Karen Vernau with dog
Dr. Karen Vernau was recently named the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Karen Vernau Receives 2019 AVMA Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award

Dr. Karen Vernau has been named the recipient of the 2019 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The award is given annually by the AVMA in recognition of the vital role veterinarians play in helping promote, preserve and protect human-animal relationships. It is named in honor of the late Dr. Leo K. Bustad, who was instrumental in furthering recognition and understanding of the important relationships between people and animals.

The award will be presented at the annual AVMA Convention, held this August in Washington, D.C.

Vernau is a 1991 graduate of the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College. She went on to complete a residency in neurology at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1997, and became a Diplomate of American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Neurology). She is currently a clinical professor of Neurology/Neurosurgery with UC Davis and has previously served as chief of the veterinary hospital’s Neurology/Neurosurgery Service.

At UC Davis, she serves as a faculty mentor for DVM students in the Fracture Club, which raises money to care for animals in the Fracture Program for Shelter Animals. This service provides surgeries—performed by residents with student assistance with faculty oversight—for shelter animals with broken limbs. The program provides additional training for residents and students while saving the lives of adoptable animals. Fracture Club’s funds provide care for animals before and after surgery, prior to adoption.

Vernau also serves as a faculty mentor to students in the Orphan Kitten Club, and is a member of the hospital’s Clinical Education Committee. Her commitment to students and their education is unwavering. Under her mentorship, the Orphan Kitten Club is flourishing and provides valuable educational experience for students, as well as providing a source of elective surgeries for the Community Surgery Service, where students under faculty supervision gain competency in surgeries such as spays and neuters.

California has suffered from devastating wildfires the past few years, and with that has come an ever greater need for disaster relief for injured animals. Vernau volunteers to help animal burn victims that are hospitalized at UC Davis and has become an active member of the Hospital Disaster Relief Committee.

Vernau was nominated for the Bustad Award by several of her colleagues and community collaborators. They recognized her “tireless work with orphaned and shelter animals” and how it “embodies the meaning of this human-animal bond award.” They described her “unselfish devotion” to veterinary medicine and performing her work “with dignity, subtle persistence, and only from the heart.”

Previous UC Davis recipients of the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award include Dr. Melissa Bain in 2015 and Dr. Benjamin Hart in 2013.

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