Clifton resident Dr. Fred Garrison was surprised earlier this year when he was named Veterinarian of the Year by the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association at its annual conference in Roanoke.
“I’m not sure I’m ever going to believe my wife again,” he joked, explaining how she arranged for 19 family members from across the country to be at the conference, while keeping both the arrangements and the award itself a secret from him for two or three months. Garrison established the Centreville Animal Hospital in 1975 and has been operating it ever since.
“He almost fainted,” said Steve Rogers, who was also involved in the surprise. Because Garrison wasn’t going to attend the meeting, Rogers and Kathy, Garrison’s wife of 33 years, had to come up with an “emergency” to convince him to go. Garrison was scheduled to make a report on the first day of the four-day conference, but then he drove back to work the next day so that another veterinarian could attend. In order to get him to return, the two concocted a story that he had to prepare another report for the following day.
“The fun was getting all his family there and getting him there,” said Rogers, a veterinarian at the Falls Church Animal Hospital. He and Garrison met when they served as officers in the District of Columbia Academy of Veterinary Medicine in 1975. They also served on the board of directors for the VVMA at the same time and the two continue to be both colleagues and good friends.
Garrison became interested in veterinary medicine while he was attending Cornell University. He was working as a barn-helper assisting a veterinarian to clean the wound of a cow that had to undergo a radical mastectomy when he made his decision. “It survived and did well and that spurred me on [to become a veterinarian],” he said. In 1971, he graduated from the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree (DVM).
Garrison says his award was “due to efforts that took me away from the practice,” and credits his staff for allowing him the time for outside activities. Aside from his work with the VVMA, Garrison has been a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association for over 30 years and a member of the Northern Virginia Veterinary Medical Association for more than 20 years. He is also a member of the American Animal Hospital Association and a consultant at the Emergency Veterinary Clinic of Northern Virginia. In 1999, he received the Veterinary Service Award, also given by the VVMA.
“He’s done quite a bit for the [VVMA] and the locality,” said Robin Schmitz, executive director of the VVMA since 1997. Though not on the eight-person committee that awarded Garrison the honor, she worked with him directly when Garrison served as the Association’s treasurer from 1995-2000.
“Recognition from your peers is the most important award you can win in a profession,” said Rogers, who received his own Paul F. Landis award about six years ago. “He’s a veterinarian’s veterinarian. He’s someone we all look up to and respect.”
The Paul F. Landis award is the state’s most prestigious veterinary award. Three criteria are used to determine eligibility for the award: individual activities as a veterinarian, exceptional contributions to organizational activities at the national, state and local levels and involvement in community activities.
During the presentation, Garrison was recognized as fulfilling all of these criteria as well as having the “qualities of compassion, selflessness, generosity, integrity, dedication and honor.”