Campus News Science & Technology

UGA College of Veterinary Medicine names Ellijay-area veterinarian ‘Distinguished Alumnus’

Athens, Ga. – A mixed-animal practitioner known for his expertise in camelids was recognized recently as a “Distinguished Alumnus” by the Alumni Association of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

Michael Zager (DVM ’79) of Ellijay received the award at a ceremony held March 24 during the college’s 49th Annual Veterinary Conference and Alumni Weekend. Zager’s practice is Ocoee Animal Hospital, which serves companion and farm animals in the Georgia-Tennessee-North Carolina region.

Zager, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., was only one week out of veterinary school when he joined the year-old practice and established roots in Georgia’s apple country. Roughly a decade into his practice, Zager expanded his expertise to include camelids, first working with llamas and later with alpacas. He is a much sought-after speaker in this field and is recognized throughout the Southeast as a veterinary resource for these animals.

“As the largest and one of the oldest camelid breeding ranches in the Southeast, we have presented him with unusual and sometimes unseen … medical situations,” wrote one nominator. “He has addressed these with enthusiasm. He has developed techniques and procedures that have contributed to the veterinary community and the overall well being of a multitude of animals.”

Through his practice, Zager provides mentoring and learning opportunities for UGA’s veterinary students, and he has been an active participant in bolstering legislative support for the college’s proposed veterinary medical learning center, which will replace its current veterinary teaching hospital.

Zager is an active member of his church and has participated in at least five mission trips to Haiti where he has treated animals that had never previously seen a veterinarian. He and his wife are the parents of two daughters, both of whom also became Bulldogs.

The college’s alumni association recognizes a few distinguished alumni each spring. Nominees must have graduated from the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine and made contributions in one or more of the following areas:

• Animal and human health related public service;
• Professional service;
• Involvement in veterinary educational research and/or service;
• Contributions to the local community, state or nation;
• Involvement in veterinary associations at the local, state or national level; and
• Contributions to the college’s Alumni Association.

UGA College of Veterinary Medicine
The UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, founded in 1946, is dedicated to training future veterinarians, to conducting research related to animal and human diseases, and to providing veterinary services for animals and their owners. Research efforts are aimed at enhancing the quality of life for animals and people, improving the productivity of poultry and livestock, and preserving a healthy interface between wildlife and people in the environment they share. The college enrolls 102 students each fall out of more than 560 who apply. For more information, see For more information about the Alumni Association of the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, see