Celebrating Excellence: Dr. Linda Jacobson – the OVMA Outstanding Veterinarian Award Recipient

| February 9, 2024

In the world of veterinary medicine, compassion, dedication, and a relentless pursuit of knowledge are essential qualities. Dr. Linda Jacobson, the Senior Manager of Shelter Medicine Advancement at Toronto Humane Society, exemplifies these qualities. Her recent acknowledgment with the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) Outstanding Veterinarian Award serves as a testament to her remarkable contributions to the field. This well-deserved recognition underscores Dr. Jacobson’s outstanding commitment and impact in veterinary medicine.

Recipients of the OVMA Outstanding Veterinarian award showcase a diverse array of exceptional contributions to their communities. From active involvement in committees and associations to dedicated volunteer work within and beyond their communities, or initiatives aimed at enhancing animal welfare provincially, OVMA’s award winners consistently elevate the veterinary profession. Dr. Linda Jacobson not only meets these criteria but goes above and beyond in her efforts to make a positive impact every day. 

Dr. Linda Jacobson, aged 5, with the family Dog. "I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was 7 years old, and I never changed my mind."

A Trailblazer in Research and Advancement 

Dr. Jacobson’s association with Toronto Humane Society began as a volunteer in 2009. Subsequently, she joined as a staff veterinarian in 2010 after obtaining her Canadian license. Her career at Toronto Humane Society has been marked by a combination of clinical work, research, and a keen interest in infectious diseases that all aim to positively influence animal welfare in shelters and communities.  

One of her proudest achievements is assisting in Toronto Humane Society’s completion of the only two national studies on access to veterinary care in Canada.  “The starting point for every major initiative is data. How big is the problem, what are the main priorities, how will we measure progress? We have just published the first study in the Canadian Veterinary Journal,” she explains.  

“The second study, a survey of barriers to access to veterinary care in Canada, will be published in Journal of Shelter Medicine and Community Animal Health soon. This is the first study to quantify the percentage of Canadians who are unable to access wanted or needed care and start to explore the main barriers. Both studies will be foundational for addressing the crisis in access to veterinary care in Canada.” 

Leading the Charge on Heartworm Research 

Dr. Jacobson’s dedication extends to addressing specific health challenges facing animals. Her work on heartworm has been particularly impactful with a comprehensive exploration of heartworm through three distinct studies.  

The initial investigation revealed the prevalence of heartworm infection in underserved communities in Canada and shed light on the extent of the issue. The subsequent study established the safety and efficacy of a shorter, more cost-effective melarsomine treatment protocol 

In her third project, Dr. Jacobson authored a review article advocating for the viability of the “slow-kill” heartworm treatment protocol as an accessible alternative to melarsomine, particularly in situations where melarsomine may not be a feasible option.Our presentation on this at the American Heartworm Society Symposium was really well-received, and the article itself has received almost 65,000 opens and has been viewed more than 99% of other articles in the journal, so the impact is self-evident,” Dr. Jacobson emphasizes.  

Advocacy and Community Involvement

Dr. Jacobson’s impact extends beyond Toronto Humane Society, playing a pivotal role in establishing the Ontario Shelter Medicine Association, now the Canadian Animal Shelter and Community Medicine Association (CASCMA). This organization fosters networking and continuing education for shelter and community medicine professionals. 

Dr. Linda Jacobson doing outreach work.

Her involvement spans multiple boards and committees, including editorial roles for the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery and the Journal of Shelter Medicine and Community Animal Health. With 48 published papers, her research covers veterinary internal medicine and infectious diseases, addressing topics such as ringworm diagnostics, heartworm impact on marginalized communities, and treatment of middle ear infections in hoarded cats. 

Dr. Jacobson’s commitment goes beyond academia; she contributes to wellness clinics in First Nations communities and supports free trap, neuter, vaccinate, return services for community cats through Toronto Street Cats. Her diverse contributions showcase a dedication to advancing veterinary care and community well-being.  

Looking Forward: Aspirations for the Future

In an insightful reflection on the future of veterinary medicine, Dr. Jacobson emphasizes the critical issue of access to veterinary care. Her involvement in focus groups with key veterinary organizations has contributed to making this a mainstream concern within the profession. 

On her aspirations, Dr. Jacobson shares, “I would love to see a world where every animal is able to express the natural behaviours of their species, and where they all get the medical and other types of care that they need. I would love to see a world where animal shelters are only needed for a tiny fraction of animals that can’t be helped in other ways, and where no animal needs to stay in an institution for more than a few days.” 

Her aspirations include continued collaboration within the industry and a focus on internal medicine and infectious diseases. Dr. Jacobson recognizes access to veterinary care as a central theme in the coming years, and she remains committed to influencing positive change within her chosen domains. 

Dr. Linda Jacobson’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of passion, dedication, and a commitment to making a difference in the lives of animals. The OVMA Outstanding Veterinarian Award is a well-deserved recognition of her exemplary contributions to the field of veterinary medicine. As she continues to lead with compassion and innovation, Dr. Jacobson inspires others to join the movement toward a world where every animal receives the care it deserves. Congratulations, Dr. Linda Jacobson, on this well-earned achievement!