Dr. Robert Lavan
Dr. Robert Lavan, M.P.V.M. ’91 D.V.M. ’92 is Director, Outcomes Research (OR), for the Center for Observational and Real-World Evidence at Merck Animal Health. He is one of the pioneers in the emerging field of pharmaceutical outcomes research in animal medicine, an exciting position he traces back to his training in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Lavan entered the School of Veterinary Medicine with a Master’s Degree in Parasitology and pursued a D.V.M.-M.P.V.M dual-degree. His dual degree entailed spending the first three years of the program with D.V.M. classmates undertaking coursework for the medical degree, then completing M.P.V.M. coursework in the fourth year, walking in the commencement ceremony with his D.V.M. class, and spending one final year in clinical rotations while simultaneously doing research for his M.P.V.M. degree.
Dr. Lavan says, “I loved it! I really liked getting to do rotations with students from many countries. It was a wonderful program and perfect for me, and it was a stepping stone to everything I did in my career. My research training with Dr. John Madigan was the practical training I needed to see my path into animal health research. ”
Once he graduated, he maintained his interest in research. He and his wife, Dr. Susan Lavan D.V.M. ’92, moved to Pennsylvania where they both went into private practice. He worked for two years in mixed practice and ten years treating companion animals, while conducting research on the side. “The other vets kind of looked at me funny, but I have always loved doing research,” Dr. Lavan said.
His research focus paid off when he had the opportunity to join Pfizer’s pharmacovigilance team. The epidemiological training from the M.P.V.M. had prepared him to study trends and outcomes in populations that had received various pharmaceutical treatments.
“Sometimes you make one decision and your whole career makes a 90 degree turn,” Dr. Lavan said. His training and experience in clinical medicine and epidemiology set him up to become a leader in the emerging field of outcomes research in animal medicine. Professionals in this discipline design and conduct population studies using real-world evidence to evaluate the effects of medications, processes and devices used in animal health, providing valuable new information to clinicians and pet owners. People in OR also have a specific focus on animal welfare and quality of life studies.
In 2015 he was recruited to become Merck Animal Health’s first employee conducting outcomes research. Although outcomes research got its start in human medicine about 30 years ago, animal pharmaceutical companies have only begun investing in this area over the last ten years. Veterinarians and technicians with experience in epidemiology, statistical analysis, study design, and/or outcomes research are well suited to joining the field.
“Every time I’ve changed jobs, my M.P.V.M. degree has been key,” Dr. Lavan said. The education he received in UC Davis’ M.P.V.M. program helped him to be uniquely qualified for an exciting, emerging field of research. Throughout his career, it has continued to open new doors.
“There’s a sense among some of my D.V.M. classmates that they are trapped. They feel like if they don’t do clinical medicine, they have to do a complete 180 and leave the field. There are all kinds of opportunities out there, and the M.P.V.M. has opened so many doors for me!”