Penn World Leadership Award Promotes Veterinary Profession

Nominations for the 2011 Penn Vet World Leadership in Animal Health Award, currently the largest award in the veterinarian profession, are officially open.

The award, which was first issued in April 2008, is given annually to "the most influential veterinarian in the world," as described by Joan C. Hendricks, VMD, PhD, the Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Each year, a committee comprised of government and academic officials from around the globe evaluates nominees and determines the award recipient based on each individual's achievements and contributions to the veterinary profession.

The award totals $100,000 in unrestricted funding and was designed in tandem with the Penn Vet Student Inspiration Awards. According to Hendricks, the question was initially, "Would $100,000 change a student's life?" The World Leadership Award evolved from a wish to empower veterinary students and promote the veterinary profession as a whole.

Hendricks said the committee generally receives about 15 nominations per year from an array of sources.

"(Nominations come from) the people who've seen the impact of the person's work," she said.

This was certainly the case for last year's recipient, Mo Salman, DVM, MPVM, PhD, professor of epidemiology at Colorado State University, who was nominated by a colleague in Bosnia who witnessed Salman's efforts during the rebuilding of the war-torn country's veterinary system.

"I was flattered," Salman said. "But I'm not given this award for me. I'm given the award because of my profession."

According to Hendricks, the goal of the World Award is "to raise the profile of the (veterinary) profession and to make people aware of the impact the profession has in the world."

"(The award) made me pay more attention to how we are forgetting the profession," Salman added. "I realized how the world has not recognized how we contribute to the well-being of society and the health of both animals and humans."

As for his $100,000 award, Salman is planning to give it all back. Designs for a small award given to veterinary students who create a "name tag" for veterinary medicine are currently in the works, and Salman also plans to organize a workshop to determine what gaps exist in the promotion of the veterinary profession. He also hopes to come up with a plan of action for future resources.

The initial funds for the World Award came directly from the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation. According to Hendricks, the Hills have a history with the University of Pennsylvania and were involved with the award design from the beginning.

Hendricks said that while it may be too soon to define the effects this award will have on the veterinary profession, she hopes it will increase the likelihood that veterinarians are consulted when world issues regarding animal health arise.

"This is an incredibly important profession and people should be aware of what you can do when you're trained as a veterinarian," she said.

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