2007 Joint Academia/Industry Presentation

“Training the Perfect Fellow: What Industry Would Like and What Academia Can Provide”

 James Hartke, Pfizer Global Research and Matthew Wallig, University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine 


As part of an effort to increase the exchange of information between Academia and Industry, the ACVP/STP Coalition for Veterinary Pathology Fellows held its first Scientific Conference on June 10, 2007, in conjunction with the 2007 STP Annual Symposium.  This conference was attended by Fellows, their academic and industrial mentors, and the Board of Governors.  In addition to presentations given by Fellows (see http://www.vetpathcoalition.org/fundedfellowships.cfm), the program included a joint presentation by representatives from Academia and Industry entitled “Training the Perfect Fellow: What Industry Would Like and What Academia Can Provide,” which focused on an informal survey circulated to mentors from participating training institutions and sponsoring companies.  This communication summarizes the results of that presentation and survey.


The survey was designed to evaluate several key components of training the Coalition uses to assess applications from academic institutions for newly funded training positions.  The list (slightly modified from the Coalition’s Request for Applications) includes those components of an “ideal” training program, knowing full well that no program would meet all criteria.  The survey was distributed to academic and industrial mentors for each of twelve Coalition training positions.  Mentors were asked to review the following suggested training components and then respond to questions listed in the Results section below.

Curriculum.   Applicants should describe how fellows receive training in

    • Principles of general pathology
    • Gross pathology, microscopic and ultrastructural pathology
    • Clinical pathology (hematology, cytology, clin chem and surgical pathology)
    • Comparative pathology of naturally occurring diseases of domestic, exotic and laboratory animals, and humans
    • General, molecular and cellular biochemistry
    • Biostatistics, informational pathology, computer technology
    • Special techniques (e.g., tissue culture, immunohistochem, flow cytometry, in situ hybridization, nucleic acid and protein analysis, laser capture microscopy)
    • Effective oral, written and interpersonal communication
    • Understanding of the scientific method

Introductory Training in Toxicologic Pathology.  Applicants should describe how fellows receive training in:

    • Introduction to general principles of toxicology and pharmacology
    • Mechanisms and morphologic manifestations of toxicant action
    • Carcinogenicity and risk assessment
    • Basic knowledge of animal models used in toxicologic pathology
    • Basic knowledge of governmental regulations of relevance to tox path
    • Core knowledge of methodologies in both toxicologic pathology and biomedical research in general

Interactions with Other Training Environments.   Applicants should describe interactions with other environments that enhance training beyond that which is available at their own institution.


Academic and industrial mentors were asked to respond to several questions and then rank the training (sub)components as; 1 (essential), 2 (important), or 3 (nice to have) for a residency program in toxicologic pathology.  Results are shown in the following table: 

Survey Item

Responses from Academic Mentors

Responses from Industry Mentors

Is the curriculum adequate?

Yes (8/10)

Yes (8/9)

     Too onerous or too basic?

Just right (4/10)

Too onerous (4/10)

Just right (7/9)

Too onerous (2/9)

     Needed additions?

Critical thinking/analysis

(1 for each of the following):

Critical thinking/analysis, mouse and primate path, principles of toxicokinetics, imaging, -omics, drug discovery/development

     Needed deletions?

Risk assessment, carcinogenesis, regulations, methodologies


     Items too difficult for an academic setting?

Risk assessment, carcinogenesis, regulations, methodology

Nothing to difficult (4/9)

     Three most critical things on which to concentrate?

Gross path, histopath & ultrastructural path (7/10);

Comparative path (6/10)

Gross path, histopath & ultrastructural path (6/9);

General path (6/10)

Primary constraints to training?

Insufficient funding (6/10);

Insufficient faculty (5/10)

Insufficient time (6/9);

Constraints not an issue (5/9)

How can industry be most helpful?

Contact with trainees (3/10);

Provide industry-specific aspects of training (3/10)

Externship mentoring (3/9);

Education in risk assessment and regulations (3/9)

Top ranked components (score 1.0-1.5)

General path, comparative path, communication skills

General path, communication skills

Mid ranked components (score 1.51-2.0)

Attendance at short courses, carcinogenesis & risk assessment, molecular methodologies

Attendance at short courses, carcinogenesis & risk assessment, molec & cell biochem, statistics, mechs of toxicant action, laser capture microdissection

Bottom ranked components (score >2.0)

Specialized methodologies, externships, classes at other institutions

Academic mentors were also asked to indicate if each training component was provided for their Fellows and if they felt it was a particular strength of their institution’s training program.  Results are shown in the following table:

Training Component

Yes, Component Is Provided

Yes, Component Is a Strength



Principles of general path




Gross, microscopic & ultrastructural path



Clinical path



Comparative path



General, molecular & cellular biochem






Special path techniques



Communication skills


Specific Training in toxicological pathology


Principles of toxicology & pharmacology




Mechanisms/morphologic manifestations of toxicant action



Carcinogenicity & risk assessment



Interaction with other training environments


Externships (at other academic institutes, pharma, government agencies/labs)




Attend short courses & symposia


Take classes at other academic institutes



Summary Comments and General Conclusions

Admittedly, this survey was not scientifically conducted nor designed to be definitive.  Further, it was biased since only larger, long standing training programs and companies who have chosen to support the ACVP/STP Coalition were surveyed.  Nonetheless, there was general consensus between academic and industrial respondents on the following points:

  • Core curriculum is sufficient but is becoming onerous
  • General agreement on the most important (sub)components of the core curriculum
  • Industry should provide training in carcinogenesis, risk assessment and regulations, either as an introduction during residency or more in-depth during post-residency
  • Major constraints on training are insufficient funding and number of faculty (academia) and insufficient time (industry)
  • Specific training in toxicology and toxicologic pathology cannot be provided by academia due to lack of appropriate courses and opportunities for tox training, but industry does not need anything more than introductory exposure