3 AVMA award recipients announced

Published on June 26, 2019

Three people who have made important contributions to animal welfare, human-animal interaction, and veterinary medicine will be honored together at AVMA Convention 2019 with AVMA Excellence Awards.

Please join us in congratulating these award winners:

  • Dr. Karen Vernau: Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
  • Dr. Joanne Paul-Murphey: AVMA Animal Welfare Award
  • Sonia Hernandez: AVMA Humane Award

The AVMA Humane Award, AVMA Animal Welfare Award, and Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award are all made possible through the support of Merck Animal Health. The awards will be presented at AVMA Convention 2019 during a reception on Friday, August 2.

2019 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award: Dr. Karen Vernau

This award is named in honor of the late Dr. Leo K. Bustad, an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of human-animal interactions, and honors the outstanding work of veterinarians in preserving and protecting human-animal relationships.

Dr. Vernau’s colleagues praise her unselfish devotion to veterinary medicine, and say she works with dignity, subtle persistence, and heart. Her tireless work with orphaned and shelter animals embodies the meaning of the human-animal bond award.

As clinical professor of neurology/neurosurgery at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Vernau serves as a faculty mentor for veterinary students in the university’s Fracture Club, which raises money to care for animals in the Fracture Program for Shelter Animals. This service provides surgeries for shelter animals with broken limbs. Surgeries are performed by residents with student assistance and faculty oversight, so the program provides additional training for residents and students while saving the lives of adoptable animals. Fracture Club's funds provide care for animals before and after surgery, prior to adoption.

Dr. Vernau is a graduate of the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College and a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Neurology).

2019 AVMA Animal Welfare Award: Dr. Joanne Paul-Murphey

Dr. Paul-Murphey, a diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine and the American College of Animal Welfare, has done extensive research on improving analgesic options for avian patients. Her dedication to educating veterinary students in the principles of avian welfare makes her well-deserving of this award, which recognizes an AVMA member veterinarian for advancing animal welfare through leadership, public service, education, research/product development, and advocacy.

A graduate of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Paul-Murphey is chief of the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine & Surgery Service and director of the Richard M. Schubot Parrot Wellness and Welfare Program at the University of California-Davis veterinary hospital. Her more than 128 journal articles, 150 conference proceedings and scientific abstracts, and 39 book chapters have played a vital role in improving the quality of care that veterinarians can provide for avian patients.

2019 AVMA Humane Award: Sonia Hernandez

The AVMA Humane Award is presented to a non-veterinarian who has helped advance the welfare of animals through leadership, public service, education, research/product development, and advocacy.

This year’s recipient has built a career advocating for those in need, bridging gaps in services, and empowering communities through bilingual presentations on the importance of responsible pet ownership. Skilled in community development, Hernandez builds coalitions between municipalities, shelters, animal/human service nonprofits, and for-profit agencies.

Currently, she is project manager for the Fix.Adopt.Save. initiative in Maricopa County, Arizona, which seeks to end pet homelessness through programs and services assisting the community and their pets. Over the past six years, the initiative has decreased euthanasia rates by 87 percent. Hernandez’s dedication and tireless efforts have led to many new programs for Maricopa County residents, with a primary focus on community-engaged initiatives including free mobile spay/neuter and pet wellness clinics, and services helping thousands of pets each year through expanded veterinary partnerships.

AVMA Excellence Awards

These three awards are among numerous AVMA Excellence Awards that recognize people who have advanced the science and art of veterinary medicine, and shown exemplary concern for and commitment to the welfare and humane treatment of animals. For more information on the AVMA's Excellence Awards program, visit avma.org/Awards.


Thank you to Merck Animal Health for its generous support of the AVMA Humane Award, AVMA Animal Welfare Award, and the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award.

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