The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association presented its second annual Veterinary Advocate of the Year and Direct Care Practitioner of the Year awards during a special veterinary reception at the recent Animal Care Expo in Orlando, Fla. Dr. Brian Forsgren of Cleveland, Ohio, was recognized as the HSVMA Veterinary Advocate of the Year, and Dr. Lori Pasternak of Richmond, Va., was recognized as the HSVMA Direct Care Practitioner of the Year.
“Through their advocacy and direct care for animals in need, Drs. Forsgren and Pasternak epitomize the HSVMA goal of promoting veterinary leadership in animal welfare,” said Dr. Gary Block, a member of the HSVMA Board of Directors who helped present the awards. “Their efforts serve as an inspiration to us all to use our veterinary skills and expertise to promote the health and welfare of all animals.”
Dr. Forsgren has been helping animals of low-income individuals in Cleveland for the past three decades. However, his compassion for animals extends beyond the dogs and cats in his care to a broader concern for addressing all forms of animal cruelty. A longtime animal advocate, he was one of the first veterinary professionals to step forward and endorse a farm animal welfare ballot initiative launched in 2010 in Ohio to address extreme forms of confinement on factory farms. Dr. Forsgren not only lent his public support to the initiative but also collected signatures for the ballot petition, hosted a fundraiser and reached out to his colleagues to join him in endorsing the bill. His support—along with the endorsement of 75 other Ohio veterinary professionals—led to a compromise agreement on farm animal welfare in the state that is now resulting in improved guidelines for animal care.
“As veterinarians we are accountable for the health and welfare of all animals. That is the intuitive public perception of who we are and the role we play in society. We must individually and collectively live up to that vision of our professional self-concept,” said Dr. Forsgren. “Through advocacy we can make conditions better in a sustainable fashion for all animals. Our actions must be consistent with such a vision. Without veterinarians taking a leadership role, remarkable trauma and animal suffering exists. Times are always difficult. They are made much more difficult by standing on the sidelines. We need to get in the game and make a difference.”
Dr. Pasternak, through her aptly-named clinic Helping Hands Affordable Veterinary Surgical and Dental Care, works to ensure no animal goes without surgical or dental care due to prohibitively high costs by putting a portion of every fixed-cost procedure into a fund to help clients who cannot afford a needed procedure for their pets. Those who use the fund are required to repay their debt by doing community service at the clinic or any local animal welfare group. By limiting the focus of her clinic to surgery and dental care only and eliminating office visit and consultation time and fees, Dr. Pasternak is also able to provide low, all-inclusive costs to clients. With her unique system for providing access to care, Dr. Pasternak is improving the quality of life for animals in her community and helping eliminate difficult “economic euthanasia” decisions—euthanizing a pet due to the cost of veterinary care—for their caregivers.
“Surgery happens to be my talent. We should all use our talents to make the world a better place,” said Dr. Pasternak. “No one should ever have to make the choice between paying their bills and saving their best friend’s life.”
HSVMA created the two awards in order to recognize veterinary professionals who truly represent the mission of HSVMA to protect and advocate for the welfare of animals. The awards were presented by Dr. Paula Kislak and Dr. Gary Block, members of the HSVMA Board of Directors, during an HSVMA veterinary reception at Animal Care Expo.
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