in research. At the annual MAF meeting in June 2007, 23 scholars presented their projects - the range was as diverse as the animals on the planet. Though originally two prizes of $5,000 were to be given, the projects were so outstanding that an anonymous donor came forward to allow MAF to give out six prizes.

Steven received the top prize in the companion animal category, which resulted in a $5,000 award. Under the mentorship of Dr. Rory Todhunter, Steven studied canine hip dysplasia and identified a potential genetic marker that may be linked to this disease. Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is the most common inherited orthopedic disease in dogs, leads to osteoarthritis and pain, and remains prevalent in dogs despite attempts to exclude affected dogs from breeding. Steven discovered two potentially significant genes that may play a role in development of this disease and identified a marker of interest in a gene called fibrillin 2. Further studies are underway to confirm this marker in a larger group of dogs, which could then potentially be used as a genetic test for CHD.

From Steven Friedenberg - "I have always been interested in scientific research and having the opportunity to work with Dr. Todhunter this summer solidified my interest in this area. Furthermore, working with Dr. Todhunter stimulated my interest specifically in studying the genetic basis of orthopedic disease. I hope to continue studying [this topic] in my career as an academic veterinarian."

Congratulations to both Dr. Todhunter and Mr. Friedenberg!

More information on the winners is available at the Morris Animal Foundation 2006 Veterinary Student Scholars website.