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July 9, 2009- A Johns Hopkins veterinarian whose vocation is HIV research and avocation is the care of dog “athletes” has been named the 2009 Outstanding Woman Veterinarian of the Year by the Association for Women Veterinarians Foundation.
M. Christine Zink, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor and director of the Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a Hopkins faculty member for 21 years will be recognized for wide-ranging professional achievements with an award presented Tuesday, July 14, at the American Veterinary Medical Association convention in Seattle.
“It’s most gratifying to be a medical school researcher receiving this award,” Zink said. “Most of the focus is on those who do pet care, so I am doubly honored.”
For almost all of her two decades at Hopkins, Zink has investigated the neurological impact of HIV using animal models of disease. Three years ago, in which she calls the “discovery of my career,” she found that an inexpensive, safe antibiotic called minocycline suppresses both the development of HIV-related brain damage and replication of the virus. That antibiotic is now in clinical trials in the United States as well as in Africa.
“It’s really exciting for a veterinarian to know that you were able to make a difference in the lives of people suffering from this worldwide epidemic, particularly those in developing countries who can’t afford antiretroviral drugs,” Zink said.
Historically, research was regarded by many as a “less valiant” part of the veterinary profession, said Zink, who earned her doctoral degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 1978, and was first in her class.
Zink, author of four books about canine health, three of them focused on the canine athlete, has been a leader of a movement to create a new specialty — veterinary sports medicine and rehabilitation — and currently is editing a textbook to help teach veterinarians and veterinary students about this emerging field.
For 30 years, she has trained her own dogs — currently a golden retriever, a border collie, and a Norwich terrier — to compete in agility, obedience, field trials, tracking, and conformation. While health and nutrition standards are well known for pets, the same is not true for canine athletes, which have special requirements similar to those of human athletes.
“We can’t look at human medicine separate from animal medicine,” said Zink, a proponent of an emerging concept known as One health, One medicine. “It makes perfect sense from a veterinarian’s view to be looking at them together.”
Stacy Pritt, D.V.M., who chairs of the board of directors of the Association for Women Veterinarians Foundation, said that Zink’s recognition as Outstanding Woman Veterinarian of the Year is an “incredible honor because of the peer nomination and the level of competition.”