Jennifer Barrett, of Leesburg, Virginia, the Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Equine Surgery at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, has received the Zoetis Award for Research Excellence. Barrett is a faculty member at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia.

Established in 1985 as the Pfizer Award for Research Excellence, the Zoetis award is a nationally recognized honor for a faculty member at each veterinary school in the United States. The award seeks to “foster innovative research, on which the scientific advancement of the profession depends, by recognizing outstanding research effort and productivity.”

Barrett, who joined the Equine Medical Center (EMC) faculty in 2007, focuses her research on regenerative medicine and its applications to the equine athlete. A founding director of the North American Veterinary Regenerative Medicine Association, Barrett established the Regenerative Medicine Service at the EMC, which offers stem cell treatment and platelet rich plasma therapy to patients in Leesburg and beyond.

“Dr. Barrett has clearly demonstrated an ongoing commitment to excellence in veterinary research and has laid the groundwork for a long and successful career,” said Harold McKenzie, associate professor of large animal medicine, in his nomination letter. “Her energy and dedication are second to none, and I believe that she is more than worthy of the recognition this award represents.”

The EMC is a full-service equine hospital that offers advanced specialty care, 24-hour emergency treatment, and diagnostic services for all ages and breeds of horses. In addition to her research efforts, Barrett sees equine patients at the EMC and has clinical interests in sports medicine, lameness, diagnostic imaging, and orthopedic surgery. She is board certified in both large animal surgery by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and in equine sports medicine and rehabilitation by the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.

During the awards ceremony at the veterinary college’s 28th Annual Research Symposium, Barrett compared her career trajectory to the research process, which starts with curiosity and a literature review.

“I was finishing my Ph.D. in molecular biology working on a basic understanding of microtubule motor proteins and felt disconnected with the health of humans and animals,” Barrett said. “I wanted to connect my life’s work to clinical disease that affected me and my horses directly … A friend of mine suggested that instead of pursuing an academic career in a biology department, I could go to veterinary school and become a clinician scientist.”

After doing a “literature review” and meeting with prominent equine orthopedic surgeons, Barrett decided to pursue veterinary medicine. She earned a doctorate in molecular and cell biology from Yale University and a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Cornell University. Barrett also has master’s degrees in biology from Yale University and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Dartmouth College.

Since her arrival at the veterinary college, Barrett has served as principal or co-principal investigator on 25 grants totaling more than $1.6 million and authored or co-authored 26 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters. In addition to her teaching responsibilities in the college’s doctor of veterinary medicine and biomedical and veterinary sciences programs, Barrett has served or is serving as the major advisor of 11 graduate students. She has also been on the committee of several other Virginia Tech graduate students and mentored undergraduate research scholars from George Mason University.

Before joining the veterinary college, Barrett worked as an equine surgery resident and postdoctoral research assistant at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an intern at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. She is currently also an affiliate assistant professor at George Mason University’s Bioengineering Department and an adjunct assistant professor at Wake Forest University’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Read more about Barrett’s research in a previous issue of the veterinary college’s magazine, TRACKS.

Written by Michael Sutphin

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