College names 2023 Distinguished Award winners

Veterinarians in private practice and academia, with areas of focus ranging from primary care and small animal surgery to anesthesia, zoological medicine and disaster response have received the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine’s 2023 Distinguished Awards.

The program recognizes outstanding alumni and friends of the college in various categories.

Dr. Julia Wuerz

Dr. Julia Wuerz

Julia Wuerz, D.V.M., and Kristin Kirkby Shaw, D.V.M., Ph.D., received Alumni Achievement Awards in the D.V.M. and M.S./Ph.D. categories, respectively.

A 2002 graduate of the college, Wuerz is a clinical assistant professor with the UF Small Animal Hospital’s primary care and dentistry service. She helped to establish the college’s clinical skills laboratory and co-developed the clinical skills course all veterinary students take to aid in their readiness for clinical rotations. Her initial efforts led to additional innovative work building new models to help students learn and practice technical skills.

Wuerz is certified in both acupuncture and herbal therapies, and regularly shares that experience with veterinary students. She also teaches acupuncture to the international veterinary community at the Chi University in Ocala.

Dr. Kristin Kirkby-Shaw

Dr. Kristin Kirkby Shaw

Shaw received her D.V.M. degree from UF in 2003, followed by her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in 2006 and 2012, respectively. A small animal surgeon and rehabilitation specialist, her career has focused on bridging the gap between these two disciplines. She completed a residency at UF in small animal surgery in 2008 and is board certified by both the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.

After her residency, Shaw joined the UF faculty in surgery, founding the Small Animal Rehabilitation and Fitness Center, now part of the integrative and mobility medicine service. Subsequently she worked in Seattle for nine years as a surgeon and rehabilitation specialist in referral practice. She received UF’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2010 and the John J. Sherman Award for Excellence in Veterinary Rehabilitation in 2018.

In 2019, she founded CARE, a website dedicated to providing resources for her clients and veterinary colleagues caring for dogs with osteoarthritis. In 2021, she joined Zoetis as a specialist in pain management, osteoarthritis, surgery and rehabilitation.

Dr. Luisito Pablo

Dr. Luisito Pablo

Luisito Pablo, D.V.M., a clinical professor of anesthesia and analgesia at the college, received the Distinguished Service Award. He received his veterinary degree in 1978 from the University of the Philippines and a master’s degree in large animal medicine and surgery from Auburn University in 1982. He joined UF’s faculty in 1989 as a visiting assistant professor. After becoming board-certified in veterinary anesthesia and analgesia, he was promoted to associate professor in 1998.

Pablo returned to Auburn in 2015 and spent time on the faculty there before returning to Gainesville to rejoin UF’s faculty in 2016. He has taught anesthesia to 3,018 veterinarians and trained 24 residents at UF while also receiving numerous  awards for his teaching skills and dedication to student learning.

Lawrence “Larry” Garcia, D.V.M., received the Special Service Award. A 2009 graduate of Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Garcia also received a master’s degree there in 2004. A clinical assistant professor of shelter medicine and surgery, he serves as chief of the Veterinary Community Outreach Program at UF and is medical director of the UF Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service, or UF VETS.

Dr. Larry Garcia

Dr. Larry Garcia

Garcia began his career as a small animal general practitioner who transitioned to shelter medicine in a large municipal animal shelter in South Florida, where he focused on high-volume spay and neuter surgery and participated in multiple emergency response drills.

After joining UF’s faculty in 2016, Garcia used his knowledge and experience in county shelter operations to launch two clerkships in which clinical veterinary students are embedded in municipal animal shelter operations. As medical director for UF VETS, Garcia led two state-requested field hospital deployments following Hurricanes Irma and Ian.

Amy Alexander, D.V.M., a 2010 graduate of the UF veterinary college, received the 40 Under 40 Award. She is a board-certified specialist of zoological medicine and currently a clinical associate professor at the college. Following her graduation from veterinary school, she completed a small animal rotating internship at BluePearl Pet Hospital in Tampa, a zoological medicine internship at Colorado State University and a three-year residency at the Saint Louis Zoo.

Dr. Amy Alexander

Dr. Amy Alexander

She then worked as a clinical veterinarian at the San Francisco Zoo for two years before returning to UF to join the zoological medicine faculty in 2017.

Alexander is grateful to be able to teach and practice zoological medicine in the same service that she started out in as a volunteer in college. She considers it a privilege to work alongside mentors, colleagues and trainees across all veterinary specialties to provide the best care for zoo animals, injured wildlife and pet zoological companion animals.

The awards were presented May 27 during the college’s commencement ceremony at the UF Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

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May-June 2023

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