When a deadly avian flu outbreak threatened the nation’s poultry industry in 2015, Purdue University’s Patricia Wakenell was at the forefront of efforts to contain the spread of the disease. That critical initiative, along with many other accomplishments throughout her career, contributed to Wakenell being honored with the 2017 Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in Educational Service to Rural People of Indiana.
Wakenell, an associate professor of avian diagnostics in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine, also is widely recognized locally and nationally for leading initiatives to minimize the threat of disease transmission associated with backyard poultry - the practice of homeowners raising chickens, turkeys and geese on their property.
“The role she played in the 2015-16 avian influenza outbreak was key in helping irradiate a potentially devastating disease that had the potential to threaten the economic vitality of the poultry industry in southern Indiana,” said Willie M. Reed, dean of Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Wakenell has worked closely with the Indiana State Poultry Association and the Board of Animal Health to help small poultry producers boost production while teaching them about practices that prevent avian-related diseases. Through those educational initiatives, Wakenell also helped prevent the transmission of salmonella and other poultry-related diseases from small producers to the commercial poultry industry, which contributes $4.25 billion to Indiana’s economy.
“Through her dedication, Dr. Wakenell has stayed at the forefront of the challenges facing the poultry industry,” said Karen Plaut, interim dean for the Purdue College of Agriculture. “She exemplifies the spirit of the Hovde Award, which honors those who provide exceptional service to the people of rural Indiana. Her impact on the viability of the poultry industry is evident both locally and nationally.”
Wakenell also was recognized for encouraging veterinary students and residents to pursue studies in poultry medicine. She established the Purdue Veterinary Poultry Medicine program, a fully endowed teaching program in poultry medicine, after securing a donor. The program, which emphasizes active poultry medicine practice, resulted in an unprecedented number of Purdue students studying poultry medicine. The boost in veterinarians with knowledge of poultry medicine addressed a significant field expertise gap, especially in the midst of the growing popularity of backyard poultry.
The residency program provides training in all major areas of an active poultry medicine practice, including farm visits and diagnostic pathology. It also incorporates a training curriculum designed to lead to board certification in the American College of Veterinary Pathologists or the American College of Poultry Veterinarians.
“Dr. Wakenell’s work in the field of poultry production has been exemplary,” Reed said. “Not only has she made a significant impact on the poultry industry, she has provided outstanding mentorship to veterinary students and residents interested in pursuing careers in poultry medicine.”
Wakenell, who also serves as the co-head of avian diagnostics at the Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory, joined the Purdue Veterinary Medicine faculty in 2008 as associate professor of poultry pathology. She had previously served the California poultry industry in her role as an associate professor of veterinary medicine at the University of California, Davis.
The Hovde Award is sponsored by Indiana Farm Bureau Inc. It was established in honor of Frederick L. Hovde, Purdue’s seventh president, who served from 1946 to 1971. The award winners receive a monetary prize and a plaque.