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Asa Mays Excellence in Canine Health Research Award

2013 - Kathryn Meurs, DVM, PhD

2011 - Jaime Modiano, VMD, PhD

2009 - Mark Oyama, DVM

2007 - Matthew Breen, PhD

2005 - Elaine Ostrander, PhD

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation (CHF) established the Asa Mays, DVM, Excellence in Canine Health Research Award by a unanimous vote of the Board of Directors.  The award is a biennial honor presented to research investigators who demonstrate meritorious advancements in furthering the mission of identifying, characterizing, and treating canine disease and ailments.  The inaugural award was presented at the 6th Biennial National Parent Club Canine Health Conference in October, 2005.

“Asa’s dedication to canine health and the sport of purebred dogs has inspired us all,” said Wayne Ferguson, then-president of CHF.  “I can think of no better way to honor that spirit than through the annual presentation of this award.  The pioneering effort of these researchers is a wonderful testament to Asa’s vision for conquering disease in all dogs.”

“As a respected breeder and judge, Asa demonstrated early on his unwavering support of canine health,” added the late Robert L. Kelly, CHF treasurer, chair of the grants committee, and fellow founding Board member.  “Whether serving as a grants committee member or as an unofficial liaison with the AKC Board, Asa truly was a champion of our fight.  We are so pleased to honor his memory in such a meaningful way.”


 2013 - Kathryn Meurs, DVM, PhD

Dr. Kathryn Meurs of North Carolina State University was presented with the Asa Mays Excellence in Canine Health Research Award at the 2013 National Parent Club Canine Health Conference. Dr. Meurs was selected to receive this biennial award based on her critical contributions to understanding inherited heart disease in dogs.

After receiving her doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Dr. Meurs earned a PhD in genetics from Texas A&M University and the Texas Heart Institute. She is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine with a subspecialty in cardiology. After several years in clinical service and teaching at The Ohio State University and Washington State University, in 2011 Dr. Meurs became the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at North Carolina State University. She is an avid supporter of students and fosters their interest in veterinary and translational research. 

Dr. Meurs is a leader in comparative genetics research with a special interest in inherited heart disease, cardiomyopathy, and pharmacogenomics. She is credited with the discovery of four causative mutations for inherited cardiomyopathies in dogs and cats, one of which was subsequently described in human beings with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.  The genetic tests developed by Dr. Meurs are helping to reduce the incidence of heart disease so that dogs can live longer, healthier lives. 

“The pioneering effort of researchers like Dr. Meurs is a testament to Asa May’s vision for conquering diseases in all dogs,” said Dr. Shila Nordone, CHF’s Chief Scientific Officer. “We are privileged to work with Dr. Meurs and we are pleased to recognize her contributions to canine health with this award.”

 2011- Jaime Modiano, VMD, PhD

Originally from Mexico City, Dr. Modiano completed his undergraduate work in biomedical sciences atTexasA&MUniversity.  He went on to veterinary school at theUniversityofPennsylvania, where he also earned a PhD in Immunology.  He went on to a residency in Veterinary Clinical Pathology atColoradoStateUniversityand a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine.

Dr. Modiano served on the faculty in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology atTexasA&MUniversitybetween 1995 and 1999. He then returned toDenverfor appointments at theAMCCancerResearchCenterand he was Associate Professor of Immunology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.  In July of 2007, Dr. Modiano joined theCollegeofVeterinary Medicineand theComprehensiveCancerCenterat theUniversityofMinnesota, where he continues his research program as Professor of Comparative Oncology holding the Al and June Perlman Endowed Chair.

His research program has had uninterrupted support from federal and private sources for over 16 years, leading to co-authorship of more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts, and approximately 200 abstracts, presentations, and book chapters focused on various aspects of immunology, cancer cell biology, the genetic basis of cancer and applications of gene therapy.

At the time of the award presenation, the AKC Canine Health Foundation had awarded Dr. Modiano nearly $1.2 million for eight research projects.  He received his first grant from the Foundation in 1998 to study tumor suppressor genes in canine cancer and continues to receive funding today for hemangiosarcoma and osteosarcoma treatments.

His work has significantly progressed our understanding of canine cancer.  We understand more about the heritable breed specific risks of certain types of cancer.    Most recently, Dr.Modiano’s team discovered a gene pattern that distinguishes the more severe form of bone cancer from a less aggressive form in dogs.  This discovery has significant implications for how osteosarcoma patients are treated. And in addition to being a leading researcher, Dr. Modiano is also a great partner for the AKC Canine Health Foundation.  He frequently provides CHF with educational materials and speaks to the Foundation's constituents on his research.

 2009 – Mark Oyama, DVM

Dr. Mark Oyama received his DVM from the University of Illinois in 1994, completed an internship at the Animal Medical Center in New York City, and a residency in cardiology at UC-Davis from 1995-1997.  He was boarded in cardiology in 1998, and spent two years in private practice in Portland, Oregon before returning to the University of Illinois as a faculty member in 1999.  In 2005, Dr. Oyama accepted a faculty position at the University of Pennsylvania where he is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical Studies and the President of the Specialty of Cardiology of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Dr. Oyama’s major research interests continue to focus on animal models of human disease and translational research, in particular, he is involved in research concerning dilated cardiomyopathy and mitral valve disease, and cardiac biomarkers.

“Dr. Oyama’s dedication to the field of cardiology research and his efforts to encourage newly graduated veterinarians to pursue a career in research make him stand out among his peers.  His interest in both clinical and laboratory research is allowing pet owners to have immediate treatment options for those animals who need it today, as well as providing researchers with information to help them prevent disease in the future,” stated Dr. Terry Warren, CEO and General Counsel for the AKC Canine Health Foundation.  “Our thanks to Dr. Oyama for his dedicated work, he is a true member of the AKC Canine Health Foundation team.”

Upon accepting the award, Dr. Oyama noted, “I am deeply honored to be selected as the 2009 recipient of the Asa Mays Award. In accepting this award, I do so on behalf of my fantastic team of veterinarians and colleagues at the Penn Cardiology Service, as well as the countless number of pet owners and breeders that have participated in so many clinical trials over the years.  I was not fortunate enough to personally know Dr. Mays, but his pioneering commitment to canine health is reflected in the mission and efforts of today’s AKC Canine Health Foundation.”

2007 – Matthew Breen, PhD

Dr. Matthew Breen completed his PhD in cytogenetics in 1990 and then spent two years as a Post Doc in Molecular Genetics at the UK Medical Research Council’s Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he was responsible for developing novel ways to map genes to chromosomes as part of the Human Genome Project.  Dr. Breen then spent four years working for the research arm of the Australian Thoroughbred industry, returning to the UK in 1996 where his laboratory developed molecular cytogenetics reagents, resources and techniques for application to canine genome mapping, comparative cytogenetics and cancer studies.  In 2002, Dr. Breen relocated his laboratory to North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where he is Professor of Genomics and also a member of the Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research (CCMTR). He also serves as Director of the CCMTR’s Clinical Genomics Resources Laboratory.

Dr. Breen’s major research interests continue to focus on the genomics, genome mapping and the comparative aspects of canine cancer – including optimizing the potential of canine research in human investigations.  Dr. Breen played a key role in the mapping of the canine genome and now uses his skills and resources to focus on the molecular cytogenetic evaluation of canine tumors as a means to discover the genes involved in the initiation and progression of cancers.  In addition to his activities at NCSU, Dr. Breen was a founder member and now serves on the Board of Directors of the Canine Comparative Oncology and Genomics Consortium, Inc (CCOGC).  The CCOGC is a national organization that serves to gather tumor tissues that may be used for the advancement of canine (and human) cancer research.  He also serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Morris Animal Foundation and the National Canine Cancer Foundation. 

“Matthew is a true pioneer in the discovery and mapping of the canine genome – an invaluable tool in the fight against disease,” said Karen Mays, a member of the board of directors of the CHF, and wife of Dr. Asa Mays for whom the award was named posthumously.  “Asa would have been so proud of the work Matthew and his colleagues continue to do on behalf of our dogs and indeed, our human neighbors as well.  Our thanks to Matthew for his dedicated work; he is a true member of the Canine Health Foundation family.”

Upon accepting the award, Dr. Breen noted, “I am deeply honored to be selected as the 2007 recipient of the Asa Mays Award. In accepting this award, I do so with the recognition that it is presented in the memory of a man for whom many of us had the deepest respect, for his values, leadership and above all his commitment to dogs.  On behalf of the canine health research community, I would like to thank the AKC Canine Health Foundation for their continued sterling efforts to raise awareness, to provide education and to fund research that is aimed at improving the health and welfare of our dogs.”

2005 – Elaine Ostrander, PhD

Dr. Ostrander is Chief of the Cancer Genetics Branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute of NIH where she also heads the Section of Comparative Genetics.  She received her PhD from the Oregon Health Sciences University, and did her postdoc training at Harvard.  Ostrander then went to Berkeley, where she began her work in sequencing the canine genome, and worked also at the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs on the Human Genome Project.  She then conducted studies at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of Washington for 12 years, rising to the rank of Member in the Human Biology and Clinical Research Divisions, and Head of the Genetics Program. 

Her current research interests are in the area of genetic mapping and genomics.  Her lab works in both human and canine genetics and focuses on diseases associated with complex underlying genetics such as cancer and hip dysplasia.

"Elaine is a true pioneer in the discovery and mapping of the canine genome – an invaluable tool in the fight against disease,” noted Wayne Ferguson, then-president of the CHF.  “The Directors of the Foundation realized early on the potential of the genome sequence and made this a top funding priority.  Discoveries by funded investigators led to a landmark $50 million study of the canine genome by the National Institutes of Health – and, without it, I believe we would not have seen nearly as much progress in this short amount of time.”

Upon accepting the award, Dr. Ostrander noted, “This is truly one of the most prestigious honors I've received.  Asa Mays was an amazing man who left this world far too soon.  He was dedicated to canine health in so many ways; a visionary and a leader.”  Dr. Ostrander continued, “I am so proud to be the first recipient of this award.  On behalf of my many collaborators as well as all of the breed clubs that have generously shared their dogs DNA and their personal stories with me over the years, I say thank you.  My challenge now is to live up to your expectations.  I will continue to do my best. "

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