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Penn Vet Honors Two Graduates with 2024 Alumni Achievement Awards

Date: May 21, 2024

May 21, 2024; PHILADELPHIA, PA – The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) has announced Dr. Donald Neiffer, V’92, as the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, and Dr. Andrew (Andy) Nebzydoski, V’84, as the recipient of the Alumni Award of Merit. The awards recognize alumni who are leaders in their fields and embody the values of Penn Vet.

2024 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award: Dr. Donald Neiffer

Donald Neiffer and Dean Andrew Hoffman
From left to right: Dr. Donald Neiffer with Dean Andrew Hoffman 

The Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award honors alumni who have demonstrated exceptional innovation, leadership and dedication to the veterinary profession, bringing distinction to themselves and to Penn Vet.

With over 30 years of experience in zoological medicine, Dr. Neiffer has worked with both captive and free-ranging wildlife, as well as aquatic species including fish and marine mammals. As the chief veterinarian for the Smithsonian’s 163-acre National Zoo in Washington D.C. and the 3,200-acre Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, VA, Neiffer leads all aspects of preventative care, clinical medicine, pathology services, and quarantine programs for the Smithsonian’s animals. Neiffer and his Wildlife Health Sciences department staff also partner with Smithsonian and external scientists engaged in conservation and zoological medicine research.

Prior to his role at the Smithsonian, Neiffer served as the veterinary operations manager leading comprehensive animal health and welfare initiatives for Walt Disney World’s Animal Programs in Florida, and at Disney’s other facilities in Hawaii and the Bahamas. Before Disney, Neiffer held positions at the Pittsburgh Zoo; the National Aviary, the nation’s only independent indoor bird zoo; and at southeast Ohio’s The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Neiffer’s commitment to conservation goes hand in hand with his dedication to education. His post-graduate teaching and specialized training programs have left an indelible mark on the next generation of conservationists. His mentorship is equipping early-career wildlife health and conservation professionals with the skills and expertise to tackle the emerging challenges facing wildlife, including habitat loss, climate change, and disease transmission.

A magna cum laude graduate of Millersville University with a BS in Biology, and in addition to his VMD degree, Neiffer holds a Master of Health Science in One Health from the University of Florida. He is a Diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM); certified in veterinary acupuncture; and associate editor for the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine.

“Dr. Neiffer’s journey from Penn Vet student to chief veterinarian at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute exemplifies the transformative power of education,” said the Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine, Andrew M. Hoffman, DVM, DVSc, DACVIM. “Throughout his career, Dr. Neiffer has made significant contributions across a plethora of in-situ and ex-situ conservation programs. His international field conservation work, such as his effort to protect the habitats of Paraguay’s tapir and peccary species has not only earned him widespread recognition, but it has also inspired countless other veterinarians and conservationists to strive for excellence. Dr. Neiffer joins an esteemed group of Penn Vet alumni who have made extraordinary contributions to our profession, and to the world at large.”

Read more about Dr. Neiffer.

2024 Alumni Award of Merit: Dr. Andrew (Andy) Nebzydoski

Andrew (Andy) Nebzydoski with Dean Hoffman
From left to right: Dr. Andrew (Andy) Nebzydoski with Dean Andrew Hoffman 

The Alumni Award of Merit recognizes alumni who have demonstrated outstanding service to Penn Vet and their communities, and integrity in the veterinary profession.

As a youth on his family’s farm in Pleasant Mount, PA, Dr. Nebzydoski saw first-hand the impact that proper veterinary care had on the health and well-being of animals. Throughout his distinguished four-decade career, Nebzydoski’s commitment to animals, and their owners, has inspired a generation of veterinary students and alumni.

Nebzydoski exercises an extraordinary commitment to Penn Vet. He is an ongoing supporter of the School’s Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), a scholarship-mentorship program that pairs alumni donors with recipient students. He was an executive board member of the School’s Veterinary Medical Alumni Society (VMAS); a member of the Dean’s Alumni Council; and he is a constant presence at events including alumni meetings, scholarship receptions, Alumni Weekend and the Penn Annual Conference.

Nebzydoski was awarded a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Scranton and he did post-graduate work at The Wistar Institute, a nonprofit institution in Philadelphia devoted exclusively to biomedical research and training. In 1990, he established Wallenpaupack Veterinary Clinic in Hawley, PA, with his wife, Patricia Morgan, V’85. Nebzydoski also served on the Pennsylvania State Board of Veterinary Medicine where he held chair and secretary positions.

In addition to Andrew and his wife, the University of Pennsylvania’s Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris (VMD) degree is embedded deep within the Nebzydoski family tree: brothers, Henry, V’72, and Joseph, V’82; daughter Grace Nebzydoski, V’17 and son-in-law Joseph Mastroianni, V’18; nieces Beth Spinelli, V’02, Sarah Vassallo, V’15, Amanda Kiselak-Nebzydoski, V’16; and nephews David, V’99, Thomas, V’10, Patrick Kelly, V’10, and Adam, V’18.

“Dr. Nebzydoski embodies the values of compassion and integrity that define our profession,” said Dean Hoffman. “His enduring impact serves as a beacon of inspiration for current and future generations of veterinary students, reminding us of all the profound differences that can be made through a lifelong commitment to healing and service. As we celebrate the achievements of Dr. Andrew “Andy” Nebzydoski, we also honor the remarkable tradition of the Nebzydoski family and their enduring legacy within the fabric of our School.”

Read more about Dr. Nebzydoski.


About Penn Vet

Ranked among the top ten veterinary schools worldwide, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is a global leader in veterinary education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the first veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling more than 34,600 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles more than 6,200 patient visits a year, while our Field Services have gone out on more than 5,500 farm service calls, treating some 18,700 patients at local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.