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NNOVATION by Sara Carney and Dr. Megan Palsa

Inspiring Innovation, Little by Little

“This program is of value to students and the college in general,” said Dr. Stacy Eckman, a clinical assistant professor at the CVM who has mentored many students in VSIP. “Adam is clearly passionate about his work and so are the students.”

A Unique Learning Experience

Dr. Adam Little and his dog, Chewy For many veterinarians, especially those who operate their own businesses, entrepreneurship and business knowhow are staples of their careers. But, business is changing. Information is more readily available than ever before, and information technology is growing exponentially. It’s time for veterinarians to adapt—that’s the philosophy of the newly hired director of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), Dr. Adam Little. For the veterinary profession and its business practices to adapt, changes must also occur in veterinary school, according to Little. Early in his career, he noticed a deficit in the way companies engage veterinary students, often “undervaluing their creativity and intellectual capacity.” Companies might reach out to veterinary students through presentations over lunch, hoping to piqué students’ interest in working with the company or trying their products. He said, “The way in which most companies engage veterinary students is by saying, ‘Here’s our new product. Here’s a pizza lunch. Go off and prosper.’” Although this strategy may have been effective in engaging students at one time, Little said it’s time to try something new. In the summer of 2016, Little began the Veterinary Student Innovations Program (VSIP) for second- and thirdyear veterinary students. This program allows students to work with early stage startup companies with applications in veterinary fields. The companies that partner with VSIP are innovators, and working with them allows students to have a hand in shaping how technology impacts the future of veterinary medicine. “We wanted to support the students and see if we could not only provide them with a curriculum in entrepreneurship, but also connect them to job opportunities and other opportunities for involvement. It’s actually gone really, really well,” Little said. 10 •

• Winter 2017

As part of VSIP, five students were matched with startup companies, some of which had applications in veterinary medicine, but did not have veterinarians on their team to help guide the company. “We were paired with five different companies, and throughout the summer we helped them develop their market strategy in veterinary medicine because a lot of them weren’t veterinarians necessarily,” according to third-year veterinary student Anna Pennacchi. The program represents a new paradigm in veterinary education, combining aspects of traditional learning styles and new teaching techniques. Students gained hands-on experience with the companies, while also being mentored by Little and other faculty at the CVM. They also received support and feedback from their peers in the program. Through VSIP, Pennacchi was paired with Scopio Labs, a biotech startup based in Tel Aviv, Israel. “They are revolutionizing microscopy by using a digital platform,” she explained. “Rather than having a slide and looking at it under a microscope, you’ll have this desktop scanning device, where you put the slide in, and it takes an image of the entire slide. Then, it puts the image on your computer screen, tablet, or phone, so you can look at it and zoom in and out. It’s very user friendly and produces high-quality images.” Additionally, Scopio’s technology has advanced diagnostic applications in veterinary medicine. Using technology similar to facial recognition software, Scopio is exploring digital identification of pathogens under the microscope. “It will help down the line in saving time on analysis in a veterinary clinic,” Pennacchi said. “The software can either help veterinarians come to a conclusion faster or it can make a diagnosis for you. It would be something that every veterinarian could have in their clinic at a comparable price to your average microscope.” For Pennacchi, an officer in the CVM’s Veterinary Business Management Association, VSIP was an ideal way to further explore her existing interest in business. “I learned a lot about business operations, business management, and business development within a startup company,” she said. “I think VSIP is an awesome program for any veterinary student with an interest in business and innovation. Everyone who participated enjoyed it.” Similarly, third-year veterinary student Tyler Kosich said, “This program definitely gave me more confidence in a business sense, and I’ve always wanted to eventually own my own practice.” Kosich was paired with Embark, a company that sequences canine genomes and identifies breed and medically relevant

CVM Today - Winter 2017  

A semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical...

CVM Today - Winter 2017  

A semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical...