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Distinguished Alumni Award

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Distinguished Alumna – Non-Private Practice

Dr. Leah Cohn

Leah Cohn (’84,’86), DVM, PhD, DACVIM, is this year’s Distinguished Alumna Non-Private Practice. Cohn is currently a professor of veterinary medicine and serves as the director of graduate studies and associate department chair in veterinary medicine and surgery at the University of Missouri. 

Cohn earned her PhD in veterinary microbiology and immunology at North Carolina State University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in cell biology before joining the faculty at the University of Missouri. She teaches all levels and takes pride in having helped train literally thousands of veterinarians and dozens of rotating and specialty interns and residents. 

She specializes in small animal internal medicine with special interests in the treatment of infectious, immune-mediated, and respiratory diseases. She has a particular focus on developing better prevention and treatment of feline cytauxzoonosis, commonly known as bobcat fever, which was first documented in Missouri in the 1970s. 

Her accolades include the Lee and Inga Pyle Distinguished Service Award from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, where she has served a full term on the Board of Regents, including time as president and chairman. She has also participated in the founding and leadership of the International Society of Companion Animal Infectious Disease and has volunteered with the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians. She has authored more than 130 scientific manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals and has written dozens of book chapters in leading texts.

Distinguished Alumnus – First Decade Achievement

Dr. Wesley Lyons

Wesley Lyons (’10, ’14), DVM, has the honor of being this year’s Distinguished Alumnus First Decade Achievement.  Currently, Lyons is a veterinarian with Pipestone Veterinary Services in Sycamore, Illinois. The company specializes in health management and consulting service for pig farmers throughout the region. With a passion for farrow-to-finish farms, Lyons has personally worked with farms of five to 5,000 sows, as well as with wean-to-finish farms of 100 to over 26,000.

In addition to a hands-on approach with farms, Lyons represents the swine industry on a national level through his involvement with organizations such as the National Pork Board’s Depopulation Task Force and others. He helps craft policy and develop plans to enhance the industry and help family-owned farms become more competitive in the process. He is a contributing author to the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination as a subject matter expert in swine medicine. Lyons serves on a veterinary advisory board for a major pharmaceutical company and helps direct the research and implementation of their vaccine and antibiotic portfolio.

Lyons has spoken widely providing continuing education and guest lectures at numerous organizations and at the Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine where he now teaches second year students about swine medicine each spring.

Distinguished Alumnus – Private Practice

Dr John Roscoe Chambers

John Roscoe Chambers (’77, ’86), DVM, is this year’s Distinguished Alumnus. Chambers is the president and owner of Morristown Animal Hospital in East Tennessee. His decades long veterinary medicine career has included several veterinary clinics and animal hospitals in East Tennessee. 

Before this, Chambers served as a captain in the United States Army from 1977 to 1985 as well as serving in the US Army Signal Corps. During his military service, Chambers received the Army Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Army Parachutists Badge.

Chambers is a current board member of the UT Veterinary Medical Center. Chambers served as board member of the UTIA Alumni Council from 1994 to 1996. He was also a member-at-large for the East Tennessee, Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) Board from 1993 to 1995. In 1996 he was named the Young Veterinary of the Year by TVMA, and he went on to serve as the board’s president from 2003 to 2004.

 Chambers is active in his local community, serving in his local Lions Club, where he earned Lion of Year several years and served two terms of presidency. He is a board member of the Cocke County Department of Health and the Ben Hooper Vocational School, Cocke County Agricultural Advisory Committee. From 2008 to 2016, he served as district vice-president of the 9th District (Upper East Tennessee) Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association. Chambers and his wife Tammy currently serve as members of the UT College of Veterinary Medicine’s Board of Advisors.

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.