AVMA names Dr. Zenithson Ng recipient of 2024 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award

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(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois) May 9, 2024—The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) today honored Dr. Zenithson Ng, clinical assistant professor of community practice at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, as the recipient of the 2024 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award.

Named for the late Dr. Leo K. Bustad, former president of the Delta Society and dean of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the award is one of veterinary medicine’s highest honors, recognizing the outstanding work of veterinarians in protecting and promoting the human-animal bond. It is one of three Animal Welfare and Human-Animal Bond Excellence Awards presented annually by the AVMA and supported through educational funding from Merck Animal Health.

“I am deeply honored to have been chosen as this year's recipient of such a prestigious award. It is a true privilege to be acknowledged for what lies at the heart of our profession as veterinarians - the human-animal bond,” said Dr. Ng. “The Bustad award serves as a testament to the unwavering dedication we hold towards understanding, nurturing and championing this vital connection.

“I am incredibly humbled to follow in the footsteps of numerous esteemed mentors who have guided and preceded me in receiving this remarkable recognition,” Dr. Ng continued. “My gratitude extends to the countless individuals who have supported me throughout my career—from family and friends to colleagues, students, and clients. And of course, to all the animals who have touched my life.”

Dr. Ng has dedicated his career to enhancing the lives of companion animals and their owners. From a young age, he expressed interest in the bond between people and animals; his 8th grade science project even focused on the human animal bond and how human blood pressure levels respond when holding a companion animal. This interest has guided Dr. Ng’s career, leading him to develop programs to address pet owner education, animal behavior and welfare, and emphasizing the vital role veterinarians play in the broader health of the community. His initiatives have helped bridge the gap between animal and public health, underlining the interconnectedness of the environments we share with animals.

His research and teaching interests span all aspects of the human-animal bond including the effect of human-animal interaction on both humans and animals, the veterinary-client-patient relationship, and stress reduction in both veterinary and animal-assisted intervention settings.

In addition to his role in teaching veterinary students at UTCVM, he is the veterinary advisor for the Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee (HABIT) program, the animal-assisted intervention program of the University of Tennessee. HABIT sponsors programs that foster pet visitation to nursing homes, assisted-living residences, retirement centers, mental health centers, residences for children with special needs, rehabilitation facilities, hospital settings, and other facilities. HABIT also offers resources such as trained volunteers, medically and behaviorally screened animals, and guidance regarding pet visitation, program development, and evaluation. The program is comprised of more than 500 volunteers at facilities throughout east Tennessee.

In his practice, Dr. Ng has shown a deep understanding of the importance of the human-animal bond. His approach to veterinary care goes beyond physical health, recognizing the psychological and emotional aspects of pet ownership and the profound impact animals can have on human wellbeing. This holistic approach is a testament to his commitment to preserving and protecting the human-animal bond, a key criterion for the Bustad Award.

To date, Dr. Ng has published over 45 peer-reviewed articles, much of which pertains to the impact of human-animal interactions on the wellbeing of people and the health and welfare of the animals. In addition, Dr. Ng has published eight books or book chapters pertaining to human-animal interactions.

“The selection of Dr. Ng as the recipient of the 2024 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award recognizes his transformative impact on the field,” said Dr. Rena Carlson, president of the AVMA. “His commitment to improving the quality of life for animals and their human companions is evident through his deep engagement with both the veterinary and local communities. Dr. Ng's work embodies the spirit of Dr. Leo K. Bustad, celebrating and nurturing the powerful bond between people and their pets.”

Dr. Ng is a 2008 graduate of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (canine/feline). He earned a master’s degree in human-animal bond studies at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, becoming the first veterinarian to pursue a residency in human-animal bond studies in the United States. He currently sits on AVMA’s Animal Welfare Committee and previously was a member of AVMA’s Steering Committee on Human-Animal Interactions and Working Group on Assistance Animals.

In addition to the Bustad Award, Dr. Ng has recently been honored with the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association John C. New Service Award (2024), University of Tennessee Research Foundation Innovation Award – License Technology (2023), New York State Veterinary Conference Speaker of the Year (2021) and UTCVM Class of 2021 Small Animal Clinician of the Year.

For more information, contact Michael San Filippo, media relations manager, at 847-732-6194 (cell/text) or msanfilippoatavma [dot] org (msanfilippo[at]avma[dot]org).

About the AVMA

Serving more than 105,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation's leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. Informed by our members' unique scientific training and clinical knowledge, the AVMA supports the crucial work of veterinarians and advocates for policies that advance the practice of veterinary medicine and improve animal and human health.