15 most influential Veterinarians

top 15 vets

The 15 people profiled here were chosen using one or all of the following criteria. All but one hold a degree in veterinary medicine, and the one who does not has contributed significantly to advancements in the animal industry. They are displayed in no specific order.

  1. The veterinarian’s work, research, or career trajectory must be interesting, or an interesting blend of veterinary medicine and non-traditional uses of the skills of a veterinarian.
  2. Currently teaching or affiliated with a school of veterinary medicine.
  3. Noteworthy contributions to the advancement of veterinary medicine.


Temple Grandin

PhD in Animal Science, University of Illinois, 1989

Dr. Grandin is a world renowned expert in animal restraint, handling and behavior, and teaches at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. Her designs for animal transportation, movement and processing are used at nearly half of the meat plants in the U.S. Her experience and expertise include an emphasis on animal welfare and their rights, from birth to the processing plant.

The kicker is that Dr. Grandin has Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, which was diagnosed when she was three years old. She could not pass college algebra because to her, “it makes no sense.” But, she excelled at finite math. She calls herself a “photo-realistic visual thinker,” which enables her to visualize a concept in her mind to the point of designing it to near completion. She labels herself first, as a scientist and college professor, and second, as a person with autism.

Dr. Grandin has written several books about autism, livestock handling, and animal behavior, including Animals in Translation, Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. In 2010, HBO produced the movie biography Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes. Dr. Grandin is very active in advancing the understanding of autism, starting with debunking the old myth of “once autistic, always autistic.”

Dr. Mark Kittleson

DVM, University of Minnesota, 1974

Dr. Mark Kittleson is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis where, for 27 years he was a professor in the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology. He graduated from the University of Minnesota (DVM) in 1974 and after spending two years in small animal practice went to Kansas State University to complete his residency training and obtain his Masters degree. From there he went to the Ohio State University to obtain his PhD. Dr. Kittleson then spent four years on faculty at Michigan State University before moving to UC Davis in 1984. Dr. Kittleson’s landmark research was in the study of the natural history and the cause of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM; a disease of the heart muscle) in cats. Not only was Dr. Kittleson’s research groundbreaking in veterinary medicine, it was also applicable to the study of the same disease in humans. Dr. Kittleson is also the co-discoverer of taurine deficiency as the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in cats. He received the Ralston Purina Small Animal Research Award in 1989 for his work with taurine and was a finalist in the Animal Planet Cat Hero of the Year Award in 2007. Dr. Kittleson is the primary author of the textbook Small Animal Cardiovascular Medicine  He also is the author of the Web site Case Studies in Small Animal Cardiovascular Medicine  Dr. Kittleson has published extensively in the field of veterinary cardiology, authoring more than 100 scientific publications and more than 30 book chapters. He has also been the primary speaker at veterinary meetings numerous times worldwide. Dr. Kittleson is board certified in Cardiology by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) and has been President of the Specialty of Cardiology of ACVIM and Chairman of the Board of Regents of ACVIM. He has also served as associate editor for the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Dr. Kittleson is currently a cardiology consultant on the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), an organization dedicated to consulting and continuing education of veterinarians, student, and staff.

Dr. Ellen Behrend

VMD, University of Pennsylvania, 1988

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Dr. Behrend loves cats and dogs, but calls herself a cat person. After vet school, she completed internships at Michigan State University and Colorado State University, from which she received a Master’s Degree in 1994. Her focus of study and research has been in canine and feline endocrinology, most specifically Cushing’s disease (diseases of the adrenal glands, which produce adrenaline).

In 2001, she received a PhD from Auburn University, where she is currently the Joezy Griffin Professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences. A prolific writer and researcher, she has written or co-written over 130 abstracts and articles for prestigious veterinary journals, 35 book chapters, and has edited several sections and chapters of veterinary textbooks.

Her awards include the Daniels Award for Excellence in Small Animal Endocrinology, the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the NIH Clinical Investigator Award, and has twice been awarded the Pfizer/Zoetis Distinguished Teacher Award. She is also a consultant in endocrinology for the Veterinary Information Network.

