OUR BRAD CHAMPIONS

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LEXIE SMITH, DVM, DACLAM

Senior Clinical Veterinarian

BRAD Champion Since 2020 

What drives your passion for outreach and education? 

I have been involved in the biomedical research field since undergrad in one form or another. I quickly gained an immense respect for the work, the animals and all the humans who have dedicated their lives to advancing our understanding of basic sciences, which ultimately leads to finding cures to the seemingly incurable. I found myself proud of the work I was doing and fascinated by the animals I was caring for. However, I was also simultaneously frustrated that I could not always freely boast about my career, at least not without being prepared for some tough conversations surrounding animals in research. 

 

I love teaching, and truly believe that knowledge is power. By educating the public and working to increase transparency into the amazing world of biomedical research, I believe we can take down the negative stereotypes surrounding this field, while also lifting barriers that often slow or impede progress altogether. 

 

My drive to continue BRAD outreach is fueled by the hope that scientist and caregivers will no longer be hesitant to talk about their amazing achievements they have all made, both in terms of medicinal advancements, but also in animal science, behavior, and welfare improvements. In return, I hope they will be honored and revered for their work.

What is one tip for someone who is hosting their first BRAD event? 

Start small and set an achievable goal! Trying to have a booth, educational talks, and tours for your first event will just get messy and overwhelming. Rather, reach out to this group or to colleagues to see what worked well for them and start to evolve one perfect first event. Keep track of your contacts and document what worked well. This will help you create bigger and better events in subsequent years. 

What is the most interesting research in which you have been involved?

This is incredibly hard to choose just one, but I think seeing the evolution of the type 1 diabetes mellitus research in diabetic cynomolgus macaques really sticks out. One aspect of this study involved the use of porcine pancreatic islet cells protected by various biomaterials that were implanted into the mesentery of the macaques as a potential and hopeful cure for type 1 diabetes.

How do you balance your career with outreach and educational initiatives? 

I have been lucky to work at very BRAD-friendly and supportive institutions. These institutions have not only allotted me time and resources to create BRAD events but employee equally passionate people who have volunteered their own time to be part of BRAD committees to work on expanding the understanding of what goes on in our department to the greater population of the institutions. I have organized researcher talks with undergrads at one institution, where the use of animals in research was highlighted, emphasizing WHY these models are necessary. Another educational initiative that was a huge success, was having retired research beagles come in as ambassadors to spark conversation about how and why they are used in research. The balance comes with open and honest discussion with bosses and management to garner support and allow time for such events. It is also important to prioritize what aspects of outreach can be done outside of work, or which aspects require on the clock support.

 

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RACHELLE STAMMEN, DVM, DACLAM

Clinical Veterinarian at Yerkes National Primate Research Center

BRAD Champion Since 2019 

What drives your passion for outreach and education? 

The desire to build public trust in science and animal research drives my passion for outreach. Historically, scientists and lab animal professionals have been reluctant to speak openly about animals in research. Consequently, this has led to a spread of misinformation and decreased public trust and support. This is important because public opinion influences how biomedical research is regulated and funded, which in turn impacts quality science and animal welfare. I absolutely love my job and I love teaching and engaging with people, so proudly educating others about the animals I care for and why they are so important is rewarding and fun for me.

What do you love about being a BRAD Champion? 

I love the camaraderie and support between all the Champions and the BRAD/AMP team. It is awesome being part of a group of people who share the same enthusiasm for outreach and lab animal medicine. I love the encouragement and the ability to bounce ideas off one another.  

 

What is one tip for someone who is hosting their first BRAD event? 

I recommend figuring out your target audience, then go from there (vet students exploring different specialties, undergrads or high schoolers looking for career opportunities, fellow lab animal professionals you want to educate on how to talk about what they do, etc).  This helps really customize your event. Then, I recommend checking out BRAD’s website for amazing resources and tips on how to host an event. You can even contact a BRAD Champion for help! 

What is your favorite laboratory animal species and why?

Rhesus macaques are my favorite lab animal species because of their spunky and boisterous personalities and intelligence. These qualities combined with their sophisticated social dynamics and similarities to humans make rhesus macaques so fun and interesting to work with. Luckily for me, they are also the most common nonhuman primate in biomedical research, and I get to work with them every day as a vet at a primate research center!

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