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Advancing the Frontiers of Veterinary Medicine

By: Ashley Berke Published: Sep 6, 2017

Student Inspiration Award Winners. Pictured from left are Corey Spies, V’19, Brianna Parsons, V’18, Talia Wong, V’18, and Molly Klores, V’18Molly Klores, Brianna Parsons, Corey Spies, and Talia Wong received Penn Vet’s prestigious Student Inspiration Awards for 2017. Their winning projects include the installation of a goat milking facility in The Gambia and the creation of One Health educational materials for human and veterinary hospitals.

Launched in 2008 with a gift from Vernon and Shirley Hill, 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.

“It is incredibly encouraging to see our students champion such important issues for the betterment of society,” said Penn Vet Dean Joan Hendricks. “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.”

Gambia Goat Dairy

Parsons, a third-year student and native of Quakertown, Pa., and Spies, a second-year student and native of Kinnelon, N.J., 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—while also generating 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 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. “This 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.”

One Health Materials

Klores, a third-year student and native of Washington, D.C., and Wong, a third-year student and native of Brookline, Mass., 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 help shape the One Health narrative as we continue to foster collaboration between medical fields.”