College names 2014 Distinguished Award winners

Distinguished Award Winners 2014
The college’s 2014 Distinguished Award Winners, from left to right, are Dr. Elliott Jacobson, Dr. Adam Birkenheuer, Dr. Chris Sanchez, Dr. Andy Roark and Congressman Ted Yoho.

A University of Florida equine medicine specialist, a leader in small animal infectious diseases, an internationally known reptile expert and a U.S. congressman have received the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s 2014 Distinguished Awards.

The program was established in 2000 to recognize outstanding alumni, faculty and friends of the college in the categories of Alumni Achievement, Distinguished Service, Special Service and Outstanding Young Alumni.

Adam Birkenheuer, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Chris Sanchez, D.V.M., Ph.D., both 1995 graduates of the UF veterinary college, were joint winners of the Alumni Achievement Award.

Birkenheuer, an associate professor of small animal internal medicine at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is an internationally renowned expert on infectious diseases, specifically vectorborne infections of dogs and cats. A board-certified internist, Birkenheuer has published his research in highly respected peer-reviewed journals and has held numerous leadership roles in educating veterinary students and house officers at N.C. State, as well as at the national level.

His research discoveries during the past decade include the identification of a previously unrecognized canine infectious disease, known as babesiosis, in dogs in the United States. As a result of his work, veterinarians throughout the world are now able to more accurately diagnose and treat this life-threatening illness.

Sanchez is an associate professor of large animal medicine at UF and a board-certified specialist in large animal internal medicine with specific interests in gastrointestinal diseases and neonatology. She heads the UF Hofmann Equine Neonatology Intensive Care Unit and her research in the area of gastric ulcerations in foals has changed the therapeutic approach in clinical care.

A frequent speaker at national and international meetings, Sanchez also presents her work regularly to horse owners and veterinary technicians. She has been recognized four times for excellence in teaching by UF veterinary students, who also selected her four times as Large Animal Clinician of the Year, and received the Florida Veterinary Medical Association’s Clinical Investigator Award in 2007 in honor of her scholarly achievements.

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, D.V.M., a 1983 graduate of the college, received the Distinguished Service Award. Following graduation from veterinary school, Yoho practiced large and small animal medicine for several years in north central Florida. In 2012, he was elected for national office, becoming one of only two veterinarians now serving in Congress.

Yoho co-chairs the House Veterinary Medicine Caucus, a forum that helps provide members with information about the opportunities and challenges facing veterinary medicine and about the importance of the profession to public health, animal health and welfare, food safety and the economy. He also serves as a member of the House committees on Agriculture and Foreign Affairs and has co-sponsored numerous pieces of legislation of benefit to the veterinary profession.

Elliott Jacobson, D.V.M., Ph.D., a professor emeritus of zoological medicine who served on the UF faculty for 33 years before his retirement in 2012, received the Special Service Award. Widely respected worldwide in his field, Jacobson was in the college’s first class of residents-in-training in the former Laboratory Animal and Wildlife Medicine Service, and progressed through the academic ranks to full professor. He served as the zoological medicine service chief, and also as associate chairman of research and graduate studies for the department of small animal clinical sciences.
Jacobson has been honored numerous times by leading professional associations for his dedication to the protection and preservation of zoo and free-ranging wildlife. In 1989, he began research to understand health problems in desert tortoises in the Mojave Desert of the southwest United States and has continued with this work following his retirement.

This year’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award recipient is Andy Roark, D.V.M., a 2008 graduate of the UF veterinary college. Roark was included in the “25 Veterinarians to Watch in 2013” list published by Veterinary Practice News and is a popular speaker, a national award-winning columnist and an active contributor to veterinary publications and websites.

An associate veterinarian at Cleveland Park Animal Hospital in Greenville, S.C., Roark is known within the profession for his communication and leadership skills, business entrepreneurship and consulting expertise. He helped establish UF’s Veterinary Business Management Association chapter while a student at the college and now serves on VBMA’s national advisory board.

The awards were presented May 24 at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts during college commencement exercises.