Timothy Bolton has won the 2022 Zoetis Distinguished Veterinary Teacher Award.

The Zoetis award is an honor for a faculty member at each veterinary school in the United States. It is given to a faculty member who has demonstrated leadership and character; teaching ability as demonstrated by the caliber of instruction and responsiveness to the needs of students. Faculty members are nominated by their students.

"I want students to learn that first, you don't have to know everything — you're always going to be learning — and second, where you can look it up. The third thing is knowing how to offer tests and treatments to owners of various socioeconomic backgrounds. I can teach them the gold standard here, but most of them will work in practices where most of their clients can't afford to do that,” said Bolton, a clinical assistant professor of small animal internal medicine at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

Bolton describes this “spectrum of care” as a core part of his teaching philosophy. The spectrum of care is the principle that veterinarians need to utilize a variety of diagnostic and treatment options so that clients with limited budgets can still get their animals care.

"That way, we're prepared if a client can't do everything, and we can still offer them appropriate care for their animal. I think it's an obligation we have — I feel the need to teach more than just the gold standard."

In addition to the spectrum of care, Bolton focuses on having a coaching mindset. He’s involved throughout each case, offering input and asking guiding questions so students understand the thought process behind decisions. He also makes it a point to be available to answer questions and to be approachable to give them the time, guidance, and support they need to succeed.

"Traditionally, the student talks to the house officer and the house officer talks to the faculty and vice versa. It almost makes the student and the faculty on two ends of a spectrum. Let's make it a triangle, where we're all involved as a group, working together, rather than a linear process."

He attributes his teaching success to seeking out feedback from students and constantly learning about best practices in veterinary education.

"I'm here for the students — to  advocate for them, help them, teach them — so the fact that they would nominate me is the icing on the cake. I don't need an award to enjoy what I do or continue what I'm doing, but to get that from the students... I couldn't ask for anything better."

Written by Sarah Boudreau M.F.A. '21, a writer with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.