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Former trainee builds mentoring program at NCSU

By Bono Sen
September 2010

former postdoctoral fellow Shweta Trivedi, Ph.D.
Former postdoc Shweta Trivedi, above, now works at the other end of the mentoring lifeline. She credits her experiences as a fellow at NIEHS with preparing her for a challenging and exciting career path. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

When former postdoctoral fellow Shweta Trivedi, Ph.D., was taking advantage of her many mentoring opportunities at NIEHS, little did she know that she would one day be building a highly successful mentoring program of her own at North Carolina State University (NCSU). As she enters her second year as head of VetPAC, the Veterinary Professions Advising Center( Exit NIEHS, Trivedi's program stands out as a model for other universities in maximizing retention and placement of pre-veterinary students.

Trivedi( Exit NIEHS received her veterinary training in India and her Ph.D. in immunology at the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine. During her two years as a fellow at NIEHS, Trivedi was a member of the Environmental Genetics Group headed by Principal Investigator Steven Kleeberger, Ph.D. Trivedi left NIEHS in 2009 to accept a position as a teaching assistant professor at NCSU. Once there, she was charged with setting up a program for pre-vet students modeled on the university's HealthPAC, the Health Professions Advising Center, created three years earlier.

Trivedi says the mentoring she received from Kleeberger and Diane Klotz, Ph.D., director of the Office of Fellows Career Development, helped her immensely in setting up the innovative program within the NCSU College of Agriculture and Life Science.

"VetPAC is unique in that very few land-grant universities offer such a centralized advising program for their pre-vet students," said Trivedi. In her capacity as the director of VetPAC, she advises students and develops new programs in partnership with local and international organizations to enhance the students' pre-vet training experience.

VetPAC has teamed up with the Wake County Animal Center to provide pre-vet undergraduate students the opportunity to experience all aspects of care for shelter animals. For those students interested in wildlife conservation and management, Trivedi has created a new study abroad program where the students can participate in a two-week-long program at the Wildlife Institute of India studying tiger rehabilitation in the national parks of India.

By enriching her program with resources such as the new Vet-PAC library, invited-speaker seminars, and individual mentoring that she developed during her first year at NCSU, Trivedi's objective is to expose the students to the expanse of the veterinary profession and to help them get accepted to their veterinary school of choice. "I am also working on our Website, so that students can begin to build their portfolios toward vet school application," she said.

Trivedi's vision for the program and her ability to anticipate students' needs are already paying off. In her first year alone, she placed 28 VetPAC advisees into various DVM programs across the country. She said she expects the number to grow as more students learn about VetPAC and take advantage of its network of resources.

Besides advising, Trivedi also has teaching responsibilities. She teaches anatomy and physiology as well as animal science to 100-140 students each semester. She hopes to add research to her list of responsibilities soon. For now, though, she is thoroughly enjoying her role as a mentor.

(Bono Sen, Ph.D., is the science education and outreach program manager for the NIEHS journal Environmental Health Perspectives.)


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