Dr. Susan Wynn

DVM, University Georgia, 1987

Nutrition Residency, University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, 2010

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Wynn specialized in the fields of nutrition and holistic medicine. She is certified in acupuncture, and Chinese and Western herbal medicine. She has co-authored four books on veterinary holistic medicine, including the latest, Veterinary Herbal Medicine (2007). In 2002, she founded the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association. She has consulted for government health agencies and pet nutrition companies around the world, and speaks on the subjects of nutrition and holistic medicine. She has served as the president of the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. She is an adjunct faculty of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, and is a featured consultant for the Veterinary Information Network.

She practices as a specialist in Nutrition and Integrative Medicine Services with Georgia Veterinary Specialists. Nutrition affects every system in an animal’s body, and Dr. Wynn consults and advises veterinarians and their clients about nutritional remedies for specific diseases, such as dermatitis or colitis. She admits that most veterinarians don’t focus on nutrition, or don’t even inquire of the food their clients are feeding their pets.

A common warning she gives to pet owners is not to assume that what is good for a person is good for a pet. And, what is good for a dog might not be good for a cat. Check with your vet, she advises. Finally, her recommendation for choosing a pet food is this: You don’t choose a food, you choose a company that makes the food. Visit her website for more information on the evolving field of veterinary nutrition and holistic medicine.

Dr. Peter Elsden

MVSc (Veterinary Medicine), The University of Queensland, 1960

Dr. Peter Elsden was born in Brisbane, Australia, and earned his veterinary degree at the University of Queensland, and later an M.S. degree in reproductive physiology. He worked in a mixed practice and for a large cattle company before spending nine years teaching at Colorado State University, where he also directed the Animal Reproduction Laboratory’s Embryo Transfer Unit.

His legacy and career focus has been in embryo transfer in cattle. Embryo transfer involves taking an embryo from a genetically superior cow and transferring it to another cow, thereby improving the genetic complement of the entire herd.

He is the past director of the American Embryo Transfer Association and past president of the International Embryo Transfer Society. He has co-authored the book Embryo Transfer in Dairy Cattle, and written over 50 articles and papers for industry journals and periodicals. He has worked in over 30 countries consulting, teaching, and instituting embryo transfer programs, and has consulted for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the United Nations.

Dr. Elsden is the owner of the International Embryo Transfer School in Senatobia, Mississippi, continuing his status as a leading international authority, researcher, teacher, and trainer in embryo transfer.

Dr. Allen Schoen

DVM, Cornell University, 1978

MS, Animal Behavior and Ethology, University of Illinois, 1974

Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, 1982

Not your average veterinarian, Dr. Schoen is a pioneer in veterinary acupuncture, integrating traditional and alternative medicine. He believes that the mind/body connection is present in animals and people alike. After attaining his veterinary degree, he established the Department of Acupuncture at the Animal Medical Center in New York City, at the time the largest animal hospital in the world.

He blends compassion and natural techniques such as acupuncture, which are not meant to replace traditional veterinary medical techniques and practices, but to complement them.

In 1996, he was on a committee of the American Veterinary Medical Association to develop guidelines for Alternative Veterinary Medicine. He has lectured worldwide, and been a professor at the Colorado State University and Tufts University Colleges of Veterinary Medicine. He has authored or co-authored books on the spiritual link between animals and humans, including Kindred Spirits, The Compassionate Equestrian, Love, Miracles and Animal Healing, and Veterinary Acupuncture.

Dr. Schoen’s credits and accomplishments are far too many to list, but they include international speaking and teaching, and multiple publications. He is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer at One Health Integrative Animal Health Consulting, and in 1989 founded the Center for Integrative Health.

Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan

DVM, Washington State University, 1995

BS, Wildlife Biology, Washington State University, 1992

Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan is a veterinarian specializing in aquatic animal health and research. Currently, he is the extension veterinarian for the Hatfield Marine Service Center in Newport, Oregon, and a clinical veterinarian in the Aquatic Species/Laboratory Animal Resource Center, both affiliated with the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He also is an instructor in the Aquarium Science Program at Oregon Coast Community College.

