Penn Vet dual degrees: The student experience

The expansion of the dual degree program is timely, given the recent perfect storm of a pandemic; growing awareness of social, racial and economic inequity; and increased impact of climate change.

Last year, Penn Vet expanded its dual degree program, adding a VMD-Master of Social Work (VMD-MSW), with Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice, as well as a VMD-Master of Environmental Studies (VMD-MES), with the University’s School of Arts and Sciences.

From left to right: Jaclyn Camus, Anna Shirosky, Caitlyn Tukdarian
From left to right: Jaclyn Camus, Anna Shirosky, and Caitlyn Tukdarian. (Images: John Donges/Penn Vet)

The degrees—which feel almost prescient given the recent perfect storm of a pandemic; growing awareness of social, racial and economic inequity; and increased impact of climate change—are the latest additions to the School’s pioneering program. (Penn Vet’s VMD-Ph.D. degree was the first of its kind nationwide.)

For Jaclyn Camus, pursuing dual degree in veterinary medicine and masters in public health, a dual degree bridges the study of infectious disease between exotic species and humans. “I studied agriculture in undergrad and worked at a wildlife rehab center when there was an E. coli outbreak that spread to humans,” she says. “I became fascinated with infectious disease, especially disease between exotic species, and learning more about One Health. I felt Penn Vet was putting One Health into action more than anywhere else—which is evident in the dual degree program options.”

Anna Shirosky is pursuing a VMD-MES, at Penn Vet and the School of Arts and Sciences. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown veterinarians are at the center of humans, animals, and the environment—it’s the One Health concept,” she says. “We must embrace our role in balancing the health of all three. Penn Vet’s dual degree programs are an acknowledgment of our unique position, whether we’re in clinical practice, research, or the private or public sector.”

Caitlyn Tukdarian is combining veterinary medicine with social work. “Veterinary medicine is really a human-centric profession, whether or not we realize it at first,” she says. “And social work supports the symbiosis between humans and animals. I see the intersection being the respect and support for the life and dignity of animals and the humans who care for them. I came into Penn Vet with the goal of helping the animals who help people so much. Then when I learned about the VMD-MSW, I realized this is what I was meant to do—help people and animals!”

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