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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tuskegee and Cornell: A Shared Legacy in PhD Education for African-American Veterinarians

By Donald F. Smith, Cornell University
Posted September 22, 2012

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

While visiting Tuskegee University this week to present a paper on One Health, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Eugene W. Adams, one of the college's pioneers and most distinguished faculty.

Now in his 90s, the youthful-appearing Dr. Adams regaled me with stories of his days at Cornell, where he received his PhD in pathology in 1961. He was one of three Tuskegee faculty who received PhDs at Cornell in that era, the other two being Dr. W. C. Bowie (physiology, 1960) and Dr. R. C. Williams (anatomy, 1961).  All three men became major leaders of the college. Dr. Bowie served as dean for 18 years.

Professor Emeritus Eugene W. Adams, DVM, MS, PhD
Tuskegee University
Photo by Author, 2012

In the early 1930s another Tuskegee veterinarian, Frederick Douglass Patterson, did graduate studies at Cornell in poultry pathology. He was the first faculty member at Tuskegee to receive the PhD and soon thereafter became the third president of the university. He founded the veterinary college in 1945, and also was the lead architect in establishing the United Negro College Fund (1946) as well as the Tuskegee airmen program during World War II.

Dr. Adams credits the warm relationship between Cornell's Dean William A. Hagan and Tuskegee's Dean T. S. Williams for paving the way for Tuskegee faculty to go to Cornell in the 1950s for graduate training (there were several others who followed in the 1960s and 1970s). The two men had much in common. Both Hagan and Williams had received their DVM degrees from Kansas State University, and Hagan had been the chairman of the AVMA's first institutional review team that eventually recommended the full accreditation of Tuskegee in 1954.

Dr. Adams recalled his days at Cornell very fondly. He studied for his PhD alongside future Cornell professors Drs. John King and Dan Tapper and never recalls hearing a racial slur nor a negative comment from anyone at the university. That was unlike some other universities at the time, and he attributes Cornell's welcoming atmosphere to the leadership of Dean Hagan. Dr. Adams also received a research stipend from the college that equaled his fellowship from Tuskegee.  Together, they gave him a salary equivalent to what he had as a full faculty member before his educational leave.

During his first year in Ithaca, Dr. Adams rented a room on Linden Avenue, then later when his family joined him, they stayed in Cascadilla Hall..

Several veterinary colleges, notably Kansas State, Iowa State, Michigan State and the University of Pennsylvania (as well as Cornell), were instrumental in enrolling African-American students into their DVM programs prior to the opening of Tuskegee in 1945. However, the Tuskegee-Cornell partnership for PhD education in the early years of the institution stands alone and highlights the role that committed leadership --- in this case, Deans Williams and Hagan --- made in establishing and advancing the reputation of the new college.

Dr. Smith invites comments at

New York City's Five Veterinary Colleges

Guest Blog
By Samantha Rivera, DVM candidate, 2014 Cornell University
Posted September 22, 2012

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

As a New Yorker born and bred in the Bronx, I have deep cultural ties with my city. New York really has it all – a complex transportation system, numerous hospitals and medical schools, and restaurants that reflect our rich cultural diversity. So why did I reluctantly pack my bags during the summer of 2007 to travel all the way upstate for my pre-professional and professional education?   
Because New York City does not have a veterinary college.

When I took Dr. Donald Smith’s course in veterinary history as a first-year student, I was shocked to learn that at one time in the past, there were several veterinary colleges in the heart of Manhattan. What happened to these colleges? Why did they not survive? How did these veterinary institutions change and evolve? These questions have bothered me during the last two years, so, I finally decided to learn their history. 

This is their story.

In 1857, eight years before Cornell University was founded, an act was passed in the State capital of Albany to establish the New York College of Veterinary Surgeons. The veterinary practice of a French veterinarian-physician by the name of Alexandre Liautard was eventually selected for the site of the college, and clinical instruction began on November 23, 1864. This was only the second veterinary college in the country at the time.

Liautard was dean of the college for about a decade when internal disturbances resulted in his resignation. Joined by several faculty members, he left the institution and founded the American Veterinary College, which provided clinical instruction at 139 West 54th Street for the next 25 years.

A Graphic Outline of New York City's Five Veterinary College (1857-1921)

Problems between the board and staff persisted at the New York College of Veterinary Surgeons, and another group of faculty resigned in 1878 to found the Columbia Veterinary College. Also called the College of Comparative Medicine, the governing body of this institution contained several MDs with veterinarian Erskine Bates serving as dean.  

