Surrounded by swimming whale sharks and beluga whales, standing before a cheering audience of over 600 colleagues, former students and a few current ones, Dr. Michael Stoskopf, Director of the EMC, was awarded the most prestigeous award of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, the Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented by Dr. Stoskopf’s long time friend and colleague, and the editor of the Journal of Wildlife Disease, Dr. Dan Mulcahy. Dr. Mulcahy treated the audience to an extensive review of Dr. Stoskopf’s many achievements and contributions to the discipline of zoological medicine, including many little known facts and accomplishments.
In his acceptance speech Dr. Stoskopf pointed out the appropriateness of the venue for this award, recollecting his first time attending the AAZV annual meeting was in Atlanta 42 years ago, alluding to the importance of that number for all Douglas Adams and Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fans. He also estimated the total attendance at that early meeting was about 42 people including the important local host staff and vendors who have long supported the AAZV through its evolution and one student member, himself.
He then talked about luck and serendipity, the subtle differences in the terms and how they clearly played a large role in his opportunity to make the contributions he has to the discipline. He mentioned the luck of encountering Dr. Mort Silberman, long time leader of the AAZV, eventually serving as the first executive secretary of the organization and how Dr. Silberman made that first meeting a positive experience for a young veterinary student. He also mentioned the luck of benefiting from the efforts of Dr. Stuart Porter who facilitated Dr. Stoskopf’s first position at the then Overton Park Zoo and Aquarium in Memphis and the serendipity of sitting with Dr. Mitch Bush at another AAZV meeting in Baltimore. This all led to Dr. Stoskopf being at the proper place and time to meet his soul mate, future wife, long time colleague, and best friend, Dr. Suzanne Kennedy.
Dr. Stoskopf proceeded to point out the irony that despite having spent a signifcant part of his career as a solo clinician, providing 24/7 coverage to his institutions, it was clear that there was not a single achievement of impact or importance that he could rightful call his own. He emphasized that everything that he has accomplished has been in collaboration with others, giving examples of where he and his amazing wife, as well as brilliant, hardworking and dedicated colleagues and friends came together to make important things happen. He stressed the importance of collaborations and working together for a common purpose, and expressed his delight at looking out at the audience and seeing his and Suzanne’s legacy of a bright, passionate and skilled army of people dedicated to making the world a better place for wildlife of all kinds.
The standing ovation was long and heartfelt. It was particularly fortuitous that the presentation before a crowd of over 600 colleagues was at the first ever joint meeting of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, the European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians and the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research allowing many of Dr. Stoskopf’s international colleagues and friends to join in the celebration of Dr. Stoskopf’s award through out the evening of dancing and reminiscences. Dr. Stoskopf joins the late Dr. Murray Fowler, estemed professor at UC. Davis and Dr. Marty Dinnes, internationally reknowned zoological cllinician and entrepreneur as the third recipient of this prestigeous award.