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Commencement 2009: Family, Friends and the Bond with Animals

June 12, 2009

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Dreams came true June 12 when Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Enrique Lavernia conferred Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees on 118 students at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine commencement in Davis, California.

Besides the veterinary graduates, the school gave certificates of completion to 18 Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine degree candidates and 40 hospital residents. 

Provost Lavernia expressed his pleasure at being able to celebrate with the graduates. He recalled taking his dog Sydney to a UC Davis graduate in the 1980s and meeting Dean Osburn in 2002 when Lavernia joined the Council of Deans and Vice Chancellors as dean of the College of Engineering. Provost Lavernia told the students that their class had enjoyed several milestone events during their four years, including the campus centennial, the school's 60th anniversary and the openings of Gladys Valley Hall and Veterinary Medicine III A. He stated, "A new building is a rare event and exemplifies the academic soul. It is a sign of optimism and faith of the people who support and believe that we will be here for many generations."

The School of Veterinary Medicine Medal went to Charlotte Rockwood for demonstrating the highest level of academic achievement and clinical performance during the past four years. Dr. Rockwood will practice small animal medicine in Ventura, California.   

Student speakers Abel Gonzales, zoological medicine track, and Calaveras Cunningham, small animal track, took turns at the microphone to give a rapid-fire review of the students' four years together and asserted that the experience would maintain their friendships throughout their lives because they share the belief that "the bonds between people and their pets are equal to none." Dr. Cunninham thanked parents and friends for their support, and Dr. Gonzales concluded, in Spanish, with heartfelt thanks to his family. 

Students chose Rachel Pollard, an imaging specialist in the Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences, to speak at the ceremony on behalf of the faculty. Pollard, who directs the residency program at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching hospital and the Don Low Fellowship Program for veterinarians, described the class as a diverse group of high-achieving individuals. Pollard said that she would always remember the class of 2009 because it is the first class with which she spent four teaching years. Pollard reminded graduates to "cherish this special moment" together at commencement and endeavor to maintain the precious friendship. She gave one piece of advice: "Go skiing," and explained that veterinarians need to enjoy their lives as well as their livelihoods. Reminding the graduates that she and her husband had just had a baby 15 days earlier, Dr. Pollard also encouraged the class to make time for the families and friends who provided their patience and support for four years.

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Four graduates of the school returned for the day to receive Alumni Achievement Awards, the school's highest honor. (See related story).

The school community said farewell to retiring faculty members Patricia Wakenell, a poultry expert; Irwin Liu, a specialist in equine reproduction; and William Thomas, a veterinary cardiologist. (See related story)

The majority of veterinarians go into private practice beginning as associate veterinarians. Of this year's graduates, more than one-third have taken internship positions to augment their clinical skills and possibly take the next step toward specialization. Five students will remain at the school to study population health in the Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine degree program next year, and two graduates have been accepted into residencies at the school. One graduate, Brian Bird, who completed both his DVM and PhD degrees in the Veterinary Scientist Training Program, has been hired as a veterinary medical officer and research biologist in the Special Pathogens Branch of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Bill Grant II, DVM, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association, led the students, faculty and other veterinarians in the audience in the recitation of the Veterinarian's Oath.

The full commencement webcast is available online.

Contact: Lynn Narlesky, Communications, (530) 752-5257,