University honors CVM alumna René Carlson

September 12, 2019

Ground-breaking career in veterinary medical leadership led to award

The University of Minnesota has honored René Carlson, DVM, with its highest alumni award. Carlson earned her degree in 1978 from the University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM). The award was presented posthumously to her husband, Mark. She passed away in late March. 

“I was fortunate to have worked with René several times, and she made a lasting impression on me,” says CVM Interim Dean, Laura Molgaard, DVM. “She was an exemplary ambassador for the veterinary profession and the University of Minnesota.”

Carlson practiced small animal medicine at a number of Wisconsin clinics before founding the Animal Hospital of Chetek, Wisconsin, in 1996. She was a past president of the Northwestern Wisconsin Veterinary Association and the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association. In 2001, Carlson was named Wisconsin’s Veterinarian of the Year. In 2010, she sold her successful practice to focus exclusively on leadership opportunities.

After serving the 85,000-strong American Veterinary Medical Association in different capacities, Carlson was elected national president in 2011. She displayed a strong grasp of the issues facing the veterinary community and her engaging personality brought people from diverse backgrounds to the table to achieve forward momentum. Her attention to detail ensured that all viewpoints were acknowledged, which allowed the organization to work toward consensus. This experience encouraged her to seek a term as the first woman president of the World Veterinary Association, which represents 500,000 veterinarians on six continents. Carlson completed her three-year term in 2017. 

Carlson is remembered for her commitment to the creation of affordable and accessible continuing education programs to help veterinarians worldwide meet core competency standards. She was also a transformative leader who advocated for thoughtful and transparent approaches to complicated issues facing the veterinary community, while encouraging collaborative participation from people of diverse backgrounds.

Carlson is the seventh graduate of the CVM to receive this honor. The Outstanding Achievement Award is presented to alumni and former students who have achieved unusual distinction in their chosen fields, profession, or in public service, and who have demonstrated outstanding leadership on a community, state, national or international level.

The University of Minnesota Outstanding Achievement Award is presented to René Carlson’s husband, Mark, by Regent Michael Hsu (l) and CVM Interim Dean Laura Molgaard, DVM.