Dr. Miller-Morgan has over 20 years of experience in aquatic animal medicine, the last 18 of which have focused on fish and aquatic invertebrates. He is the co-creator and instructor in the Aquarium Science Program at Oregon Coast Community College, a program that awards one- and two-year certificates in aquatic animal husbandry.

His certifications include a fellowship in the Association of Zoos and Aquarium, and a certified veterinarian of the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Miller-Morgan has provided educational and clinical services to the ornamental fish industry. He has lectured and taught on ornamental fish throughout the United States, and Europe, Australia, and southeast Asia.

Dr. R. Timothy Bentley

BVSc (Veterinary Medicine), University of Liverpool, 2005

Residency, Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, 2009

Dr. R. Timothy Bentley is an assistant professor in neurology and neurosurgery in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Purdue University. He is the director of the Canine Brain Tumor Research Program, a program investigating many aspects of canine brain tumors, including diagnosis, surgery, and chemotherapy. Dr. Bentley’s team works with researchers and surgeons at the Indiana University School of Medicine, and their collaboration results in the discovery of new means of diagnosis and treatment of cancer in companion animals and humans as well.

Brain cancer, once considered a rare, difficult to diagnose, untreatable disease in dogs, is now being diagnosed with MRI and treated with new surgical techniques, chemotherapy, and cutting edge therapies such as vaccine immunotherapy, using the patient’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. Dr. Bentley’s other areas of research interest include biomarkers, treatments for seizure and epilepsy, and strokes. He is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Neurology), and has a neurosurgery certificate of training from the American College of Veterinary Internal medicine. A summary of Dr. Bentley’s professional publications summarizing his exciting research can be found at PubMed.

Dr. Florina S. Tseng

DVM, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 1981

After receiving her DVM from Cornell University, Dr. Tseng completed an internship in wildlife medicine at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. In 1996, she was chosen to be the Research Director for the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Berkeley, California. The IBRRC was founded to save and care for aquatic birds in emergency situations, such as oil spills.

Dr. Tseng is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Infectious Disease and Global Health at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. The program combines research efforts in the areas of public/population health, international medicine, wildlife and conservation medicine, and infectious disease research.

She was a principal investigator in the Tufts College of Veterinary Medicine Seabird Initiative, the main goal of which was “to involve citizen scientists and students in conducting regular beached bird surveys along the coast.” Seabird lead to the formation The Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET), a citizen science program to bring together researchers and members of the public to identify and mitigate threats to marine birds.

Her principal areas of interest are in the use of analgesics in wildlife species and the ecological factors contributing to wildlife morbidity and mortality. Her recent publications include works on birds exposed to oil spills, research on sharks and spiny dogfish, and accumulation of rodenticides in red-tailed hawks.

Dr. Tseng is a teacher who works with veterinary students, other researchers, and students of all ages who participate in Adventures in Veterinary Medicine, a program to provide a better understanding of the veterinary profession and the demands of veterinary school.

Alan J. Nixon

University of Sydney, BVSc (Veterinary Medicine), 1979

University of Sydney, Internship in Large Animal Surgery

Colorado State University, Residency in Large Animal Surgery, 1980-83

Dr. Alan Nixon is the director of the Comparative Orthopaedics Laboratory at the Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine, a laboratory dedicated to research into orthopedic diseases of animals and humans, with a particular interest in equine and human athletes. One of Dr. Nixon’s career achievements is the transplantation of cartilage cells to treat acute joint injuries. Research done on cartilage transplantation and gene cell therapy in the Orthopaedics Laboratory has been utilized in the treatment of knee injuries in people.

Dr. Nixon is also the Chief Medical Officer of Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists, a state-of-the-art facility located near Belmont Race Track in New York designed to provide specialty diagnosis and treatment in partnership with local veterinarian and horse owners.

