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Friday, October 29, 2010

Personal Accounts of Veterinarians Serving on Opposing Sides of the China-Burma-India Conflict During WW II

Three years ago, I interviewed my longtime friend, Dr. Kenneth Gumaer '43, who had served during World War II in the China-Burma-India theater. His responsibility was to supervise the safe transport of over 250 mules from New Orleans to Calcutta, India. Despite being torpedoed by a German U-boat and enduring rough seas that caused massive hematomas on the mules, Dr. Gumaer proudly reported that they lost just one animal during the 87-day passage. 

From the disembarking point, the mules were transported by train to Deogarh, India for training and final preparations for combat. Then Gumaer led them through almost impenetrable jungle and over treacherous mountain passes behind the Japanese lines in Burma until they finally captured the strategic airport at Myitkyina. It was a major Allied victory in the C-B-I campaign and a significant turning point in the war.

Dr. Kenneth Gumaer with a Pack Mule
in the China-India-Burma Campaign in WWII (1944)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Traveling with Beau

I needed a break after serving as dean of the veterinary college at Cornell University, so I climbed into a Jeep with my dog, Beau and headed north and west. Two weeks later, we arrived in Alaska.

Entering Alaska from the Yukon

Our wheels never touched the interstate as we traveled the secondary roads across Ontario and the northern states. We crossed Lake Michigan by ferry and visited numerous small towns and interesting sites that "just happened" along the way. We crossed North Dakota, then traversed the Canadian prairies before reaching the Alaska Highway in northen British Columbia.

Happy Birthday to My Beau

Cornell veterinary college community and visitors to the campus sometimes recognize pictures of Beau, my red English Cocker Spaniel who will be 14-years-old on Election Day, November 2, 2010. He is my joyful and loyal companion.

Beau Loving the Snow, March 2007

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kentucky's Consummate Veterinarian

By Donald F. Smith, Cornell University
Posted December 20, 2010.

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

As a young man growing up in Kentucky in the 1930s, Delano L. Proctor wanted to be an army officer and a pilot. The Navy rejected him because he was color blind, however, so he followed his father into the veterinary profession. He became a legendary Lexington equine veterinarian, serving some of the best stables in the world’s equine capital.

D.L., as he was affectionately known to his colleagues, joined the service following his graduation from Cornell in 1942. The Army wisely took advantage of his expertise with horses and assigned him to Fort Reno, Oklahoma, the country’s largest remount station, with 5,000 mules and 10,000 horses. He traveled from there to Calcutta, then to India’s embarkation point for the rugged China-Burma-India campaign. His responsibilities were to break, condition, and assure the health of horses and mules used behind enemy lines in the severe jungle and mountain terrain.
Dr. Proctor with a massive bull elephant that he and two colleagues killed.
The state's wildlife warden had ordered it destroyed after a week-long rampage
that had left 35 residents of their village crushed and killed by the rogue beast.

Following his discharge at the rank of Captain in 1946, D.L. returned to Lexington and took over his father’s equine practice. For over 40 years, Dr. Proctor was veterinarian for some of the finest equine stables in Kentucky. The quality of his surgical knowledge and abilities was affirmed when he was admitted, by examination, as one of the early diplomates of the prestigious American College of Veterinary Surgeons. He also served as the 107th president of the AVMA in 1985-86.

Dr. Proctor had a deep respect for his alma mater, “Cornell did great things for me and, above all, there’s the prestige that you get from being associated with it.” While serving as dean, I had the privilege of sharing several lively and insightful conversations with him. Despite debilitating arthritis in his later years, he hired a private airplane so that he could join his remaining classmates for their 65th reunion in 2007.  A modest man who spoke sparingly of his own war experiences, he preferred to acclaim the horses and mules that helped turn the tide in the rugged Burma conflict.

In December 2007, I drove through the snow-covered roads of West Virginia to interview Dr. Proctor for the Enduring Legacy project. He spoke of the greatness of the veterinary profession, and his fondness for Cornell. In his later years, D.L. had become an impressive student of veterinary history, writing insightful (but sadly, unpublished) essays on comparative medicine and early veterinary scholars. When I asked him why he had become so interested in history, he said simply, “Well, it just seems to me like you ought to know where you’re coming from.

D.L. knew better than most where he came from, and also where the profession is going. When he departed this life in 2009, he left a legacy as the complete, the consummate equine veterinarian.

A Biography and interview (audio and transcript) of Dr. Proctor is available on the Enduring Veterinary Legacy series.

Friday, October 15, 2010

They Cared Enough to Give Their Name

Students at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine sometimes wonder why we call Lecture Suite I the Murray Room. Or why is there a Flower in the library?

It’s simple, really, and goes to the core of the blending of State tax dollars and private philanthropy in the making of Cornell. Without the combination of the two forms of support, year after year, our facilities would be Spartan.

Walking around the building, students and guests of the college see names in strategic places: ‘Greenberg’ on the M.R.I. suite, ‘Belinski’ on the teaching laboratory, ‘Turrell’ on the linear accelerator cancer facility, and so on.

Amazingly, the practice started just three years after the college was established. As the story goes, our first dean, James Law, was giving ex-Governor Roswell Flower a riding tour of Cornell’s campus in 1897 when the horse pulling their carriage balked in front of the new veterinary college building. The gentlemen used the pause to visit the young college.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

World Equestrian Games and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute

The caption on the large mural that greets incoming passengers in the Lexington airport says simply, “The world’s premier equine practice since 1876”. Lexington’s Hagyard Equine Medical Institute identifies the world’s most comprehensive and most advanced establishment in the world for promoting and sustaining equine health.  

              Hagyard Poster in Blue Grass Airport, Lexington, KY
During the World Equestrian Games being held for the first time in the United States in fall 2010, the Hagyard practice assists enforcing health regulations for horses that come from almost 60 foreign countries. With veterinarians and staff from Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, they also provide medical care for these equine athletes while they are in the Lexington area.

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.

Cornell's New Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Opens October 1, 2010

Why should the people of New York State invest tens of millions of dollars to build a facility at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine to diagnose and prevent animal diseases?

Let’s consider the alternatives:
·    Ten million cattle and sheep were slaughtered and their bodies burned in massive fires to eliminate foot and mouth disease in Britain a decade ago;
·    Food poisoning caused illnesses for thousands of people in the recent outbreak of Salmonella-tainted eggs;
·    Thousands of cats and dogs became sick and many died from pet food tainted with impurities from China;
·    Dogs developed a new strain of influenza that caused pneumonia and death.

$70 million Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Opened Oct. 1 2010

These are the types of arguments that my colleagues and I made to the State of New York several years ago when I was dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. And why we rejoiced when Governor George Pataki visited Cornell in 2006 to announce the State appropriation for a new Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to replace our aging facility that lacked the size and sophistication to monitor and control diseases that have increased in virulence and scope.