AAVMC recognizes excellence in academic veterinary medicine

Published on May 02, 2016
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Dr. Robert “Pete” Bill ​James E. Womack, PhD

​Dr. Phillip Nelson ​ Dr. Ralph Richardson

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges recognized the 2016 recipients of five awards during its Annual Conference March 4-6 in Washington, D.C. This year’s conference, titled “Fifty and Forward,” commemorated the AAVMC’s 50th anniversary.

Dr. Robert “Pete” Bill (Purdue ’80) was the recipient of the AAVMC Distinguished Teacher Award, presented by Zoetis. Dr. Bill teaches pharmacology and toxicology to veterinary and veterinary technology students at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. He also serves as assistant dean for academic affairs, teaching, and learning at the veterinary college. For more than 25 years, students have consistently recognized his outstanding teaching ability, infectious enthusiasm, and engaging teaching style through both unsolicited feedback and course evaluations, according to an AAVMC press release.

James E. Womack, PhD, from the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, was honored with the AAVMC Excellence in Research Award.

Dr. Womack is a distinguished professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at the veterinary college and has a joint appointment in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. He also directs the Center for Animal Biotechnology and Genomics. Dr. Womack was recognized for almost four decades of research into animal genomics and comparative mammalian genetics, working to develop comparative genome maps that revealed novel approaches for veterinary medicine, disease prevention, therapeutics, and control.

Dr. Phillip Nelson (Tuskegee ’79), dean and professor of immunology at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine, received the Senator John Melcher, DVM, Leadership in Public Policy Award. Dr. Nelson has been active in the AAVMC’s advocacy efforts, serving on numerous committees, including its Advocacy Committee. Through the AAVMC, he has participated in Capitol Hill visits for more than a decade, developing relationships with governmental decision-makers, and lobbying Congress to address pressing issues such as the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program.

As dean, he has played an integral role in promoting the veterinary college’s joint public health master’s degree with the University of Minnesota, and he has worked with other senior university administrators to implement an interprofessional education program that promotes the important role of the veterinary profession in public health and one health.

Former Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine dean Dr. Ralph Richardson (Kansas State ’70) was chosen to deliver the Recognition Lecture. Dr. Richardson has provided almost 50 years of service in veterinary medicine, including 17 years as dean of KSU’s veterinary college before retiring this past summer. He is currently serving as interim dean and CEO of K-State’s Olathe campus. He also chaired the AAVMC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee. Dr. Richardson’s lecture, titled “Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future,” identified opportunities that resulted from defining moments of his career. He also noted key concerns for the future of academic veterinary medicine and possible ways to address those concerns. 

Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota was presented with the first AAVMC President’s Award for Meritorious Service for his leadership in the area of one health. Franken introduced the One Health Act of 2016 (S 2634) on March 3, which would establish an interagency one-health program to address and help prevent the transmission of known and emerging infectious diseases between animal and human populations, among other things.

Last year, a group of seven senators led by Franken sent a letter to President Obama supportive of the one-health approach. The senators urged the president “to develop a National One Health Framework that will outline the steps required to instill a culture of collaboration between human, animal and environmental health agencies.” The senators also encouraged the president to press the United Nations to develop an interagency framework to address the World Health Organization’s information gaps in animal and environmental health. 

Franken’s legislative director, Ali Nouri, accepted the award on his behalf.