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2016 Student Inspiration Award Winners

By: John Donges Date: Mar 24, 2016

Winning projects include implementation of a poultry vaccine campaign in Uganda and the creation of a central repository of microbiome data for food animal species

[March 24, 2016; Philadelphia, PA] – Jane Karpowicz, W. Wendy Kuo, and Ellen Lapuck 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 wellbeing of animals and society.

“Penn Vet students constantly impress me throughout the year, but always during the Inspiration Award presentations,” said Joan C. Hendricks, the Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “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.Karpowicz, a second-year student and native of Chester Springs, PA, and Lapuck, a second-year student and native of Sharon, MA, 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% of indigenous chickens that are affected by disease annually, Newcastle Disease accounts for 72% 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. 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. Additionally, 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, VA, 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; establish an immersion experience for Penn Vet students at the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell’Abruzzo e del Molise (IZS) in Teramo, Italy; 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; 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; and spark entrepreneurial activity in the veterinary industry through an innovation challenge.

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 more than 34,600 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 more than 6,200 patient visits a year, while our Field Services have gone out on more than 5,500 farm service calls, treating some 18,700 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.