Alumna earns Association's highest award

Dr. Jeanne BarsantiDr. Jeanne Barsanti ’74 will be recognized with the Daniel Elmer Salmon Award for Distinguished Alumni Service, given annually by the Alumni Association of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. To be presented at the New York State Veterinary Conference, in September 2012, the award recognizes and honors Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine graduates who have distinguished themselves in service to the profession, their communities, or to the College.

The award is named in honor of Cornell's first DVM graduate, who is remembered for his pioneering work in controlling contagious animal diseases in the early 20th century. D.E. Salmon was one of Dr. James Law's first students when Cornell University opened its doors in 1868. He received the Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree from Cornell in 1872, and he was awarded the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1876, the first DVM degree to be awarded in the United States of America. Dr. Salmon’s contributions to veterinary medicine and human medicine were numerous and significant, including private practice, government service, foreign service, food inspection, and leadership in identifying significant bacterial diseases, including salmonella.

During her 30-year career as a professor, clinician, and scientist, Dr. Barsanti saw many changes in the profession, recalling in particular, early approaches to teaching that incorporated a lot of paper and 2 by 2 slides. As one of the advocates for shelving these approaches, she gained a reputation as a leader in the movement to bring technology into the classroom.

“Dr. Barsanti developed innovative web-based learning modules before the turn of the century,” said Dr. Sheila Allen ’81 in her nomination of Dr. Barsanti for the award. “These materials were ahead of their time, and many are still in use today.”

In recognition of her contributions to the classroom, Dr. Barsanti has received 14 teaching awards, including the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine’s highest teaching honor twice and her university’s two highest teaching awards. As department head, she played a key role in establishing and maintaining a culture of teaching excellence in her department and college, serving on 15 college, 9 university, and 3 national committees related to teaching.

“Largely as a result of her efforts, the department of small animal medicine and surgery is recognized internationally for its teaching excellence,” said Dr. Allen. “In the classroom, she was known as an exceptional, innovative, and demanding teacher.”

Dr. Barsanti, who is also known internationally for her expertise in urologic disorders, was drawn to academia, because of the variety it offers. And, like with teaching, she also saw changes in the clinics.

“When I started at the University of Georgia, there were few specialties,” recalled Dr. Barsanti, who completed a residency in internal medicine in the late 1970s. “We taught in all areas of medicine and we treated everything that came through our doors – from dermatology and cardiology to oncology and neurology.”

Once again, though, Dr. Barsanti helped to facilitate this change, holding various leadership positions with the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) and playing a major role in the creation of the generalist and specialist tracks within the ACVIM Forum program, which, Dr. Allen said, “helped shape the cutting-edge continuing education the ACVIM Forum is known for today.”

One of the biggest changes Dr. Barsanti has witnessed is a change in attitude. Nearly 40 years ago, when she was considering career options, she was originally told that applications from women to Cornell’s veterinary college were not encouraged. Noting that she was not told they weren’t accepted , she persisted, eventually receiving an application and interview, and convincing Cornell to accept her.

“I knew that Ezra Cornell believed in educating women,” said Dr. Barsanti, who picked veterinary medicine because of a television advertisement that said good veterinarians like science, medicine, and animals. “He wanted his daughters to receive an education. Historically, Cornell had taken women, I knew not many, but they couldn’t discourage me, and I am happy to say my career was all that I had hoped it would be.”

Dr. Barsarnti is now an emeritus professor at University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She earned her veterinary degree from Cornell, completed an internship at Auburn University, and finished her residency at the University of Georgia, where she was hired as a faculty member and rose through the ranks to serve as Small Animal Medicine and Surgery Department Head from 1999-2004, before retiring at the end of 2004.