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Penn Vet Announces Winners of 2017 Student Inspiration Awards

By Ashley Berke Published: Mar 30, 2017

From l-r: Corey Spies, Brianna Parsons, Talia Wong, and Molly KloresWinning projects include installation of a goat milking facility in The Gambia and the creation of One Health educational materials for human and veterinary hospitals

[March 30, 2017; Philadelphia, PA] – Molly Klores, Brianna Parsons, Corey Spies, and Talia Wong received Penn Vet’s prestigious Student Inspiration Awards for 2017. Launched in 2008, the award is presented annually to Penn Vet students who demonstrate the potential to significantly advance the frontiers of veterinary medicine and expand the profession’s impact on the wellbeing of animals and society. A photo of the winners can be found here (from l-r: Corey Spies, Brianna Parsons, Talia Wong, and Molly Klores).

“It is incredibly encouraging to see our students champion such important issues for the betterment of society,” said Joan C. Hendricks, the Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Our students are always good-hearted and creative, but this year I am really struck by the sophistication and attention to sustainability beyond the time of their engagement. Both of these projects have genuine potential for significant lasting impact. The future of veterinary medicine is very bright.”

Parsons, a third-year student and native of Quakertown, PA, and Spies, a second-year student and native of Kinnelon, NJ, received $25,000 for their winning proposal, “Gambia Goat Dairy – An Innovative Goat Milking Facility in Bwiam, The Gambia.” The funds will be used to improve community nutrition and healthcare in an impoverished area of The Gambia by generating a local supply of affordable, safe, high-quality animal protein that also generates a sustainable source of revenue for the hospital.

“Agriculture lies at the nexus of human, animal, and environmental health,” said Spies. “Creating sustainable livestock systems is the key to achieving harmony with our natural world.”

Last summer, Parsons and Spies spent eight weeks in The Gambia, conducting research to determine the feasibility and sustainability of developing a goat dairy. Following a seminar with over 25 key Gambian stakeholders, they developed a comprehensive business plan, detailing specifics of the dairy from husbandry, nutrition, and veterinary care to infrastructure, revenue generation, and operational sustainability.

“Their business plan was one of the most comprehensive we have ever seen,” said Dr. David Galligan, Professor of Animal Health Economics and chair of the award committee. “Their project will serve as a model for other students applying for Inspiration Awards in the future.”

With their Inspiration Award funding, Parsons and Spies will return to The Gambia this summer to begin operationalizing their project. Phase one will involve the identification of a project manager in The Gambia, as well as construction of the structures, enclosures, and other necessary dairy infrastructure.

“Due to substantial stakeholder involvement in creating this plan, we truly believe this dairy will be tailored to the needs of the community, both as a source of safe, accessible, locally produced animal protein and as a model for dairy goat husbandry,” said Parsons. “We envision Gambia Goat Dairy will grow to serve as an educational center and a prototype for scaling up throughout the country.”

Klores, a third-year student and native of Washington, D.C., and Wong, a third-year student and native of Brookline, MA, received $11,500 for their winning proposal, “Educating the Public: Bringing One Health to the Clinic.” The funds will be used to create educational materials promoting One Health considerations in routine appointments at Penn’s medical and veterinary hospitals. The project seeks to engage clients and patients in the One Health conversation, and encourage them to take ownership of their family’s health.

Klores and Wong will create educational posters and a complementary website to help raise awareness of the connections between pet and owner health and to improve the detection of zoonotic risks.

“We are thrilled to use this award to invest in the community through educational outreach,” said Klores. “We hope that we can help others understand the breadth of veterinary medicine and how our field weaves through their daily lives in ways they may not have anticipated. Through communication and collaboration, we hope to enhance interdisciplinary engagement, and ultimately create a more unified approach to healthcare.”

“We are incredibly honored and excited to have this opportunity to develop a fresh, grassroots approach to building One Health awareness in the clinic,” said Wong. “By pioneering this client outreach initiative, Penn Vet can influence the One Health narrative as we continue to foster collaboration between medical fields.”

Previous Student Inspiration Award winners have used the prize money to implement a poultry vaccine campaign in Uganda; create a central repository of microbiome data for food animal species; develop a commercial aquaponics system at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences; create a Dairy Education Center in Thailand to empower women farmers and spark international collaboration; build a website and electronic medical record system to help veterinarians care for animals during disaster relief efforts and allow for tracking of animals throughout the process of rescue and recovery; and inform the public and policy makers about wildlife trade using Google Earth to illustrate unreported issues and the devastating impact they have on wildlife, humans, and ecosystems.

About Penn Vet

Ranked among the top ten veterinary schools worldwide, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is a global leader in veterinary education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the first veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling nearly 35,000 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles nearly 4,900 patient visits a year, while the Field Service treats more than 38,000 patients at local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.

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