Dr. Patricia Shewen Receives the 2023 Alumni of Honour Award

September 29, 2023

Dr. Patricia E. Shewen

Dr. Patricia E. Shewen is a highly accomplished researcher in veterinary microbiology and immunology, best known for developing a vaccine that has contributed to cattle wellness and saved the beef industry millions of dollars annually.

Born and raised in Stratford, Ontario, she came to the “new” University of Guelph in 1968, where she earned her BSc, DVM, MSc and PhD.

Shewen was a faculty member at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) for almost 30 years. Teaching in the DVM and various science programs, she also mentored postgraduate students, many of whom now hold positions of responsibility in academia, the biopharmaceutical industry and government laboratories.

Her research focused on immunity to infectious diseases of ruminants, with an emphasis on chlamydial infertility in sheep and bovine pneumonic pasteurellosis. In collaboration with Dr. Bruce Wilkie, she developed a vaccine for bovine pneumonia whose impact has been compared to finding a cure for the common cold in humans. The vaccine not only prevents pneumonia often associated with shipping but also decreases the use of antibiotics in beef production. It remains one of the University’s most successful licensed technologies.

Shewen's contributions to her field have been recognized by the American Association of Veterinary Immunologists, which named her the 2011 AAVI Distinguished Veterinary Immunologist, on the basis of her contributions to the study of immune responses in animals.

Her work has also been acknowledged outside of her field, as she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Guelph YM-YWCA in 2011, which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to their community through their professional work and volunteerism.

More recently, in 2023, she was named a Fellow of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Disease (CRWAD), a distinction that highlights her contributions to the field of animal health and disease research and her role in support of CRWAD.

Shewen's dedication and expertise have not gone unnoticed outside her professional sphere. In 2022, she was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame, a prestigious honor that recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the agricultural industry in Ontario.

Shewen entered OVC as one of only a handful of women admitted. Consequently, she was the first woman hired in a tenure-stream position in her Department (Veterinary Microbiology and Immunology). In later years, she was the first woman to hold the position of Assistant Dean of Research at OVC, and as the inaugural Chair of Pathobiology, she became the first woman to head an OVC department in its 150+ year history.

Shewen has served on the University’s Board of Governors, the International Union of Immunological Societies’ Veterinary Immunology Committee and the National Research Council of Canada. She recently completed a term as president of the U of G Retirees Association and is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research.

Overall, Shewen's impressive career and accomplishments in research, teaching and administration have established her as a true trailblazer in the field of veterinary medicine. Her groundbreaking contributions and pioneering spirit make her a deserving recipient of the 2023 Alumni of Honour Award, and an outstanding example of a successful female researcher in the field of veterinary medicine.

This article was originally posted on the U of G Alumni Affairs & Development website

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