College of Veterinary Medicine Professor Tracey McNamara, DVM, DACVP, is the recipient of the 2009 Association for Women Veterinarians Foundation Distinguished Service Award.

McNamara played a pivotal role in tracking and identifying West Nile virus in New York in 1999. She specializes in the recognition and understanding of the disease of captive and free-ranging wildlife. Her training led her to pursue a link between viral encephalitis in birds and humans during the summer of 1999 while serving as the head of the Department of Pathology for the Wildlife Conservation Society, headquartered at the Bronx Zoo.

"I was never more proud to be a veterinarian, a pathologist and a woman than I was in September 1999 when West Nile virus was cracked," she said. "In the 10 years since that time, I’ve seen the status of women enhanced in the veterinary profession and, perhaps more importantly, that of veterinary medicine, which is now recognized as a key partner in public health."

The West Nile virus outbreak exemplified the "one world, one health" concept long before it was made popular and validated the critical role veterinarians play in monitoring the health of both human and animal populations, McNamara said.

"This is well-deserved recognition of Dr. McNamara’s work," said CVM Dean Phillip Nelson, DVM, PhD. "Dr. McNamara is an exemplar of the ‘one medicine’ concept. Her discovery of the West Nile virus is a clear indication of one aspect of the veterinary profession’s contribution to public health."

The Distinguished Service Award is given to an individual (man or woman, veterinarian or non-veterinarian) for his or her special effort and contributions to advance and improve the status of women in veterinary medicine, such as contributions to professional groups, state or local associations, Veterinary State Boards and publications.

"Her achievements are very well known, almost to the point where one can say the ‘one medicine’ concept probably started with her and her work with West Nile virus in New York," said Stacy Pritt, DVM, MS, MBA, CPIA, chair of the Board of Directors for the Association for Women Veterinarians Foundation. "She continues to be very active in that area."

McNamara recorded an acceptance speech to be played at the award ceremony, taking place during the American Veterinary Medical Association Convention in Seattle July 11-14. She will be traveling to Moscow in July to talk with Russian colleagues about biosurveillance and responding to diseases that cross species lines, a project coordinated by the Nuclear Threat Initiative.