Dr. Nixon is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, and a current or past member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the Veterinary Orthopedic Society, the Orthopedic Research Society, the International Cartilage Repair Society, and American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy. He has been on the editorial review board for journals such as Veterinary Surgery, co-authored nearly 150 scientific papers, and written two textbooks on equine orthopedics.

In 2009, Dr. Nixon was inducted into the Equine Research Hall of Fame.

Dr. Cindy Otto

DVM, The Ohio State University, 1986
PhD (Veterinary Physiology), University of Georgia, 1994

Dr. Otto is the founding director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, which was established in 2007 at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. The Center focuses on education, research, and gathering information to improve the health of the working dog. The dogs are trained to prevent terrorism; work with law enforcement agencies to detect explosives and narcotics; rescue victims of disasters or accidents; and detect medical conditions such as cancer or diabetes.

Dr. Otto became interested in urban search and rescue during her time at the University of Georgia, and was a member of the Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 between 1994 and 2010. But it was the 9/11/01 attacks on the World Trade Center that sparked her interest in creating a working dog center. She likens the Working Dog Center to the Olympic training facility for human athletes. Much of the focus of the training of dogs is on core strength, endurance, and stretching.

She is Board certified in emergency and critical care, and her main clinical concern is as an attending veterinarian in the emergency service at the Ryan Veterinary Hospital, one of the hospitals of the School of Veterinary Medicine. Her research focuses on applying the diagnosis and treatment of animal diseases to similar conditions in humans.

Dr. Otto was named Pennsylvania’s Veterinarian of the Year in 2002, and received a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2008 from her alma mater, Ohio State University. She is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, and the American college of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.

She has over 60 articles published in journals, written or co-written more than 10 book chapters, and lectured on emergency medicine, disaster medicine, and working dogs.

Dr. James W. Carpenter

DVM, Oklahoma State University, 1974

MS, Wildlife Ecology, Oklahoma State University, 1970

Dr. James Carpenter has been practicing for over 40 years in the fields of exotic animal, zoo, and wildlife medicine. After working for 15 years at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, researching migratory birds, whooping cranes, and the California condor, he moved to Kansas State University, where he developed an internationally-recognized program in Zoological Medicine. At KSU, he teaches exotic animal medicine, global veterinary medicine, and zoological medicine, and continues to advance research in these fields.

He has written/co-written almost 400 papers and articles for the most prestigious journals in his field. He is the past president of American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, and the American College of Zoological Medicine. The awards bestowed upon him are numerous and include the Exotic DVM of the year, the Edwin J. Frick Professorship, the T.J. Lafeber Avian Practitioner of the Year, and the Emil Dolensek Award from the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians. In 2009, he was named an Alumnus of the Year by his alma mater, Oklahoma State University.

His legacy will live on through the dozens of residents and interns he has taught and mentored, many of whom have contributed significantly to the fields in which he trained them.

Dr. Sherrill Davison

VMD, University of Pennsylvania, 1983
MS (Epidemiology), University of Pennsylvania, 1988
MBA, University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School, 2004

Dr. Sherrill Davison is the Director of Laboratory of Avian Medicine and Pathology at the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. The laboratory provides consultation, diagnostic services, pathology analysis, and microbiology testing to poultry growers in Pennsylvania and the surrounding area.

She is the Agriculture Spokesperson for the School of Veterinary Medicine. In June 2015, during a regional outbreak of highly infectious avian influenza, she helped prepare the state to deal with the outbreak so it did not wreak the havoc it did by killing tens of millions of birds in poultry producing states of Iowa and Minnesota.

Dr. Davison has served the Pennsylvania Poultry Federation as advisor to the Poultry Health Committee, and advisor to the Pennsylvania Egg Quality Assurance Program Committee. She has assisted the poultry industry in the implementation of control, prevention, and treatment programs for avian influenza and other respiratory pathogens, and for the more infamous bacteria salmonella. In March 2016, the PennAg Industries Association honored Dr. Davison with the PennAg Distinguished Service Award for outstanding accomplishments in the agriculture industry.

