Veterinary college’s distinguished alumni award winners to speak at Connect 2021
The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine recognizes the achievements of alumni through its annual awards: the Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award for alumni who graduated more than 10 years ago, the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award for alumni who have graduated within the past 10 years, and the Outstanding Faculty Alumni Award for an influential faculty member who is nominated by alumni for his or her contributions to student and alumni education and mentorship.
This year’s awardees are Tim Fan B.S. ’91, D.V.M. ’95, Cyndie Courtney D.V.M. ’11, and Anne Zajac, respectively.
All three awardees will receive their awards on Sept. 18 as a part of Connect 2021, an event where the college community comes together for reunion, mentoring, and continuing education opportunities. The winners will also speak at the event.
Tim Fan B.S. ’91, D.V.M. ’95
Fan’s career as a comparative oncologist has shown the importance of One Health principles and how veterinary medicine can help human medicine. His work has expanded our understanding of animal bone cancer, which in turn can inform treatment of cancers in humans.
“I am thrilled to be recognized by my veterinary college alma mater and honored to receive the Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award. My education and training from VMCVM laid an important foundation for me to build upon and promoted my curiosity as a clinician and scientist to advance veterinary medicine for the benefit of pets and pet owners. I am proud to be part of the VMCVM family and impressed with the continued growth and excellence in teaching, service, and research that the college continues to pursue.”
After earning his doctorate of veterinary medicine at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Fan began an internship at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a Ph.D. in veterinary medical sciences in 2007.
He is currently a professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where his research focuses on identifying molecular targets for improving treatment of canine and feline cancers. He holds several other adjunct, affiliate, and courtesy faculty appointments at other institutions.
Fan is the principal investigator of the Comparative Oncology Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois, and he also holds positions with the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology and the University of Illinois’s Cancer Center.
As an author on more than 120 journal articles, Fan has left his mark on cancer research. He has delivered more than 90 national lectures and eight international lectures. Several organizations have recognized him for his work; he was most recently awarded the American Veterinary Medical Association Career Achievement in Canine Research Award in 2020.
Fan has served as president of the Veterinary Cancer Society, and from 2012 to 2018, he served on the Bone Sarcoma Leadership Committee at the Children’s Oncology Group, a National Cancer Institute-supported clinical trials group.
“As someone who has pursued an academic career, I can truly appreciate the effort and commitment demonstrated broadly by VMCVM faculty, and their passion to train the next generation of veterinary professionals inspired me to push hard post-D.V.M. training to explore, learn, and grow as actively as possible, both as a person and a professional.”
Cyndie Courtney D.V.M. ’11
Courtney is changing the veterinary profession for the better.
Courtney is an associate veterinarian at Grandview Animal Hospital in Grandview, Missouri, and as “The Jerk Researcher,” she offers practical, down-to-earth insights on teamwork and conflict.
“Jerk researcher” Courtney speaks, writes, and consults on the topic of workplace conflict. With an interdisciplinary focus, Courtney uses examples and peer-reviewed research to address conflicts: how to deal with jerks and how to recognize jerk qualities within yourself.
Courtney says that her veterinary school education showed her the power of working with others.
“My time at the college taught me the importance of collaboration. Not only would I not have been as successful without our amazing study group, but I believe our whole veterinary school class focused on lifting each other up and helping each other out,” said Courtney.
“I received advice from amazing mentors. Not only did I meet Dr. Tonya Sparks, who got me involved with the National Veterinary Business Management Association, which changed my life, but Dr. Tim Withers of Midlothian (also a Virginia-Maryland graduate) gave me the amazing advice to get as much hands-on experience while I was in school. Even though that sometimes meant giving up some academic study time, he was spot on.”
Courtney is dedicated to helping other veterinarians. She is certified in Workplace Wellness through the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), she has written several articles for Clinician’s Brief, and from 2016-2019, she co-hosted “The Veterinary Viewfinder Podcast.”
In 2019, Courtney’s work was recognized at the World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress when she was awarded the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Next Generation Veterinary Award. She has presented at conferences like AVMA and the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference.
She juggles her consulting, writing, and speaking engagements with her career as a veterinarian while she also pursues a Ph.D. in organizational psychology.
She says that her veterinary school education equipped her with the tools she needed to tackle interdisciplinary problems.
“Even as a small-animal tracker, I was able to take public-corporate electives that helped keep my mind open to practicing medicine in unconventional ways. I think that contributed to how I still see the different elements of my career (small animal practice, marketing, and organizational psychology) as integrated parts of how I uphold my veterinary oath.”
A widely beloved professor, Zajac has transferred her enthusiasm for parasitology to scores of veterinary medicine students.
Zajac earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. from the Ohio State University.
A member of the Virginia Tech community since 1986, Zajac taught a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and veterinary courses and has advised master’s and doctoral students. Through her scholarship, Zajac has further developed our understanding of parasitology. Over her career, she authored more than 120 peer-reviewed articles and reviews. Her book “Veterinary Clinical Parasitology” is taught widely, having sold more than 50,000 copies and having been translated into three languages.
Zajac is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists, and she is a member of the American Society of Parasitologists, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the Helminthological Society of Washington. She served as president of the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists, receiving its Distinguished Service Award in 2008, and its AAVP-Merial Distinguished Veterinary Parasitologist Award, the organization’s highest honor, in 2016.
In 2021, Zajac was conferred the title of professor emeritus by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors in recognition of her exemplary service to the university.
“The most rewarding part of working at the college is knowing that I have played a part in the education of the wonderful veterinary graduates of VMCVM, who in the past and present contribute to animal and human health.”
— Written by Sarah Boudreau (M.F.A. '21), a writer with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine