PennVet | Penn Vet Announces Winners of 2016 Student Inspiration Awards
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Penn Vet Announces Winners of 2016 Student Inspiration Awards

Published: Aug 30, 2016

Jane Karpowicz, Ellen Lapuck, and W. Wendy Kuo, all V’18, received Penn Vet’s prestigious Student Inspiration Awards for 2016. 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 well-being of animals and society.

“Penn Vet students constantly impress me throughout the year, but always during the Inspiration Award presentations,” said Penn Vet Dean Joan Hendricks. “Our 2016 winners carry on a tradition of excellence for the benefit of society and the veterinary profession. I’m especially delighted that this year’s projects embody the One Health concept to improve the health of humans, animals, and the environment.”

(From left) Ellen Lapuck, Jane Karpowicz, and W. Wendy Kuo, all V’18Karpowicz, a second-year student and native of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, and Lapuck, a second-year student and native of Sharon, Massachusetts, received $25,000 for their winning proposal, “A Focus on Poultry: Reducing Morbidity and Mortality for Smallholder Farmers in Uganda.” The funds will be used to develop a program in Uganda to train poultry farmers and implement a vaccine campaign against the Newcastle Disease virus. Of the 98 percent of indigenous chickens that are affected by disease annually, Newcastle Disease accounts for 72 percent of these diseases.

As free-range poultry increases in number each year, it is vital for farmers to maintain this important source of income and protein. The program will provide farmers with training and resources on basic poultry husbandry. Additionally, Karpowicz and Lapuck will work with Veterinarians Without Borders – U.S. to administer Newcastle Disease vaccines to participants’ flocks and identify a vaccine coordinator for each village. A model chicken coop will be constructed, underscoring the importance of protecting flocks from predators, theft, and disease.

“We’re looking forward to working together with poultry farmers in Uganda to address poultry management systems and to decrease prevalence of disease,” said Karpowicz. “Our ultimate goal is to help farmers maintain both economic and nutritional well-being for themselves and their families through increased poultry production.”

“Jane and I are thrilled and honored to receive this award for our international project,” said Lapuck. “We are very excited about the potential of this program to inspire Penn Vet students to become leaders and ambassadors in world health, as well as the One Health initiative.”

Kuo, a second-year student and native of Alexandria, Virginia, received $25,000 for her winning proposal, “Little Biota, Big Data.” The funds will be used to compile microbiome data representative of a healthy baseline for different food animal species. Based on the compiled data, visualization and analysis tools will be developed, and the data and analysis will be incorporated into a central repository.

“In any species, antibiotic use wipes out bad and good microbial populations and contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains,” said Kuo. “Yet, the use of antibiotics at sub-therapeutic levels in food animals has been shown to enhance growth. Understanding the mechanisms of growth promotion and acquisition of resistance would be invaluable in protecting food sources from disease while also ensuring that rising global populations are adequately fed.”

Ultimately, this project aims to rapidly detect emerging antibiotic-resistant microbes by recognizing patterns in changing communities of the microbiome of food animals.

Previous Student Inspiration Award winners have used the prize money to develop a commercial aquaponics system at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences in Philadelphia; create a Dairy Education Center in Thailand to empower women farmers; spark veterinary entrepreneurship through an innovation challenge; and inform the public and policymakers about wildlife trade using Google Earth, to illustrate unreported issues and their devastating impact on wildlife, humans, and ecosystems.