OVC Celebrates Excellence at Summer Convocation

June 17, 2024

Teaching and research excellence, student achievement and learning support were highlighted in numerous student, faculty and staff awards conferred during summer convocation ceremonies held on June 14 by the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC). 

Among 30 students who received multiple awards, Justin Peralta, OVC Class of 2024 co-president, was voted by classmates as the recipient of the Gus Lagerquist Five “V” Prize.  

Peralta said the prize, which recognizes commitment to building class unity and to selflessness and college advocacy, reflected his efforts to ensure student inclusivity.  

“When I was elected co-president, my goal from the beginning was to be a voice for every type of student on our campus,” said Peralta, who also received the College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO) Prize. “My co-president, Melissa Muzzatti, and I even implemented an anonymous online tool to express concerns that our classmates had in hopes of addressing everyone as fairly as possible.”   

He said another key experience during his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree was providing veterinary care in First Nations communities as a volunteer with OVC’s Kim and Stu Lang Community Healthcare Partnership Program (CHPP). The program aims to ensure health care for companion animals in under-resourced and vulnerable communities.  

For research and volunteering during her DVM, Julie French received the Ogilvie Leadership Prize in Food Animals, the Ontario Association of Bovine Practitioners’ Prize and the Ontario Pork Producers Marketing Board Prize. 

French co-authored dairy research publications, including studies of bulk milk disease testing. She completed undergraduate and master’s degrees in animal biosciences at U of G and undertook advanced training at Cornell University’s Summer Dairy Institute.  

At U of G, she helped lead student clubs, including running events for the student chapter of the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare (CCSAW), serving on the OVC Class of 2024 Class Council and playing on the class co-ed hockey team. Off campus, French was a volunteer leader with 4H Ontario and the Albion Bolton Agricultural Society.  

“My mentorship and support of younger students are things that I am particularly proud of accomplishing while at OVC and I plan on continuing this in the future,” said French. “I have an immense passion for dairy cattle medicine and have always strived to share this passion with younger students.” 

Akshaya Chandrashekar received the Alan H. Meek Prize for Leadership and Good Citizenship, the Charles Duncan McGilvray Prize, the F.W. Schofield Prize and the Yvonne Balysky Prize. She was also nominated by the college for the Winegard Medal, U of G’s top convocation award for an undergraduate student.  

In the Department of Pathobiology, Chandrashekar studied health impacts of plastic pollution on wildlife, including birds of prey. She worked on disease surveillance with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative located in OVC and with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Among her volunteer contributions, Chandrashekar worked with CHPP, and with both the Hamilton/Burlington SPCA and the North Carolina ASPCA. She coordinated events for the Future Vets Club and the Indian Students Association and was president of the Central Veterinary Students Association 

Faculty honours at convocation included the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Teacher of the Year Award and the OVC “Year 68” Award for Teaching Excellence, both granted to Dr. Janet Beeler-Marfisi, professor in the Department of Pathobiology.  

Beeler-Marfisi, DVM ’07, D.V.Sc. ’10, fosters a “brave space” in Phase 3 and 4 clinical pathology classrooms and laboratories to encourage student engagement and confidence. Beeler-Marfisi, who explored various learning strategies during her own U of G studies as a mature student, said, “I encourage students to see us as partners in learning. I’m not here to front-end-load content into their heads.”  

Among numerous learning strategies and resources, she has devised case studies and learning videos; lecture summary slides, questions and self-quizzes memorization tactics and even an endocrinology flip book. 

Committed to evidence-based teaching and learning, Beeler-Marfisi has created a central learning hub in OVC called “LearnVetLearn” and has served on the DVM Curriculum Committee and U of G’s Teaching and Learning Network.  

Among her intentional teaching uses of humour and visualization, she draws from her childhood dance background, including using movement to act out how bacteria behave in a urine sample. “It makes the material more memorable,” said Beeler-Marfisi.  

A champion of translational research in animal cancer, Dr. Paul Woods, professor of oncology and internal medicine in the Department of Clinical Studies, received the Zoetis Faculty Award for Research Excellence.  

At OVC, Woods was founding co-director of the Institute for Comparative Cancer Investigation (ICCI) and helped establish its Companion Animal Tumour Sample Bank. He helped lead development of the Mona Campbell Centre for Animal Cancer, the most comprehensive animal cancer treatment and One Health translational research centre in Canada and one of few worldwide.  

After Woods obtained membership for U of G in the National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute comparative oncology program, the University became the first international member of the NCI Center for Cancer Research Comparative Oncology Trial Consortium. The group undertakes translational clinical trials in dogs with cancer to assess novel therapies and help develop better therapies for people and pets. 

More recently, Woods helped establish the U of G Bench to Bedside Institute for Translational Health Research and Innovation. 

David Marom, a technician in the Department of Pathobiology since 2019, received the Carlton L. Gyles OVC Support Staff Excellence Award.  

Through training and maintenance and improvement of workflow processes, Marom has supported the research of numerous faculty members and undergraduate and graduate students. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he helped devise PCR and antibody assays to detect the COVID-causing virus and antibodies in cat and dog samples – work that led to the first comprehensive publication on risk factors for SARS-CoV-2 infection and illness in these animals.  