The three veterinary institutions existed simultaneously in New York City for several years, providing instruction to hundreds of prospective veterinarians. By most accounts, Liautard was the most prominent spokesperson for the veterinary profession in the United States at this time. He continued his role as dean of the American Veterinary College, while Harry D. Gills led the New York City College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Charges of impropriety in 1884 forced Bates to resign from his leadership of the Columbia Veterinary College, and college merged with the American Veterinary College. Despite its short history of only seven years, Columbia’s 80 veterinary graduates comprised almost ten percent of the total graduates of the five colleges over their six-decade history.

In another merger, the New York College of Veterinary Surgeons and the American Veterinary College consolidated in 1899 to create an entirely new veterinary institution associated with New York University (NYU). The name of this new institution was the New York University New York-American Veterinary College, with W.J. Coates as dean. New York College of Veterinary Surgeons had almost 300 graduates between 1857-1899, while the American Veterinary College had twice that many graduates between 1875-1899.

Though Cornell University had offered limited instruction in veterinary medicine since 1868, it was not until 1894 that the State passed a law authorizing the establishment of a veterinary college at the university in the rural upstate town of Ithaca. 

In 1905, eleven years after Cornell was designated as a state-supported veterinary college, a bill was introduced to the New York State Assembly that would fund a veterinary college in New York City. Cornell vigorously opposed the bill, but the law was passed and New York University became home to a state-supported veterinary college in 1913. The institution was known as NYU New York State Veterinary College. It had a total of 116 graduates between the years 1899-1913.

Period Veterinary Publication Advertising Two New York State Veterinary Colleges,
one  at Cornell University (L) and one at New York University (R), circa 1916

Dean Coates died in 1916 after a long illness.  Dr. Horace Hoskins served as dean until 1921, when he too passed. The institution was devastated by the loss of their beloved deans. Sadly, the challenge of funding and continued leadership, and the loss of the horse as the dominant means of city transportation, took its toll and the college suspended operation in the following year. 

Formal veterinary education ceased to exist in New York City ninety years ago, in 1922. Ironically, it was about the same time as Cornell’s medical school was pulling up its roots in Ithaca and moving to New York.  The nation’s most populous city has been without a veterinary college ever since.

Dr. Smith invites comments at

Monday, September 10, 2012

Driving with my Dog from New York to Alaska: Whitehorse

By Donald F. Smith, Cornell University
Posted September 10, 2012

Five years ago my dog, Beau, and I drove from our home in upstate New York to Alaska and back. The first nine  installments can be found by clicking the "Traveling with Beau" link on the upper right-hand corner of the Home Page. In the last blog, Beau and I traveled through the Yukon on our way to Whitehorse.  

Though Whitehorse was built on the quest for gold, it was made memorable by the poetry of Robert Service, the Scottish bank worker who came to British Columbia and then was transferred to the Yukon during the 1900 gold rush. Every Canadian school child of my generation has some familiarity with the poem, 'The Cremation of Sam McGee' that tells the story of a hapless man from Tennessee whose hunger for gold took him to the frigid Arctic where he froze to death, but not before making his buddy promise that his remains would be cremated.  The poem starts ominously,

"There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;"

As Service told the story, Sam  was cremated  by his prospecting friend on the banks of Lake LeBarge in a furnace in the hulk of a grounded river boat. As the inferno crackled and burned hotter, the prospector beat back the heat to open the furnace door. Peering out from the center of the fire was a smiling Sam, urging his comrade to shut the door and keep out the cold and storm because, "Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm".

Beau and I took the short drive to the shore of Lake LeBarge where we sat together on the bank of the lake as I recited from memory the cremation story, all 15 stanzas. It brought back wonderful memories of my childhood when I would rehearse my school-assigned poetry to the calves as I would feed them their milk, or to the cows as I would sit under them one by one, adjusting the milkers.

The SS Klondike replicates stern-wheelers of the gold rush era.

Whitehorse was built on the backs of working and sled dogs that were more reliable and better able to withstand the frigid winters than horses. The name of the city that was founded in 1897 refers to the white, frothy rapids which were an image of a horse's mane. 

Despite its equestrian name, dogs defined Whitehorse
as much as the gold that built it. 

For two nights we stayed at the Gold Rush Inn, enjoying accommodations more luxurious than anything we had experienced along the route to this point. Beau was as kindly received as any weary traveler and his presence provided a welcome memory of pets back home for many stopover guests. "Oh, I wish we had our dog with us, too," became a common refrain. Beau loved the attention, though in his inimitable way he would only comport to a stranger's attention for a few seconds before returning to my side.

The reception desk in the pet-friendly Gold Rush Inn was complemented 
with taxidermy: a wolf and several foxes.

