Meet Our 2021 Compassionate Care Scholarship Recipients

August 25, 2021

By Heather Schrader, RVT, MCJ

HSVMA has been proud to offer our Compassionate Care Scholarships for the past six years to veterinary students who show a dedication to animal welfare and the determination to make a difference in the veterinary profession.  We recognize that it is extremely difficult to commit to activities outside of classes, labs and rotations due to the rigorous curriculum that is inherent to a veterinary education.  We are committed to empowering students who make animal welfare a priority not only in their education, but in their future as a professional.  HSVMA would like to acknowledge and thank every one of the many qualified applicants.  They reinforce HSVMA's commitment to student outreach and reveal the remarkable activities that vet students achieve while in school.  HSVMA also thanks the supporters of this year's scholarships: Kislak Family Foundation; Dr. Carrie Waters, HSVMA Texas & Maryland State Representative; Dr. Kate Maher, HSVMA Louisiana State Representative; and Dr. Barry Kipperman, HSVMA Board President and California State Co-Representative.  

2021 Compassionate Care Scholarship Recipients

Reshmi Sensharma, 1st place, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2023

Sophia Chao, 2nd place, University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2022

Stella Elwood, 3rd place, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, class of 2023


RESHMI SENSHARMA (she/her) - 1st Place

University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2023

Reshmi's goal after graduation is to "practice veterinary medicine for underserved communities and the animals integral to them."  While still in vet school, she has already made significant progress toward this goal.  She founded Like A Dog, a non-profit organization which provides community-based care and public health programs for animal populations living on the streets of Kolkata, India.  Since it began in 2014, her organization has vaccinated over 6000 street dogs against Rabies, spayed/neutered over 200 animals, and conducted community campaigns to educate and raise awareness.  Reshmi also designed and co-produced a phone app called StreetDogs which enables coordination and documentation of vaccine clinics.  In addition, she served as Policy Coordinator for Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO) with the government of West Bengali's "Rabies Free" campaign.  

The past two summers, Reshmi has worked in an immunology lab on campus, first as an NIH-BI scholar and then, in 2021, helping to develop a virtual immunology course for veterinary students in Malawi’s Mikolongwe College of Veterinary Science.  One of her mentors at PennVet, Dr. Jennifer Punt, Professor of Immunology and Associate Dean of One Health, says Reshmi "engages complex issues with courage, care and the deep compassion that HSVMA values."  Perhaps for this reason, she was chosen to receive the Rosenthal Shelter Medicine Student Research Fellowship.  This fellowship helps train future shelter veterinarians to become researchers and ultimately improve animal welfare and treatment within the field.  Reshmi also serves as Vice President of the student chapter of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine at UPenn.  

SOPHIA CHAO (she/her) - 2nd place

University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2022

Even before attending veterinary school, Sophia strongly believed that everyone should be able to access affordable veterinary care for their pets.  She saw the need in the hundreds of people who brought their pets to The Empty Shelter Project in Houston, Texas, where she regularly volunteered her time.  When Hurricane Harvey caused massive flooding and damage throughout Houston, Sophia volunteered every evening and weekend with Houston/ Austin Pets Alive!  She helped with intake exams at a temporary shelter for pets who were lost or homeless due to the storm.

All of this work inspired her to focus on shelter medicine and access to care as she entered vet school.  Sophia took on roles to coordinate spay/neuter clinics at UW-SVM, volunteered with Pets for Life in Milwaukee, and took on leadership roles as Secretary, then Co-President, of the HSVMA student chapter.  Sophia helped coordinate two clinics located at Green County Humane Society during the pandemic.  She was responsible for supporting these clinics by obtaining a World Spay Day grant from HSVMA and distributing information to all the volunteers regarding clinic procedures and safety protocols.  Sophia was awarded a coveted position as a veterinary student volunteer on a RAVS summer clinic to Washington State which had to convert to a virtual event due to the pandemic. As part of her studies, Sophia also participated in her school's Shelter Medicine Selective which allowed her to work alongside Maddie's Shelter Fellows as they went into shelters and recommended practices to increase positive outcomes.  Dr. Susan Krebsbach, HSVMA Wisconsin State Representative, wrote this of Sophia in her letter of recommendation: "She has a deep-seated desire to help the population of pets and their people in need, providing veterinary services to families with limited resources in order to assure their pets are receiving the medical care they need and to keep the pets where they belong - with the families who love them."

STELLA ELWOOD (they/them) - 3rd place

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, class of 2023

Stella's application stated that "both before and during veterinary school, animal welfare, rights, and protection have defined who I am as an individual, as well as what I strive to accomplish in the future."  While an undergrad, they assisted in creating the Animal Welfare Club which exposed students to issues such as factory farming and dog fighting.  Because of their passion for these issues, Stella worked for the Humane Society of the United States as a field officer for the 2016 campaign to pass a ballot initiative in Massachusetts protecting farm animals.  Their hard work and long hours paid off and the initiative passed!  Stella says this victory "continues to inform the ways in which I operate as a veterinary student."   

As a dual DVM/MPH student, Stella was elected to the Animal Welfare Committee, a group of faculty and students which oversees the use of animals on campus.  Upon discovering the production-based treatment of pigs for the clinical skills lab, Stella and a classmate proposed a humane alternative, in partnership with Unity Farm Sanctuary, which focuses more on overall care rather than food-animal techniques.  The Curriculum Committee has since implemented this new option and vet students are able to choose a more humane, yet still rigorous, track for this lab.  Stella was funded by PetSmart Charities to investigate the pandemic's impact on the population served by the full-service, low-cost community clinic, Tufts at Tech.  Their commitment to One Heath was reflected in the inclusion of not only data regarding access to vet care for pets, but also access to health services for the pets' people.  They presented their findings at the National Veterinary Scholars Program last year.  With additional funding, Stella continues to look at client demographics and feedback to improve patient services and outcomes at this clinic.  Stella also works at the vet school's Lerner Spay/Neuter Clinic and is active with many clubs on campus including the Tufts Veterinary Council on Diversity, Veterinary Disaster Relief Club, and the Shelter Medicine Club.

 Click here to read about last year's Compassionate Care Scholarship recipients

The HSVMA Compassionate Care Scholarship application will be available next year. Contact [email protected] with any questions about the program.