Marom has also pursued money-saving initiatives for OVC, including devising a more efficient order tracking system for his department.  

Dr. Andrew Peregrine, an associate professor in the Department of Population Medicine, received the 2024 K.M. Bhatnagar Memorial Humanitarian Award which recognizes faculty that are active in university affairs and support students outside the classroom.  

Watch OVC’s convocation ceremony video.

Staff and Faculty Awards

Dr. Shannon Gowland, Boehringer Ingelheim Award of Excellent in Clinical Teaching

Dr. Brad Hanna, Carl J. Norden Distinguished Teaching Award

Dr. David Marom, Carlton L. Gyles OVC Support Staff Excellence Award

Dr. Janet Beeler-Marfisi, CVMA Teacher of the Year Award and OVC 68 Teaching Award

Dr. Andrew Peregrine, K. M. Bhatnagar Memorial Humanitarian Award

Sue Kinsella, OVC Class of 2001 Outstanding Support Staff Award

Dr. Paul Woods, Zoetis Faculty Award for Research Excellence

Student Awards

Melissa Muzzatti, Class Valedictorian

Érica Piché, AAEP/Frank J. Milne Memorial Prize

Natalie Ferriman, AAHA Student Award for Proficiency in Primary Care

Chloe Grealish, ACVIM Certificate of Clinical Excellence - LA Internal Medicine

Wanrong Chen, ACVIM Certificate of Clinical Excellence - SA Ancillary Services, Cardiology 

Madison O'Neil, ACVIM Certificate of Clinical Excellence - SA Internal Medicine

Madison O'Neil, American Association of Feline Practitioners Prize

Gabrielle Stefou, American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists Annual Award

Arlene Khachadoorian, American College of Veterinary Pathologists Student Award for Excellence

Maria Papapetrou, American College of Veterinary Pathologists Student Award for Excellence

Carissa Marshall, American College of Veterinary Radiology Senior Student Award

Olivia Cotnam, American College of Veterinary Surgeons Student Surgery Award (Large Animal)

Gabrielle Stefou, American College of Veterinary Surgeons Student Surgery Award (Small Animal)

Gabrielle Stefou, Aventix Animal Health Prize in Dentistry

Gabrielle Stefou, Aventix Animal Health Prize in Ophthalmology

Kaitlyn Lawson, Beef Farmers of Ontario DVM Convocation Award

Gabrielle Stefou, Beloved Friends Prize

Madison O'Neil, Boehringer Ingelheim Prize of Merit in Feline Medicine

Akshaya Chandrashekar, Charles Duncan McGilvray Prize

Ulyses Peralta, College of Veterinarians of Ontario Prize

Olivia Cotnam, Dr. D. J. McLellan Prize

Annie Bandura-Sayer, Dr. Jack Lange Memorial Prize

Tara Tanasijevic, Dr. Jim Bell Prize

Olivia Cotnam, Dr. Jim Mitchell Prize

Érica Piché, Dr. Jonathan Bloom (OVC'93) Ambassadorial Prize

Sarah Komar, Dr. Samuel Downing Stirk Memorial Prize

Madison McArthur, Dr. W. J. Stinson Scholarship

Madison O'Neil, E.B. Prize for Excellence in Veterinary-Client Relations

Akshaya Chandrashekar, F W Schofield

Jacalyn Normandeau, Grey Bruce Farmers' Week Prize

Ulyses Peralta, Gus Lagerquist Five “V” Prize

Emily Fowler, Hill’s Pet Nutrition Small Animal Clinical Nutrition Prize

Sarah Lokaisingh, Hill's Pet Nutrition Transforming Lives Prize 

Sabrina Adair, International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) Prize

Madison O'Neil, Jean MacDougall Primary Healthcare Prize

Kamilla Hak-Kovacs, Katherine Elizabeth Long D.V.M. Memorial Prize

Ayush Kumar, Mitchell Family Prize

Sabrina Adair, Molly Carrington (OVC'78) Memorial Prize

Julie French, Ogilvie Leadership Prize in Food Animals

Julie French, Ontario Association of Bovine Practitioners' Prize

Julie French, Ontario Pork Producers Marketing Board Prize

Michelle Armstrong, OVC 1986 Memorial Prize

Madeline Kohut, OVC '75 Prize in Memory of Aki Sasage

Madison O'Neil, OVC '75 Prize in Memory of Aki Sasage

Ruth Bowman, OVMA/Erie Herd Health and Population Medicine Prize

Danielle Herbert, Peter Conlon Prize for Student Well-being

Madison O'Neil, Samson Grad DVM Convocation Prize in Neurology

Jacalyn Normandeau, Small Ruminant Veterinarians of Ontario Prize

Jessica Sun, Summit Pharmaceutical Prize for Clinical Pharmacology

Candace Flynn, VECCS Award For Proficiency in Emergency & Critical Care

Lauren Emery, Veterinary Cancer Society Bob Rosenthal Senior Student Award

Akshaya Chandrashekar, W. C. Winegard Medal nominee

Chloe Grealish, W. J. R. Fowler Prize

Akshaya Chandrashekar, Yvonne Balysky Prize

Chloe Grealish, Zoetis Large Animal Medicine Prize

Madison O'Neil, Zoetis Small Animal Medicine Prize

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