Skip to main content

Driving change

  • Joni Scheftel

    Driving change

    CVM alumna Dr. Joni Scheftel named 2024 AVMA Public Service Award recipient for her work in public health

Like many of her University of Minnesota classmates, Dr. Joni Scheftel’s career in veterinary medicine started in private practice. For nearly two decades she cared for patients, but as the years went by, she found herself drawn to a new calling in the world of public.  

Scheftel, ’82 DVM, ’01 MPH, earned a master of public health (MPH) degree and worked as an epidemiologist in the foodborne illness unit for the Minnesota Department of Health for two years before being appointed as state public health veterinarian in 2003—a role she would serve in until her retirement in 2024. 

“I was in mixed practice for half my career and in public practice for the other half,” Scheftel says. “The stories are remarkably similar—you are still helping people through your knowledge of veterinary medicine.”

For her outstanding commitment to helping people and animals as a public health professional, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) announced Scheftel on June 11 as the winner of the 2024 AVMA Public Service Award. The award recognizes an AVMA member veterinarian for outstanding public service or contributions to the practice or science of public health and regulatory veterinary medicine.

"Dr. Scheftel's dedication to veterinary public health over the past two decades has been truly remarkable," says Dr. Rena Carlson, president of the AVMA. "Her unwavering commitment to both animal and human health has set a high standard for public service, and her mentorship of future public health leaders has made a lasting impact on the veterinary community."

As state public health veterinarian, Scheftel led the Zoonotic Diseases Unit, overseeing a team of epidemiologists and veterinarians conducting zoonotic disease surveillance, investigating outbreaks, and responding to public health crises involving zoonotic hazards. She acted as the primary liaison between the health department and other state agencies concerning animal agriculture issues with human health impacts. Her role also included participating in swine and avian influenza response planning, consulting with healthcare providers about zoonotic disease cases, and teaching veterinary students.

The AVMA award is the most recent accolade Scheftel has received recognizing her dedication to the field. In 2021, the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) named Scheftel its “Veterinarian of the Year” award, which honors individuals who are considered outstanding, well-rounded members of the veterinary profession and have given back to their community through their time and talents.

In addition to championing veterinary medicine and public health through her job, Scheftel has held leadership positions with the MVMA, the United States Animal Health Association One Health Committee, and multiple AVMA committees. She also has mentored and provided learning opportunities for numerous MPH and dual-degree DVM/MPH students.