Dr. Tandi Ngwenyama speaks with Rebecca Camden at an award ceremony.

Dr. Tandi Ngwenyama speaks with Rebecca Camden during the awards ceremony for Ngwenyama's appointment as the Camden Faculty Scholar.

July 15, 2022
Story and photos by Jens Odegaard

Dr. Tandi Ngwenyama saves animals’ lives. When a dog, cat or other small animal is having a health emergency at the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital, it’s her and her team of veterinary nurses, veterinary students and other support staff who jump into action.

Ngwenyama heads the hospital’s intensive care unit at the Oregon State University Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine as an emergency and critical care specialist. 

But it’s not just on the medical side that Ngwenyama’s influence is felt in the college. She’s also a much beloved veterinary educator and scholar. “Since coming to OSU, she's created a culture of excellence, collegiality and shared governance in the intensive care unit,” said Susan J. Tornquist, Lois Bates Acheson Dean of the college. “She's also provided scholarly, thoughtful and well-received commentary on teaching in a number of educational and open forums. Most importantly, she's heavily engaged in teaching and mentoring students. She organizes workshops, has developed a program to teach critical care skills, participates in numerous student outreach opportunities and is a highly sought after mentor for senior papers. Dr. Ngwenyama is a role model for students in our college and for many in the veterinary profession: we're happy to have her on our faculty.” 

It's for this wide-ranging impact on the college that Ngwenyama was recently named the inaugural Camden Faculty Scholar.

This endowed position supports teaching excellence and was established by Rebecca Camden through the Oregon State University Foundation. Camden is a leading supporter of the college and a college advisory board member. “The CCVM is near and dear to my heart, and it is wonderful to be able to recognize a young professional who is making a significant difference in her role and in her chosen profession,” Camden said. “The search for a criticalist to join the CCVM team was lengthy, and we are so fortunate to have her in this role. I am pleased this endowment can help advance her work and the mission of the CCVM.”

Ngwenyama hopes to utilize the funding as the Camden Faculty Scholar to pursue her “dream” of getting her master’s in education. “There's nothing better than learning to me. That's my ultimate value and such a joy. And to be able to share that with other people is the best thing,” she said. 

As an educator, Ngwenyama wants to continue developing her skills to help students and trainees thrive by creating educational experiences that are inclusive to all. “I believe in an inclusive pedagogy, which involves being attentive to the identities of all students and creating learning environments that are welcoming and allow equal access to learning across those identities,” she said. 

This attentiveness stems in part from Ngwenyama’s cultural upbringing. As one facet of her identity, Ngwenyama is Zimbabwean American. “In my culture, Ndebele, the way that we greet someone is sali bonani, which means ‘I see you.’ So, basically to be seen by someone, and just to see the potential that all these students have,” she said. “I'm just wowed by them every day.” 

Dr. Trevor Pereyda, MaryAlice Coulter and Tandi Ngwenyama pose with Rebecca Camden at the awards ceremony for Ngwenyama's appointment as the Camden Faculty Scholar.

Her current students already recognize this quality in Ngwenyama’s approach to teaching. “What sets her apart is her intense and complete interest in what her students have to say. She is a calming presence in the storm that is vet school. She is a safe harbor for students to seek out when they're lost, confused or feeling alone,” said Dr. MaryAlice Coulter who recently graduated as a member of the CCVM class of 2022. “She makes us see our worth, not only as doctors, but also as people. She takes time to listen and to truly hear our stories: whether it's about our feelings following a difficult CPR or about growing up the only nerdy mixed girl with big hair in the neighborhood. I am so honored and blessed to have Dr. Ngwenyama for a mentor and a role model. She inspires me every day to be the best doctor and the best human I can be.” 

Dr. Trevor Pereyda, a fellow member of the class of 2022, also highlighted Ngwenyama’s influence on his life. “In Ndebele, Ngwenyama means lion. I bring this up because Dr. Ngwenyama shares some of the same inherent qualities: she is powerful, graceful, intellectual, regal and quite frankly, awesome. I have felt empowered by her presence in my life where she has showed myself and countless others how to approach situations with mindfulness, intuition and most importantly, compassion,” he said. “Dr. Ngwenyama is a beacon of inspiration. So, it is of no surprise to me that the mighty lion of the veterinary emergency department at the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine is receiving the Camden Faculty Scholar award for teaching and excellence.”