McIlwraith, professor and director of equine orthopaedic research at Colorado State University, received the recognition along with Dr Tom Lenz, described by the association as a champion of equine welfare throughout his veterinary career.
The pair received Distinguished Lifetime Member Awards for their efforts at the organisation president's luncheon in Las Vegas, Nevada, coinciding with its 55th annual convention.
An AAEP member of more than 30 years, McIlwraith served as AAEP president in 2001 and was a member of the board of directors from 1992 to 1994.
He has been chairman of the Educational Programmes, Research, President's Advisory, Professional Conduct, and Ethics committees, as well as a member of several other committees and task forces.
He is the current chairman of the Foundation Advisory Committee. In addition, McIlwraith participates in the AAEP's On Call Programme, which provides veterinary expertise to print and broadcast media during major equine sporting events.
McIlwraith is the director of the Equine Orthopaedic Research Center and the Barbara Cox Anthony University Endowed Chair on orthopaedics at CSU. In 2009 he received the title of University Distinguished Professor at the university. He is a past president of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and the Veterinary Orthopaedic Society. He is widely recognized as a leader in the field of equine orthopaedic surgery and research.
An AAEP member since 1976, Lenz has worked in many facets of the equine veterinary world, including private equine practice, academia, and corporate business. During his 2003 term as AAEP president, Lenz championed equine welfare initiatives and was instrumental in organizing the AAEP's first Focus meeting.
Lenz has served on numerous committees and task forces, including the Equine Welfare Committee. He is currently a member of the President's Advisory, Public Policy, and AAEP Foundation committees.
A 1975 graduate of the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Lenz became a Diplomate in the American College of Theriogenologists in 1986 and received a master of science degree in equine reproduction from Texas A&M University in 1988.
Lenz is currently a trustee of the American Horse Council and serves on the organisation's Horse Welfare Committee. He serves on the Research Committee of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and the Veterinary Advisory Board of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association. He also serves as the chairman of the American Horse Council's Unwanted Horse Coalition.