Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

May 25, 2005

OVC Names Distinguished Grad

The Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) Alumni Association at the University of Guelph has presented its 2005 Distinguished Alumna award to Carin Wittnich, a professor in the departments of surgery and physiology at the University of Toronto.

“This award is very meaningful because it’s coming from what I consider ‘my own kind,’” said Wittnich, whose research on gender differences and heart disease has made important contributions to the well-being of women and children. The 1976 OVC graduate said she never imagined her degree would lead to a career focused on human cardiovascular health. “I’ve always wanted to be a vet; I’ve been very happy being a vet. I just use my skills in a somewhat different way.”

Wittnich earned a graduate degree in experimental surgery at McGill before joining U of T, where, in 1991, she established the Cardiovascular Sciences Collaborative Program. A Canadian first, it provides a unique environment for graduate training by bringing together more than 60 investigators working on the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.

She also created several new graduate and undergraduate courses at U of T, is a member of the board of governors of the Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences, and was named the inaugural Northrop Frye Scholar for her ability to combine science and education.

In addition, she has published 66 research papers, more than 90 scientific abstracts, and four book chapters, created five scientific research models, and conducted studies for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Wittnich also helped found the Oceanographic Environmental Research Society, and, through it, produced a video series, The Soothing Seas, that is being used in hospitals and extended-care facilities to provide a calming experience for patients, particularly those with Alzheimer’s and autism.

Wittnich, whose research, environmental and community work led to her receiving the Order of Ontario in 2001 and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2002, said she has always felt fortunate to be an OVC graduate.

“I was trained to talk to clients about their animals because the animals can’t do the talking. So you learn communication skills that become quite an asset when you’re trying to share your information with the public. It’s helpful for the public to understand in their language what we, the scientists, are trying to do and what we’re finding and what the implications are.”

Wittnich will be honoured during the University’s annual Alumni Weekend festivities June 25.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, Ext. 56982.

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