Michael Overton (DVM, ’90), an internationally recognized leader in dairy production medicine, is the recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award from the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).
Overton says he is “honored, shocked and humbled” by the award, which was presented Oct. 27 at the university’s annual “Evening of the Stars” gala and honors those with exemplary career achievements, impactful community contributions and an unabiding love for their alma mater.
Overton, who lives in Athens, Ga., combines full-time duties as a dairy analytics consultant for Elanco Knowledge Solutions, an animal pharmaceuticals company, with a love for teaching. He travels to several universities each year to give lectures and is a consultant in his field around the world.
And every year he returns to NC State’s CVM for a few days to work with senior students in food animal rotations
“I feel that it is very valuable for veterinary students to have the opportunity to broaden their educational experiences by interacting with outside instructors,” says Overton. “I relish these opportunities to give back in my own way.”
In his award nomination for Overton, Geof Smith a professor of ruminant medicine at the CVM who invites Overton to campus each year to teach, emphasized his colleague’s devotion to veterinary education in his home state and around the globe.
“It has become almost standard in the industry that if you are having a problem with reproduction, nutrition, records analysis or transition cow management, you call Dr. Overton,” says Smith.
Overton was born in Durham and moved to Oxford, N.C. when he was 6 months old. He grew up adjacent to his grandparents’ 60-cow dairy and tobacco farm, an experience that led him to realize at an early age that he wanted to be a veterinarian. Overton earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from NC State in 1986 before enrolling in the CVM.
“While at NC State, I had the opportunity to be taught and mentored by some of the people that I consider to be giants in food animal medicine: Ben Harrington, John Fetrow, Elaine Hunt and Kevin Anderson to name a few,” says Overton. “Their efforts and examples helped shape my approach to problem solving and teaching.”
“I will always remember a beautiful campus, a wonderful teaching animal unit for hands-on education and a great faculty, both in food animal medicine and beyond”
Overton began his career with the Stony Point Animal Hospital near Statesville, N.C., working with a mix of companion and farm animals, as well as equines and small ruminants. But he “always had a heart for dairy production medicine,” and in private practice focused more on dairy nutrition.
After almost nine years in private practice, Overton returned to school, studying epidemiology, statistics and dairy production medicine at the University of California, Davis. There, he completed a residency and earned a master’s degree in preventive veterinary medicine.
Overton worked for nearly six years as a clinician at UC Davis, becoming “hooked” on population medicine, before becoming an associate professor and eventually professor of dairy production management at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. After five years at UGA, he joined Elanco as a consultant and advisor.
Overton still focuses on education through advisory work and lectures around the world. He says the most gratifying aspect of his career by far has been seeing students grow, mature and blossom into successful veterinarians.
And Overton will always have a love for NC State — he still sports a Wolfpack sticker on his phone and computer bag. He considers his CVM degree a particular badge of honor.
“I will always remember a beautiful campus, a wonderful teaching animal unit for hands-on education and a great faculty, both in food animal medicine and beyond,” he says.
~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine