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AAEP presents awards to equine veterinary leaders


The 2023 recognitions were presented at the organization's 69th annual convention in San Diego, California.

Equine veterinarian

Photo: 135pixels/Adobe Stock

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recently celebrated the achievements of industry leaders with special awards. The recognitions were presented earlier this month, during the President’s Luncheon at the 69th annual AAEP convention in San Diego, California.

Distinguished Educator-Mentor Award1

Ryland Edwards, DVM, PhD, DACVS, DACVSMR, a partner and hospital director at Fairfield Equine Associates in Newtown, Connecticut, received the Distinguished Educator-Mentor Award. This award honors an individual who by her or his actions and commitment has demonstrated a significant impact on the development and training of equine practitioners through mentoring, according to AAEP.

Edwards received his veterinary degree from the University of Georgia in 1990, followed by a large animal medicine and surgery internship and a large animal surgery residency at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He spent 8 years in academia at the University of Wisconsin prior to joining Fairfield Equine in 2005.

Throughout his career, Edwards has trained and mentored 54 interns and residents, instilling an infectious enthusiasm for equine medicine along with critical thinking and high-level, hands-on skills to provide new practitioners with a strong foundation for future success, according to AAEP. He embraces the opportunity to encourage and support their career growth and trajectory during their time together and throughout each mentee’s professional journey. Beyond formal relationships, Edwards advocates for any student or young equine veterinarian who comes through his practice, whether they’re applying to veterinary school or seeking to advance their career.

“Dr Edwards has always had a sincere and genuine interest in the career development of pre-vet students, veterinary student externs, veterinary interns who visit or work at his practice, as well as young referring veterinarians,” said nominators Tom Divers, DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC; and Susan Fubini, DVM, DACVS, in an AAEP news release.1 “He has always been willing to help every aspiring or young equine veterinarian that comes his way. From day one, he treats them all as colleagues and somehow always seems to remember their names and their career pathways, even many years later.”

Distinguished Service Award2

Julia “Julie” Wilson, DVM, DACVIM, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine and partner in Turner Wilson Equine Consulting in Stillwater, Minnesota, received the 2023 Distinguished Service Award. This honor recognizes exemplary service to the AAEP or a similar organization.

As cofounder and past president of the Equitarian Initiative, Wilson has provided leadership and structure to the program that has grown since 2012 to serve the needs of working equids and their caretakers in 9 developing countries around the world and a Native American reservation in the US, according to an AAEP news release. Many of these projects partner with host country veterinary school faculty and students to increase sustainability of program outcomes. Wilson has led the Equitarian project in Honduras since 2012 and participates in at least one other project each year with the program. Her advocacy for working animals and the families who depend on them extends to service on the boards of directors for Brooke USA Foundation and World Equine Veterinary Association.

Wilson and Merriam also established the annual Equitarian Workshop in Mexico for veterinarians and students. The workshop has served as a catalyst for many current leaders of international working equid programs, according to the AAEP.

“No one has worked more tirelessly and effectively for working equids,” said nominator Susan White, DVM, MS, DACVIM, in the release. “Julie has done this by bringing together the widest group of organizations and individuals and fostering cooperation and inclusion. She has an exemplary global reputation as an equid welfare ambassador.”

Wilson received her veterinary degree from Cornell University. During her 35 years of membership in the AAEP, Wilson has served on the board of directors; as chair of the International Committee; and as a member of the Foundation Advisory Council, Welfare and Public Policy Advisory Council as well as the Abstract Review, Membership, Nominating, Pediatrics, Scholarship, and Student Relations committees.

Distinguished Educator-Academic Award3

Michelle Barton, DVM, PhD, DACVIM-LA, assistant dean of clinical academic affairs at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in Athens, Georgia, received the AAEP’s Distinguished Educator–Academic Award for her substantial contributions to the body of knowledge on equine endotoxemia and impactful training of veterinary students, graduate students and residents. The award recognizes an individual who by her or his actions and commitment has demonstrated a significant impact on the development and training of equine practitioners.

Barton received her veterinary degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana. Following a large animal medicine and surgery internship at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, she completed a 4-year combined large animal internal medicine residency and PhD in physiology at the University of Georgia. A faculty member, she holds the Fuller E. Callaway Endowed Chair and is a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor. While overseeing the third- and fourth year DVM program and students, Barton continues to teach and provide service in the Large Animal Teaching Hospital.

During her career, she has mentored and trained 27 large animal internal medicine residents and has supervised 32 veterinary and graduate students in research projects. Renowned for her research into equine endotoxemia and her clinical expertise in equine liver disorders, Barton has shared her considerable knowledge as author or coauthor of 41 textbook chapters, 91 refereed journal articles and 72 research abstracts. She has presented at 82 national and international scientific meetings, including four keynote addresses.

Barton has served as specialty president for large animal internal medicine within the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, with a subsequent appointment as its first ombudsman to improve and support the training of the next generation of ACVIM-LA diplomates.

“In the classroom and clinic, I have watched Dr. Barton time and again guide students through a difficult concept or a tough case in a unique and unparalleled way that simultaneously builds both their knowledge and confidence in themselves,” said nominator Kelsey Hart, DVM, PhD, in an AAEP news release. “She is always available for advice and direction, if needed, but is also very conscientious to not micromanage and stifle the individual and unique intellectual development of the veterinary students, graduate students and residents she works with.”

Distinguished Life Member Award4

The American Association of Equine Practitioner presented its 2023 Distinguished Life Member Award to Kenton Morgan, DVM, who earlier this year retired as managing veterinarian, equine technical services with Zoetis. The honor was bestowed in recognition of his legacy of volunteer leadership and assistance to the AAEP during his nearly 40 years of membership.

Since joining the AAEP in 1984, Morgan has served on the board of directors; chaired the Professional Conduct and Ethics Committee and the Biological and Therapeutic Agents Committee; and served on the Member Engagement, Nominating and Pediatrics committees. He currently serves on the Equine Disease Communication Center Advisory Committee and has provided leadership and expertise as a member of the External Parasite and Vector Control Guidelines Task Force; and the Stem Cell Task Force; and as a presenter at the AAEP Annual Convention.

Morgan received the AAEP President’s Award in 2015 for his ongoing support of the association and his fellow practitioners through his many volunteer hours on behalf of the AAEP without any expectation of reward or personal benefit. “When Kenton has been called, he shows up—frequently as the chair,” said nominator Jim Morehead, DVM, in a news release. “Much of his time on committees and task forces has been dealing with contentious issues. He can gather the troops around an issue and get a consensus before most can organize a meeting.”

After receiving his veterinary degree from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Morgan practiced privately in Missouri and Kansas for 11 years, and as a resident veterinarian in Idaho. He transitioned to the pharmaceutical industry with Bayer Animal Health and retired in 2023 after 17 years with Zoetis.


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