UF veterinary college names 2020 Distinguished Award winners

Press release from UF Health

Alumni focusing on areas ranging from infectious diseases and aquatic animal health to avian medicine and small animal surgery and practice have received the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine’s 2020 Distinguished Awards.

The program recognizes outstanding alumni and friends of the college in various categories.

Amanda Jezek Martinot, D.V.M., Ph.D., received the Alumni Achievement Award in the D.V.M. category. A veterinarian-scientist and a board-certified pathologist, she specializes in animal models of infectious diseases of global health importance, such as tuberculosis, HIV, and Zika virus. She is an assistant professor in the department of infectious diseases and global health at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, Massachusetts.

Martinot received her D.V.M. degree from UF in 2003. She went on to study the epidemiology of infectious diseases and global health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she completed her M.P.H. degree in 2006. She has since specialized in comparative pathology and infectious diseases by completing her pathology residency at the Harvard Medical School, New England Primate Research Center, and her Ph.D. in 2014 at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she studied the microbiology and immunopathology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection.

She completed postdoctoral studies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and joined Harvard’s faculty in 2018 where, as a veterinary pathologist, she contributed to groundbreaking research on the development of a Zika vaccine now in human clinical trials.

With over 10 years of experience in TB virology, Martinot’s independent research focuses on preclinical animal models for TB vaccine development and the basic immunology and virulence determinants underlying the TB host-pathogen interaction.

Iske Larkin, Ph.D., received the Alumni Achievement Award in the M.S./Ph.D. category. She received her Ph.D. in physiological sciences from UF in 2000 and has dedicated her career to teaching, research, and student mentorship at the UF veterinary college for over 20 years.

A faculty member in the department of large animal clinical sciences, Larkin is interim director of the Aquatic Animal Health Program, which provides state-of-the-art training, education, diagnostics, clinical training, and research support for managed care and wild aquatic species.

Larkin was one of the first UF faculty members to adopt online learning pedagogy into her teaching efforts, and in 2015 she received the UF Online Education Excellence Award for one of her classes. She is one of the few UF faculty members invited by the university’s online program each year to review and evaluate online courses across campus.

Her current educational activities include monitoring the effectiveness of online learning strategies used by upper-level undergraduate students, graduate students, veterinary students, and professionals. She teaches most of her program’s online courses, procuring guest speakers as needed to enhance student engagement and networking in the field of aquatics, reaching students across the United States and abroad to more than 30 countries. Her research interests include manatee reproduction, physiology and behavior, manatee chemosensation, and nutrition.

Larkin also serves as graduate student coordinator for her department and as faculty adviser for the college’s Veterinary Graduate Student Association.

Hank Wietsma, D.V.M., received the Distinguished Service Award. A 1985 graduate of the UF veterinary college, he is a board-certified avian specialist and co-owner of Coventry Animal Hospital in Coventry, Rhode Island.

Passionate about the “access-to-care” issue in veterinary medicine, Wietsma is a past president of the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association. In 2004, he co-founded the association’s Companion Animal Foundation, which provides funds to low-income pet owners to use when their pets become ill.  He served as president of the foundation from 2011 to 2016.

Subsequently, he founded Pets In Need, or PIN, a nonprofit veterinary clinic aimed at making quality veterinary care accessible for all pets. Since opening in 2016, this clinic has treated more than 10,000 pets owned by qualified low-income pet owners. In addition to his own private practice duties, Wietsma continues to regularly volunteer his services at the PIN clinic.

Wietsma also works with Foster Parrots, the third-largest parrot sanctuary in the country, and has performed that group’s veterinary medical work for 15 years. Named Rhode Island’s Veterinarian of the Year in 2009, he received the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association’s Meritorious Service Award in 2016. Wietsma also was named Rhode Islander of the Year by the Rhode Island Monthly Magazine in 2016.

