|President Brandt honors VMATs and McNamara|
Leaders of the four Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams accepted the AVMA President's Award from President James H. Brandt on behalf of their teams.
AVMA President James H. Brandt honored the veterinarians who aided in the search-and-rescue efforts after the events of Sept. 11 and the veterinarian who helped identify the first West Nile virus outbreak in the United States with the AVMA President's Award during the General Session at the AVMA Annual Convention in Nashville, July 13.
Established in 1990, the AVMA President's Award is given to individuals inside and outside veterinary medicine who have had a positive impact on animal or public health, veterinary organizations, and the profession.
This year, Dr. Brandt selected the AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams and Dr. Tracey McNamara of the Bronx, New York, the veterinarian credited with helping to identify the first cases of West Nile virus in New York, to receive the awards.
Accepting the President's Award on behalf of the VMATs were Dr. Barry N. Kellogg, VMAT-1 team leader; Dr. Frederick Lewis, VMAT-2 team leader; Dr. James Hamilton, VMAT-3 team leader; and Dr. John Anderson, VMAT-4 team leader.
"We're truly humbled and honored by this recognition," Dr. Kellogg said. "We had a chance to do something, even if it was small, and for that we are grateful."
In the wake of the terrorist attacks, 51 members from the four VMATs aided search-and-rescue efforts at ground zero from Sept. 11 until October 31. The VMATs worked around the clock out of two mobile clinic sites, as well as the Jacob Javitz Convention Center, to provide more than 900 treatments to about 300 search-and-rescue dogs used at the disaster site.
Dr. Anderson thanked "those individuals who donated a great deal of their time and resources to these efforts." He added, "God bless them, they are my heroes."
The VMATs are a federal resource developed and supported by the AVMA through a yearly grant from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. The first VMAT, based in Massachusetts, was formed in 1994 and assisted in the aftermath of Hurricane Marilyn.
Members of the VMAT teams are currently providing assistance in Virginia to deal with an outbreak of avian influenza and in Arizona, where wildfires have created animal emergencies.
Dr. McNamara was recognized for her work on the West Nile Virus outbreak in New York. In 1999, Dr. McNamara was the Head of Pathology at the Wildlife Conservation Society headquartered at the Bronx Zoo. She noticed an unusual number of dead crows on the zoo's premises, and she became alarmed when many of the birds in the zoo's collection died shortly thereafter. The deaths coincided with a mysterious viral disease afflicting some New York City residents.
Public health experts initially attributed the human illnesses to St. Louis encephalitis. But Dr. McNamara and her colleagues at the zoo did their own pathology tests on the dead birds at the zoo and identified West Nile virus as the real culprit.
Her efforts and those of other veterinarians during the outbreak highlighted the important role veterinarians play in ensuring public health.
Dr. Brandt recognized Dr. McNamara in particular for her tenacity. "Dr. McNamara has learned to never say never," he said. "Her skill, reasoning, and tenacity may have saved hundreds of lives."
Dr. McNamara is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, and was trained at the USDA's Plum Island Animal Disease Center. She earned her DVM degree from Cornell University and received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from St. Lawrence University.
Dr. McNamara urged veterinarians to get involved in public health issues. "I hope veterinarians step up to the plate," she said. "They have so much to contribute."