PennVet | Alumni Awards
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Alumni Awards

By: Kristen McMullen Published: Aug 2, 2013

The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is thrilled to each year applaud and recognize outstanding members of our faculty, alumni and professional community.  This year was no exception as the Penn Annual Conference award program was filled with talented, dedicated, and caring veterinary professionals. 

The annual Excellence in Teaching Award was presented to Dr. Rebecka Hess, Associate Professor of Medicine-Clinician Educator in the Department of Clinical Studies-Philadelphia and Chief of the Section of Medicine.  Her research interests are in clinical endocrine studies and genetic studies of canine diabetes mellitus.

In her nominations, Dr. Hess was lauded as “a wonderful and dynamic lecturer” who “makes sure that her students fully understand the material.”  Other comments praised her as being “a pleasure to be around” and “knowledgeable, to the point, thorough and modest.”

The Alumni Award of Merit is presented annually to a select group of alumni who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service to the School of Veterinary Medicine, excellence in the veterinary profession, and community involvement.  Awards in this category were presented to three decades of alumni representing the classes of 1968, 1978, and 1988.

The first Alumni Award of Merit was presented to Dr. Frederick Peterson, who ran a practice in the Green Spring Valley in Maryland prior to moving to South Florida.  Dr. Peterson was the second person to sponsor an Opportunity Scholarship, and he then sponsored two additional scholarships.  While in South Florida, he hosted several invitational luncheons for the Dean and guests.  He headed the performance horse division at Rood & Riddle doing both startup and development.  As a result, he became the Veterinary Director for the first World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky in 2011.  As noted from his nomination, “Dr. Peterson has been a constant supporter and is in all ways a credit to our school.”

The second Alumni Award of Merit was presented to Dr. Mattie Hendrick, a member of the Class of 1978. 

Dr. Hendrick completed a research fellowship in pathology at Harvard Medical School.  She was an assistant professor of pathology at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and a full professor and staff pathologist here at Penn Vet.  Dr. Hendrick is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists in anatomic pathology.  A Founding Member of the Penn Vet Dean’s Alumni Council, she also served as the keynote speaker for the Penn Annual Conference luncheon in 2011.  

Class of 1988 graduate, Dr. Sallie Welte, was the third recipient of the Alumni Award of Merit.  In 1996, Dr. Welte was approached about organizing and teaching a course in wildlife medicine so that first-year students at Penn Vet would have an opportunity to learn about this important field.  Now in its 16th year, this elective course includes lectures and wet labs and averages about 90 students per semester. The course is very popular and gives students exposure to the field of wildlife medicine that they might not otherwise have.  Dr. Welte has also helped facilitate a number of research projects for Penn Vet students and faculty.  As Clinic Director at Tri-State Bird Rescue in Newark, Delaware, Dr. Welte has devoted her career to advancing the field of wildlife medicine and providing the best possible care to injured native wild birds. Her service to the community of concerned citizens that bring animals in for treatment is exceptional.

Congratulations to all of our distinguished award recipients!

Alumni Award of Merit nominations are solicited year-round from Penn Vet alumni.  To nominate a fellow alum, visit


The Ralph Brinster Lifetime Achievement Award

Created in 2011 by the Dean’s Alumni Council, the Ralph Brinster Lifetime Achievement Award is Penn Vet’s highest award of recognition.  

As demonstrated by its first recipient, Dr. Ralph Brinster, this award recognizes outstanding individuals who have shown innovation, excellence, and leadership in the veterinary profession both nationally and internationally.

The 2013 recipient of the Ralph Brinster Lifetime Achievement Award is Dr. David Nunamaker, V'68, who received a standing ovation at the award ceremony during the Penn Annual Conference.

Dr. Nunamaker is the retired University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine Jacques Jenny Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery.  In this role, he tirelessly pursued a greater understanding of the mechanics of bone modeling and remodeling in horses, based on various types of exercise surfaces, and designed a now widely used external fixation device for horses suffering catastrophic leg fractures.

Dr. Nunamaker served as Director of the Richard S. Reynolds Comparative Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, where he conducted in-depth research into many conditions affecting Thoroughbreds and Standardbred racehorses.  His work offered the racing industry enlightened alternatives to traditional training methods that would benefit the horse. 

He established two patents for external skeletal fixation and researched bucked shins for over 18 years with more than one million dollars in support from the USDA, NIH, and private and industry funding.  Through his research, Dr. Nunamaker developed a plan to prevent bucked shins, which could reduce the incidence from 70-90 percent to less than five percent