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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Beginning of Organ Transplants

December 29, 2010:
Today’s Boston Globe contains a long obituary following the death Monday of the first human kidney transplant donor. It recalls the story of a remarkable event 56 years ago that ushered in the age of human organ transplantation.

But the Globe’s obituary of 79-year-old Ronald Lee Herrick, and related stories in hundreds of other newspapers (and NPR), fail to recall an important element of that achievement.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What did you find in your Stocking?

Christmas mornings are for stockings but, oh, what a surprise my wife found in hers a few weeks ago! The morning of our first snow, Doris pulled out her knee-high winter boots from the closet when she discovered them filled with dog food pellets. Ditto the adjacent hiking shoes.

We recognized the signature trademark of the culprit, a fat-bellied mouse that we had caught a couple of months earlier after discovering a box of soap pads under the sink likewise filled to the brim with Eukanuba kibble.

Like many residential areas, Ithaca is increasingly host to the encroachment of wild animals, deer most prominently. We have deer on our lawn daily, and twice have had births beneath the trees behind our house. We’ve had to relocate a family of six baby skunks from our shrubs, a groundhog from under our tool shed, and a dead possum from the same location.

While conventional wisdom suggests that wild animals living in our communities result from our encroachment onto their natural habitat, we think the situation at the Smith residence (where we have lived for almost 30 years) is much simpler. Where we once had two young lively cats, they gradually outlived their hunting prowess over the past decade. And while our two young dogs would at one time patrol the property, our sole aging cocker now merely lifts his ears with interest.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dogs Are Good Medicine

What do some child psychologists, neurologists and family therapists have in common? They use dogs as adjuncts in their medical practices.

A two-page spread is yesterday’s Wall Street Journal features numerous photographs of health care professionals accompanied by the dogs they use in their clinical practices. (URL below) There is even a flashback to Sigmund Freud and his Chou named Jofi.

Veterinarians and physicians use the term “One Health” to describe the growing awareness that animals and people share many health problems. Diseases like Salmonella or influenza are well known examples, but even some environmental-induced cancers are similar in animals and people.

However, "One Health" also refers to contributions that animals make to human health. Whether controlling obesity through encouraging exercise, lowering blood pressure, managing stress or providing companionship to senior citizens, dogs and other pets often part of a holistic human health strategy.

Friday, December 10, 2010


This week the United States Congress voted to designate 2011 as “World Veterinary Year to bring attention to and show appreciation for the veterinary profession on its 250th anniversary.”

The Congressional citation emphasizes the roles that veterinarians play in promoting healthy pets and healthy families, as well as biomedical research, sports, food safety, conservation biology and the Armed Forces.

It states in part: 
Whereas 2011 will mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of the veterinary medical profession;

The House of Representatives supports the goals and ideals of World Veterinary Year by bringing attention to and expressing appreciation for the contributions that the veterinary profession has made and continues to make to animal health, public health, animal welfare, and food safety.

The world’s first veterinary school was established in Lyon, France, in 1761. Most veterinarians can trace their professional roots back to this veterinary college established 250 years ago or to the schools that its graduates and their successors later founded. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Holiday Book for your Favorite Veterinarian

Here are two gift suggestions you might consider for your veterinarian or veterinarian-to-be.

GENIUS ON THE EDGE, by Gerald Umber, MD
A new biography on the father of surgery.  In the 1890s, William Halsted and three other doctors established the world-famous Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. For over 30 years, Halsted pioneered the development of surgery so fundamentally that every university-affiliated surgeon in America can trace his or her lineage back to one of Halsted’s residents.

My fascination as a veterinary surgeon, however, was to realize how accomplished Halsted became in operating on animals. Using mostly dogs, he adhered to strict sterile techniques as early as 1900. Cornell’s veterinary college, by contrast, did not adopt aseptic surgery until 1948.

Why was Halsted operating on dogs? Because that is how he and his colleagues learned and practiced new techniques for humans, and how they developed their understanding of how the body works in health and disease.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

White Coat Ceremony for Cornell's Veterinary Class of 2012

How and when did Cornell’s White Coat tradition begin?

When I became dean in 1997, I had never heard about this symbolic coating of medical students at the beginning of their professional education, though it had been inaugurated by Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons four years earlier. 

