Growing Researchers

Every year research progress is made and can help more horses. So, how did this group of scientists make a career out of equine research?
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I’m a member of a diverse group of scientists whose research focuses on the health and welfare of the horse. Each year many of us get involved with high-profile equine problems; this year it was EHV-1 neurologic disease, but laminitis, racing injuries, and other diseases threaten the horse annually. At these times owners and vets want information, and they turn to equine research for answers. The good news is that every year research progress is made and can help more horses. So, how did this group of scientists make a career out of equine research? It was no accident, and if we want equine research to continue and strengthen, what does it take to grow a researcher?

My wife (also a vet) jokes that the last major decision I made about my career was deciding to go to vet school–after that I was just lucky. She is probably right. After graduating from Liverpool I headed to Ontario Veterinary College for an internship and later a residency at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Those experiences left me with a fascination with research into real-world clinical problems–something I have my faculty mentors to thank, and especially Sheila McGuirk (DVM, MS, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM) in The Dairy State.

The ultimate currency for clinicians is knowledge, and the search for new knowledge is addictive. All of us who go down this path want to be there when something new is discovered and be the first to use it in the clinic. I knew I wanted to join that equine researcher club, but I needed more training, so back to the University of Cambridge for a PhD with my next inspirational figure, Phil Duffus (BVSc, MRCVS, PhD, MA), who trained me in equine immunology. Equipped with new skills and tools, I had a big break–my mentor put me on the stage at a big meeting for a keynote presentation, and I started making the connections that have helped me throughout my career.

My next big break came when I got a faculty job back at Wisconsin where the school took a chance and invested in me, giving me time and resources to start an independent research career. More good fortune: The lady in the next office was one of the world’s top influenza virus researchers (Virginia Hinshaw, PhD, now the chancellor of University of Hawaii at Manoa). Virginia finished what the others had started, pounded some sense into me about how to write a grant, and put me in the way of opportunities. Now, 20 years after that first faculty job in Wisconsin, I’m one of many equine researchers at Colorado State University, a world-class center for equine progress. So, the story thus far: I got a lot of help from brilliant mentors, and I spent some time at amazing universities who took a chance on me … a lot of luck I would say

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9 Responses

  1. re: Growing Researchers

    I found this article very interesting in that so much has been developed recently with regard to modern medicine and horses…

    Corrective and preventative measures have come a long way for horses in the past decade! Check out this article on &qu

  2. re: Growing Researchers

    I am a researcher, and I know that approval for research studies can be a lengthy task.

    I agree that it is very important to conduct humane research. However, without any research, the majority of information on this web site would not be avai

  3. re: Growing Researchers

    Medical doctors at http://www.pcrm.org say there is cruelty and redundancy and a lot of unecessary research and unecessary suffering. The regulations are not enforced just like the humane slaughter laws have not been enforced. If you bothered to check on the

  4. re: Growing Researchers

    Elaine, ever heard of IACUC or IRB? There are many regulations put into place to ensure that research is as humane as possible and is not done unnecessarily.

  5. re: Growing Researchers

    The facts are that most researchers are in it either for the money or the sadistic pleasure of torturing others and claiming that its necessary. If you have an IQ and an understanding of medical terms you can read about the huge amounts of useless redu

  6. re: Growing Researchers

    Researchers are usually exempt from cruelty statutes. Anybody who reads a lot of these research "studies" will soon realize that there are way too many researchers and way too much cruelty. There are some good researchers. They do not inflict

  7. re: Growing Researchers

    Elaine, before you criticise you should have the facts straight. Researchers are not in it for the money. They are not out there to cause harm, but rather to determine ways to make things better. Know anyone with cancer/AIDS/vaccinations/influenza/repr

  8. re: Growing Researchers

    I think research is neccesary for the health and well-being of our horses. If it was discontinued, how would we know what medications were safe for our horses?

  9. re: Growing Researchers

    Considering that many researchers are in it for the money and some behave in a manner that I consider cruel and sadistic I think that most research should not be supported. Many projects are redundant,inane and show that many researchers are really stu

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