Distinguished Alumni Award

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Distinguished Alumna – Private Practice

Carmen Colitz

Carmen Colitz, ’93, ’96, is the recipient of the Private Practice Award. Colitz has dedicated her career to furthering the reach of veterinary medicine through research and pharmaceutical development, in particular the understanding and treatment of ocular diseases.

Colitz’s research while pursuing her DVM and Ph.D. in Comparative and Experimental Medicine from UT involved the study of ocular embryology and molecular biology of cancer. She became a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist in 1999. During her residency training, she completed a one-year post-doctoral research project and successfully competed for a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health Eye Institute to study the role of telomerase in the lens.

Colitz has world for both the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine and the Ohio State University’s veterinary teaching hospital, where she discovered telomerase (a cancer protein) in the normal and cataractous lens and researched the molecular biology of the cataractogenesis and posterior capsular opacification (PCO). PCO is the leading post-operative complication of cataract surgery. Colitz has written or co-written over seventy peer-reviewed publications and twenty-two book chapters and is the past-president of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists.

Her career accomplishments include the founding of Aquatic Animal Eye Care, LLC, in 2009, which is dedicated to understanding and improving the ocular diseases that affect marine mammals, penguins, and fishes under human care and in the wild. In 2006, she collaborated with Terri McCalla, a fellow board certified veterinary ophthalmologist, and Debby Smith, chemist and compounding pharmacist, to develop an innovative vision supplement for dogs and cats. This culminated with their company Animal HealthQuest, LLC, developing the vision supplement Ocu-GLO to support canine eye health and slow the progression of degenerative eye diseases.

Colitz also worked with Johanna Mejia-Fava in the development of Eye-SEA, a pharmaceutical grade nutraceutical specifically formulated for marine mammal eye support.

ara Clouse (Arts & Sciences ’07, UTCVM ’11) is the recipient of the UTCVM Distinguished Alumna – First Decade Achievement Award. She is a researcher at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Veterinary Medical Officer at-large in the United States Department of Agriculture, and a privately-employed veterinary consultant

She has made her mark in veterinary medicine in the first decade of her career. She is a researcher at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM).


Distinguished Alumnus – Non-private Practice Award

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Martin, ’00

The Non-Private Practice Award goes to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Martin, ’00. A member of the US Air Force, Martin served in Iraq as the Multi-Division North Veterinarian for all of Northern Iraq and in Afghanistan as the Public Health Chief for the NATO mission in Kabul.

Martin is from Lebanon, Tennessee. After graduating from Franklin High School in 1980, he served four years in the Air Force as an A-10 mechanic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He returned to Knoxville to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. He spent a few years in private practice before returning to Air Force with a commission as a Public Health officer.

Martin’s twenty-year military career spanned assignments in California, Texas, Utah, and Florida, and include four deployments to Central Asia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Since his retirement in 2019, he and his wife Shannon traveled coast to coast in their RV before returning home to the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. They are enjoying the mountains while pursuing careers in education, small business, and volunteer work with the National Park System.

“I can finally say after a long and blessed career all over the country and the world, we’re finally glad to be home to stay,” says Martin.


Distinguished Alumna – First Decade Achievement Award

Elizabeth Johnson Million

Elizabeth Johnson Million, ‘16, is the recipient of the First Decade Achievement Award. She is the assistant director of outreach and engagement for the International Council for Veterinary Assessment (ICVA), the organization responsible for the creation and administration of the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE).

Million grew up riding horses, participating in 4-H, and exploring the mountains of Cocke County, Tennessee. She often joined her father, a physician, on house calls for his homebound patients and knew that she wanted to help people and animals in her career.

After graduating from UTCVM, she started as an associate veterinarian at a busy small animal practice outside Houston, Texas.

She then jumped back into the academic world and served in a unique role as the first assistant dean of student success at Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine. Million worked to promote individual student success and wellness initiatives for the CVM, as well as focus on early academic intervention and collaboration between academic counselors, mental health counselors, student tutors, and faculty advisors and course directors.

In 2019, Million moved to Atlanta, Georgia and worked with the ICVA to create a role centered around improving the NAVLE and assessment-related outreach for all students and stakeholders. Million also works as an associate veterinarian with Lap of Love, providing in-home end-of-life and veterinary hospice care for families in Georgia.Million enjoys staying involved with the Veterinary Leadership Initiative (VLI), honing her communication and group facilitation skills.

Million is married to A.J., has two dogs (Gunner and Daisy) and a cat (Purrlie)

Dr. Cara A. Clouse

Clara Clouse

Cara Clouse (Arts & Sciences ’07, UTCVM ’11) is the recipient of the UTCVM Distinguished Alumna – First Decade Achievement Award. She is a researcher at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Veterinary Medical Officer at-large in the United States Department of Agriculture, and a privately-employed veterinary consultant

She has made her mark in veterinary medicine in the first decade of her career. She is a researcher at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM).


Dr. Jennifer Scruggs

Jennifer Scruggs

Jennifer Scruggs (UTCVM ’06) has been named the non-private practice distinguished alumna. She was commissioned as a Captain in the US Army Veterinary Corps after graduation. Her military awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star Medal (for service), and the Army Commendation Medal.

She is currently assigned to the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland. She will be awarded the non-private practice Distinguished Alumni Award.


Dr. Jack Upchurch

Jack Upchurch

Jack Upchurch (UTCVM ’82) is recognized for his work in private practice. A recipient of the PCA (Farm Credit) Scholarship, Upchurch was in only the fourth class to graduate from UTCVM. His career began Corbin, Kentucky, before opening his own private practice in Jamestown, Tennessee, just twenty minutes from his hometown.

He will be recognized for his work in private practice where he has served the Fentress County community since 1983. He has worked in agriculture and veterinary medicine in a variety of ways since graduating from UTCVM in 1982.