Though it may not seem like it amidst the urban landscape of Penn’s campus, agriculture is an important industry in the state of Pennsylvania. A crucial component of a productive farm is access to skilled veterinarians to keep food animals healthy.
Yet fewer and fewer veterinary students are coming from rural areas, and most don’t plan to enter large animal medicine after they graduate.
To encourage and support Pennsylvania residents who have a passion for food animal medicine, Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine has launched the Commonwealth One Health Scholarship, which provides full tuition to Penn Vet for four years. The School has just announced the first scholarship winners: incoming students Allyson Elliott of Coudersport, Pa., Amy Kraus of Aliquippa, Pa., and Enoch Kraycik of Bethlehem, Pa. They will be part of Penn Vet’s Class of 2019.
Penn Vet Dean Joan Hendricks says the idea for the scholarships came about while reviewing the School’s budget and realizing that Penn Vet had an opportunity to specifically target students who would give back to the state’s agricultural sector.
“We saw this as a great way to support Pennsylvanians who want to work on Pennsylvania farm animals,” Hendricks says.
In this initial pilot effort, the scholarships were not advertised, so the Penn Vet admissions committee pulled from their applicant pool, looking for Pennsylvania residents “who were not only academic stars, but who also had a completely genuine interest in serving the Pennsylvania agricultural community,” Hendricks says.
Kraus is a prime example. Her interest in agriculture grew out of years spent participating in her county’s 4-H program. She complemented that interest with stints working in a dairy nutrition lab, milking cows and shadowing food animal veterinarians. She will graduate this month from Penn State University’s Schreyer Honors College with a degree in animal science.
“I grew up riding and owning horses, and wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as I can remember,” Kraus says. “My decision to become a food animal veterinarian is based on my passion for serving both dairy farmers and cows. I look forward to giving back to the Pennsylvania dairy industry.”
Hendricks says a major goal of the program is to ensure students who want to pursue food animal medicine can do so without worrying about tuition debt.
“When I go out and talk to farmers, I hear constantly how desperate they are for skilled veterinarians, and that goes beyond just someone who can treat their cow when it’s sick or help their horse when it’s in labor,” Hendricks says. “Vets also understand how to help farmers achieve good nutrition, good animal welfare, and good environmental health. By doing that, we ensure the farms are healthy, the animals are healthy, and the rural economy is healthy, too.”