Equine researchers, practitioners praised for achievements

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Dr. McIlwraith
Dr. C. Wayne McIlwraith
Dr. Fowler
Dr. Kent Fowler
Dr. Lenz
Dr. Thomas R. Lenz
Dr. Estes
Dr. Richard Estes


Dr. Stick
Dr. John Stick
Dr. Stewart
Dr. Amy Stieler Stewart
Dr. Durward-Akhurst
Dr. Sian Durward-Akhurst
Dr. Reef
Dr. Virginia B. Reef

The American Association of Equine Practitioners honored the 2018 recipients of several awards at its 64th Annual Convention, Dec. 1-4, 2018, in San Francisco.

The AAEP Research Award was presented to equine surgeon and researcher Dr. C. Wayne McIlwraith (Massey '70). He is a professor of surgery and founding director of the Colorado State University Orthopaedic Research Center. Dr. McIlwraith received the award for his contributions to equine research, specifically in the areas of orthopedics, joint disease, and biologic therapies. Dr. McIlwraith pioneered arthroscopic surgery and joint disease research in the horse, and many of his procedures have been translated into human medicine.

Dr. Kent Fowler (California-Davis '77), a California regulatory veterinarian, received the Distinguished Service Award for his advocacy in protecting horses from infectious diseases. Dr. Fowler is the Animal Health Branch chief for the California Department of Food and Agriculture in Sacramento. He was an early advocate for the creation of the Equine Disease Communication Center and the National Equine Health Plan. In addition, he worked with state animal health officials and the USDA to develop acceptable protocols for treatment and subsequent testing of equine piroplasmosis–positive horses.

Dr. Thomas R. Lenz (Missouri '75), a semi-retired equine veterinarian, received the Sage Kester Beyond the Call Award. The award is named after its first recipient, the late Wayne O. "Sage" Kester, and recognizes a current or former AAEP member who has made substantial and long-lasting contributions to equine veterinary medicine and the community.

Dr. Lenz spent years in private practice in California and Missouri, farm practice in Texas, and as adjunct professor of medicine and surgery at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Lenz joined Zoetis Inc. in 2010 and retired as senior director of equine veterinary services in 2017. In October 2018, Dr. Lenz was appointed to a three-year term on the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. He also currently is the Welfare Committee chair for the American Horse Council and is on the board of directors of and founding chairman for the Unwanted Horse Coalition.

Equine veterinarian Dr. Richard "Chip" Estes (Colorado State '74) was recognized with the Distinguished Educator–Mentor Award. Throughout his three decades in private practice, Dr. Estes has provided science-based advice to colleagues and, more recently, has shared his extensive knowledge in the AAEP Rounds—online forums where members seek advice and share ideas about cases and other veterinary topics.

Dr. John Stick (Ohio '74), professor emeritus at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, received the AAEP Distinguished Educator–Academic Award for his contributions to the profession. Dr. Stick joined the faculty at Michigan State in 1977. He served as a professor, chief of staff, and chief operations officer within the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences from 1992-2015. Research by Dr. Stick and colleagues at Michigan State changed how laryngeal surgery is performed in horses by documenting the statistically superior return of airflow volumes provided by a prosthetic laryngoplasty or nerve-muscle pedicle graft. His case-based teaching style instilled problem-solving skills and confidence in his students, many of whom now hold senior positions in private or academic practices around the world.

The AAEP Foundation Past Presidents' Research Fellow grant of $5,000 was awarded to Dr. Amy Stieler Stewart (Florida '11) for her research into the benefits of stem cells in colic cases.

Dr. Stewart is a doctoral student at North Carolina State University. Colic in horses has a variety of causes and a wide range of severity. Dr. Stewart's research focuses on the role of intestinal epithelial stem cells in repairing damaged intestines and is conducted using "miniguts" in pigs.

Dr. Sian Durward-Akhurst (Glasgow '09), a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota, received the 2018 Equus Foundation Research Fellow grant of $5,000 for her research in equine genetics. Dr. Durward-Akhurst's research is focused on identifying potential causative mutations for highly detrimental—likely Mendelian—diseases in horses by developing and using the first database of genetic variation across the equine population. Dr. Durward-Akhurst's research is aimed to help veterinary professionals understand genetic variants and allow them to group genetically similar patients together.

Dr. Durward-Akhurst received a master's in veterinary medicine from the University of Minnesota in 2016 and anticipates the completion of her PhD this fall.

Equine cardiologist and ultrasonographer Dr. Virginia B. Reef (Ohio State '79), provided a blueprint for interpreting the audio and visual clues of equine heart diseases when she delivered the Frank J. Milne State-of-the-Art Lecture on Dec. 3. The lecture, "Straight from the heart: Untangling the complexities of the equine cardiovascular system," explained the etiology of murmurs ausculted and the severity of any regurgitation, shunts, or myocardial dysfunction detected through the use of echocardiographic images and videos.

Dr. Reef is a professor of medicine and chief of the imaging section at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. She has trained many of the academics focusing on equine cardiology and ultrasonography in the U.S. Dr. Reef is a charter diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, and a large animal associate member of the European College of Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging.