College’s 2019 Distinguished Award winners named

2019 Distinguished Award winners
The college’s 2019 Distinguished Award winners, Dr. Mike Wong, Dr. Rob MacKay and Dr. Cynda Crawford, are shown at college commencement activities, held May 25 at the UF Phillips Center. Not pictured is  Dr. Lucy Keith-Daigne. (Photo by Sarah Carey)

Alumni focusing on areas ranging from infectious diseases and manatee health to equine medicine and small animal neurological disease have received the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine’s 2019 Distinguished Awards.

The program recognizes outstanding alumni and friends of the college in various categories.

Cynda Crawford, D.V.M., Ph.D., received the Alumni Achievement Award in the D.V.M. category. She has served as the Maddie’s Clinical Assistant Professor of Shelter Medicine at UF since 2008.

Crawford received her Ph.D. in immunology and infectious diseases from UF in 1984, and her D.V.M. from UF in 1989. She served for 10 years in private practice in Tallahassee before returning to the college as a Charlie Bild VIP visiting scholar, and has worked at the college for 21 years as a research scientist and a clinical faculty member. She has directed the UF Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program since 2015.

Crawford made a huge mark on veterinary medicine and science when she co-discovered the canine influenza virus in 2005. Subsequently, she helped develop a vaccine that is used today to protect dogs against the disease, and she holds a patent on the technology, along with two different patents relating to technology associated with respiratory disease control in dogs.

Her work in the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program has resulted in grant funding exceeding $11 million, as well as nearly $1.3 million in grants to support infectious disease work.

Lucy Keith-Diagne, Ph.D., received the Alumni Achievement Award in the M.S./Ph.D. category. She received her Ph.D. from the College of Veterinary Medicine in 2014, working within the Aquatic Animal Health program. Her work focused on phylogenetics and feeding ecology of the African manatee.

Since 2014, she has served as founder and executive director of the African Aquatic Conservation Fund, overseeing the group’s research and fundraising. Based in Senegal, West Africa, she is actively involved in several research projects involving the African manatee, and leads the country’s first marine mammal stranding network. She also is responsible for the logistics and teaching of manatee training workshops held for African biologists in multiple African countries. In addition, she advises and mentors six graduate students at African and American universities, including UF.

Keith-Diagne has also held research scientist positions at Sea to Shore Alliance, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and elsewhere.

Rob MacKay, BVSc., Ph.D., received the Distinguished Service Award. He is a professor of equine medicine in UF’s department of large animal clinical sciences.

 MacKay received his Ph.D. from UF in 1987, and his BVSc. from Massey University in 1974. He was born in New Zealand and raised in Christchurch, where his father was a well-known veterinarian who practiced in that area for more than 40 years. ]

After veterinary school, MacKay spent three years in dairy cattle practice in the Bay of Plenty before leaving for the United States, where he completed an internship in equine ambulatory medicine at the University of California, Davis. ]

MacKay moved to Gainesville and UF in 1978, first performing a residency in large animal medicine, then becoming a clinical instructor. He became board-certified in internal medicine, large animal focus, in 1981, and completed his doctoral dissertation in the coming years. He joined UF’s faculty in 1987.

In addition to his role as a general internist, MacKay’s special clinical interests are neurologic diseases and critical care of large animals. He has maintained an active program of clinical research for most of his time at the college, with areas of investigation including equine endotoxemia/sepsis, equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, anhidrosis, and plant toxicoses of importance in Florida.

 Michael Wong, D.V.M., received the Special Service Award. A veterinary neurology specialist, Wong received his D.V.M. degree from UF in 2005.

As a veterinary student, Wong recognized the necessity of business education for veterinary students. He founded the Veterinary Business Management Association at UF in 2004, an organization that paved the way for future veterinary business leaders. Following graduation from veterinary school, Wong performed an internship at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, then completed a residency in neurology and neurosurgery at North Florida Neurology.

The awards were presented May 25 at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts during college commencement exercises.