Veterinary student wins first prize in national essay contest

Polly Weldon

Polly Weldon

The second time’s a charm for first-place to University of Florida veterinary student Polly Weldon, who received top honors in a national contest for her essay about how veterinarians worked with civilians, entomologists and others to save the endangered Key deer during the 2016 screwworm outbreak in the Florida Keys.

Weldon placed third in the same contest last year for an essay she wrote on a different topic.

The Smithcors Student Veterinary History Essay Contest is sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical History Society. Weldon’s prize-winning essay was titled, “Unexpected Allies: How an Original Thought from the 1930s Saved the Florida Key Deer from Getting Screwed.” It will be published in the society’s journal, Veterinary Heritage, in the coming months.

Weldon’s first-place honors include a $1,200 check.

“I’m truly thrilled to have won,” she said.

Weldon said the ‘original thought’ referenced in the essay’s title refers to sterile insect technique, a form of insect control that involves releasing sterile males into a population to mate with females.

“My essay explored the history of the entomologist who invented this technique, Dr. Edward Knipling,” she said. “He was the first person to think of releasing sterile male flies, and its use in eradicating screwworm was hailed by the United Nations as one of ‘the greatest achievements of animal health.’”

The technique was instrumental in ending the screwworm epidemic among the Key deer in Florida and without it, the species may have been lost entirely, Weldon said. “I think it’s a really important story to tell, as it illustrates how veterinary medicine truly is a collaborative effort between many different fields, including the study of insects.”

Weldon first learned about the Smithcors essay competition last year through the society’s website. Since she loves reading about veterinary history, she decided to write an essay and submit it for consideration in the contest. Her topic was a veterinary pathologist at the Bronx zoo, Dr. Tracey McNamara, who helped discover the 2001 West Nile virus outbreak in New York.

“It’s one of my favorite stories because it demonstrates the vital role that veterinarians play in the One Health initiative, and how the knowledge of animal disease patterns can help prevent human epidemics,” Weldon said.

That essay garnered Weldon third-place honors in the 2020 competition.

Share this article with others:
  • E-mail this story to a friend!
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Twitter

May-June 2021

Dr. Dana Zimmel

A message from our dean

A message from the college’s dean, Dr. Dana Zimmel.

Polly Weldon

Veterinary student wins first prize in national essay contest

The essay described how veterinarians responded to the screwworm outbreak in the Florida Keys to save the endangered Key deer.

Dr. Michael Bowie

College names longtime leader in diversity outreach to new assistant dean position

Bowie has for years been a national leader in issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

...also in this issue



Around the College