The American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges has selected Washington State University professor and veterinarian Dr. Rance Sellon as the recipient of the 2024 Distinguished Veterinary Teacher Award.
The national honor is the most prestigious teaching award in veterinary medicine and is presented by Zoetis, the largest global animal health company. It is awarded to an educator whose sustained record of teaching excellence and ability, dedication, character, and leadership has contributed significantly to the advancement of the veterinary profession.
Sellon will be presented with the award during the AAVMC’s 2024 Annual Conference and Iverson Bell Symposium from April 11–13 in Washington, D.C.
“I am very grateful for this award, and I will be forever thankful for the individual students and classes that have over the years expressed support for me and my teaching,” Sellon said. “I suspect I share the sentiment of most teachers, which is students can be a bit like one’s children: We want them to do well and be successful. If we as teachers played some role, big or small, in those successes, then we feel like we have served a purpose. I am fortunate to have seen many, many students become successful veterinarians.”
In addition to thanking his students, Sellon recognized the support he has received from his wife, WSU veterinarian Dr. Deb Sellon. He also acknowledged Dr. Craig Greene, a long-time professor and veterinarian at the University of Georgia who served as a guiding influence.
Sellon’s nomination was supported by two former students, Sara Packebush (’18 DVM) and Sarah Edwards (’22 DVM), in addition to recently retired WSU professor and veterinarian Dr. Bill Dernell and Dr. Lynne Nelson, who serves as associate dean for faculty programs and teaching and is a cardiologist at WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Nelson has worked closely with Sellon at WSU for the past 24 years. She highlighted how students voted to award him the college’s Distinguished Veterinary Teacher Award four times, the Jerry Newbrey Award for Excellence in Pre-clinical Teaching seven times and the Wescott Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching 11 times. Sellon was also invited to participate in class hooding and commencement ceremonies on 13 occasions.
“Former students I encounter frequently comment about their experiences with Dr. Sellon,” Nelson wrote in her letter. “In fact, I receive more positive commentary about Rance than almost any other instructor at WSU.”
His students pointed to his unique teaching style, which often mirrors the challenges faced by general practitioners in smaller communities.
“As a veterinary student with access to a state-of-the-art teaching hospital, it can be difficult not to feel restricted when a client cannot afford advanced diagnostics or treatments; yet with Dr. Sellon’s unique approach to teaching, he demonstrated we could still practice high-quality medicine even with minimal diagnostics,” Edwards wrote in her nomination letter.
Packebush said no one is more deserving of the award.
“Dr. Sellon has been instrumental in equipping generations of veterinarians with the knowledge and confidence they need to be the best clinicians their patients and clients could have,” she said. “I am so proud his contributions to veterinary education and the practice of veterinary medicine will be nationally recognized.”
Veterinary colleges award their own Distinguished Veterinary Teacher Award every spring. The AAVMC selects the national recipient from that pool.
For the WSU recognition, Sellon was presented a $1,000 award, which he donated to the college’s Sonny Angel, Cody Jo, and Annie Marie’s Gift of Hope Endowment to directly support animals in need of care at the university. Sellon also often participates in the Bill Johnson Annual Ride for Hope, which has brought in more than $100,000 of support to the fund.