University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine Professor of Veterinary Neurology and Neurosurgery Joan Coates, DVM, MS, DACVIM, was announced as the college’s 2023 Alumna of the Year. Coates was recognized during the college’s Alumni Reunion Weekend held Sept. 15-16.
Coates, who was raised in Jackson, Missouri, holds two degrees from the University of Missouri ─ a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture conferred in 1987, and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, which she received in 1990.
She went on to complete a small animal rotating internship at Texas A&M University and a three-year neurology and neurosurgery residency at Auburn University where she also completed a master’s degree in neurosurgery. In 1994, she became board-certified in veterinary neurology through the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. She served on the faculty at the University of Georgia from 1994 to 1997 and at Texas A&M University from 1997 to 2003 before returning to the University of Missouri.
She became a full professor in the MU Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery in 2011. Since 2018 she has been the section leader for neurology and neurosurgery. She also served as the interim director of the Veterinary Health Center from September 2021 to November 2022.
During her career, she has mentored nearly one hundred interns, residents, graduate students and postdocs and helped launch the careers of thousands of new veterinarians.
As a researcher, she is nationally and internationally renowned for her advances in neurological treatments. Her main focus involves the study of canine degenerative myelopathy as a disease model for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Among her numerous honors, Coates has received the 2020 Missouri Veterinary Medical Association President’s Award, the MUCVM Dean’s Impact Award in 2019, the 2009 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Hero in Medicine Award and the Pfizer Award for Research Excellence in 2009. She was also recognized for research accomplishments by the American Boxer Charitable Foundation in 2015 and named as an Honorary Member of the American Boxer Club in 2010. She is currently president of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Neurology Specialty.
Coates’ classmate Bruce Thomsen, DVM ’90, sent a tribute that was read during the presentation.
“My first reaction to hearing Joan being selected as Alumna of the Year, was thinking, of course Joan would win this award! Alumna of the Year is who she is and has always been,” Thomsen wrote. “Her intelligence, drive, compassion, and humility were apparent when I first got to know her in anatomy lab in 1986. Those qualities helped her build a great professional career. That personal drive to succeed also helped her ride a bike completely across the state of Minnesota as part of a fundraiser for multiple sclerosis 20 years ago. The University of Missouri and the students at the veterinary college are lucky to get to work with her each day. I am lucky to call her my friend. Congratulations, Joan!”
Coates, in her response, thanked her longtime partner and some of her colleagues, including Assistant Teaching Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery Sissy Hong, DVM, MVM, MS, DACVIM, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery Ji-Hey Lim, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, and Professor Emeritus Dennis O’Brien, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVIM, whom she called a mentor.
Reunion weekend activities resumed the following morning. A tailgate brunch at the college preceded the Mizzou versus Kansas State football game. Attendees were invited to tour the Veterinary Health Center and enjoy wagon rides pulled by the CVM’s mule team of Boone and George. The Raptor Rehabilitation Project, which is celebrating its 50th year rescuing and providing care to birds of prey, had some of its resident education birds present to meet alumni and their guests.
A 50-year reunion dinner was held for the Class of 1973 on Sept. 16.
Additional photos can be found on the CVM Facebook page.