To say Dr. Sheila McGuirk, DVM, is delighted to be selected the 2012 World Dairy Expo Industry Person of the Year would be an understatement. Despite receiving dozens of other awards throughout her career, the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine professor says she is deeply honored to receive this award.
"The honor doesn't fall lightly on me. I'm not a person who needs accolades to do what I do," McGuirk explains. "But when Mark Clarke (WDE general manager) asked me in February what I was doing on Oct. 3, I thought 'that's kind of a dumb question, I'm going to be at World Dairy Expo.' Then he told me I would be receiving this award. It's very humbling to be on the same list with Dr. Terry Howard and (the late) Dr. Lee Allenstein who have been longtime mentors of mine. Besides thinking I'm too young to be on that list, I also feel very humbled to have my name appear on the same list as theirs."
Longtime WDE volunteer
McGuirk has a long history with WDE and credits her first visit to Expo with helping her to make the decision to move to Wisconsin and teach at UW-Madison.
"I interviewed for my job the week of Expo in 1982," she recalls. "The Vet Medicine Building wasn't even done yet. Dr. Dave Dickson, Dean Jorgenson and Dr. Terry Howard invited me to come to World Dairy Expo. I had been a member of the Cornell University dairy judging team, so I thought it was great – all these beautiful cows. It helped solidify why I was coming here."
A native of Maryland, McGuirk was never lonely growing up with 14 brothers and sisters.
"I was the sixth child – the peacekeeper," she laughs. McGuirk left her family in Maryland to attend Cornell University in New York. She received her bachelor's degree in biology from Cornell and was a standout athlete at the school. She was a forward on the women's basketball team and played competitive tennis. She obtained her DVM from University of Georgia. She also earned a master's degree in veterinary clinical sciences and Ph.D. in veterinary physiology and pharmacology from the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
McGuirk is widely recognized with the veterinary profession as one of the elite internal medicine specialists focused on dairy cattle in the world today.
The dairy industry has been the main beneficiary of her time and talents. She has written dozens of columns in Hoard's Dairyman magazine, and has spoken at hundreds of veterinary meetings around the world. She has seen thousands of cows as patients at UW's veterinary school.
According to Dr. Ken Nordlund, DVM, a professor at the UW vet school, McGuirk has made outstanding contributions to UW-Madison in all areas of teaching, outreach, service and research.
"Beginning in 1985, she was one of the founding faculty of the School of Veterinary Medicine and helped to shape the curriculum and culture of what has become on the e leading veterinary schools in our country," he says.
The 60-year-old veterinarian has lectured and taught clinical medicine to more than 1,000 UW veterinary students and has been honored twice as the Norden Teacher of the Year. She has authored more than 60 research publications and abstracts, primarily in the area of calf disease, and literally hundreds of articles for continuing education programs and veterinary and animal industry publications. And she has served as an academic advisor to approximately 25 graduate students.
McGuirk has also served as Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs, which includes the primary administrative responsibility for hundreds of people involved in the UW Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
"Of all the things that are expected of me as a professor, the thing I love the most is to teach. I have found that the whole nucleus of learning and discovering is being able to teach it," she says. "The contact with students keeps me enthusiastic about what I do."
During her career, McGuirk has received a number of awards. She was the first female recipient of the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association's "Veterinarian of the Year" Award. She was honored by the faculty of the UW Veterinary School with their highest honor, the Renk Distinguished Professor Award and she received the American Association of Bovine Practitioners Award of Excellence.
"She has served as a national role model for women veterinary students, particularly those considering the world of dairy practice," Nordlund says. "In every phase of her career, she has earned a reputation for both grace and excellence."
She has been a devoted volunteer at World Dairy Expo since 1983 delivering world-class care for the cows that travel to Madison every October, assisting with the Holstein show and the Ethics Committee. McGuirk was instrumental in helping develop evaluation techniques to test milk for possible adulteration.
According to Bob Kaiser, past WDE Dairy Cattle Show Superintendent, McGuirk also helped develop the current health paper check-in process which relies on help from 48 vet school students, several Wisconsin Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection health officials and numerous volunteers to handle the 2,500 dairy cattle shown at WDE.
McGuirk is a competitive bicyclist and a cancer survivor who has embraced life since her experience with cancer a few years ago. She calls herself "one of the lucky ones." She turned her experience with cancer into an act of public service when, out of more than 1,800 applicants, she was selected as one of 20 riders along with Lance Armstrong in the Bristol-Meyers Squibb 2004 Tour of Hope. The athletes rode bicycles from Los Angeles to New York City to raise awareness and funds for cancer research trials. In the summer of 1983, she bicycled 700 miles around Ireland for two weeks with friends.
McGuirk is married to Paul Manley, DVM, who has also served on the faculty of the UW School of Veterinary Medicine. They have two sons, Garrett, 25, and Carter, 24, and a daughter Laura, 17.
McGuirk will be honored during the World Dairy Expo Dinner with the Stars Awards Program on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall in Madison.