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Ontario Veterinary College alumni honoured with awards

Three Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) alumni were recently recognized for their accomplishments and contributions to OVC and the veterinary profession.

Dr. Clayton MacKay, OVC 1970 was awarded the Ontario Veterinary College Alumni Association (OVCAA) Distinguished Alumnus Award; Dr. Colleen Best, OVC 2009, received the OVCAA Young Alumnus Award; and Dr. Doreen Houston, OVC 1980, received the OVCAA Volunteer Award during University of Guelph Alumni Weekend celebrations in late June.

Dr. Clayton MacKay, 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award winner, with his wife Mary Lynn, OVCAA president Dr. Paul Woods, OVC Dean Jeffrey Wichtel.Dr. Jeffrey Wichtel, OVC Dean; Dr. Paul Woods, OVCAA president; Dr. Clayton MacKay, OVCAA 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award winner, with his wife, Mary Lynn, a fellow U of G graduate.

“I was here when my dad became a veterinarian, graduating in 1950, so my exposure to OVC began very early,” said MacKay. Following his own graduation from OVC, MacKay joined his father Dr. Duncan Campbell MacKay in practice as an associate, becoming a partner in 1971 and purchasing sole ownership in the practice in 1986.

In accepting the 2019 OVC Distinguished Alumnus award, MacKay thanked his wife, Mary Lynn, a fellow U of G graduate. “My partner for over 50 years we met, married and began our family here in Guelph in 1967.” The award recognizes OVC graduates who have brought honour to their alma mater and fellow alumni through their contributions to alumni affairs, education, community, their profession, country and the sciences,

MacKay also noted the friends and colleagues in the veterinary profession around the world who influenced his career. “They have always showed me the way, mentored me when I learned and encouraged me to continue to ever work harder on behalf of this profession that has been so good to me.”

He joined OVC as the director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital from 1993 to 1996, before joining Hill’s Pet Nutrition Canada as the Director of Veterinary Affairs from 1997-2010. During this time, he played an instrumental role in establishing a partnership between OVC and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, which led to the creation of the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Primary Healthcare Centre at the OVC.
He has served on the boards and committees of a number of provincial, national and international organizations serving the veterinary profession, including serving as the president of American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), Ontario Veterinary Association (now the College of Veterinarians of Ontario), Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA), Toronto Academy of Veterinary Medicine and the Society of Veterinary Medical Ethics.

MacKay has also maintained his commitment to the University of Guelph and OVC, serving on the OVCAA board and as OVCAA president, as well as a member of the OVC Pet Trust committee at its founding. Along with classmates Avery Gillick and John McNally, MacKay led creation of the OVC 1970 Bob Brandt Fund, an endowment that supports international students participating in a fourth year DVM EcoHealth elective.

From left, OVCAA president Dr. Paul Woods; Dr. Jackie Parr, OVC DVM 2009; Dr. Colleen Best, OVCAA 2019 Young Alumnus Award winner with her son George; OVC Dean Jeffrey Wichtel.Dr. Paul Woods, OVCAA president; Dr. Jackie Parr, OVC DVM 2009, Dr. Colleen Best, OVCAA 2019 Young Alumnus Award winner with her son George; Dr. Jeffrey Wichtel, OVC Dean.

Dr. Colleen Best received the 2019 OVCAA Young Alumnus award, recognizing alumni who have made a significant contribution in their field within 15 years of graduation.
Following completion of her DVM degree, Best completed a PhD at OVC in 2015, with a research focus on veterinarian-client and referring veterinarian-specialist communication and relationships in equine practice. A sessional instructor at OVC in 2015, she joined the OVC faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Population Medicine from 2017 to 2018 where she taught and coordinated courses in the Art of Veterinary Medicine curriculum.

Following her PhD, Best completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship as part of the Advancing Wellness and Resilience via Research and Education (AWAR2E) Group at the U of G. Best is passionate about advocating for veterinary well-being, and as part of the AWAR2E group, undertook research to understand factors affecting the mental well-being of veterinarians. The goal of this research was to develop training and other support programs for both students within the DVM program and practicing veterinarians in the field.

“One thing that I feel has been really wonderful for me to learn in the last 10 years and especially around my mental health research is what a wonderful veterinary community that we have,” said Best. “I have never seen our community rally so much and be so excited and be so eager to support each other.”

Best was instrumental in the development of the Resilience for Veterinary Careers rotation available for fourth-year student veterinarians at OVC, and served as the primary instructor for the rotation from 2016 to 2019. The rotation focuses on an evidence-based understanding of mental wellness and resilience, including mind-body techniques, relaxation techniques, financial planning and self-care.

Dr. Paul Woods, OVCAA president; Dr. Doreen Houston, OVCAA 2019 Alumni Volunteer Award winner; and OVC Dean Jeffrey Wichtel. Dr. Paul Woods, OVCAA president; Dr. Doreen Houston, OVCAA 2019 Alumni Volunteer award winner; Dr. Jeffrey Wichtel, OVC Dean. 

The 2019 OVCAA Alumni Volunteer award, celebrating OVC graduates who bring honour and recognition to the college by giving generously of their time within the college, in their community or veterinary organizations, was awarded to Dr. Doreen Houston.

“I am so very grateful for the education I received at this college. It has opened so many doors for me,” said Houston. “I am humbled by this award and I am so pleased and honoured that I can give back to this profession that has given me so much and that I continue to love.”

Following her graduation from OVC, Houston spent four years in private practice, before returning to OVC to complete an internship, residency and Doctor of Veterinary Science degree in small animal medicine. She became a board certified Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) in 1991.

Her career included time in academia at both OVC and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, as well as time in industry with Medi-Cal and Royal Canin. Throughout her career, Houston has authored multiple published papers, several book chapters, and a textbook and held positions on numerous committees. She received of a number of academic teaching awards and was the proud recipient of the OVMA’s Outstanding Veterinarian of the Year award in 2011.

Houston officially retired from Royal Canin in 2011 and registered her own business, Doreen Houston Consulting. She continues to be active in giving back to the profession she loves and currently chairs OVC Pet Trust, Canada’s first charitable fund dedicated to the health and well-being of companion animals. She also is a member of the OVMA Small Animal Issues Committee, sits on a graduate student committee at OVC and peer reviews for a number of international journals.