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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stephen Ettinger, DVM Honored with Prestigious Salmon Award

When Dr. Stephen Ettinger was presented with the very prestigious Daniel Elmer Salmon award by Cornell alumni on October 2, 2010, he gave an unusual acceptance speech. Rather than talk about the extraordinary achievements as a veterinary cardiologist, scholar and author that have made him the most recognized name in contemporary veterinary medicine, he chose instead to honor the man for whom the award is named.

Dr. Ettinger (right) with his former professor
and mentor, Dr. Robert Kirk (2008).
Dr. Ettinger began his presentation by holding up an egg, symbolic of the recent illnesses that have brought fresh attention to the challenges that we continue to face in preventing food-borne organisms from Salmonella and other contaminants. He then talked about Cornell's first DVM graduate, Daniel Salmon, one of the most renowned veterinarians of the 19th century. Ettinger talked about Salmon's inaugural leadership of the federal Bureau of Animal Industry that was created in 1884, and how he developed a system for food inspection that continued well into the 20th century. He also talked about Salmon's scientific relationship with another Cornell graduate, Theobald Smith, with whom he made many discoveries, including isolating the organism that bears his name: Salmonella.

During the Salmon era, human and veterinary medicine worked side-by-side to achieve great accomplishments in advancing animal and human health. Sadly, the professions drifted apart in the early years of the 20th century.

One of the reasons that Dr. Ettinger is so motivated to acknowledge the impact of Salmon and his colleagues is that he led a resurgence in comparative medicine during his tenure at the Animal Medical Center in New York City following his graduation in 1964. Working with physicians and biomedical scientists while he was developing his clinical skills in cardiology and medicine, Ettinger's commitment to comparative medicine anchored the development of veterinary specialties, residency training programs and science-based medicine. Like Salmon who graduated 90 years earlier, Ettinger's commitment to a unified concept of medicine had a profound and lasting impact on veterinary medicine throughout the world.

With the awarding of the Salmon medal to Dr. Ettinger, their names are now united by this tangable symbol of science and progress.