In recognition of his commitment to mentoring bovine veterinary students and young veterinarians, Merck Animal Health (known as MSD Animal Health outside of the United States and Canada) and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) presented Dean Christianson, D.V.M., with the Mentor of the Year Award at this year’s AABP Annual Conference. The annual award honors an individual who is dedicated to educating, guiding and advancing the careers of future bovine veterinarians.

“Dr. Christianson’s contributions to veterinary medicine and his ongoing commitment to cultivating the next generation of bovine veterinarians is truly impressive and deserving of recognition,” said Norman Stewart, D.V.M., livestock and technical services manager for Merck Animal Health. “We commend his dedication to the veterinary medical profession, as well as his contribution of time, knowledge and real-world experiences for students and young veterinarians.”

For nearly 30 years, Dr. Christianson has opened his doors to countless veterinary students and new veterinarians to share practical insights of working with clients and the animal patients within a rural veterinary clinic. “The value and recognition of being a mentor is akin to financial investing – the return often comes years or even decades after the fact,” said M. Gatz Riddell, Jr., D.V.M., executive vice president of AABP. “Oftentimes, mentees are unaware of the process at the time, and only years later realize the impact an individual had on their life and career. This is why Dean and other lifetime mentors like him are so worthy of this recognition."

Veterinary students in their third or fourth year of college are eligible to receive the award. Recipients of the scholarship are selected based on academic achievement, career goals, work experience and interest in veterinary medicine.

Taking a hands-on approach, Dr. Christianson teaches by example. “His philosophy is ‘see one, do one’,” said Kristi Pennington, D.V.M. with the Dakota Prairie Veterinary Clinic, who worked for Dr. Christianson after veterinary school. “What I learned from him in two years has been invaluable in my veterinary career. On a weekly basis, I use many of the techniques that he taught me 20 years ago.” She also credits him with encouraging herself and other female veterinary students to pursue large animal veterinary medicine.

As president of the Academy of Rural Veterinarians (ARV), Dr. Christianson further cultivates the mission of mentoring young veterinarians among his colleagues. Under his direction, ARV sponsors numerous student externships each year, and members regularly visit undergraduate and high school classes to expose youth to careers in veterinary medicine. Within his own clinic in Ashley, North Dakota, it’s not uncommon for Dr. Christianson to host five to 10 veterinary students annually.

Love of the veterinary profession, as well as concern about the long-term accessibility of rural veterinarians for producers, drives his efforts. “I think what he likes most about being a veterinarian is the relationship and bond he has with his clients,” Dr. Pennington said. “He wants to share that with students and let them see how enriching a veterinary career in a rural community can be.”

A native of South Dakota, Dr. Christianson received a Bachelor of Science in microbiology at South Dakota State University. He went on to the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, graduating in 1984. From there, he practiced at the Eureka Veterinary Clinic in Eureka, South Dakota. In 1986, Dr. Christianson moved to Ashley, North Dakota, to open the Ashley Veterinary Clinic, which he owns and operates today.

Dr. Christianson is an active member of numerous veterinary organizations, including AABP, and is the ninth recipient of the Mentor of the Year Award, which was instituted in 2007.