Veterinary college to present Distinguished Alumni Awards at Connect 2023
The Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award is given to a recipient who has graduated more than 10 years ago, while the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award is given to one who has graduated within the last 10 years. The Outstanding Faculty Alumni Award is given to a faculty member who has made excellent contributions to student and alumni education and membership.
The 2023 recipients of the award are Ken Opengart, Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award; Betsy Schroeder, Outstanding Recent Alumni Award; and Jenny Marin, Outstanding Faculty Alumni Award.
Awards will be presented during Connect 2023, which will include reunion events, mentorship opportunities, and a continuing education program of alumni and faculty speakers.
Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award
Working in animal agriculture for over 25 years, Opengart M.S. '85, DVM '89, Ph.D. '91 has led operations, commodity risk management, poultry health and nutrition, animal welfare, preharvest food safety, and sustainability for several global food companies.
Opengart, of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, is currently vice president for animal welfare and international sustainability at Tyson Foods, a Springdale, Arkansas-based company that employs more than 140,000 people nationally and produces approximately 20 percent of the nation’s beef, chicken, and pork.
Opengart has authored, co-authored, or presented more than 75 invited talks, scientific presentations, or publications on poultry heath, welfare, and sustainability. Opengart has served as past president of the American College of Poultry Veterinarians and is a past chair of the American Association of Avian Pathologists’ Animal Welfare Committee, a founding board member and immediate past chair of the International Poultry Welfare Alliance, a founding board member of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry and Eggs, and a past chair of the Poultry and Egg Welfare and Sustainability Foundation.
Describing Virginia Tech’s Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) motto and the veterinary oath as “inextricably connected,” Opengart said he has stayed committed to both.
“As someone who has spent my career in the corporate food animal production sector, my personal mission has been to actively contribute to an agricultural system that provides safe and sustainable, high quality, affordable protein to millions of global consumers,” Opengart said. “As a veterinarian, this includes embracing the core tenets of the veterinary oath — protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.”
Outstanding Recent Alumni Award
Schroeder DVM '16, Ph.D. '20 has been the state public health veterinarian for the Pennsylvania Health Department since 2018. She has worked on outbreaks of bacterial infections in food and raw milk, lung injury related to vaping, mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses, COVID-19, Mpox, and other zoonotic infections
Prior to entering the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine (VMCVM) in 2009, Shroeder worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. She entered the dual DVM/Ph.D. degree program on the public/corporate track and was a graduate student in Nammalwar Sriranganathan’s laboratory.
Schroeder returned to the CDC for a two-year post-graduate fellowship in applied epidemiology, serving as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer. In that role, she worked in the Indiana State Department of Health, responding to the opioid epidemic, a mass bat exposure in a sorority house, and the Zika virus pandemic in Puerto Rico.
Schroeder was the 2023 recipient of the CDC’s James H. Steele Veterinary Public Health Award and currently serves as the treasurer for the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians.
In a nomination letter, Meriam N. Saleh, clinical assistant professor in veterinary pathology at Texas A&M University, touted Schroeder’s extraordinary efforts to promote animal and human safety.
“With every, new and unique zoonotic or public threat that we face or hear about on the news, Betsy is dealing with it in her professional life every single day — working to keep her community, state, and us safe and protected, including our pets, livestock, and wildlife,” Saleh wrote. “She is truly a credit to VMCVM and the positions she has held over the years.”
Outstanding Faculty Alumni Award
Marin, clinical assistant professor and service chief for Community Practice, first came to the veterinary college for a small animal medicine and surgery internship in 2004-05, then spent the next 16 years in private clinic practice, first in Arlington for a year with the remainder of that time in Carrboro, North Carolina, near her hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She returned to the college in 2021 to accept a role helping re-energize Community Practice, which offers veterinary services similar to a private clinic for clients within a 35-mile radius of Blacksburg.
After getting her bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Marin earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in nearby Raleigh. Marin is board certified in canine and feline practice through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners and said she has always been interested in primary care and establishing relationships with clients. Over the course of her career, she has also developed interests in dentistry, fear-free handling, acupuncture, and educating staff and clients. A passion for teaching staff and mentoring early-career veterinarians led her back to the veterinary college.
“It is a unique opportunity to set students up for success and share some insight into life in private practice,” Marin said. “I hope I can provide valuable experience for them as they complete their veterinary education.”