Bovine Association Honors NC State Veterinary Students, Alum

Two NC State College of Veterinary Medicine students and an alumnus have earned top honors from the American Association of Bovine Practitioners.

The class of 2022’s Allyson Patterson received a Harold E. Amstutz Scholarship and an AABP Foundation/Merck Animal Health Bovine Veterinary Student Recognition Award. The class of 2021’s Caitlyn Mullins won an AABP Foundation-Zoetis Scholarship.

The Boehringer Ingelheim Bovine Practitioner of the Year Award went to Pat Comyn, a 1988 CVM graduate who owns and operates Virginia Herd Health Management Services, PC in Madison, Va. 

The honors were handed out during the AABP’s virtual conference Sept. 24-26. 

“Receiving these honors means the world to me,” says Patterson. “I love bovine medicine and am beyond pleased that my passion and excitement came across and was recognized in this way.”

Patterson is a 2020 Annable Scholar and a Food Animal Scholar at the CVM. She was a Park Scholar at NC State, where she earned a bachelor’s in animal science in 2018. After graduation, she plans to pursue an academic food animal internship followed by a residency in theriogenology or large animal internal medicine. The ultimate goal: returning to academia as a clinician or professor.

She is just one of just five to earn the $7,500 Amstutz Scholarship, the AABP’s highest student honor. She is also one of 18 veterinary students nationally to win the Bovine Veterinary Student Recognition Award, a $5,000 scholarship.

“Focusing on ruminant medicine at the CVM has been an absolute blast,” says Patterson. “The food animal students are some of the most engaged, passionate and fun-loving people at our school. I’m so fortunate to have them as colleagues and also have the support of our world-class ruminant faculty.”

Derek Foster, CVM associate professor of ruminant medicine, has known Patterson since she enrolled at the CVM and joined the college’s Student Chapter of the AABP. 

“Allyson is dedicated to becoming the best veterinarian that she can be,” says Foster. “She is an outstanding student who has a sincere desire to become a food animal veterinarian, going out of her way to visit farms and practices around the country and the world to get unique experiences to prepare her for this career.”

Caitlyn Mullins. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

Mullins is one of 12 students to receive the $5,000 AABP Foundation-Zoetis Scholarship. Last year, she received a Bovine Veterinary Student Recognition Award. Mullins is also a 2020 Annable Scholar and is interested in a career with a cattle practice. She earned a bachelor’s in animal science and a master’s in animal welfare and behavior from the Ohio State University. She is the vice president of the CVM’s Student Chapter of the AABP.

“Caitlyn and Allyson are both examples of outstanding students who have cultivated an interest in ruminant medicine and are working hard to become leaders of the profession,” says Geof Smith, CVM professor of ruminant medicine. 

The Bovine Practitioner of the Year Award, the AABP’s overall top honor, recognizes a beef or dairy veterinarian’s outstanding contributions to the industry. 

Comyn’s Virginia Herd Health Management Services, launched in 1992, is a  bovine and small ruminant medicine practice with specialties including embryo transfer, semen freezing, reproductive enhancement for dairy and beef cattle and herd health management. Comyn chairs the AABP’s genomics committee and is on the board of directors of the American Embryo Transfer Association. 

Comyn also sells Holstein bulls and heifers to artificial insemination companies and Angus bulls to artificial insemination cooperatives.

“There is shock and a strong wave of humility. It’s a great honor and it was very unexpected,” says Comyn, cows mooing in the background during the phone call. “I know a lot of really good bovine practitioners. To be put in their company is quite something. It brings to mind the faces of the people who helped me get here.”

Those mentors include Ben Harrington, a strong voice in the development of the CVM and a professor of food animal medicine and equine medicine when the college welcomed its first class in 1981. Harrington was a founding member and president of the AABP and won the Bovine Practitioner of the Year Award in 1979. 

It was Harrington, a friend of his now-wife’s family, who encouraged Comyn to enroll in veterinary school.

Many of Comyn’s other mentors are still at the CVM, including Kevin Anderson, professor of ruminant health management, and Ed Breitschwerdt, the Melanie S. Steele Distinguished Professor of Internal Medicine. The priority they put on guiding students inspired Comyn.

Pat Comyn

1988 CVM alumnus Pat Comyn.

“When you mentor students, you end up becoming a better veterinarian yourself,” says Comyn. “You look at yourself through a different lens. Ben Harrington had the ethic of hard work, compassion for his patients and passion for what he did. Ben loved working with students, and I took from that.”

Veterinary medicine runs in Comyn’s family; his mother was a veterinarian and his father was a race horse trainer. His sister, Gillian Comyn Hope, and his wife, Barbara Butler, both graduated from the CVM in 1987 and are practicing veterinarians. Comyn’s son is currently enrolled at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and his daughter plans to attend veterinary school.

“Veterinary medicine weaves through the fabric of my family,” says Comyn. “It becomes part of you.”

CVM students and faculty regularly receive honors from the AABP, an international association of more than 6,000 leaders in cattle health. Last year, Foster received the AABP’s Student Chapter Advisor Award for his mentorship, and 2019 graduates Danielle Mzyk and Nate Baribault won the AABP Foundation-Zoetis Scholarship in 2018. 

“Our ruminant faculty place a premium on educating students and spend countless hours both within the curriculum and outside to develop ruminant veterinarian skills,” says Smith. “We have attracted many students to our ruminant medicine program and are proud that many of our graduates are leaders in the field all over the country.”

~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine