Dr. Debra Hickman named winner of 2024 AVMA Animal Welfare Award

For more information Phone: 847-285-6687 Cell: 847-732-6194
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(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois) June 5, 2024—In recognition of her commitment to advancing animal welfare through decades of teaching, research, and leadership within the profession, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has honored Debra Hickman, DVM, DACLAM, DACAW, as the winner of the 2024 AVMA Animal Welfare Award.

The AVMA Animal Welfare Award is presented annually to an AVMA member veterinarian in recognition of their achievement in advancing the welfare of animals via leadership, public service, education, research/product development, and/or advocacy. 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 honored to be recognized by the AVMA with this prestigious award,” said Dr. Hickman. “Having had the opportunity to work with many dedicated professionals through the AVMA and affiliate organizations, I appreciate the commitment of this organization to the support of animal welfare. I want to thank my many scientific mentors who supported my work in this field, in addition to the wonderfully talented students who have worked with me over the years. The past few decades have been an exciting time for animal welfare research, and I am excited to see what the future holds.”

Dr. Hickman, a 1998 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, currently serves as the global director for AAALAC International, a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the humane treatment of animals in science through voluntary accreditation and assessment programs. Previously, she served as the associate vice president of animal resources and attending veterinarian at Purdue University, while also teaching courses as clinical professor in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine. As an educator, Dr. Hickman has developed and taught courses on laboratory animal medicine, ethics and welfare. She has also prioritized mentoring the next generation of veterinarians and animal welfare scientists, inspiring many to pursue careers dedicated to the improvement of animal welfare.

Over the course of her career, Dr. Hickman has contributed significantly to animal welfare by developing refinements that improve husbandry practices, biomethodology assessments and euthanasia methods, conducting multiple research studies focusing on laboratory animal euthanasia methods to refine techniques and minimize pain and distress. In addition, Dr. Hickman has made significant contributions to animal welfare by developing improved methods for measuring stress levels in rats and mice and for using body condition scoring to monitor the welfare of rats with polycystic kidney disease.

Dr. Hickman is boarded in both laboratory animal medicine through the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM) and in animal welfare through the America College of Animal Welfare (ACAW). Being double boarded in these two very challenging specialty fields are a testament to Dr. Hickman’s dedication to animal welfare.

In addition to her work with AAALAC, Dr. Hickman has been active with numerous other associations over her professional career, serving in multiple leadership positions to support special projects and initiatives within the animal welfare field. This includes serving as president and vice president of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM), member of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) Board of Directors, and member of the AVMA Working Group for Laboratory Medicine, Panel on Euthanasia.

Dr. Hickman’s dedication to animal welfare extends beyond her research and professional roles. She has received numerous accolades throughout her career, including the Charles A. Griffin Award from the AALAS and the ACLAM Mentoring Award. Her scholarly contributions include authoring over 50 peer-reviewed manuscripts and several book chapters on animal welfare and laboratory animal science, making her a highly respected figure in the field.

"Dr. Hickman’s work exemplifies the dedication and innovation required to advance animal welfare," said Dr. Rena Carlson, president of the AVMA. "Her leadership and research have had a profound impact on the field, and she is truly deserving of this award."

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.