NC State’s Olby Wins 2023 AVMA Career Achievement in Canine Research Award
Olby spent two decades working on improving outcomes of spinal cord injury in dogs before shifting her focus to aging.
Dr. Natasha Olby, the Dr. Kady M. Gjessing and Rahna M. Davidson Distinguished Chair in Gerontology at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, is the 2023 winner of the AVMA Career Achievement in Canine Research Award.
Olby, also a professor of veterinary neurology and neurosurgery, has authored or co-authored more than 200 scientific papers, most recently sharing her research into neuro-aging and neurodegenerative diseases in dogs.
“I am really honored to get this award,” says Olby, who has been working in veterinary medicine for three decades. “It’s really unexpected and wonderful to have your work recognized in this way. I also want to emphasize that all the work I’ve done has been with hospital patients and with amazing post-doctoral fellows, Ph.D. students and residents as well as faculty collaborators so this award acknowledges the efforts of a large team.”
Watch her acceptances speech here.
Olby spent two decades working on improving outcomes of spinal cord injury in dogs before shifting her focus to aging. Her work on spinal cord injury focused on describing outcomes and performing clinical trials aimed at improving recovery from acute injuries and targeting chronic paralysis. She started her program on neuro-aging in dogs in 2018, with the aim of describing and quantifying changes in mobility, postural stability, cognitive performance, vision, hearing and sense of smell in dogs as they age. Olby and her team have now established enough of a baseline to conduct clinical trials.
“I am so delighted to see Dr. Olby receive this award,” says Dr. Kate Meurs, dean of the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. “She is so incredibly deserving of this recognition, and it is a testament to her commitment to canine health, particularly the geriatric population. Dr. Olby has truly been a dedicated and innovative leader in canine neurology and geriatric care.”
At the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, Olby has also introduced geriatric medicine into the curriculum, making NC State one of the first veterinary schools to emphasize the important field. Dogs also are excellent models for studying human lifespans so Olby’s work likely will help us understand and treat diseases of aging humans as well.
“I have long had an interest in aging of the nervous system, a process that is magnified in neurodegenerative diseases,” Olby says. “My current study is focused on quantifying decline in sensory, motor and cognitive function with a view to facilitating pathophysiological discovery and performing therapeutic trials. My research uses clinical cases to generate translational data. Training future clinician scientists also is a critical and enjoyable part of my work.”
In an email to Olby announcing the award, Janet D. Donlin, AVMA executive vice president and chief executive officer, said: “Your selection by the AVMA Council on Research reflects a deep appreciation of your sustained and substantive work to understand and treat spinal cord injuries and, more recently, to explore aging and address cognitive dysfunction in dogs. The Council recognized that not only does your research positively impact the health and welfare of dogs, but it also has the potential to contribute to the library of knowledge gathered in support of improving the health of other species, including people.”