August 01, 2011


 Australian teacher and innovator

Dr. Douglas C. Blood wrote pivotal text, re-established veterinary school   

Posted July 13, 2011  

Dr. Doug Blood's career teaching veterinary medicine spanned Australia, the United States, and Canada. While a professor in Canada, he wrote a pivotal text on livestock diseases. In Australia, he re-established the University of Melbourne's veterinary school as founding dean.

Dr. Blood recently shared his life story with Drs. Tom Hart, Ivan W. Caple, and Michael A. Harrison. The following profile is condensed from their notes about that discussion with their permission.

Sketch of Dr. Douglas C. Blood
Sketch by Wes Walters (Courtesy of the National
Library of Australia)

Career in academia  

Born in England in 1920, Douglas C. Blood immigrated to Australia with his family at the age of 5. The family settled in an agricultural district close to Sydney.   

After earning a veterinary degree from Sydney University in 1942, Dr. Blood was appointed as a captain in the Australian Army. He was assigned to a company responsible for surveillance for Japanese forces in Australia's Northern Territory.  

At the end of World War II, Dr. Blood joined the staff at Sydney University as a lecturer in large animal medicine. He found that the teaching of veterinary medicine at the time was mainly based on the experiences of the lecturers. He thought instruction should be evidence-based, however, and wrote 1,000 pages of lecture notes based on research publications.

Dr. Blood was conscious that his own experience was limited. He visited the only private livestock practice in Australia. All other veterinary service to the dairy industry at that time was provided by government veterinarians. He also visited New Zealand to gain practical experience. Nevertheless, it was not until he spent two years at Cornell University in New York that he learned how to run an effective ambulatory veterinary clinic to serve the dairy industry.

On his return to Sydney University, Dr. Blood encountered logistic problems to providing an ambulatory teaching clinic. He thought that the clinic should be located near the dairy farms. The university decided instead to use land that was free but not ideally sited.

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Dr. Blood left for a position as a professor of large animal medicine at the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College. There, he used the lecture notes he had developed at Sydney and ran an ambulatory teaching clinic. He was an early adopter of the use of the stethoscope and internal examination per rectum for the diagnosis of disease in cattle.

While at Guelph, Dr. Blood wrote his text on livestock diseases, with Dr. James A. Henderson as editor. "Veterinary Medicine" organized the explanation of diseases into a logical scientific sequence, was evidence-based, and had comprehensive referencing. Each disease was dealt with under the headings of etiology, pathogenesis, clinical findings, clinical pathology, necropsy findings, diagnosis, and treatment.

"Veterinary Medicine" is now in its 10th edition and has been translated into many languages. 

Innovations at Melbourne

In 1962, Dr. Blood was appointed founding dean to re-establish the University of Melbourne's veterinary school. He was given the task of planning the curriculum, which he based largely on his experiences at Cornell and Guelph. He was also responsible for leading the design, building, and staffing of the school and for establishing a teaching hospital as well as an ambulatory farm clinic. 

Dr. Blood believed that the school should be located in dairy country, but government land was made available elsewhere. He had learned not to argue with universities about the siting of veterinary facilities.

One of the innovations introduced by Dr. Blood while dean was the establishment of a satellite teaching facility in a dairying area.

After six years, Dr. Blood stepped down as dean but remained as a professor until his retirement in 1985.

Dr. Blood realized that economic considerations limited the use of modern medical methodology to diagnose and treat livestock diseases. Therefore, he introduced the teaching of epidemiology and established herd health programs. He wrote a book on herd health with Dr. Otto M. Radostits.

Dr. Blood also recognized the potential for using computers to facilitate the diagnosis of disease and wrote several computer programs with other clinicians—Bovid to diagnose diseases of dairy cattle, Canid to diagnose diseases of dogs, and Phytox as an index of poisonous plants.  

Outside academia

Dr. Blood was an innovator in the politics and regulation of the veterinary profession in Australia. He published a book on veterinary law in 1985.  

He was a founding fellow of the Australasian College of Veterinary Scientists, which allowed veterinarians to gain specialist qualifications without returning to a university. He was the chief examiner for the first 10 years.

An elected member of the veterinary board of the state of Victoria from 1963-1990, Dr. Blood initiated cooperation between all Australian state and territorial boards. This led to an annual conference of board chairpersons. The initiative expanded from being a forum for harmonizing standards set by the boards to include oversight of the Australian Veterinary Schools Accreditation Committee.

The Australian government worked with the veterinary boards to establish the National Veterinary Examination to evaluate qualifications of graduates of overseas veterinary schools. Dr. Blood visited 15 overseas veterinary schools to assess their instruction and facilities. He and Dr. Pauline Brightling developed the first set of multiple-choice questions for the National Veterinary Examination.

Among his other endeavors, Dr. Blood served as president of the Victorian Division of the Australian Veterinary Association. He is a past president and current fellow of the Australian Association of Cattle Veterinarians. At the 1983 World Veterinary Congress in Perth, Australia, he was appointed chairman of the Congress.

After his retirement, Dr. Blood also co-authored a veterinary dictionary with Dr. Virginia P. Studdert in 1988.