More than 150 alumni gathered in Athens recently for the CVM’s 56th Annual Veterinary Conference and Alumni Weekend. The two-day event featured continuing education, a celebration of the 50th class reunion of the class of 1969, and the announcement of the 2019 Alumni Award winners.
The Friday luncheon celebrated the alumni award winners. This year, the Young Achiever Awards went to Dr. Erin Casey and Dr. Stic Harris. The Distinguished Alumni Awards were given to Dr. Michael Connor and jointly to Drs. Randy Basinger and Louise Burpee.
Dr. Erin Casey is a 2010 graduate of the CVM who currently works as a Professional Services Veterinarian for Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health in Virginia. Prior to that, she served as a program officer and AAAS Fellow for the US Department of State from 2013-2015, overseeing biothreat reduction programming in Sub-Saharan Africa.
She is actively involved in the AVMA and the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Casey was one of 10 recent graduates selected to participate in the inaugural class of the AVMA Future Leaders Program and she has chaired the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference Planning Committee. In addition, she served on the search committee for the AVMA CEO and currently sits on the AVMA House of Delegates, representing Virginia. Dr. Casey holds a BS in biology from Mary Washington College, an MS in biology from Eastern Illinois University and a DVM from the University of Georgia.
The second Young Achiever award went to Dr. Stic Harris. Harris joined the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in August 2017 as the Director of the Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network. In this role, he oversees the FDA’s full-time staff dedicated to preventing, detecting, and investigating outbreaks related to human food, cosmetics, and dietary supplements.
Formerly with the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch (AFHSB), the central epidemiologic resource for the U.S. military, he created the Alert and Response Operations Team in the Integrated Biosurveillance division, where the work is focused on monitoring infectious diseases around the globe. Dr. Harris’ team was responsible for identifying, verifying, and delivering the latest information and assessments of outbreaks affecting the Department of Defense.
Prior to his four years at AFHSB, Dr. Harris was a veterinary medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security. He was based in the Office of Health Affairs, where he was the liaison to One Health, the global initiative to unite human and veterinary medicine. He also worked on strategy for the National Biosurveillance Integration Center, which integrates information about biological threats to human, animal, plant and environmental health, and served as the acting Biodefense Advisor.
From 2009-2010, he was a AAAS/AVMA (American Association for the Advancement of Science/American Veterinary Medical Association) Congressional Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the office of Minnesota Senator Al Franken, working on health care, food safety, infectious disease, agriculture, and biodefense. Additionally, Dr. Harris served as Senator Al Franken’s lead on the Food Safety Modernization Act during the congressional review and committee hearings.
The first Distinguished Award winner was Dr. Michael Conner, who, after graduating from the CVM in 1979, pursued training in veterinary and comparative pathology at Harvard Medical School, including a two-year research fellowship at Children's Hospital in Boston. After a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT in comparative pathology and toxicology, he served on faculty at Boston University School of Medicine. Simultaneously, and for 20 years after, he served as an adjunct faculty member at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.
Since formally leaving academia, Dr. Conner went to work in the pharmaceutical industry where he served in a variety of roles in the nonclinical safety evaluation of drug candidates. Over the last 31 years he has participated in drug development at SmithKline Beckman (now Glaxo-SmithKline), Merck, Theravance and Global Blood Therapeutics. Programs for which he provided leadership in toxicology and pathology have brought a number of useful drugs to patients, including tirofiban for unstable angina and telavancin for drug resistant bacterial infections. He is currently focused on supporting development of drugs for sickle cell disease.
Dr. Conner is active in both the American College of Veterinary Pathologists and the Society for Toxicologic Pathology. He has served on the editorial board for Veterinary Pathology and chaired various committees or subcommittees in both organizations. He has participated in, or led, educational symposia and short courses at the annual meetings of both of these organizations as well as the Society of Toxicology. He holds a BS in life sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in addition to his DVM from UGA.
And the final Distinguished Award winner was a joint award made to Drs. Randy Basinger and Louis Burpee. After completing veterinary school at the Ohio State University and a rotating internship in Boston, Dr. Basinger completed his surgery residency and coursework for a Masters in Physiology degree at the University of Georgia in 1987. Today he runs VetSurg, LLC, a specialty surgery practice for dogs and cats in Irmo, South Carolina which he founded in 2012. Prior to that he founded and ran what is now the VCA Animal Specialty Center of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. Over his illustrious 30-year career, Dr. Basinger has been honored by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons for the best research publication by a resident, and was named the 2006 South Carolina Veterinarian of the Year. He was named a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1987, and has been actively involved in the ACVS, AVMA, and the South Carolina Veterinary Medical Association. He has published numerous book chapters and scientific articles and has completed successful research projects in university and clinical settings.
Dr. Louise Burpee started her career as a veterinarian as an exemplary student at the UGA CVM. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with her DVM in 1987, was a member of Phi Zeta and won the AAHA senior student award. Following graduation, she worked on her own as an associate veterinarian in a thriving clinic in Irmo, SC. She became a partner in 1991 and retired in 2012 having helped grow the business into a five-doctor practice now in its third facility.
Today, Dr. Burpee still serves as a relief veterinarian at three different clinics in Pawleys Island, Irmo, and Chapin, South Carolina. Over the years she has been active in the Greater Columbia Association of Veterinarians serving as secretary and vice president, the SC Association of Veterinarians and the AVMA. She holds an associate’s degree from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.