UF veterinary college names 2017 Distinguished Award winners

UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s 2017 Distinguished Award winners are shown with the college’s Alumni Council president, Dr. Moody McCall, at far left. The winners were: Drs. Virginia Quelch and Mark Genzier, Distinguished Service Award; Dr. Kirsten Cooke, Special Service Award; Dr. Jacqui Nielson, Alumni Achievement Award; and Dr. Tyrell Kahan, Outstanding Young Alumni Award. (Photo by Sarah Carey)Veterinarians focusing on areas ranging from behavior to small animal practice and international development have been named recipients of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine’s 2017 Distinguished Awards.

Established in 2000, the program recognizes outstanding alumni, faculty and friends of the college in the categories of alumni achievement, distinguished service and outstanding young alumni.

Jacqui Neilson, D.V.M., a 1993 graduate of the college, received the Alumni Achievement Award. Neilson has contributed significantly to the veterinary medical profession through her work in veterinary behavior. In 1995, she became the first veterinarian in the United States to perform a residency in clinical animal behavior in the new American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, or ACVB, becoming board-certified in this specialty in 1997.

She established a successful behavior referral practice in the Pacific Northwest, in which she was active for 14 years. Her research in canine cognitive dysfunction and feline litter preferences has helped advance knowledge in these areas and better therapeutic interventions for pets. A past president of ACVB, Neilson is an internationally respected lecturer and author.

Neilson’s best-selling textbook, “Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult Clinical Companion: Canine and Feline Behavior,” has been translated into multiple languages and is distributed worldwide. She serves on the board of directors for the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon and is a past president of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association. Since 2011, she has served Elanco Companion Animal Health as a regional consulting veterinarian.

Mark Gendzier, D.V.M., and Virginia Quelch, D.V.M., both 1987 graduates of the college, received the Distinguished Service Award. Husband and wife, the couple met in veterinary school at UF. They own St. John’s Veterinary Hospital and Cat Clinic in St. Augustine and have supported the college through years of referrals, by employment of alumni as associates, through consistent attendance at college and alumni events and activities and through financial gifts to enhance college programs.  Both are respected leaders in their profession and in their community.

Gendzier serves as hospital director, providing leadership while mentoring associate veterinarians. Quelch is responsible for behind-the-scenes hospital operations. Earlier in her career, Quelch conceptualized and developed dermatologics that have resulted in over $25 million in sales to date. The couple are active in volunteer work in St. Johns County, providing free services and supplies to treat injured wildlife in partnership with local wildlife rehabilitation groups. Quelch also chairs the board of directors of the St. Francis House Homeless Shelter in St. Johns County.

Kirsten Cooke, D.V.M., a clinical associate professor of small animal medicine in the college’s department of small animal clinical sciences, received the Special Service Award. A 1993 graduate of Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, she joined UF’s faculty in 1998, following completion of her residency in small animal medicine at UF.

 A board-certified internist, Cooke has directed the small animal medicine residency program since 2002 and has served as adviser to the student chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association since 2005. She oversees the UF Small Animal Hospital’s blood bank and volunteers for the college’s disaster response team.

Cooke served as a liaison between faculty, architects and builders during construction of the UF Small Animal Hospital in 2009 and 2010. Colleagues and clients consistently praise Cooke for her commitment and devotion to her patients, clients, residents and students. After nomination by a grateful client, Cooke was selected as a finalist in the 2015 America’s Favorite Veterinarian competition.

Receiving Outstanding Young Alumni Awards were Tyrell Kahan, D.V.M., and Stephanie Kane, D.V.M., 2011 and 2012 graduates of the college, respectively.

Kahan is performing a Science and Technology Fellowship with the American Association for the Advancement of Science with placement at USAID in Washington, D.C. He serves as an international research adviser at the agency’s Bureau for Food Security and his work focuses on projects that encourage dissemination and adoption of agricultural technologies. 

Kahan began his veterinary career at a mixed animal practice in Lutz, Florida. In 2015, he performed a research practicum with the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund International in Rwanda, exploring parasite transmission patterns between humans and mountain gorillas, as well as a volunteer experience with Veterinarians Without Borders, training university students and local health workers in parasite diagnostic techniques. To fulfill his desire to serve in international development, Kahan enrolled in Emory University’s Master of Development Practice program, receiving his MDP degree in 2016 after completing a fellowship at the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya relating to the adoption and retention of biogas in the region.

Kane is the medical director at Care Animal Hospital, a large mixed animal practice in Brandon, Florida, owned by her father, Richard Kane, D.V.M., a 1984 graduate of the UF veterinary college. She supervises and mentors a staff of more than 30 employees with a caseload of thousands of patients each year. Following her graduation from veterinary school, Kane performed an internship at Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, completing and earning her certificate in Small Animal Medicine and Surgery. A member of the college’s alumni council, Kane actively supports the college’s scholarship and other fundraising programs.  

She was named “Best Vet” in the 2015 Best of the Bay competition by Creative Loafing and was designated in 2013 as one of the UF Alumni Association’s “Top 20 under 30 Alumni.” She also volunteers as one of the senior veterinarians associated with Wildlife Rescue Ministries, providing no-cost services to treat sick, injured and orphaned wildlife in her area, and provides veterinary services to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office K-9 officers.

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

About the Author

Sarah Carey's picture

Sarah Carey

Public Relations Director, College of Veterinary Medicine

Sarah Carey, M.A., A.P.R., is director of public relations at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, a job she has held since 1990. Formerly, she was editor of...Read More