John Harvey, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVP (clinical pathology), says he is following his bliss as executive associate dean and professor of hematology at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville.
Dr. Harvey is referring to a quote in Joseph Campbell’s book “The Power of Myth”: “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”
“For me, that’s been veterinary academic hematology,” he says. “I didn’t know it starting out. Things just sort of happened along the road, but that’s the way it ended up.”
Harvey, a member of the UF veterinary college faculty since 1974, spends most of his time with university administration duties but he continues to teach and conduct research.
His research interests include erythrocyte metabolism of domestic animals, Heinz body hemolytic anemias, serum haptoglobin alterations in disease states, iron deficiency anemia, methemoglobinemias, myeloproliferative and lymphoproliferative disorders, developmental hematology and iron metabolism in foals, hematology and iron metabolism of pregnant mares, clinical chemistry and hematology of Florida manatees and infectious agents of blood cells.
His work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Harvey was recently named to the European Society of Veterinary Clinical Pathology’s Hall of Fame.
“It’s like a lifetime achievement award, but it has special meaning to me because it’s from my peer group,” he says.
The award was established last year and was presented at the society’s 14th annual conference, held in Slovenia in early July. Criteria for the award: having practiced clinical pathology for 25 years or more and having made substantial contributions to the profession.
Harvey is the author of “Veterinary Hematology: A Diagnostic Guide and Color Atlas,” and a co-editor of “Clinical Biochemistry of Domestic Animals, 6th edition” and has published more than 160 journal articles and book chapters.
He has also conducted studies on erythrocytes and muscles from adult and neonatal phosphofructokinase-deficient dogs. Harvey was the discoverer or co-discoverer of three of these inherited erythrocyte defects.
What does he consider his biggest accomplishments? “I’d like to think it’s a generation of new knowledge,” referring to his years in academia.
His research is another.
“I can say there’s some books I’ve written and that’s nice, but sooner or later those will be out of date,” he says. “When I’m gone, people will still cite the research papers. Your research lives on.”
Other awards Harvey has received: the Mark L. Morris Sr. Lifetime Achievement Award, the University of Florida Norden Distinguished Teaching Award and the American Society for Veterinary Clinical Pathology’s Lifetime Achievement Award, among many others.
“Professionally, [Harvey] is simply best in class,” says Allan Rebar, DVM, Ph.D., senior associate vice president for research at Purdue University. “He is extremely meticulous in everything he does and logical in his approach. His contributions to veterinary hematology are unrivaled.”
Dr. Rebar has known Harvey for more than 30 years as both a colleague and a friend. The two have done “countless” continuing education programs together and have held similar leadership positions at their home institutions, Rebar says.
“John loves what he does and it shows,” Rebar says. “And even though he loves his work, he always makes time for others. I have truly enjoyed my relationship with John and despite the fact that we have never worked for the same institution, he has influenced how I think, how I teach, and, I hope, how I live. John truly should be regarded as an icon in academic veterinary medicine.”
Where the Passion Began
Harvey had an interest in animals, especially wild animals, since he was a child. He grew up in western Kansas, where snakes, prairie dogs and other wild animals caught his attention.
This was paralleled in school where Harvey became interested in biology and physiology.
“My mother bought me a book showing a dissection of a frog,” Harvey recalls. “As a child I somehow said, I like animals, I’m interested in wildlife, I like the medical aspect, I guess I want to be a veterinarian.”
Harvey initially planned on going into zoo medicine but reconsidered when he took “Intermediary Metabolism” in his freshman year of vet school at Kansas State University. The course covered topics such as the metabolic role of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and amino acids, purines, pyrimidines, vitamins and hormones.
The subject piqued his interest, he says. Subsequent classes focusing on pathology, hematology and the related moved him to wanting to earn a Ph.D. and go into teaching.
“I was more intrigued by the intellectual part of [veterinary medicine] than I was the warm and fuzzy,” he says, referring to working directly with animals.
Harvey earned his DVM from Kansas State University in 1970 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, in 1974.
That was that same year he joined the UF faculty as an assistant professor. He was promoted to associate professor in 1979 and to professor in 1984.
He has taught basic hematology and clinical pathology since the first veterinary class was admitted in 1976. He was a staff clinical pathologist for the UF Veterinary Hospitals from 1977-2008 and served as chief of the Clinical Pathology Service during much of that time.
Harvey was also chair of the department of physiological sciences for 14 years and has been the college’s executive associate dean since 2008.
“I’m convinced I’m where I was destined to be,” he says.
What the Future Holds
Harvey, 66, says his wife is ready for him to retire (she is already retired), but he sees himself continuing in academia a little longer. And even when that time comes, he doesn’t plan to quit cold turkey, he says. Harvey pictures himself writing papers, doing some consulting work and attending pathology meetings, among other veterinary related activities.
He adds, however, that he looks forward to fishing and seeing his grandchildren more.
Harvey says he’s been asked if he thinks he is defined by his work, meaning his whole self-worth is bound up in his work. His answer: no.
“I’ve come to the conclusion, as I’ve thought about this over time, what I have done has been fun, satisfying and I think it’s because I am following my bliss,” Harvey says. “Somebody is paying me to do stuff that I really enjoy doing.”
Therefore, Harvey says he wants to make sure retirement will be more satisfying than what he is already experiencing.
“Otherwise, why would I do that?” he asks.