AAVMC names James Womack recipient of 2016 Excellence in Research Award


Texas A&M genomics expert has applied work to veterinary, human health.

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) has named James E. Womack, PhD, the W.P. Luse Endowed and Distinguished Professor at  the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences, as the recipient of the 2016 AAVMC Excellence in Research Award. Selected by a committee of peers, the honor designates Womack as the outstanding veterinary medical researcher of the year.

Womack, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine, is being recognized for almost four decades of research into how genetics and genomics can be successfully applied to improve agriculture, biotechnology and human health.

“The AAVMC is always pleased to recognize outstanding educators in academic veterinary medicine,” says Executive Director Andrew Maccabe, DVM, JD, in an AAVMC release. “These are extraordinary people who exemplify excellence and inspire others through their commitment and visionary dedication to academic veterinary medicine.”

Womack is an internationally recognized expert in animal genomics and comparative mammalian genetics who worked to develop comparative genome maps that revealed novel approaches for veterinary medicine, disease prevention, therapeutics and control.

He was awarded the CIBA Prize for Research in Animal Health, Basel, Switzerland, and inducted as a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He is also the recipient of both the prestigious George Bush Award for Excellence in International Research and the Wolf Prize, the world's most prestigious award for research in agriculture, with special acclaim recognizing his record of training young scientists.

Over the past 10 years, he has secured over $15 million in research funding from private foundations, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2011, the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded him a five-year, $9.75 million grant to help reduce the incidence of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) complex in beef and dairy cattle. BRD is responsible for more than $690 million in production losses annually in the United States.

He served as coordinator for the USDA Cattle Genome Research Program and is past president of the International Society for Animal Genetics, the American Genetics Association and the Texas Genetics Society.

In addition, over the course of his career, he has supervised 47 graduate students, eight residents/interns/postdoctoral fellows, and two pre-doctoral fellows. Along with collaborators, they have published 358 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals.

Womack earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics education from Abilene Christian University and a doctorate in genetics from Oregon State University.

The AAVMC Board of Directors established the annual research award in 2010 to recognize outstanding research and scholarly achievements in the field of veterinary medicine. It recognizes an individual who, over the course of his or her career, has demonstrated excellence in original research, leadership in the scientific community, and mentoring of trainees and colleagues in any discipline of veterinary medicine.

Womack's award will officially be presented at the AAVMC's 2016 Annual Conference, March 4-6, 2016, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., where he will also address attendees. This year's conference, themed Fifty & Forward, is a special conference commemorating the AAVMC's 50th anniversary.

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