2013 Distinguished Alumni Honored by College of Veterinary Medicine


Contacts: Tracy Ann Raef, Communications, College of Veterinary Medicine, 515-294-4602 

December 2, 2013

Distinguished alumni were recognized during college and university ceremonies held at Homecoming in November. The Stange Award for Meritorious Service was presented to: Drs. James Carpenter (’60), John U. Thomson (’67), and Samuel Vainisi (’57). In addition the William P. Switzer Award in Veterinary Medicine was presented to Dr. Paul Armbrecht (’71). Each honoree was cited for his contributions to the veterinary profession.

Stange Award for Meritorious Service
Dr. James Carpenter’s expertise in pathology has influenced countless pathologists and veterinary clinicians throughout the United States. His experience in clinical veterinary medicine has permitted critical correlation between pathological and clinical findings to arrive at specific diagnoses in a multitude of patients.

Throughout his career, Carpenter’s attention to detail and his high standards in the discipline of pathology helped provide superb training for future pathologists and clinicians. His patient teaching style and ability to capture an audience through his lectures has earned him high praise. In all, he modeled a multidisciplinary approach to diagnostic pathology.

Carpenter has held a number of academic appointments at Harvard Medical School, Tufts University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has been a visiting lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Boston Veterans Administration Hospital. The majority of his career was spent at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston, where he was an intern, staff veterinarian, director of clinics, and department head of pathology.

He has authored many publications on a variety of topics in small animal medicine and pathology. He was instrumental in the initial recognition and reporting of conditions and diseases such as canine parvovirus, feline hyperthyroidism, lead poisoning, and xanthomatous keratitis in Cuban tree frogs. His greatest contribution was a book section on tumors of the cat in the book Diseases of the Cat. His section is still widely used as a reference for veterinary oncologists and pathologists.

Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine professor and dean emeritus Dr. John U. Thomson has built a career of tireless service to the veterinary profession and society.

At Iowa State, Thomson’s lasting legacy is the transformation of the college. He created new curricular programs, grew the college budget, increased the number and expertise areas of the faculty, and oversaw the renovation and construction of a centerpiece veterinary medical center.

Thomson’s professional achievements, though, didn’t begin at Iowa State. He was a successful mixed animal practitioner in Clearfield, Iowa, before entering academics. At South Dakota State University, he spearheaded the efforts to improve the physical infrastructure of the school’s diagnostic laboratory and improved its service through innovations in database management. As dean at Mississippi State University, he restructured the college’s academic units and curriculum and consolidated the three diagnostic laboratories into a state diagnostic laboratory system administered by the college. He acquired funds to construct a new diagnostic laboratory, a Center for Environmental Health Sciences, a small animal medicine and critical care unit, and an equine reproduction and research unit.

At the national level, Thomson developed the concept of creating a student loan forgiveness program for veterinarians who were willing to practice in underserved locations in the United States. He marshaled it into law in 2003 and funding in 2010.

Dr. Samuel J. Vainisi is one of the country’s pioneers in veterinary ophthalmology. He was the first veterinarian to complete a comparative ophthalmology program with M.D. residents at Stanford University Medical Center. After completing the program, he established the ophthalmology program at the Animal Medical Center in New York, later returning to the Midwest to start referral clinics in Green Bay, Wis., and Chicago, Ill.

Vainisi is one of the founding fathers of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, having also served as its secretary and president. He was the first veterinarian to be admitted into the American Society of Retinal Surgeons, and his instructional video on canine retinal surgery won the prestigious film award, “Oscar,” given by the society. One of his famous patients who had his retina reattached was movie star “Benji.”

He also is a member of the faculty at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where he is the only veterinarian to have reached the rank of full professor at the medical school. He currently consults at the university’s toxicology research laboratory.

In 2010, he was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association. In 2005, he received the Assisi Award by the Green Bay Humane Society and Shelter.

Vainisi continues to practice part-time in Green Bay at his ophthalmology referral center with his wife, who is also a veterinary ophthalmologist.

William P. Switzer Award in Veterinary Medicine
Throughout his career, Dr. Paul Armbrecht has had a substantial impact on the practice of swine medicine and the pork industry. He is well known for his practical and innovative recommendations on the health and welfare of his patients and has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to the well-being of Iowa pork producers and to the survival of each producer, regardless of operation size.

As a leader and participant on the Iowa Pseudorabies Advisory Committee, Armbrecht was instrumental in advancing the eradication efforts in the largest swine-producing state in the United States. He has also been committed to the recognition and prevention of the entry of a foreign animal disease into the U.S. swine herd through his participation in the American Association of Swine Veterinarians Foreign Animal Disease Committee. He was selected to attend a two-week training program at Plum Island, N.Y., earning the designation of “foreign animal disease diagnostician” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 2010, he was named a “Master of Pork Production” by National Hog Farmer magazine. The Iowa Pork Producers Association named him Honorary Pork Master. In 2004, his family was selected ISU Family of the Year. The veterinary profession has also recognized his efforts with the 1991 AASV Swine Practitioner of the Year Award and the 1989 Iowa Veterinary Medical Association Veterinarian of the Year. He is a lifetime member of the IVMA.