University of Wisconsin–Madison

Veterinary Superheroes

Karen Walsh and Jim Berbee grew up in the company of animals, and they surround themselves with many furry friends today — two dogs and dozens of foster cats and kittens. They are truly animal lovers, and they truly love what the UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) is doing to improve animal — and human — health.

But the school is in serious need of more space. Built in 1983 to see 12,000 animal patients each year, the SVM currently sees 24,000. With increasing demand, this number is projected to expand to 35,000 in the near future.

That’s why Walsh and Berbee were inspired to offer a $3 million matching gift toward the school’s building campaign, Animals Need Heroes Too.

“When you learn about advances the SVM has made in cancer treatment, orthopedics, surgery, and so many other areas, you understand why people flock to bring their animals there for expert care,” says Walsh, who is cochair of the Animals Need Heroes Too campaign. “And the school’s research leadership is astounding. The future of human medicine is so connected to animal medicine, and here at UW–Madison we have this amazing place where it’s all happening — for the benefit of everyone.”

Through interdisciplinary collaborations involving the School of Medicine and Public Health, the College of Engineering, and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the SVM is helping to solve critical public-health issues. In fact, the school conducts more than 75 percent of the infectious-disease research on the UW–Madison campus. SVM faculty and staff have made major breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of everything from Ebola to influenza to Zika.

Given how many lives are touched by the SVM, it’s no surprise that the Animals Need Heroes Too campaign has garnered a broad base of support. The school has already raised more than $20 million of a preliminary $40 million goal. Campaign leaders are hoping for a $75 million commitment from the state to round out the projected $115 million cost of the expansion project.

SVM dean Mark Markel says, “I want to thank Karen and Jim for their incredible support of our building expansion. The ripple effect of their generosity through the BerbeeWalsh Match has inspired more than $10 million in support for our campaign.”

To the critters that receive care at the SVM and the people who care for them, Karen and Jim are definitely heroes.

This article was originally published in the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association’s 2016–17 Annual Report. Discover veterinary initiatives at