Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine hosts successful Annual Conference and J.T. Vaughan Equine Conference

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In a change from the previous year’s virtual conferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a large group of attendees were welcomed back to Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Sept. 16-18 for its 2021 Annual Conference and J.T. Vaughan Equine Conference.

This year’s gathering continued a tradition of 114 consecutive years of continuing education provided by the Southeast’s oldest veterinary program. More than 460 attendees from across the U.S. attended the conferences, which provide opportunities for Auburn alumni, faculty, students, veterinary technicians and other veterinary professionals from across the region and nation to participate in cutting-edge continuing education sessions and professional networking opportunities.

The conferences and sessions were sponsored by Southern Veterinary Partners, Covetrus, Merck Animal Health, Boehringer Ingelheim, Elanco, CareCredit, CreditBench, Royal Canin and American Regent Animal Health & Adequan. The three-day program offered presentations in various disciplines of small animal, farm animal and equine veterinary education, as well as numerous health and wellness courses. In addition, the combined conferences included an exhibit hall with 18 vendors.

The 2021 program offered more than 85 hours of professional sessions in various disciplines, including courses designed specifically for veterinary technicians. Online sessions were led by some of the top veterinary professionals from around the nation, including speakers from the fields of veterinary education, research and business. The keynote speaker was Greg Williams, head coach of the Auburn Equestrian Team, who has led the team to six National Collegiate Equestrian Association overall national championships and four Southeastern Conference titles in his 26-year career at Auburn. 

Among this year’s professional presenters were Dr. Josep Aisa, assistant professor in small animal surgery (soft tissue) at the University of Tennessee; Dr. Colleen Best, a consultant and educator focused on nontechnical competencies, including veterinarian-client communication, veterinary team performance, well-being and resilience; Dr. Mike Brown, technical consultant for the U.S. beef business for Elanco Animal Health; Dr. Michelle Calvo-Lorenzo, chief animal welfare officer for Elanco; Dr. T. Robin Falkner, private consultant and industry technical services veterinarian; Dr. Richard Ford, emeritus professor of medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University; and Dr. John T. Groves, who owns and operates Livestock Veterinary Services in Eldon, Missouri. 

Other 2021 presenters included Dr. Lore Haug, a behavioral specialist at Texas Veterinary Behavior Services in Sugar Land, Texas; Dr. Dean A. Hendrickson, who has served as hospital director and associate dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University; Dr. W. Mark Hilton, clinical professor of beef production medicine at Purdue University and a senior technical consultant on the cattle team at Elanco; Dr. Liza Köster, clinical assistant professor of cardiology at the University of Tennessee; Dr. Patty Lathan, associate professor of small animal internal medicine at Mississippi State University; Dr. Sara Place, chief sustainability officer at Elanco; Dr. Brian Vander Ley, assistant professor and veterinary epidemiologist at the University of Nebraska’s Great Plains Veterinary Education Center; Dr. Andrew Duke ’75, who practices at Duke Animal Clinic in Mobile, Alabama; and Dr. Bert Gaddis, who practices at Indian Springs Animal Hospital in Pelham, Alabama, and is one of approximately 160 practicing animal dentists in the world and the only board-certified animal dentist in Alabama.

More than 500 alumni from the classes of 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016, as well as the classes of 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015—who were unable to celebrate in person last year due to the pandemic—were in attendance for the 2020 class reunion celebration. A special event, Career Connect, was held on Sept. 19, following the Annual Conference. This event provided an opportunity for students and employers to interact one-on-one, establish professional relationships and discuss potential job opportunities. More than 45 employers and 150 students participated.

The first day also culminated in an awards ceremony honoring a group of distinguished veterinary professionals who have practiced their profession with great skill, knowledge, energy, compassion and professionalism and who have enhanced the college’s reputation.

Three alumni—Dr. David L. Suarez ’88, Dr. Douglas Martin ’99 and Dr. Mark Cheney ’69—were honored as the 2021 winners of the Wilford S. Bailey Award. The award is the highest honor given to Auburn veterinary alumni to recognize their professional accomplishments in veterinary medicine, outstanding contributions to their communities and the overall advancement of animal and human health.

It is named in honor of the late Wilford S. Bailey, a 1942 graduate of the college who held a 50-year continuous faculty appointment at Auburn, serving in positions ranging from veterinary instructor to dean to university president. Awardees are recognized in three different areas of eligibility: research and public policy, academia and private practice.

Two additional Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine alumni—Dr. Rory Applegate ’11 and Dr. Denty Vaughn ’11—were honored as the 2021 winners of Young Achiever Awards. Young Achiever Awards recognize members of the class celebrating their 10th anniversary. The awards recognize recipients’ professional accomplishments in veterinary medicine, outstanding contributions to their communities and their overall advancement of animal and human health.

The winners of two other major awards were recognized, including the El Toro Award for Excellence in Food Animal Medicine and the John Thomas Vaughan Equine Achievement Award.

The 2021 El Toro Award was presented to Dr. E. Muncey Pryor II ’78. Established in 1994 by Dr. James G. Floyd Jr. and his family in memory of his father, Dr. J.G. “Bull” Floyd, the annual award recognizes a veterinarian who—through his or her high ideals, dedication to the production of food animals and contributions to food animal practice and organized veterinary medicine—serves as a role model for veterinary students.

The 2021 John Thomas Vaughan Equine Achievement Award was presented to Dr. Timothy P. Stewart ’79. Named after Dean Emeritus John Thomas Vaughan, the award recognizes leaders who help guide the equine industry to a better future. It is presented to an Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine alumnus who exemplifies the Auburn spirit through leadership, dedication to and passion for one’s profession, hard work that improves individual and community outcomes and modesty in the impact that they have had on others and their profession.

The 2022 Annual Conference dates will be announced on the conference website at For more information, contact Meredith Smildsin at

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