Wisconsin marks a century of innovation

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The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine will not only be celebrating the 250th anniversary of the profession this year but also its own 100-year anniversary.

It all started in 1911 with the Veterinary Science graduate program, which continues today at the university as the Comparative Biomedical Sciences program within the veterinary school.

UW-M wildlife research
Dr. Robert P. Hansen conducts wildlife research circa the 1950s.
UW-M cow postmortem
A postmortem examination of a tubercular cow in 1899 (Photos courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives)

In that time, the school and its faculty and students have made substantial scientific contributions to animal and human health. According to vetmed.wisc.edu/100years, these included the following:

  • The late Dr. David T. Berman, professor emeritus of veterinary science and bacteriology, joined a group in the mid-1940s that was focused on U.S. Department of Agriculture–supported bovine brucellosis vaccination strategies. By 1956, the brucellosis eradication program in Wisconsin had succeeded in bringing the herd infection rate down to less than 0.1 percent. It later served as a model for the USDA's nationwide effort to eradicate brucellosis.
  • A young girl's death of viral encephalitis in 1960 sparked a major research effort to discover what caused the fatality. From this, faculty and graduate students in the departments of Veterinary Science, Entomology, Preventive Medicine, and Wildlife Ecology showed that the La Crosse virus, which causes encephalitis in humans, shelters in mosquito eggs after the adult female dies in the first frost.
  • Dr. Janice M. Miller, who came to the university to work on her doctorate in 1965, discovered the virus that caused bovine lymphosarcoma.
  • Dr. Gerald E. Bisgard, now professor emeritus in the Department of Comparative Biosciences, demonstrated in 1969 that increased breathing at high altitude is mediated by an increased sensitivity of the carotid body to low oxygen levels.
  • Dr. Oliver J. Ginther, while on faculty in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences, led cutting-edge research in mare reproductive biology. In the 1970s, work from his laboratory introduced veterinarians to two hormone preparations—GnRH and PGF-2alpha—for improved breeding management practices in horses.
  • Drs. Bernard C. Easterday and Dean Pawlisch were in Brodhead, Wis., investigating outbreaks of swine influenza in the area during the 1970s. In November 1976, Dr. Pawlisch was called to a farm where there were pigs with signs of influenza and a farm worker ill with symptoms of influenza. SI virus was recovered from the worker and from several of the pigs—conclusive virologic demonstration of transmission of the virus from pigs to humans.
  • Dr. Ronald M. Schultz Jr., professor and chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences, made what UW-Madison states were the first recommendations on a vaccination program for cats and dogs, in 1998. His recommendations are based on research results, clinical observations, and his experience in infectious diseases and immunology for the past 30 years.
  • Dr. Yoshi Kawaoka, a professor of pathobiological sciences, developed a novel technology called reverse genetics, in 1999 that allows the generation of influenza viruses entirely from plasmids, which can be used to introduce any maturation into the genome of influenza viruses. This technology is now used for the generation of tailor-made influenza vaccines.