The role of veterinarians in the uniformed services was showcased when AAVMC Chief Executive Officer Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe retired as a Colonel in the United States Air Force during a formal military ceremony filled with pageantry and tradition.
Military leaders, AAVMC and AVMA officials and more than 100 special guests gathered during the final evening of the AAVMC’s recent annual meeting for the official event that commemorated Maccabe’s 24 years of active and reserve service. Friends and guests, many clad in tuxedos and gowns, learned more about the essential role of veterinary medicine in the uniformed services and the life of the person who has led the AAVMC for the past five years.
The program got underway with the Presentation of Colors by a military honor guard and the National Anthem. Brigadier General Erik H. Torring, III, Chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, congratulated Maccabe and presented an overview of the history and mission of the veterinary profession within the armed services.
Colonel James A. Mullins, Associate Corps Chief for Public Health in the U.S. Air Force then congratulated Maccabe and provided additional detail on the profession’s responsibilities for public health, food production and sanitation, disease prevention and clinical care within the U.S. military.
Rear Admiral Terri R. Clark, Assistant Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service, was unable to attend, but provided the following comments: “Aside from all of Andy’s degrees and accomplishments, his brilliant mind and dedication, I’ve always viewed him as a visionary and someone with absolute commitment to the betterment of our veterinary profession,” she wrote. “He is always positive, leaning forward and creating opportunities for our greater good.”
AVMA President Dr. Thomas Meyer offered congratulatory remarks on behalf of the organized veterinary medical community.
“It’s characteristic of Andy’s servant leadership personality and leadership style that he requested that my remarks not just focus on his career, but enable academic veterinarians to get a glimpse of military culture,” said Meyer, adding that the AVMA’s relationship with uniformed services remains strong and vital. “He has always strived to improve the profession, build relationships and craft a vision of what the future could be, especially in the area of diversity and inclusion … We thank you for your service, dedication and commitment.”
Following those remarks, Maccabe’s longtime friend, colleague and veterinary school classmate, Colonel Donald L. Noah, presented detailed remarks about the history of their 36-year friendship and their dual careers in the U.S. Air Force. Noah, who served as host and leader of the retirement ceremony, is now Director of the One Health Center at Midwestern University in Arizona and an associate professor of Public Health and Epidemiology at the university’s college of veterinary medicine.
In a winding speech that blended formal tribute with roast-like humor, Noah recalled their days in The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and the factors that influenced Maccabe to join the Air Force. Noah told a story in which he commissioned Maccabe using a roll of postage stamps imprinted with the U.S. flag when a real flag was unavailable.
Maccabe’s military career included 10 major duty postings within an active duty period from 1988-1998, during which he earned an MPH degree from Harvard University, and a reserve officer period from 2003-2017. Maccabe’s Air Force career concluded with service as Public Health Advisor to the Command Surgeon (IMA), HQ NORAD-USNORTHCOM at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
Noah told the audience that Maccabe left active service in 1998 to earn a Juris Doctor degree magna cum laude from the University of Arizona in 2002. After completing an epic 2,000 mile bicycle tour of the United States, he said, Maccabe then joined the AAVMC as Associate Executive Director before realizing that he yearned to reconnect with the Air Force and begin a second phase of his military career. Noah again presided over the swearing in ceremony, this time in the Pentagon’s Flag Room. During his reserve officer service, Maccabe completed his first five-year tenure with the AAVMC, worked five years as the Centers for Disease Control’s Liaison to the Food & Drug Administration, and then rejoined the AAVMC in 2012 as executive director.
“You are a leader, warrior, veterinarian and a friend,” concluded Noah, whose own distinguished career included receipt of the Republic of Zaire’s Brevet de Participation for his efforts in helping control Africa’s deadly ebola outbreak in the early 1990’s.
Maccabe was then presented with the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster), his official retirement order from the Commander-in-Chief and a ceremonial U.S. flag as part of the ritual and tradition of a military retirement ceremony. General Torring presented him with his personal military challenge coin.
Then it was Maccabe’s turn to address the audience, and his remarks provided a glimpse of the life experiences that have forged his personal character and guided his career. He described his youthful experiences as a Boy Scout, his decision to become a veterinarian and his military career as life-shaping events. He said his experiences earning Eagle Scout status in the Boy Scouts provided his first lessons in leadership and imbued him with an abiding sense of the intrinsic value of providing service to others.
Becoming a veterinarian seemed like a good way to combine his interests in science, medicine, agriculture, and service to society, he said, and his first job in practice imparted important life lessons. He was hired by Dr. Charles Curie, a rural Ohio dairy practitioner who treated him immediately as an equal partner even though he was new and inexperienced. That experience in private practice, marked by long hours and hard work, provided defining lessons in personal integrity and fairness, he said.
Those same experiences in large animal veterinary medicine started him thinking about the USDA and then the military, and it was his military career that helped him realize the enduring values of “data centric customer service and continuous quality improvement.”
Maccabe said he has lived one life with two careers, underpinned by three oaths: Boy Scout, military, and veterinarian. He said his goal in life is to be useful, honorable and compassionate, and that those oaths and those experiences have helped him reach that goal. He said the Air Force core values of integrity, service and excellence have proven essential components of his military career and they will continue to shape the way he addresses his ongoing career in academic veterinary medicine.
Among several ceremonial gifts, Noah presented Maccabe with a large framed print of a U.S. postage stamp with a U.S. flag on it, which was followed by a rousing rendition of the Air Force Song.