Oregon State University
Skip navigation

Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Disease Training Program Broadens Career Perspective

October 23rd, 2013

PlumIslandCenterCaitlin McLagan recently followed her interest in public health to an intriguing location: Plum Island.

Located off the coast of Connecticut, Plum Island has been a rich source of urban legends. In the middle of the last century, Plum Island was home to an Army biological weapons lab, and decades of secrecy created crazy rumors about what went on there: alien experiments, strange creatures spawned in laboratories, and even a rumor that Lyme disease was developed there.

Now Plum Island is managed by the Department of Homeland Security. It is home to the U.S. Foreign Animal Disease Center, which is focused on preventing devastating diseases like African Horse Sickness and Foot-and-Mouth Disease from spreading  in the U.S. It is also a key element in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Smith-Kilborne Program. And that is how McLagan came to visit the mysterious island.

The Smith-Kilborne Program selects one veterinary student from each college in the U.S. to spend nine days learning to recognize foreign animal diseases and to take an active role in their control. It is part of the USDA mission to involve private practice veterinarians as partners in preventing and preparing for animal health emergencies.

As part of the program, McLagan first spent three days at Cornell University learning about emerging infectious diseases, outbreak investigation, and emergency response. “We reviewed real-world outbreaks with the experts who were actually involved,” she says. “And we discussed how things might have been done differently.”

At Plum Island, McLagan and her fellow vet students got lots of hands-on experience. Every day, after a 45-minute trip from the mainland, they donned Tyvek suits to work with the world’s top experts, taking live samples from birds, doing post-mortem exams, and observing sick animals. “We saw clinical manifestations of diseases you will never see in your veterinary career,” she says.

In a recent presentation to CVM students, McLagan recommended the Smith-Kilborne program to any vet student with an interest in public health. With the resurgence of infectious diseases due to global travel, population growth, and degradation of habitat, McLagan encourages graduating DVM’s to consider careers beyond private practice. “There are so many things we can do in this profession,” she says.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.

Recent posts


October 2013
  • Categories

  • Popular Tags