Dr. Bernard Vallat, director general of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), was selected as the first recipient of the Penn Vet World Award.
The award is given annually to a veterinarian who has dramatically changed the practice and image of the profession and substantially influenced the lives and careers of others, and provides $100,000 in unrestricted funding to the recipient.
The award is underwritten by the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation. Dr. Vallat was selected by a jury led by Dr. Alan M. Kelly, dean emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Vallat was presented the award April 29 during a ceremony at Irvine Auditorium on the Penn campus.
"Dr. Vallat deserved receiving the first 'world award' because of his visionary leadership in promoting animal health worldwide, especially in developing countries where poor animal health has been causing widespread poverty and zoonotic diseases," said Dr. Leon H. Russell, president of the World Veterinary Association and former AVMA president. He served on the Penn Vet World Award selection jury.
"It should be noted that the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation has committed to continuing this great Penn Vet World Award, and in doing so, this award promises to become the 'Nobel Prize' of veterinary medicine by recognizing the great accomplishments of some exceptional veterinarians," Dr. Russell continued.
In addition to the Penn Vet World Award, Penn veterinary school announced that Rachel Toaff-Rosenstein and Warren Waybright, both third-year students at the school, were selected as the first winners of the Penn Vet Student Inspiration Award. They will each receive $100,000 in unrestricted funding in recognition of their plans to substantially advance the frontiers of veterinary medicine.
Toaff-Rosenstein plans to use her award to pursue post graduate studies in animal welfare, while Waybright will use his award to develop a veterinary outreach program to Bolivia and other South American countries. More details on the students will be featured in an upcoming issue of JAVMA News.
Dr. Vallat was elected director general of the OIE in May 2000 and began serving in January 2001. He was unanimously reelected in May 2005 for a further five-year mandate. Under his leadership, the OIE has taken on more responsibilities in all aspects of animal health, including veterinary public health, food safety, and animal welfare.
In the area of veterinary public health, Dr. Vallat has worked to communicate to the public the one-health concept. "I developed all aspects linked between animal health and public health to demonstrate that preventing and controlling animal diseases can have a strong effect on preventing and controlling human diseases worldwide," he said.
"It should be noted that the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation has committed to continuing this great Penn Vet World Award, and in doing so, this award promises to become the 'Nobel Prize' of veterinary medicine by recognizing the great accomplishments of some exceptional veterinarians.
— DR. LEON H. RUSSELL, PRESIDENT, WORLD VETERINARY ASSOCIATION, AND MEMBER, PENN VET WORLD AWARD SELECTION JURY
He has worked to convince citizens and policymakers to put more resources into veterinary services in all 172 of the OIE's member countries. National veterinary services, including governmental and private veterinarians, are crucial to prevention, detection, and monitoring of animal diseases, including diseases transmissible to humans, he said. The OIE is working on developing international standards on the quality of governance of veterinary services and will help its members apply them.
With Dr. Vallat at the helm, the OIE has taken on responsibilities to ensure healthy, hazard-free food. The organization collaborates with Codex Alimentarius Commission and recommends science-based standards and guidelines on animal production food safety.
"We started to deal with adoption of standards regarding antimicrobial resistance and good farming practices, covering all the hazards for consumers, including Salmonella," he said. "We demonstrated that the veterinarian can have a strong role to protect consumers from the hazards linked with food."
Another accomplishment by the OIE under Dr. Vallat's guidance was the adoption of science-based animal welfare guidelines. The guidelines focus on slaughter for human consumption, land and sea transport of animals, and humane killing of animals for disease control purposes.
Among all its expanded responsibilities, the OIE continuously works to promote the veterinary profession.
"(The OIE is) every day demonstrating that the veterinary profession needs more recognition from society and needs to be more involved," Dr. Vallat said. "The veterinary profession has new obligations and ... has to be ready, in front of these kinds of challenges. If not, other professions will do that."