Lawhon Recognized with SAVMA’s International Teaching Excellence Award

Rachel Ellerd and Dr. Sara Lawhon in the VBEC courtyard
Rachel Ellerd and Dr. Sara Lawhon

Fresh off of being recognized with the Zoetis Distinguished Veterinary Teacher Award, Dr. Sara Lawhon, an associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), has been recognized with the Students of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (SAVMA) 2019-2020 Teaching Excellence Award for her dedication to student success, both in and out of the classroom.

The Teaching Excellence Award recognizes outstanding teachers in the veterinary profession who deserve to be honored for their impact on veterinary students. It is open to nominations by veterinary students from across the United States, as well as several international SAVMA student chapters.

“I am truly humbled by this award,” Lawhon said. “The College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences is home to a large group of outstanding educators. They make each day an exciting adventure in learning. I am grateful for everything they have taught me and especially grateful for our highly dedicated students.”

Lawhon was nominated by third-year veterinary student Rachel Ellerd, who recently enjoyed and benefitted from Lawhon’s teaching in her “Agents of Disease” course.

“Instead of just giving us a list of facts during lecture, she walks us through interesting cases and helps us think about why each disease progresses in their unique processes,” Ellerd said in the nomination letter. “Although infectious disease is admittedly not my favorite subject, Dr. Lawhon made ‘Agents of Disease’ one of my favorite classes because she presented the information in an intuitive and thought-provoking way.”

Lawhon also acted as Ellerd’s mentor on a project she was inspired to begin as a result of a class activity on fecal floats. When Ellerd brought a sample from her pet crested gecko, she discovered that very little peer-reviewed research existed on the species. With Lawhon’s advice and encouragement, Ellerd began a research project on a variety of lizards that is set to become a published paper.

“Dr. Lawhon is undoubtedly very busy during the semester; however, there was no hesitation when she agreed to take time out of her weekend to help me analyze gecko fecal samples,” Ellerd said. “Although she specializes in Salmonella and had nothing to gain by helping with my project, she spent hours assisting with data collection, research, and development, just to foster a love of research in one of her students.”

Ellerd also referenced Lawhon’s dedication to her students’ mental health in the nomination letter; she quoted an email in which Lawhon emphasized that genuine learning was more important than perfect grades and that her role as teacher was to support and help however she could.

“We have no doubts that all our professors want the best for us, but Dr. Lawhon really went the extra mile to let us know we meant more to her than our grades,” Ellerd said. “With this teaching style, the pressure of trying to make all A’s was lifted, and I actually began to learn for the sake of learning—not to keep up my GPA. I noticed that I started to enjoy class much more and, in fact, learned the subject more deeply.”

“I am truly grateful for Rachel’s effort nominating me,” Lawhon said. “Busy veterinary students do not have a lot of time, so for her to put so much effort into this nomination means a lot to me.”

Lawhon will be presented with her award and a $360 prize during the 2020 SAVMA Symposium at Cornell University, for which she will also receive an all-expenses paid trip to attend the Symposium with Ellerd. As the author of the winning nomination, Ellerd will also receive a cash prize of $200.

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