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College of Veterinary Medicine Alumnus
to Receive Honorary Degree

Dr. Leon RussellThe University of Missouri will honor two MU graduates with honorary degrees at the honors ceremony on Saturday, May 15, as part of the spring commencement ceremonies at MU. One the recipients, Leon Russell, earned his DVM from the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1956. An honorary degree is one of the highest honors the university can bestow.

Russell, who received his bachelor’s degree in animal science and doctor of veterinary medicine degree from MU, has researched and taught subjects such as public health, toxicology and zoonotic diseases, are illnesses that affect both humans and animals, such as rabies. His focus in zoonotic diseases led to the development of an oral vaccine that helped control coyote and fox rabies epidemics in western and southern Texas.

Since 1959, Russell has been a member of the faculty at Texas A&M University, the same institution where he received his doctorate in microbiology. Prior to attending Texas A&M, he received his master’s degree in public health from Tulane University.

Early in his career, Russell saw the possibilities for veterinarians in public health. Since then, he has worked to integrate veterinarians into the food safety and public health arenas. Russell has built a partnership between the human and animal health fields to improve food safety and the security issues that come with zoonotic diseases, such as rabies. Ahead of his time, he advocated for veterinary involvement in advancing ideas that protect people from animals and the environment, an idea that has shaped a new generation of veterinarians to address issues such as bioterrorism and food-borne illnesses.

As an internationally recognized expert in public health, Russell has served as a national adviser to governments, academic institutions and global organizations for food safety, toxicology, bioterrorism and epidemiology consultation. He has served on multiple committees of the United States Department of Agriculture to study food safety and rabies prevention.

In 2005, Russell became the first American to be elected president of the World Veterinary Association (WVA), the world’s oldest international veterinary organization. With nearly 100 member countries, the WVA works with other international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Prior to serving the WVA, he was president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Russell has received recognition from many organizations such as the American College of Veterinary Preventative Medicine and the American Veterinary Epidemiology Society. In 1994, he was awarded the General James A. McCallam award for distinguished service by the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States. Russell has published more than 30 articles and book chapters on his work and presented at more than 100 national and international conferences.

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Last Update: February 29, 2012