Stephanie Benedict, Class of ’25, Creating an Impact on St. Kitts Poultry Farms

Nov 17, 2023
Bendict holding chicken

On her path toward becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), Stephanie Benedict, Class of ’25, has had an impressive second year of school at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (Ross Vet). From being named to Vet Candy’s inaugural Rising Stars in veterinary medicine list, receiving a scholarship from the Zoetis Foundation and American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, and advancing research in poultry medicine to benefit St. Kitts farm production, 2023 will be a year to remember for Benedict along her journey to veterinary medicine.

Rooted in Research

Benedict’s passion for research began during her time as an undergraduate at her home state Florida Gulf Coast University. Practicing medicine had always been something that sparked her curiosity from a young age, and an innate love for animals created a natural connection to veterinary medicine as a career pathway.

While working at a small animal medicine practice as an undergrad, Benedict began searching for alternative veterinary fields that could still fuel her passions in different ways.

“At the time I was working, I had been part of a research project exploring how nanoparticles can be used to detect salmonella in lettuce samples,” Benedict recalled. “The food safety aspect of what we were researching, learning what bacteria are doing and how we can play a part in stopping bacterial issues in our food supply, was such an interesting exploration.”

During her senior year, she traveled to Pennsylvania for a one-week externship with Joe Jurgielewicz & Son, one of the leading Pekin duck suppliers in North America, which reaffirmed her true calling in food animal medicine.

“I fell in love with that whole experience and knew from then on poultry was the field I wanted to go in for the rest of my career,” she said.

Benefiting Local Food Production Through Poultry Research in St. Kitts

In her time since she enrolled at Ross Vet in January 2022, Benedict found that poultry medicine was a topic rarely explored through research and seldom among the preferred career paths of her peers.To her knowledge, only one Ross Vet-led research project had been conducted prior to her arrival, which examined free-roaming chickens and their prevalence to carrying certain pathogens. What had not been explored at the time: poultry farms in St. Kitts that exist to breed hens for the island’s egg production.

Working out of Ross Vet’s One Health Research Center for Zoonotic and Tropical Veterinary Medicine, Benedict and lead researcher Luis Pablo Herve Claude, DVM, MPVM, PhD, assistant professor of veterinary public health and epidemiology, studied each of these farms for the past two years for a project now titled “Laying Hens in St. Kitts: Understanding basic demographics, biosecurity, and sanitary status.” As the first phase of gathering demographic data and biosecurity assessments from laying hen farms in St. Kitts nears its completion, Benedict is now focusing on reporting the findings to the farmers and local officials to help impact egg production on the island.

“It’s a smaller scale compared to production in the United States, but it feels rewarding being able to work with local farmers and explore ways our research can improve food biosecurity and limit exposure to hazardous pathogens for the hens and their production.”

A Rising Star

Benedict presenting

In their commitment to celebrating those who are making an impact in local, national, and global communities, Vet Candy, a veterinary lifestyle brand and publication, launched their inaugural Rising Stars list in May to recognize global veterinary students who are doing amazing things for the profession. Benedict caught Vet Candy’s attention through her Instagram account,@steph_thepoultryvet, where she documents her journey as a student and aspiring board-certified poultry veterinarian.

Above anything, Benedict hopes her inclusion as a Rising Star and the opportunities she has had to present research will shine a brighter light on poultry medicine as a career path for aspiring veterinarians.

“I think it’s important for younger students to know this career option is here for them. There’s a lot of emphasis on small animal practice going as far back as pre-veterinary education, so we need more people invested and interested in serving food animals that need the same care as other patients, both for food safety and their own welfare.”

Showcasing her work to her peers and faculty has already made an impact. In the classroom, she connects directly with students as a teaching assistant for Bacteriology and Mycology. Now, thanks to her work on behalf of the St. Kitts community being presented during Research Week, other students are starting to demonstrate interest in poultry medicine as a career.

“I’m so grateful for the professors and students who listened to me share the work we’ve been doing and can appreciate poultry from a One Health perspective as far as benefiting society through food and animal welfare,” Benedict said. “I start my clinical year in April and will be leaving St. Kitts, but I already have more students that are coming to me with interest in poultry and able to continue the project for our farmers.”

Learn more about how your passion for animal health can lead you to a world of possibilities here.

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