Through a $125,000 grant from the American Kennel Club (AKC), the AKC Canine Health Foundation, and the Theriogenology Foundation, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine is adding a new theriogenology resident, Gabriela Carneiro de Sousa. 

The Small Animal Theriogenology Residency Program grants funding for a full-time resident to study theriogenology, which is the science of animal reproductive systems and reproductive health. The college’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital is home to a team of board-certified theriogenologists who provide both routine and emergency reproductive services to breeders and producers of small and large animals.

The AKC-sponsored fellowship program has trained 13 residents since 2016, two of whom have studied at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. The college was last awarded the Small Animal Theriogenology Residency in 2021.

Julie Cecere, residency coordinator and clinical associate professor of theriogenology, said the Veterinary Teaching Hospital fosters a uniquely supportive learning environment for its residents. For example, unlike many other veterinary teaching hospitals, theriogenologists perform their own surgeries. 

"We've been very fortunate to have support from the small animal department and the veterinary college itself. We have a wonderful school and community, and that's a draw. We are unique in that we handle our own cases — our residents get an all-inclusive clinical experience,” said Cecere. 

Sousa earned her veterinary degree from the Federal University of Goiás in Brazil. In 2014, she traveled to the United States, studying at the University of Minnesota, completing an externship at The Ohio State University, and deciding to pursue a career in theriogenology. 

"I like everything about therio, but what's driven me to pursue this career is the comparative side — it's all therio, but it varies between species, and that's what interested me the most when I was starting,” said Sousa. 

After finishing her degree in 2017, she entered a reproduction residency in Brazil. In this comparative program, Sousa focused on small animals but also saw horses and ruminants. She then entered a master’s program in animal biotechnology at Brazil’s São Paulo State University, where her thesis focused on mammary carcinomas in dogs. 

Sousa is looking forward to working with students and watching them grow. After her residency, she plans on pursuing a career in academia so she can continue to conduct research in addition to clinical work. 

Golden retriever puppy looking at the camera.
Gabriela Carneiro de Sousa holds a golden retriever puppy. Photo by Andrew Mann for Virginia Tech.

Over the next three years, Sousa will earn a master’s in biomedical and veterinary sciences, conduct a research project, and study for board certification through the American College of Theriogenologists.

"Board-certified theriogenologists are driving new techniques, technologies, methodologies, as well as understanding the why and the how, not just the application," said Cecere. “In small animal canine reproduction, we're behind as far as research goes, and with our residents, we can further that research.” 

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