In recognition of his commitment to the animal-health industry and for inspiring students and others in veterinary medicine, Dr. Jenks Britt, professor in WKU’s Department of Agriculture, received the Mentor of the Year Award from the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) and Merck Animal Health.
The Mentor of the Year Award honors individuals who have dedicated their careers to educating, mentoring and advancing the careers of students in the field of bovine veterinary medicine. Dr. Britt was honored with a commemorative plaque during the AABP annual meeting Sept. 22-24 in St. Louis. He also will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to next year’s AABP conference in Montreal.
“A good mentor is critical for today’s veterinary students,” said Dr. Britt. “A large majority of them have not grown up on a farm and need someone to teach them the things that farm kids take for granted – like the difference between a tractor and a four wheeler.”
Dr. Britt, a former head of WKU’s Department of Agriculture, has co-authored 224 publications, given more than 200 presentations and is a well-respected, international dairy consultant. Prior to joining WKU in 1998, Dr. Britt was a clinical assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Pamela Ruegg, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of dairy science, presented the award to Dr. Britt. She was an extern in his private practice and still looks to him as a mentor.
“Peers and students look up to Dr. Britt because he is the epitome of professionalism,” said Dr. Ruegg. “He has set a great example for students and young veterinarians. His unselfish approach to sharing his expertise has influenced his students, as well as the entire dairy industry.”
Raised on a dairy farm near Bowling Green, Dr. Britt received a Bachelor of Science degree from WKU with a double major in agriculture and biology. He received his veterinary medical degree at Auburn University and was partner and owner of Logan County Animal Clinic in Russellville for 23 years.
“I’ve been fortunate to have four great mentors in my life – my 4-H agent, John Swack; my extern supervisor, Ben Harrington; my senior partner, Joe Luckett and my dad,” said Dr. Britt. “They taught me everything from patience and forgiveness to welding and how to be a good veterinarian. Now I have the chance to pass along what I’ve learned to my students as well as my three sons and seven grandchildren.”
Dr. Britt said that working with students has played a key role in his success in living with Parkinson’s disease, which he has fought for almost 20 years. After he retired, Dr. Britt’s students asked him to come back and teach.
“Beyond his professional success in embryo transfer, dairy production medicine, reproductive management and milk quality, Dr. Britt has shaped the industry through his mentorship of hundreds of veterinary and animal science students,” said Dr. Ruegg. “However, if you asked him, he would say his greatest accomplishment is the success of the sons that he and his wife, Kathy, raised.”
Some of Dr. Britt’s highest honors include National Outstanding Teacher in Agriculture from the Collegiate FFA Organization, Distinguished Alumni from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and the El Toro Award – Food Animal Medicine from Auburn University. He also was recognized as the AABP Practitioner of the Year, WKU Alumni of the Year and the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association Veterinarian of the Year.
Dr. Britt’s involvement outside of academia includes membership and leadership positions in AABP, the American Dairy Science Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, the National Mastitis Council and the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association. He also was a member and chairman of the AVMA Council on Education.
“Sometimes we don’t even know that we are mentoring,” said Dr. Britt. “Spending time with young people and watching them grow in their practices and careers – that’s really what it’s all about.”
Dr. Britt is the fifth recipient of the Mentor of the Year Award, which was instituted in 2007. Previous winners include Ken Leslie of Guelph, Ontario; Dan Upson of Manhattan, Kan.; Bruce Hull of Westerville, Ohio; and Otto Radosistits of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
About Merck Animal Health: Today’s Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck Animal Health, known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada, is the global animal health business unit of Merck. Merck Animal Health offers veterinarians, farmers, pet owners and governments one of the widest ranges of veterinary pharmaceuticals, vaccines and health management solutions and services. Merck Animal Health is dedicated to preserving and improving the health, well-being and performance of animals. It invests extensively in dynamic and comprehensive R&D resources and a modern, global supply chain. Merck Animal Health is present in more than 50 countries, while its products are available in some 150 markets.