College’s 2016 Distinguished Award winners named

Dr. Mary Gardner

Dr. Mary Gardner

Veterinarians focusing on areas ranging from hospice to public health and veterinary pathology have been named recipients of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s 2016 Distinguished Awards.

The program, led by the college’s Alumni Council, was established in 2000 to recognize outstanding alumni, faculty and friends of the college in the categories of alumni achievement, distinguished service and outstanding young alumni.

Dr. Mary Gardner, a 2008 graduate of the college, received the Alumni Achievement Award. A co-founder of Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, which now operates in three states and employs more than 60 veterinarians nationwide, Gardner’s expertise is in software development and management. Lap of Love has twice been named to the UF “Gator 100” list of fastest-growing companies in the United States.

Gardner serves as co-chair of the Florida Veterinary Medical Association’s Young Veterinary Medical Council and has been a guest lecturer at the UF and University of Oregon colleges of Veterinary Medicine. She created, has worked as a video blogger for the American Veterinary Medical Association and has co-written articles about veterinary hospice for veterinary publications. While a veterinary medical student at UF, Gardner developed a study aid program for her classmates using flash cards and created a business franchise, which she leased to other groups.

Dr. Leigh Sawyer

Dr. Leigh Sawyer

Capt. Leigh Sawyer, who received her D.V.M. in 1985 from the college, received the Distinguished Service Award. She retired in 2015 after 30 years in the U.S. Public Health Service. Sawyer now works as a clinical research manager for the EMMES Corp. Board-certified in veterinary preventive medicine, Sawyer has excelled in the areas of veterinary preventive medicine and public health. Among her many achievements is founding the National Biodefense Science Board, which provides expert advice and guidance to the secretary of Health and Human Services on chemical, biologic, nuclear and radiologic agents.

Sawyer also established the Food and Waterborne Diseases Integrated Research Network, which provides an interdisciplinary team of experts to address research and product development needs for food and waterborne pathogens. She received a Hazardous Duty Award in 2015 after serving as the clinical laboratory director in the Monrovia Medical Unit in Liberia, where she provided care to Ebola outbreak health care workers and rapid diagnostic testing capabilities for malaria and HIV.

Dr. Julia Conway

Dr. Julia Conway

Dr. Julia Conway, a 2006 graduate of the college, received the Special Service Award. A clinical assistant professor in the college’s department of infectious diseases and pathology, Conway is a board-certified anatomical pathologist. She served previously as clerkship coordinator and resident coordinator for anatomic pathology at UF, chief of UF’s Dermatopathology Service, board member of the International Society for Veterinary Dermatopathology, director of veterinary medical admissions and president of the college’s Alumni Council. In that role, she helped to create a program that provides mentorship support for new graduates with UF alumni located in the same communities.

As an emerging leader in academia, Conway has represented the college in the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Leadership Academy.

The awards were presented May 28 at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts during college commencement exercises.


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