Sam Thevasagayam of the Gates Foundation receives the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ 2019 International Award

Sam Thevasagayam, deputy director for global development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation   (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Sri Lankan-born global animal health professional Sam Thevasagayam today received a top award from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the 175-year-old regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the United Kingdom responsible for upholding the educational, ethical and clinical standards of the veterinary profession.

Thevasagayam was awarded the RCVS’s distinguished ‘International Award’ for his leadership in advancing the college’s work to raise veterinary standards and to improve animal health and welfare. Affectionately known by his colleagues as ‘Sam T’, Thevasagayam is deputy director for global development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), where he has worked for almost seven years and now oversees the foundation’s work in livestock health, genetics, production and markets.

Thevasagayam obtained a bachelor of veterinary science from the University of Peradeniya, in Sri Lanka; a doctoral degree in veterinary virology from the Institute for Animal Health, from the University of Hertfordshire, UK, where he conducted research on the foot-and-mouth disease virus; and an executive master of business administration degree from the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

At the BMGF, Thevasagayam leads a team of 14 and works with more than 100 international partners organizations on global initiatives to control such important animal diseases as bovine tuberculosis, brucellosis, foot and mouth and Rift Valley fever.

Among the many staff and friends of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) sending their congratulations to Sam are the following.

‘I have followed and admired Sam T’s illustrious career in animal health from the drug industry (Pfizer Animal Health) to a not-for-profit partnership (Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines) to his present foundation work (at BMGF). Always thoughtful, always cool, and always incisive, Sam has played an immeasurable role in ensuring that livestock enterprises and animal health sit firmly on the global development agenda. More than that, his experiences and wisdom have helped countries and organizations to make difficult decisions on priorities within this large field, helping to ensure that animal health investments lead to meaningful impacts for people and their animal stock.’

—Brian Perry, OBE, British veterinary surgeon and epidemiologist and former ILRI leader of ILRI’s veterinary epidemiology program

‘Sam deserves this award for his long-term commitment, often behind the scenes, in championing and promoting activities and research consortia leading to the improvement of livestock health in low- and middle-income countries’.

— Vish Nene, leader of ILRI’s livestock vaccines and diagnostics work within its animal and human health program

‘Sam Thevasagayam highly deserves this recognition. Sam’s contributions to animal agriculture in developing countries have made a huge difference in research and development circles alike. He has provided real understanding of, and support for, the many ways livestock help hundreds of millions of people to make a living, to nourish their families and communities and to escape poverty.’

— Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general

For more information on Sam’s work visit