Making an Impact: College of Veterinary Medicine Spotlights Patton, Van Amstel

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Through teaching, research, and service, our faculty are making an impact on student lives, on our community, and on the world. Here’s a look at two College of Veterinary Medicine faculty members who teaching their students to take care of themselves and the animals in their care.

Sharon Patton

Sharon-PattonTake one parasitologist. Add a pinch of evangelist and toss in a little cheerleader. That’s been the recipe for success in Sharon Patton’s career.

Patton, a professor in the Department of Biomedical and Diagnostic Services, came to UT thirty-six years ago as the first female faculty member of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Growing up, Patton lived on a farm where she was constantly exposed to an array of animals and the diseases they carried. Her natural interest in parasites and their life-cycles led her to study parasitology.

Patton brings the same level of passion that she has for her profession into the classroom.

“My classes are like an old-time gospel meeting,” Patton said. “I have them yell out answers to my questions and complete my sentence when I say ‘Hookworms are…’ and they’ll yell, ‘VORACIOUS BLOODSUCKERS!’”

She also devises lab cases for her classes with real-life scenarios of parasites infecting animals and causing disease, which students evaluate before recommending treatment and prevention.

“The purpose of all of my teaching techniques is to enhance learning,” Patton said. “I require a lot of work from my students, but I do it so that when they leave my class they’re better prepared veterinarians.”

As a trailblazer herself, the parasitology professor knows the importance of teaching her students the fundamentals—the tools they’ll need to help them succeed in an ever-changing world.

“The environment and international travel have changed in the over three decades I’ve been teaching. New parasites are being discovered, new treatments are coming about, and our understanding of control continues to change,” she said. “Most of what I teach I was never taught.”

She stresses the importance of remembering the principles and understanding how something works. If students do that, they can adapt to any changes that come.

“If you give a person a parasite, he will know that one parasite. If you teach the person to understand the characteristics and principles of parasitism, they can figure things out on their own for the rest of their life,” she said.

Sarel Van Amstel

VanAmstelAfter working in the veterinary field for more than forty years, Sarel Van Amstel understands the toll the profession can take on a person’s mind and body.

Van Amstel is a professor of farm animal medicine and surgery at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

In an effort to help students combat mental and physical fatigue, he created the Farm Animal Workout Group as an outlet for them to relieve stress and help them lead a more balanced lifestyle. Van Amstel uses the workouts to promote healthy lifestyle habits that will positively impact his students long after they leave his class.

“Practicing veterinary medicine can be very stressful and demanding. Young people often do not realize the negative effects this can have on your body and mind,” Van Amstel said.

Van Amstel, far right, leads the Farm Animal Workout Group in exercises.

Van Amstel, far right, leads the Farm Animal Workout Group in exercises.

The group meets Monday through Friday afternoons and consists of fourth-year clinical students, large-animal interns and residents, anyone else who wants to join. Van Amstel leads the workouts, which last thirty minutes to an hour and are a combination of running plus a mixture of exercises from strength training programs such as Insanity, P90X, and Special Forces routines.

“As a seventy-one year old man, I want to set an example for my students,” Van Amstel said. “My objective is to encourage and show that through regular exercise you can avoid many of the negative effects of age, stress, and the demands of the life we are living. My motto is ‘Work out today and be happy and healthy tomorrow!’”

The professor brings the same sort of high-impact dedication into the classroom as he does to his workouts.

“Sarel is actively involved in continuing education on a local, national, and international level,” said College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Dr. Jim Thompson. “He works tirelessly to create enthusiasm among students about farm animal medicine, and under his tutelage they learn what it takes to meet the needs of our agricultural community.”

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

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