2024 Wilford Bailey Award Winners Announced at Reception

Three outstanding alumni of Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine — Dr. John Rossmeisl ’97, Dr. Steve Wills ’83 and Dr. Cyril Gay ’85 — were honored as the 2024 winners of the Wilford S. Bailey Awards during a CVM reception held April 25, 2024.

The Wilford S. Bailey Award is the highest honor given to Auburn veterinary alumni to recognize their professional accomplishments in veterinary medicine, outstanding contributions to their communities and the overall advancement of animal and human health. The award is named to honor the late Wilford S. Bailey, who held a 50-year continuous faculty appointment at Auburn, serving in positions ranging from veterinary instructor to university president.  The contributions of Dr. Bailey and his wife Kate to the college and to the broader Auburn University community were recognized with the naming of the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital in 2014.

A 1942 graduate of the college, Dr. Bailey was the first recipient of the College of Veterinary Medicine Distinguished Alumnus Award. Following his death in 2000, the award was named in his honor.  Three awards are given each year in recognition of excellence in three categories: academia, private practice and research and public policy. This year’s recipients include:

2024 Wilford Bailey Award Winners

Dr. John Rossmeisl ’97 (Academia)

Dr. John Rossmeisl is the Dr. and Mrs. Dorsey Taylor Mahin Endowed Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, VA.  He directs the Veterinary and Comparative Neuro-Oncology Laboratory in its mission to develop effective methods for the diagnosis and treatment of brain tumors affecting companion animals and humans.  Dr. Rossmeisl earned the B.A. in zoology at the University of New Hampshire before completing his DVM at Auburn in 1997, graduating as valedictorian of his class.  While a student at Auburn, he served for 4 years as a research fellow in the Scott-Ritchey Research Center.  After veterinary college, he earned the M.S. degree in Veterinary Science and Molecular Biology from Virginia Tech and completed residencies in Veterinary Neurology & Neurosurgery and in Veterinary Internal Medicine– earning board certification in both disciplines.   Dr. Rossmeisl joined the faculty at Virginia Tech in 2003 and rose through the academic ranks to Professor in 2016.

Dr. Rossmeisl is Director of Targeted Drug Delivery Systems at Virginia Tech’s Center for Engineered Health in the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science.   He is also a Core Cancer Faculty Member at the at the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and an Adjunct Professor in the Wake Forest University Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Brain Tumor Center of Excellence.   He has served for the past seven years as Associate Department Head of the Virginia-Maryland CVM’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences.

Dr. Rossmeisl has been recognized with numerous honors and awards for excellence in both research and teaching.  These include, most recently, the Cutting Edge Cancer Research Award from the Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Outstanding Graduate Student Mentor Award from the VT Graduate School and two Zoetis Veterinary Research Excellence Awards, one in 2014 and the other in 2018.   In teaching, he earned the college’s Pfizer Distinguished Veterinary Teaching Award in 2011 and the National Student Chapter of the AVMA Teaching Excellence Award in 2008.  Dr. Rossmeisl is an internationally recognized scholar in primary brain tumors, medical device development, central nervous system drug delivery, and endocrinology, and has authored 218 peer-reviewed publications in these and related fields.

Dr. Steven J. Wills ’83 (Private Practice)

Dr. Steve Wills earned the Bachelor of Science in animal science from the University of Kentucky before enrolling in the DVM program in the School of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University, where he graduated in the Class of 1983.  As an Auburn student, he served as class president and large animal student resident.  Following graduation, he returned to Kentucky to join mixed animal practices in London, KY, and Woodford Veterinary Clinic in Versailles before becoming Resident Veterinarian to Calumet Farm in Lexington.  There, he was veterinarian for racing greats and archrivals Alydar and Affirmed, the runner-up and winner, respectively, in epic head-to-head races of the 1978 Triple Crown.  Dr. Wills delivered and saved a dummy foal named Strike the Gold, who later won the 1991 Kentucky Derby.

Dr. Wills practiced as associate veterinarian at Old Waterloo Equine Clinic in Warrenton, VA, before returning to Kentucky in 1992 to open a practice with his wife, Dr. Teresa Edge Wills, Wills Animal Hospital in Owensboro, KY.  He practiced equine medicine there and served as its president for 27 years before retiring in 2019.  At that time, the practice had grown to employ 7 veterinarians and 30 staff.   He is a long-term member of the AVMA, KVMA, and AAEP.

Dr. Wills has been very active in organized veterinary medicine.  He was appointed by the Governor to serve on the KY State Board in 2012, and was reappointed annually, rising to serve as Board Chair in 2019.  In 2016 Dr. Wills earned the KVMA Distinguished Service Award. In 2011, and from 2015-2018, he served as the KY delegate in the AVMA House of Delegates.  He was elected in 2008-09 as President of the KVMA after serving as a board member representing the West Central Kentucky VMA.

Dr. Wills has contributed extensively to the close relationship between the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.  He is a long-term member of the Centennial Club and served 2 terms on the Veterinary Advisory Council from 2011-2019, and was elected Chair of the council from 2016-2017.  Dr. Wills has twice hosted our college’s Practice Management Rotation, has served as a preceptorship host for 5 Auburn students, and has lectured in Auburn’s Veterinary Law and Ethics course.

Dr. Wills is a community volunteer as board chairman of Dreamriders of Kentucky, a non-profit organization that provides equine-assisted activities and therapies to adults and children with special needs.

Dr. Cyril Gay ’85 (Research & Public Policy)

Dr. Cyril Gay, DVM, PhD is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of agricultural research, biodefense, vaccine and drug development, and technology transfer from discovery to market.  He has worked for 30 years in research organizations, the pharmaceutical industry, and government, developing a national research program responsive to problems of high national priority with impact on animal health and public health worldwide.

Dr. Gay earned the Bachelor of Science in chemistry and the DVM from Auburn before later completing a Ph.D. in microbiology from George Washington University. Following graduation, he practiced veterinary medicine in Louisiana and Florida, and worked for the USDA for eight years before joining Smithkline Beecham as Associate Director of Regulatory Affairs in 1994.  The following year, Dr. Gay joined Pfizer as associate director of regulatory affairs for North America and held several positions within the company over the next seven years.

In 2002, he joined the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), progressing through positions of increasing responsibility, to Senior National Program Leader- Animal Health, based in Beltsville, MD.  For 16 years, beginning in 2008, he led and managed the ARS Animal Health Program, which consisted of 124 scientists working in nine laboratories across the U.S. Those labs included the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, IA, the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, GA, the Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit in Plum Island, NY, and the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, KS, among others.  During his service as Senior National Program Leader, appropriated funds for animal health research reached over $72 million per year.   As a result, 8 veterinary vaccines were planned, developed, and marketed, and regulatory programs were established to enable the use of molecular vaccines.  Most recently, he has supported the President’s National Biodefense Strategy and the science plan for the NBAF.  Dr. Gay facilitated the first regulatory approval ever for an African Swine Fever vaccine worldwide and ushered its successful deployment in Vietnam.  As a result of this work, he has received 2 Federal Laboratory Consortium Awards for the technology transfer of vaccines.

Dr. Gay has served on the executive committees of the Global African Swine Fever and Global Foot and Mouth Disease Research Alliances as well as the International Research Consortium on Animal Health. He is a board member of the U.S. Animal Health Association and the International Alliance for Biological Standardization.

In 2017, Dr. Gay won the prestigious Presidential Rank Award recognizing his meritorious record of professional, technical, and scientific achievement in federal service through his work in the USDA.  Historically, only 1% of career employees of the USDA have earned such recognition.