Hard work pays off for AAEP president

Dr. G. Kent Carter an expert in equine lameness
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Dr. G. Kent Carter’s path to becoming 2015 president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners is a tale in persistence and taking advantage of opportunities when they arise.

The large animal medicine professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences never thought he’d be an academic, let alone a veterinarian, when he was younger. Yet here he is today, a leader in organized veterinary medicine and an expert in equine lameness.

The sheep rancher’s son

Dr. Carter (Colorado State ’79) grew up 90 miles south of Salt Lake City in the small town of Levan, Utah. His sheepherding father and grandfather owned a ranch with a few thousand head. Dr. Carter spent his childhood summers running the sheep into the mountains and the western Utah desert near the Nevada border. “It was a pretty nice lifestyle for kids. You had wide-open spaces with other kids to play with horses and dogs. I lived on horseback as a kid for a long time,” he said.

Dr. Carter
Dr. G. Kent Carter (Photos courtesy of AAEP)

After high school graduation, he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. He had taken some auto mechanic classes and figured that would be his career path. But then one fall, he had a fateful encounter when his horse suffered an eye injury. He and his father took the horse to a veterinarian, his first time meeting one.

“On the ride home, my dad and I were talking, and he asked if I thought about doing that, as much as I liked animals. I said, ‘I’m not sure I could get that done. There’s a lot that goes into that. I’m not sure I’m scholastically inclined enough.’”

But the more Dr. Carter thought about it, the more the profession appealed to him, and he figured “it can’t hurt to try.” So, he took the requisite classes while attending Dixie State College (now University) in St. George, Utah; improved his grades; and started shadowing local veterinarians.

“I have a competitiveness and hardheadedness to me. I worked construction during summers to save money to go to school. I could have made a comfortable living,” he said, but he wanted to prove himself.

Open doors

After three tries, Dr. Carter was accepted into Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. After graduation, his first job was in Reno, Nevada, in a large animal private practice. Two years later, he got a call from a large animal department head at Texas A&M, who offered him a residency on recommendation of a mutual acquaintance.

“My words were ‘I hadn’t thought about anything like this. Well, I’ll consider it, and I’ll call you in a week,’” he said.

Dr. Carter knew this new position might someday open more doors for him, so he took it, fully intending to go back into practice afterward. But when he completed his residency in 1982, he joined the faculty at Purdue University. He thought he would stay in academia only until he become a diplomate. But, after becoming board-certified in internal medicine in 1984, Dr. Carter joined the faculty of Texas A&M as assistant professor, where he worked his way through the ranks, eventually serving as section chief of internal medicine.

Dr. Carter has become known for his lameness work.

“If you’re good at it, it helps you build clients because there are lameness issues in horses of all kinds,” Dr. Carter said. “It’s like solving a puzzle. I don’t have patience for crossword puzzles, but I always had patience for figuring out why horses were lame. It can be tedious and difficult at times, but I enjoy it.”

Dr. G. Kent Carter, 2015 AAEP president and a large animal medicine professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, looks on as his students conduct a lameness examination.

For the past 20 years, he and Dr. William Moyer, an AAEP past president and fellow large animal professor, have collaborated with farriers to resolve equine hoof disorders and lameness. They founded an instructional rotation for students at Texas A&M dedicated to hoof care and its ties to lameness. Dr. Carter is a member of the International Equine Veterinarians Hall of Fame and the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame.

Dr. Carter got involved with the AAEP much as he did with academia—he was asked, and then the opportunity turned into much more. He first served on the Abstract Review Committee and later the Farrier Liaison, Infectious Disease, Leadership Development, Nominating, and Student Relations committees as well as a term on the board of directors from 2006-2007.

Words of wisdom

Whenever asked, Dr. Carter tells his students to expect their life to change dramatically when they become an equine veterinarian. They may not get their old life back; however, if they remain patient, they may find another rewarding one by working to blend the personal and the professional.

“Equine practice is not just a job, it’s like a lifestyle. Practicing on horses really affects the rest of what you do in life,” he said.

He says as president, he hopes to add to the AAEP’s mission statement and sees himself as an ambassador for the association. The AAEP will hold strategic planning meetings this summer. The association is also making a concerted effort to get more of its members involved in their state and local VMAs so they understand they’re the first line of contact on matters the AAEP might not hear about immediately.

The AAEP will also continue to work on passage of the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (H.R. 1518/S. 1406), which will likely be reintroduced in the 114th Congress, Dr. Carter said.

“The AAEP still supports the PAST Act as written. I would think that if (congressional leaders) re-approach the bill that they might find parts that are holding it up and come together in Washington and get it passed in the next session. It’s just hope,” he said.

As for new model rules in horse racing, Dr. Carter said the AAEP remains committed to national reform and, years ago, was instrumental in forming the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, on which a number of past presidents from the AAEP continue to serve.

The 2015 AAEP officers: Drs. R. Reynolds Cowles Jr., vice president; Jeff Blea, immediate past president; G. Kent Carter, president; Kathy Anderson, president-elect; and Jack Easley, treasurer.

“I can see that all parties have to work together if we’re going to enact meaningful change. If we’re on the same page, we’ll get it done. If we’re pulling on different corners, we won’t get it done. That’s the challenge. We have to look at the things keeping us apart and see how important they are,” he said.

New board members

The 2015 AAEP officers and new members of the board of directors took office Dec. 9. New board members are Drs. Robert “Rob” Franklin of Lipan, Texas; Vivian “Bibi” Freer of Tryon, North Carolina; and Katherine Garrett of Lexington, Kentucky.