AAVMC Names Recipient of 2021 Senator John Melcher, DVM Leadership in Public Policy Award


Jeff Douglas or Jeanne Johnson
Phone: 202/371-9195, x144
Email: jdouglas@aavmc.org or jjohnson@aavmc.org

Washington, D.C., February 3, 2021  – Dr. Michael J. Blackwell from the University of Tennessee College of Social Work is the recipient of the 2021 Senator John Melcher, DVM Leadership in Public Policy Award from the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).

Dr. Blackwell

“The AAVMC’s annual series of professional awards recognize outstanding veterinary medical educators who excel in various areas of academic veterinary medicine,” said AAVMC Chief Executive Officer Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe. “Their dedication, achievements and contributions serve as a model of excellence for their colleagues and inspire new generations of veterinarians. We look forward to honoring Dr. Blackwell during our 2021 annual conference.”

Established in 2007, the Senator John Melcher, DVM Leadership in Public Policy Award is presented to current or former faculty, staff, or students at an AAVMC member institution to recognize leadership in public policy that advances veterinary medical education and success in advocating for veterinary medical education on a national or international scale. The award is sponsored by The Animal Policy Group.

Dr. Blackwell currently serves as the Director of the Program for Pet Health Equity at the University of Tennessee, which exists to improve access to veterinary care, especially for families currently underserved. He has served as dean of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine; chief of staff, Office of the Surgeon General of the U.S.; deputy director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine, Food and Drug Administration; and chief veterinary officer of the U.S. Public Health Service and The Humane Society of the United States. He achieved the rank of Assistant Surgeon General of U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps during 23 years on active duty. He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Distinguished Service Medal from the U.S. Public Health Service.

After retiring from a decades-long career with federal government, Dr. Blackwell became dean of the University of Tennesse College of Veterinary Medicine (UT-CVM), where among other forward-thinking initiatives, he developed a partnership with the Department of Public Health that allows veterinary students to earn a Master of Public Health degree while completing their veterinary degree. It was his vision to establish Veterinary Social Work as an allied profession that attends to human needs at the intersection of veterinary and social work practice, benefiting students, staff, faculty, and clients. He also presided over the development of the Center for The Center for Agriculture and Food Security (CAFSP), which focuses on protecting the nation’s agricultural infrastructure.

Since its formation 15 years ago, CAFSP has administered more than $25 million in competitively-awarded grant funding from the FDA, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of State (DOS), and others.

Dr. Blackwell retired from the veterinary college in 2008 and currently serves as director of UT’s Program for Pet Health Equity (PPHE), a program within the College of Social Work that exists to improve access to veterinary care for pets and their families not adequately served by the current system. PPHE promotes and facilitates national collaborations and public policy development, to remove barriers to veterinary care.

In 2020, he received the 2020 Avanzino Leadership Award for his dedication to the human-animal bond and working on a national level to improve access to veterinary care to those with limited means.

“I have been very fortunate during my career to have had many good and smart people influence my professional and personal development,” wrote UT-CVM Professor and Associate Dean Robert C. DeNovo in nominating Dr. Blackwell for the award. “None have had the impact that Michael Blackwell has had. He represents the veterinary profession with vision, intelligence, and compassion.”

Dr. Blackwell earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (DVM) from Tuskegee University and a Master’s of Public Health (MPH) from Loma Linda University.

His award will be presented during the AAVMC’s 2021 Annual Conference and Iverson Bell Symposium, which will be held virtually March 3-5, 2021.

About the AAVMC

The member institutions of the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) promote and protect the health and wellbeing of people, animals and the environment by advancing the profession of veterinary medicine and preparing new generations of veterinarians to meet the evolving needs of a changing world. Founded in 1966, the AAVMC represents more than 40,000 faculty, staff and students across the global academic veterinary medical community. Our member institutions include Council on Education (COE) accredited veterinary medical colleges and schools in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand as well as departments of veterinary science and departments of comparative medicine in the U.S.