For Reuben Merideth, DVM ’78, recognition was twice as nice on Feb. 25.
Merideth, a veterinary ophthalmologist, received the Tucson Wildlife Center’s (TWC) first-ever “Person of the Year” award in recognition of his 20-plus years of volunteer service to the organization. The honor was presented at TWC’s annual benefit, “Born to be Wild.”
“I had been informed that I was going to receive the award at the benefit dinner,” Merideth said. “There were probably 30 other people who deserved an award like this before I got it. Then, when Lisa (Bates, TWC’s founder and executive director) announced the mayor had proclaimed ‘Dr. Reuben Merideth Love for Wildlife Day,’ that really caught me completely by surprise. I was shocked.”
Merideth is known as one of the most generous volunteers at TWC, the only facility of its kind in southern Arizona. Merideth accepted his award on behalf of “all the selfless veterinarians and volunteers who serve TWC.”
“The benefit was a big success, Merideth said. “They had reserved 350 tables at Skyline Country Club with a waiting list of 50. I think they raised close to $200,000,” for the non-profit sanctuary.
After receiving his DVM from MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1978, Merideth was an NIH Fellow in Comparative Ophthalmology at the University of Florida.
“When I received my ophthalmology training in Florida, I was exposed to exotics and wildlife, which fascinated and excited me,” Merideth said. “When I moved to Tucson in 1981, I immediately started volunteering. Tucson was a fragmented market then, with seven or eight individual, self-funded wildlife rescue organizations, all of which eventually shut down due to a lack of resources. Now, TWC tries to serve all of southern Arizona.”
Before the move to Tucson, he completed the advanced training required to become board certified by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists. The Diplomate credential is the highest medical designation for veterinarians.
Merideth founded Eye Care for Animals (ECFA) in 1981 as well. Today, more than 35 years later, ECFA is the world’s largest veterinary ophthalmology organization with 50 practices in 16 states. Merideth also started a residency program at ECFA, which is now the world’s largest non-university based veterinary ophthalmology training program.
Asked if he had a favorite story from his experiences caring for wildlife, Merideth said, “I don’t know that any one story stands out. I’ve treated everything from hummingbirds to elephants, and it’s just been a fantastic career and a great privilege to do this work.
“Veterinary medicine is a challenging skill set, and one that you have to update constantly. It is a very rewarding profession, though, from the opportunities to work with animals to the many friendships with peers, some of which go back to my days at Mizzou. Working with wildlife is super interesting and fascinating to me; it’s the icing on the cake of my profession.”
Although Merideth earned his DVM at Mizzou and his Diplomate designation, one thing he does not have is a high school diploma. The Columbia, Missouri, native would have been a member of Hickman High School’s Class of 1965, but left in his senior year in favor of undergraduate studies at MU.
A nationally recognized authority in animal ophthalmology, Merideth is the author of more than 30 scientific articles and a contributing author of five veterinary textbooks. His clinical interests include glaucoma and cataracts. He is the past president of the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association Counsel on continuing education and service for the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists on residency training and testing.