Her major research interests are the pathology and epidemiology of infectious diseases of poultry. She is a Diplomate of the American College of Poultry Veterinarians.

Dr. David Sisson

DVM, University of California, Davis, 1975

Dr. David Sisson has always believed in using the most advanced technology in veterinary medicine. After five years in private practice and an internship at Cornell University, his desire to develop a specialty sent him back to his alma mater in California to begin a residency in cardiovascular medicine.

His choice was rewarded by being involved in a field in which technology was advancing rapidly, both in human and veterinary medicine. After a pacemaker manufacturer contacted him to donate outdated pacemakers for use in dogs, and a revolution in canine cardiac medicine began. A pacemaker that might last only 10 years in humans was ideal for use in animals. The idea seemed perfect because dogs had been used in the development of the pacemaker, dating back to 1887.

In 1991, Dr. Sisson began a non-profit program that eventually came to be called CanPacers. With donations from pacemaker manufacturers, and cooperation with American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, of which Dr. Sisson is now a Diplomate, the program used the donated pacemakers to advance research and provide affordable treatment to pet owners.

At Oregon State University, Dr. Sisson is a professor in small animal medicine, specializing in cardiology, where he gets to use high tech equipment, such as a CT scanner that can scan a dog’s heart in 15 seconds. His research interests include cardiac imaging, cardiac arrhythmias, cardiac biomarkers, valvular disease in dogs, and repair of congenital heart disease.

Dr. Holly Bender

DVM, Michigan State University, 1979

PhD, Clinical Pathology, Virginia Tech, 1987

Dr. Holly Bender began her education at Michigan State University with the intent of practicing medicine at a dairy. In vet school, she became interested in histology and pathology, which lead her to a post-graduate study of pathology at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and a PhD in clinical pathology. She returned to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine as a pathology instructor.

After 14 years of teaching pathology, for which she won multiple awards as Teacher of the Year, she saw a troubling pattern in the way her students analyzed problems and tried to arrive at a diagnosis. They wanted to reach a solution without going through all the analytical processes of diagnosis. After consulting with experts in software design and bringing her clinical pathology experience to bear, the team designed the Diagnostic Pathfinder, a software tool to aid in the analysis of symptoms and clinical data to reach a diagnosis.

The Pathfinder does not do the thinking for the veterinarian, it just leads them down a logical diagnostic path. Twenty-five veterinary colleges in the US and around the world have used the Pathfinder.

Shortly after developing the Pathfinder, Dr. Bender moved to Ames, Iowa, to accept a faculty position in the pathology department at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She won more Teacher of the Year awards from her students (the most dear to her), and other national awards for teaching excellence, including the Carl J. Norden-Pfizer Distinguished Teacher Award for outstanding veterinary medical educator of the year, the Iowa State University Sesquicentennial Hubbard Award for teaching excellence, and the William O. Reece Award for outstanding academic advising.

Her focus is now on improving higher education. She is the Associate Director of the Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, and Director of the Preparing Future Faculty program at Iowa State University. The next generation of the Diagnostic Pathfinder, Thinkspace, has been developed. Dr. Bender has higher hopes for it beyond use by veterinary students and practitioners, in fields of education beyond medicine, including physics, mathematics, and engineering.

The number of universities using Thinkspace continues to grow, and Dr. Bender’s hope is to reach 100. By her reasoning, “Since 80 percent of PhDs are granted by 100 universities, we can reach 80 percent of PhDs. We can change higher education.”




The 15 people profiled here were chosen using one or all of the following criteria. All but one hold a degree in veterinary medicine, and the one who does not has contributed significantly to advancements in the animal industry.

  1. Interesting: the veterinarian’s work, research, or career trajectory must be interesting, or an interesting blend of veterinary medicine and non-traditional uses of the skills of a veterinarian.
  2. Currently teaching or affiliated with a school of veterinary medicine.
  3. Noteworthy contributions to the advancement of veterinary medicine.