Though Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon, a walk along the streets gives you the impression that all the working-aged men have left town. Here in the subarctic, men spend most of their summers in a place called simply, up north, where they harvest energy for use in southern Canada and the lower 48 states. As one sage told me when he stopped to chat with us, "The men are gone all summer, returning when they have a long weekend just long enough to impregnate their girlfriends or wives, then they head back to the gas or oil fields." 

A retired DC-3 is the World's Largest Working Airport Weathervane.

During the afternoon, I was drawn to a man dressed in khaki jeans and a white T-shirt on which were clustered an array of colorful pins. Today's cluster represented obscure sites and out-of-the-way places in Canada but the one that intrigued me was a pin from Nunavut. "Have you been there?" I asked. "Oh yes," he said, "I just flew in from Iqaluit last night." [Formerly Frobisher Bay, Iqaluit is the capital of the territory of Nunavut which was formed by separation in 1999 from the parent Northwest Territories. Whitehorse remained the capital of the remaining part of the Northwest Territories.]

So I asked him, "What do you do?"  "I'm a traveler," he said. Not a travel agent, a traveler, a professional traveler. Someone who spends the majority of his time visiting obscure and hard-to-reach places around the world to attain the distinction of being one of the world's 'most traveled people'.  
The 50-year-old New Yorker was ranked in the top ten on that rare club list of most-traveled people. He described some of the interesting people whom he had met on his travels:
  • The man from Madrid living in the Congo, who travels the "Voodoo Trail" to learn about medicinal plants and herbs; 
  • The two Cowboys from Amarillo who were on a Posse to rope in souls for Jesus;
  • A South African woman, schooled in London and Los Angeles, whom he met in Djibouti, and is a publisher and concerned member of a club that supports national parks throughout Africa.

Considering we had just traveled over 3,500 miles on our oblique route across the continent, I wondered if Beau and I could ever make his list.

Dr. Smith invites comments at

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Driving With my Dog to Alaska: Yukon

Donald F. Smith, Cornell University
Posted September 4, 2012

Five years ago my dog, Beau, and I drove from our home in upstate New York to Alaska and back. The first eight installments can be found by clicking the "Traveling with Beau" link on the upper right-hand corner of the Home Page. In the last blog, Beau and I traveled through the province of British Columbia. We are soon to enter the Yukon.

This would be our longest day and we started it at 4:30 when we went for our morning walk in the dark. Dark, that is, except for the zillion stars that fenestrated the inky sky. Beau ate nothing and neither did I. Excitement, perhaps.

Beau's mood improved as we pulled into the Fort Nelson gas station alongside a huge tractor trailer with 'Lydan' written on its side. Driver Jon-without-an-h, a big man with a gregarious smile for such an early start, told me what to expect on this most challenging portion of the Alaska Highway, then we both went inside for coffee. We were the first customers of the day so the coffee was free; in reality, the women knew Jon, and I was in his shadow. 

As I watched Jon ascend the steep stairs and center his gravity in the massive cockpit, he turned back to me, “Just stay alert for animals, some days you see none and other days, you roll around a corner going too fast, and find a bull moose standing in the middle of the road staring at you. And be careful in the mountains. They are treacherous if you take the corners too quickly, especially Suicide Hill." Then he delivered a final memorable admonition, "Don't drive like dumb-shit, and maybe I’ll see you two at the hot springs for breakfast.

So off we went, headlights focused on the big rig ahead of us.  That worked well for the first 60 km, until we entered the mountains and Jon pulled off at a truck turnout to test his brakes.  We were on our own now, peering into the black morning as the caution signs for moose and other animals reminded us that we were not alone.

At our second pit stop of the morning, the stillness of the mountain air was sharply punctuated by a blast of a truck horn as a massive beast roared by. I was about to grumble about the evil monster when I caught the hearty wave and bright smile of Jon as he leap-frogged us. I wanted to jump in the jeep and race after him, but we both knew we would be foolish to move at his speed.  He would have to have breakfast without us. Sadly, we never saw Jon again, but whenever we saw a Lydan truck, or witnessed a driver doing “dumb shit”, I thought of our friend.

We had been traveling alone in the mountains for over an hour with the sun now shining brightly when I spotted two caribou walking down the road towards us. Beau saw them, too, and he sat up straight and peered intently through the windshield. I’m not sure which of us was more excited as Beau started to whine and jiggle all over, and I pulled over onto the shoulder and grabbed the camera. 

