GV and Hope College host regional symposium

GVL/Christina Miller - West Michigan Pre-Vet Symposium 2016; Dr. Greg Fraley in the radiology lab on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, where students learned about radiographs.

Christina Miller

GVL/Christina Miller – West Michigan Pre-Vet Symposium 2016; Dr. Greg Fraley in the radiology lab on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, where students learned about radiographs.

Ashlyn Korienek

Fueled by a common passion for animals and veterinary medicine, a group of Grand Valley State University and Hope College students and faculty organized the first ever regional American Pre-Veterinary Medical Association conference in Michigan.

The West Michigan Regional APVMA Symposium was held Saturday, Nov. 12 in Kindschi Hall of Science.

During the summer, Hope College professor Gregory Fraley initiated the idea with the help of Terry Trier, a biology professor at GVSU, who ensured the biology department would sponsored the event.

Diane Laughlin, GVSU’s biology lab supervisor, Mackenzie Shannon, member of the Pre-Veterinary club at GVSU and APVMA treasurer and Christina Miller, president of the Pre-Veterinary club, worked to ensure GVSU’s participation and helped organize event details.

“Since this was the first year we’ve done this, it took a lot of planning,” Miller said. “This is the first (APVMA) symposium at GVSU, actually the first in Michigan.”

Each year the Pre-Veterinary club sends members to the national event. Miller said the association encourages interest in education for the field of veterinary medicine, urging students to hold regional events in their area as well.

Only three other locations in the nation have hosted regional symposiums.

“They have encouraged schools to run regional events to help with the influx of interest in the national event,” Miller said.

On the Hope College side of the event, Gregory and Susan Fraley contacted the college’s Club Animalia president Lindsey Porter to advertise the event to other Midwest high schools and colleges.

“Christina Miller and I both put in many hours every week working on different tasks and making sure that everything was covered,” Porter said. “Hundreds of hours of work were put into this event to ensure that it went smoothly. We met often and had constant communication to ensure that tasks were getting done.”

The event began with keynote speaker Hilda Abreu, the assistant dean for admissions and scholarships as well as diversity and inclusion at Michigan State University. Thereafter, students could participate in three different interactive labs.

“For a pre-veterinary student, it is very important to get as many experiences in the field and learn about veterinary medicine as much as they can,” Porter said.

Both Porter and Miller never intended to become pre-veterinary students, but found a strong passion for animals in college and ended up planning the symposium as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Working with Farley in research labs since her first-year at Hope College, Porter realized her destiny was to become a veterinarian. Miller had a similar experience, she transferred from Ferris State University as a graphic design student and sporadically changed her major.

“It didn’t even take me a week into my freshman semester to realize that it wasn’t for me,” Miller said. “My biggest inspiration for deciding to go into pre-vet was my horse that I got from a rescue on the east side of the state.”

“I knew immediately (the symposium) was something I wanted to help with,” Porter said. “I didn’t intend to be a pre-veterinary student when I entered college, but soon it became apparent to me that this was the vocation I needed to be in.”

Since the national symposium has limited spots, Porter said the regional symposium was the perfect opportunity to attend one at a lower cost.

For the future of the regional event, Miller and Porter said the hope is to attract more students and increase the quality of the learning opportunities offered.

“It was definitely a lot of effort but very much worth it once the day came and we saw everyone having a good time learning from all the stuff we put together,” Miller said. “Hopefully every year it gets a little bigger and more successful.”