Bain receives Bustad award for human-animal bond research

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Dr. Melissa Bain has devoted her veterinary career to enhancing the human-animal bond through research on companion animal behavior problems, enrichment for shelter animals, and the effects of various training methods on dog behavior.

In recognition of her efforts, Dr. Bain received the 2016 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award on Jan. 7 during the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago.

“I love nurturing the relationships between people and their pets,” Dr. Bain said later. She oversees the Clinical Behavior Service at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where she is also director of professional student clinical education.

Dr. Melissa Bain praises mentor and colleague Dr. Benjamin Hart during her acceptance of the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference this January in Chicago. (Photos by R. Scott Nolen)

“Understanding an owner’s struggles when faced with their pet’s behavior issues and helping them find a way to live a happier, healthier life together is extremely gratifying,” she added. “It is heartbreaking to see a well-loved pet euthanized or relinquished to a shelter due to behavior issues.”

Named in honor of the late Dr. Leo K. Bustad, an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of human-animal interactions, the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award recognizes the outstanding work of veterinarians in preserving and protecting human-animal relationships. The AVMA, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, and Pet Partners sponsor the award.

Dr. Bain was nominated by colleague, mentor, and previous Bustad award winner Dr. Benjamin L. Hart, distinguished professor emeritus at the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Dr. Bain is an unquestionable leader in integrating the essence of the field of human-animal interactions—in all its ramifications—with veterinary clinical behavior, animal welfare, and the mental health of veterinarians,” Dr. Hart said. “I personally knew Leo Bustad for a couple decades, and in my mind, Dr. Bain’s approach and activities exemplify the dedication of Leo K. Bustad and goals of this award.”

Dr. Bain with representatives of the Bustad award sponsoring organizations, Dr. Ron DeHaven of the AVMA and Dr. John Brooks of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation; Pet Partners is also a sponsor.

After earning her DVM degree from the University of Illinois in 1994, Dr. Bain worked in both small animal–exclusive and mixed animal private practice. In 1998, she enrolled in the Clinical Veterinary Behavior Residency Program at UC-Davis and was mentored by Dr. Hart.

He recalled Dr. Bain as being particularly attuned to the strong attachment and interaction between her clients and patients. She believed that the field of clinical animal behavior was the closest recognized specialty in veterinary medicine that she could pursue relating to clinical medicine and the human-animal bond.

“Humbled and honored,” Dr. Bain said. “That is truly how I felt to have been nominated for this award. And to have been nominated by Dr. Hart was truly amazing.”

Related JAVMA content:

Bustad award goes to behaviorist (Sept. 1, 2013)