Members of Class of 2012 celebrate their new white coats
December 4, 2010.
 Washington State University’s veterinary college had also adopted the practice and, in 2002, Dr. Richard Grambow, Chair of our College Advisory Council, became aware of it while visiting WSU where his daughter was on the faculty. He was so impressed that he promoted the idea with the alumni association and our executive staff, and we all thought it was a great idea. From the beginning, it was embraced as a joint alumni-college event with the alumni association providing the white coats and the college sponsoring the venue and reception.

We had our first ceremony seven years ago, in 2004. Rather than have the event during first-year orientation as happens at other medical schools and at WSU’s veterinary college, we decided the ceremony should mark the successful completion of the first two and one-half years of study, when the third-year students embark on clinical rotations. The first Saturday in December was selected.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Value of Mentoring for a Successful Veterinary Career

As an undergraduate student at Cornell in the mid 1950s, Patricia Thomson was often discouraged from following her dream to become a veterinarian. Her Cornell pre-vet advisor flatly informed her, “You won’t get in.” A career counselor concurred, suggesting that medical school would be the better route for someone with her excellent grades. Trish persisted, however, and became one of three women to receive the Cornell DVM in 1960.

Positive mentors and role models are critically important to young people as they pursue career aspirations. Trish had several mentors, in addition to her wonderful family. An early supporter was her local veterinary practitioner, Dr. Stanley Garrison, who frequently visited the Thomson farm and surmised that Trish would make a fine veterinarian. “Doc was the finest mentor one could have. He played an important role in my developing veterinary interests, and even hired me to work with him during my summer vacations while at college.

Dr. Patricia Thomson and Dr. Don Herr, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Admission of Women to Veterinary Medicine at Cornell

By Donald F. Smith, Cornell University
Posted December 1, 2010

This historical blog is in recognition of the 150th anniversary 
of the American Veterinary Medical Association (1863-2013).

I read several articles this week commenting on a recent study that attempts to explain why more women than men apply to veterinary college.[i] Professor Anne Lincoln from SMU in Texas concludes that one of the reasons we have so few men applying to become veterinarians is “men’s strong negative response to women’s increasing enrollment”. Based upon data from a 20-year period starting in the mid 1970s, Professor Lincoln concludes “that for every 1 percent increase in women in the veterinary college student body, about 1.7 fewer men will apply the subsequent year.

During my history course at Cornell last spring, we spent a substantial amount of time examining issues relating to access for women, Jews and Blacks in veterinary medicine. For those students enrolled in the course this spring, I wrote this blog to get you thinking about these issues over the holiday break.

You can read more about the personal stories of some of the women who graduated between 1930 and 1970 at (includes biographies and interviews with women veterinarians) and (stories of women who graduated before 1950).

Dr. Marie Koenig Olson,
the only woman to matriculate in veterinary medicine at Cornell in 1933.
Her father, husband, son and granddaughter were also veterinarians.
Photo from Cornell University archives.

Relative to women enrolled in veterinary medicine at Cornell, there were five distinct time periods:
1905-1935: Approximately 12 women entered the veterinary program in these early years, surpassing all other veterinary colleges in the U.S. They were a fascinating group of women, pioneers in every sense of the word.

1935-1945: Considering the times, this was the “Decade of woman veterinarians at Cornell” as they comprised about 5% of the entering classes. Several classes had four women.

1945-1970: The Dark Ages for women at Cornell! At the end of WWII, proportions of women, Jews and Blacks all declined. Though people sometimes report that Cornell had a quota of two women per year, the number of matriculating female students varied from zero to four.

1970-1995: A change in the admission policy to treat women and men equally resulted in a 500% increase in the percentage of women admitted to Cornell between 1971 and 1977. The first class that was over half women graduated in 1981 (Dr. Sheila Allen, the current dean at University of Georgia, was in that class). The proportion of women dropped briefly below 50% then increased slowly thereafter.

1995-2015: During the last two decades, the percentage of women matriculating has increased marginally, but mostly has hovered between 70% and 85%. The class that graduates in May 2011 is 70% women. As I write this blog, we are reviewing the admission folders of students for admission in 2011, Cornell’s sesquicentennial Class of 2015.

[i] Lincoln, Anne E. 2010. “The Shifting Supply of Women and Men to Occupations:
Feminization in Veterinary Education.” Social Forces 88(5):1969-1999.

Dr. Smith invites comments at