 Carlos Campos, D.V.M., received the Special Service Award. A 2002 graduate of the UF veterinary college, he is a small animal practitioner who opened San Francis Veterinary Hospital in Spring Hill, Florida in 2010, a practice which now employs over 40 employees. Campos sold his practice in 2017 to Pet Partners, which recently merged with VCA, where he now serves as area medical director in addition to practicing medicine.

After graduation from UF, Campos worked for seven years as an associate veterinarian at the Animal Care Center in New Port Richey and briefly at Blake Animal Hospital in Dade City prior to establishing his Spring Hill practice. For his leadership in organized veterinary medicine, Campos received the Florida Veterinary Medical Association’s Gold Star Award in 2004. He has spoken to students at UF, Louisiana State University, and the University of California/Davis about his veterinary journey.

In 2013, Campos was named “America’s Favorite Veterinarian” by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. He chairs the Pasco County Animal Services Advisory Board and is president of the Suncoast Veterinary Association.

Originally from Guatemala, Campos arrived in the United States in 1988. His experiences inspired him to improve accessibility to veterinary health care, especially for those of racial and minority backgrounds. San Francis is the only bilingual hospital in his area, allowing Spanish-speaking clients to communicate better with their veterinary health care providers.

He was the keynote speaker at the Southeast Regional Diversity Matters Symposium hosted by UF in 2016 and is a member of the Dean’s Circle of Excellence.

Alex Fox-Alvarez, D.V.M., received the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. A 2012 graduate of the UF veterinary college and a board-certified small animal surgeon, he has been a member of the college’s department of small animal clinical sciences faculty since 2018, specializing in small animal soft tissue surgery.

After graduating from veterinary school, Fox-Alvarez completed an internship in small animal, zoo and exotic medicine, and surgery at Valley Animal Hospital in Tucson, Arizona. While there, he realized his passion for surgery, changed directions, and returned to UF’s veterinary college to complete a specialty internship in small animal surgery. He then completed a four-year combined master’s degree and residency program in small animal surgery at UF.

 During his final year of residency, he was elected as chief resident of the hospital by his peers, chosen resident of the year by the graduating class, and received the American Association of Veterinary Clinician’s 2018 Outstanding Resident Award. He was the first resident to pass the newly introduced Veterinary Assessment of Laparoscopic Skills certificate exam and won multiple resident research awards at national and international conferences.

Fox-Alvarez also has a passion for teaching and international medicine. During his residency he developed a surgical training cooperative with a large nonprofit animal rescue in Thailand, in which a senior surgical resident from UF visits their hospital annually for two weeks to help with complex surgical procedures and train their veterinarians in these techniques.

 James Block, D.V.M., received the Honorary Alumnus Award. A 1972 graduate of University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, he has been involved in many events and activities held by the UF’s veterinary college over more than 30 years. His wife, Janet Nesbitt, D.V.M., received her veterinary medical degree in 1984 from UF.

Block was a partner at Knowles Animal Clinics in Miami for approximately 40 years until the clinics sold to CAPNA, now VCA. He was instrumental in opening one of the first animal emergency clinics in Miami.

A lifetime member of the Dean’s Circle of Excellence, Block has played an integral role in raising and guiding gifts to the college through his clients. Most recently, a gift of $100,000 was designated in his honor and donated to the college through one of his many grateful clients.

Active in organized veterinary medicine, Block is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, and the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association, of which he is a past president. He received the Florida Veterinary Medical Association’s Gold Star Award in 2020. He also served on the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees for Zoo Miami Foundation, formerly Zoological Society of Florida, for 10 years, and is an adviser and board member of South Florida Fund for Retired Law Enforcement K9, founded by his son, Adam Block.

Block is also active in his local community. He is a 25-year member and a past president of Rotary International. His clinic serves the local law enforcement community by caring for many of the service K9s in Miami-Dade County. Block also helps host an annual fundraiser to raise money for the treatment of these dogs in their retirement.