Bull caribou and yearling beside the Alaska Highway

We spent the next 20 minutes watching a bull and a yearling graze beside the road, periodically returning to the road to advance a few yards, then ambling into the brush once again.  I would like to have stayed with the gangly pair all day, but we were almost 800 km from Whitehorse, so we moved back onto the road and began to accelerate. Almost on cue, the mature caribou strolled out into the road just in front of us and proceeded to walk right down its center, not more than 10 feet from our bumper.  For the next 10 minutes, we inched forward as the bull moved to the side of the road, only to cross back into our path. Time and time again, his game continued–-at least, it seemed to me like his little game--then we finally crested a hill and they dashed into the brush and were gone. Regardless what happened for the rest of the trip to Whitehorse, we had seen and photographed our first big animals.

The scenery along the road was breathtaking. We were traveling through the rugged Canadian Rockies, with large mountains and fast-moving rivers racing along the road beside us. 

The Alaska Highway (arcing along the left side of the photo),
followed the course that the river had cut  between the mountains.

On that quiet morning, the reflection in the water was as clear
as the view above the surface.

Periodically we would come to a large lake, with vistas reflecting scenery below the surface as stunning as those above.

Stone sheep ram high on a ridge 
overlooking the Alaska Highway. 

For the most part, the road was in good condition. However, pot holes and deep trenches carved by shifting winter ice caught us unawares too often and we tempered our speed accordingly. We were also on the constant lookout for animals, and our slower-than-average speed made it difficult for the locals who barreled through in their large double-wheeled trucks, or the RV drivers who were more interested in getting to their park for the night than savoring the views.       

Suicide Hill was impressive with its tight curves and precipitous descent. On its shoulder stood two sets of  floral wreaths bearing testament to those who had been unable to control their vehicle on an icey morning. One of the wreaths contained in its circle the picture of a double-long rig that apparently went over the edge carrying a good-looking young man who was pictured beside his truck on a happier day. 

By midmorning, we had seen over 20 Stone sheep: ewes with sharp points on the horns and flat-headed calves still waiting for the first buds to appear. Males with ruggedly-built curved horns stood watch beside the road or perched in the rocky ledges high above.                                                                

Stone sheep ewe and lamb in the Rockies

We arrived at the Liard River Hot Springs about noon. Jon was nowhere to be found though other truckers had taken his place. Because the hot springs were popular with tourists, everyone seemed relaxed and in a jovial mood. Some were warmer than others, but I had a good excuse to decline the invitation to take a dip in the hot springs with an overly-friendly Minnesota woman because dogs were not allowed in the pool area. Instead, I gathered a hearty feast of chicken and vegetables from the convenience store and Beau and I had a lazy lunch and a well-deserved nap.

A large bison herd is frequently sighted near the Liard Hot Springs and Beau and I were not disappointed. Part of the herd was grazing on a hillside far from the road, but several of the cows and calves, and two massive bulls, were near the highway. Though they appeared to be resting comfortably, they were not chewing their cuds as I would have expected and when a boisterous tourist party got too close, they jumped up and disappeared into the bush. 

Wood Bison near Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park.

After crossing and recrossing the British Columbia-Yukon border, we were finally beyond the midpoint of our day's journey. Eight miles from Watson Lake we stopped at Sign Post Forest. Locals call it "the world's largest collection of stolen property" as there are signs from hometowns around the world. The first sign was placed in 1942 by a homesick U.S. Army G.I. who was one of the thousands of Americans sent north to build the Alaska Highway. He erected a sign pointing towards his hometown of Danville, Illinois. Watson Lake now maintains the site which allegedly contains over 10,000 signs. One could spend a full afternoon walking among the rows and rows of names and observing the clever ways tourists have celebrated their favorite places.  

Sign Post Forest near Watson Lake dates to 1942 and contains the world's 
"largest collection of stolen property".

It was a blazing hot afternoon and I could not leave Beau in the jeep to watch the historical movie at the adjacent Information Center. It tells the story of how the highway had been built by the American military in response to concerns of a Japanese land invasion following Pearl Harbor. Sensing my disappointment, the overtly friendly staff invited Beau as a VIP guest and we watched the movie together, then gathered outside for pictures and cold water.

Situated almost equidistant between
New York City and Tokyo, Japan,
Sign Post Forest lies a few miles from Watson Lake in the Yukon.

It was late in the afternoon when we finally said goodbye to our friends in Watson Lake, promising to visit them on our return trip. The Rocky mountains and the day's large animals behind us, we hurried on the last 440 km towards Whitehorse. 

The entrance to Teslin Bridge, approximately two hours
from Whitehorse, Yukon.

Stopping at the Teslin River crossing for dinner, we had a relaxing visit with a couple from Montana whom we had met at a rest stop earlier in the day. Driving the Alaska Highway can be like that: long stretches of nothing and no one, then you can be surprised by the joy of seeing a person you met earlier and it is as if you are reunited with a close friend. A friendly, helpful close friend. 

Dr. Smith invites comments at