The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine has recognized two alumni with its 2018 distinguished alumni awards.

Sharon L. Deem, a two-time Hokie, has been honored with the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award. Established in 2014, the award recognizes alumni for their exemplary and sustained achievements in veterinary medicine and their positive impact.

Deem, an accomplished clinician, epidemiologist, and wildlife veterinarian, has served as director for the Institute for Conservation Medicine at the Saint Louis Zoo since 2011. She is also an adjunct associate professor in the University of Missouri veterinary college and Master of Public Health program. Previously, she worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Smithsonian National Zoo. Her career has focused on diseases shared between domestic animals, wildlife, and people, and the impact of environmental change and human interactions on the health of wildlife populations.

“I have been fortunate to do advanced post-DVM training and I have practiced medicine as a veterinarian working across the planet with companion animals, food animals, zoo animals, and wildlife populations,” said Deem. “My veterinary degree affords me the ability to practice medicine for all animal species, including work that ensures healthy humans. I have focused my career on two arms of One Health – animals and environments – that, as has become increasingly evident in recent decades, are really the basis for the health of all life.”

With a One Health perspective as the cornerstone of her career, Deem has conducted conservation and research projects in more than 30 countries, from Argentina to Zimbabwe. She has served in a leadership capacity on many national and international committees and organizations, most recently as president for the American College of Zoological Medicine. In addition, she has received 50 fellowships and grants and authored more than 125 referred articles, 25 book chapters, and numerous nonreferred papers.

In June of this year, Deem became a Tedx Talk speaker. In her talk, titled “The Ties that Bind: One Health,” she shared stories that demonstrate the concept of One Health, which emphasizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health and the need for an interdisciplinary holistic approach to solve the health challenges of today.

Deem earned her bachelor's degree in biology from Virginia Tech in 1985 and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the veterinary college in 1988. She earned her Ph.D. in epidemiology in 1994 and completed a residency in zoo and wildlife medicine in 1997, both at the University of Florida. She became a Diplomate in the American College of Zoological Medicine in 1998.

Bom Spina Harris has been honored with the 2018 Outstanding Recent Alumni Award. The award recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves professionally or through service to the university.

Since graduating with her D.V.M. in 2008 as valedictorian, Harris has been practicing in central and eastern Virginia. She opened her own practice, Old Dominion Veterinary Services in Ruther Glen, Virginia, in 2016, and operates as the sole veterinarian. The practice serves primarily beef and dairy cattle, as well as sheep, goats, swine, and camelids in 23 counties in Central and Eastern Virginia with a focus on herd health and preventive care.

Harris is credited with having a positive impact on veterinary students through active participation in the Mentor Program – a partnership between the college and the Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia veterinary medical associations.

“Hands-on, practical experience is essential to graduating students who will flourish in private practice,” said Harris. “This is true for all types of practice, but especially for food animal medicine. Spending time in the field helps students determine if they are actually a good fit for their area of interest. I believe it also helps students develop interpersonal skills, which are crucial to success as a veterinarian.”

Harris has also given back to her alma mater through participation in the college's admissions interview process.

Harris is a member of numerous veterinary associations and works closely with multiple 4-H organizations. She has served as president and president-elect for the Virginia Academy of Food Animal Practitioners. She holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Virginia.

Recipients of both alumni awards are expected to embody the goals outlined in the Veterinarian’s Oath; use their knowledge and skills to benefit society; protect animal health and welfare; prevent and relieve animal suffering; conserve animal resources, promote public health, and advance medical knowledge; have high veterinary medical ethics, and exemplify the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) through deeds and actions that have enhanced their local communities, the commonwealth, and beyond.

-Written by Sarah Orren

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