Unsung Heroes awards acknowledge veterinary staff members’ contributions

AVMA, Western Veterinary Partners honor five inaugural recipients

Veterinary practices owe much of their success and the wellbeing of their patients to the invaluable staff members who tirelessly nurse patients back to health, handle client concerns and scheduling with care, and ensure seamless operations. Despite their work being overlooked at times, they play a vital role in society and the veterinary profession.

Recognizing the impact of these dedicated individuals, the AVMA launched the Unsung Heroes awards program. This program shines a light on individual staff members—including veterinary technicians, customer service representatives, and kennel workers—who have embodied a level of commitment that surpasses expectations. The program piloted at AVMA Convention 2023 in Denver—with the help of Western Veterinary Partners—honored five staff members from Colorado for their dedication and hard work in sustaining the smooth functioning of veterinary practices.

The inaugural recipients of the Unsung Heroes awards are (from left to right) Cailyn Windels, Jo Stratton, Linsey McGregor, Kendra Jackson, and Sue Miller.
The inaugural recipients of the Unsung Heroes awards are (from left to right) Cailyn Windels, Jo Stratton, Linsey McGregor, Kendra Jackson, and Sue Miller. (Photo by Sara Beugen)

Latonia Craig, EdD, AVMA's chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, said an unsung hero refers to a person who has made significant contributions or demonstrated exceptional qualities but has not received the recognition or praise they deserve. They may have selflessly helped others or made positive changes in their community. Unsung heroes are often humble, dedicated, and driven by a genuine desire to make a difference.

The awards were given out on July 16 at AVMA Convention 2023 in Denver. The inaugural winners are as follows:

Linsey McGregor

McGregor joined Cherryelyn Animal Hospital in Englewood, Colorado, three years ago as a kennel technician. Those who nominated her say she has experienced many of life’s challenges—both professionally and personally—and has shown much strength, integrity, and reliability. McGregor uses practice resources to ensure a healthy culture for the practice’s health care team and is always willing to jump in and help in any capacity. One example of her care and dedication is that she solely cares for all boarded pets over the weekends and holidays.

Jo Stratton

Stratton is a customer service representative (CSR) and a certified veterinary technician (CVT). She graduated in 1977 from the University of Nebraska School of Technical Agriculture with an associate’s degree in veterinary technology. She began her career working with small animals and exotics. Then Stratton joined VetCare Animal Hospital in Denver. More than 20 years later, she remains at the practice with her boss, Dr. Steve Feldman. Stratton goes above and beyond, often providing her cell phone number to clients and calling them—even on her days off—to make sure patients are recovering well.

Kendra Jackson

Jackson is a registered veterinary technician (RVT) with seven years of experience at Clear Creek Animal Hospital in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. She started volunteering at the practice shortly after her mother died in 2016. Jackson’ hard work and dedication allowed her to obtain RVT certification earlier this year. Before that, in May 2022, she earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Metropolitan State University in Denver. Jackson plans to apply for veterinary school.

Sue Miller

Miller is a CSR at Animal Dental Clinic in Aurora, Colorado. She owned her own business in California before deciding to make a career change to devote her time caring for animals. Miller enrolled in veterinary technician school and, two years later, realized her dream of working with animals.

She has spent 14 years working with Dr. Monique Weldon at Loving Family Animal Hospital and now they are at the Animal Dental Clinic. Miller loves pet dentistry and enjoys educating clients about the important role dental care plays in the health of their pets. Outside of a full-time work schedule, she has spent countless hours caring for pets of clients who are on vacation.

Cailyn Windels

Windels is a groomer at Four Paws Pet Hotel and Resort in Fort Collins. They started working with pets at a rescue for cats and dogs from Native American reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. Windels saw the lack of veterinary care and resources and wanted to contribute in some way.

That’s when they found grooming and went to grooming school at Dogs Own Grooming and Grooming School in Loveland, Colorado. and started working at Four Paws Pet Hotel and Resort in Fort Collins. Windels loves the opportunity to try to make grooming—which can be stressful for many dogs—a more fun, loving, and safe environment.