Veterinary student Evymarie Prado-Sanchez finds inspiration and connection at national diversity conference

Evymarie Prado-Sanchez of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a second-year veterinary student at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. She has interests in infectious diseases, comparative medicine, public and corporate veterinary medicine, and epidemiology. After graduation, Prado-Sanchez hopes to work with federal control, prevention, and eradication programs for infectious diseases that affect the continental United States and its territories.

Evymarie Prado-Sanchez presenting a poster at the conference
Evymarie Prado-Sanchez was the only veterinary student to present a poster at the 2016 SACNAS National Conference in Long Beach, California, where she shared about her summer research on brucellosis.

Eagerness for science and research has been cultivated in me since my early years by a deep fascination not only with animal health, but also understanding the famous question, “Why?” In October, I continued exploring the world and my thirst for science in Long Beach, California at the 2016 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference. This Puerto Rican student got to experience the Golden State and a four-hour jetlag for science!

SACNAS? STEM? Sacnista? These words seem new, but for me they have been a constant representation of who I am and what I aspire to be with my future DVM/MPH degree. SACNAS is the Society for the Advancing of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. This society focuses on fostering the success from college to profession in careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). We at SACNAS are a big family of different individuals with the same drive and motivation to succeed and represent our cultures to enhance diversity in the sciences.

Evymarie Prado-Sanchez at the conference
Prior to attending the 2016 event, Prado-Sanchez gained her first experience with SACNAS at the 2013 conference in San Antonio, Texas.

During my undergraduate degree in the Recinto Universitario de Mayaguez, I attended my first SACNAS conference in San Antonio, Texas and was exposed to workshops, research presentations, motivational keynotes, and networking opportunities with scientists who have served as inspirations. The powerful combination of science, culture, and community created a sense of belonging to me and it showed me how far I could achieve my goals. During this conference, I remember meeting representatives of the American Veterinary Medical Association and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges who helped me solidify my decision to attend veterinary school by giving me the knowledge of the diverse workforce within this career. The sheer magnitude of intellect and complexity that goes into being a veterinarian has ultimately drawn me to the profession.

I was excited to receive a second opportunity to attend SACNAS through a competitive travel scholarship award that covered travel, hotel, and registration expenses. With the help of Dr. Ansar Ahmed, associate dean of research and graduate studies at the veterinary college, and Dr. Clayton Caswell, associate professor of bacteriology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, I received both the travel grant and acceptance of abstract for the graduate poster research presentations. The research presented came from my participation in the veterinary college’s Summer Veterinary Student Research Program, where I conducted biomedical research on brucellosis in the Caswell laboratory. The specific aim of the project was to characterize novel systems required for Brucella pathogenesis that may be targeted in future treatment regimens against brucellosis in humans and animals.

Besides the workshops, scientific research presentations, mentoring, and keynote speakers, SACNAS offers cultural activities to bring the “familia” together. One of my favorites is the Pow Wow (a ceremony of Native Americans). The Native American/Indian community comes together with Chicanos/Hispanics to feast, sing, dance, and share of their cultural richness. I also had the opportunity to become a student mentor to future veterinary student sacnistas in the conference from California and Puerto Rico. I was also able to see my other “familia,” students from Puerto Rico that share the same enthusiasm for research, science, and mentoring.

Having a piece of home in this conference made it very special to me. Flying the flag, loud and proud, served as an example of perseverance and motivation for others like me.

Evymarie Prado-Sanchez poses with students at the conference
Attendees at the SACNAS National Conference, held from Oct. 13-15, pose with Puerto Rican flags. According to its website, the conference offers “three days of cutting-edge science, training, mentoring, and cultural activities for students and scientists at all levels.”