AVMA Recognizes Beaver For Contributions To Organizational Veterinary Medicine

Story by Megan Myers

Dr. Bonnie Beaver headshot
Dr. Bonnie Beaver

Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS), has been honored with the 2020 AVMA Award for her contributions to veterinary medicine and her outstanding leadership in professional veterinary organizations.

AVMA Awards are presented annually by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in recognition of one member who has contributed to the organizational aspects of veterinary medicine at the local, state, or national level.

“The AVMA Award is the highest award given by the organization,” Beaver said. “As such, it means the world to me to be recognized and honored in such a way by my colleagues. What else can one say but ‘wow!’?”

Beaver, who joined the CVMBS as its first female faculty member, has played an active role in 30 veterinary organizations during her career, including serving as president of the AVMA from 2004-2005 and founding the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and the American College of Animal Welfare.

“Her contributions to veterinary medicine, in general; to behavioral science; to animal welfare, in particular; and, most specifically, to organized veterinary medicine have been exceptional and have changed our profession for the better,” said CVMBS professor Dr. Deb Zoran, who nominated Beaver for the award.

An Interest In Animal Behavior

Beaver earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and worked in private practice for a short time before returning to her alma mater to begin a career in academia. A year later, she moved south to join the Texas A&M faculty, where she has been ever since.

Early in her teaching career, Beaver developed a special interest in animal behavior and began placing an emphasis on the human-animal bond in her classes.

“All people who like animals have an interest in animal behavior, but they don’t understand how to put what an animal does into context,” Beaver said. “This has become particularly so as the population has moved from the farm to the city, where we spend our lives with one or two animals at a time, instead of with lots of them.

“As veterinarians, it is important to be able to put context with behavior so that we can help patients grow into mentally and physically healthy animals and stop behavior problems as they develop,” she said. “This keeps an animal in the home and promotes a healthy human-animal bond.”

She used her expertise on animal behavior to create and chair the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, which received full recognition from the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS) in 2001.

Advocating For Her Patients

During her tenure as president of the AVMA, Beaver also developed a passion for animal welfare, especially in the areas of horse slaughter and farm animal housing. She went on to create the American College of Animal Welfare (ACAW), which received provisional recognition from the ABVS in 2012.

“Normal behavior and welfare go hand in hand. As we understand more about sentience and pain in animals, we must concern ourselves with promoting positive welfare for animals,” Beaver said. “Since veterinarians are looked to as animal experts, it is critical for our profession to step to the forefront at promoting animal care, working with owners and researchers, and advocating for what is best for the animal. As with other specialty organizations, ACAW was formed to ensure that the highest level of expertise in welfare was available in the profession.”

Beaver continues to teach classes on animal behavior, animal welfare, and other veterinary skills at the CVMBS, ensuring that today’s veterinary students will go on to become caring, empathetic leaders in veterinary medicine.

“Professionally I have two great passions—veterinary students and making the profession the best that it can be,” Beaver said. “These two things converge in teaching, with an emphasis on emerging issues within the profession. That specifically relates to animal behavior and animal welfare.”

Beaver was announced as the recipient of the 2020 AVMA Award during the AVMA Virtual Convention in July.

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Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of CVM Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216