Scientists who have contributed to the understanding and treatment of EHV-1 neurologic syndrome, Rhodococcus equi, stallion fertility and many other conditions and diseases will be inducted into the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Foundation’s UK Equine Research Hall of Fame.
Thomas Divers, Steeve Giguère, a posthumous inductee, and Dickson Varner were selected for their contributions to equine science and research. Nominated by their peers and colleagues, Divers, Giguère and Varner, were selected by past Hall of Fame inductees. They will be inducted on Oct. 31 at the Hilary J. Boone Center on the UK campus.
“Induction into the UK Equine Research Hall of Fame provides the opportunity to recognize the many important contributions these individuals have made to the health and well-being of horses in the areas of pathophysiology, infectious disease and reproduction,” said David Horohov, chair of the Department of Veterinary Science and director of the Gluck Equine Research Center.
Divers is the Rudolph J. and Katharine L. Steffan professor of veterinary medicine at Cornell University. Divers’ collaborative research has changed over the decades dependent upon emergence of new medical disorders and equine research needs.
Past collaborative research has included the first description of EHV-1 neurologic syndrome in the Southeastern United States and the initial research on equine efficacy and oral bioavailability of trimethoprim/sulfadiazine, permitting its labeling for use in horses; research on red maple toxicity in horses; research on numerous diseases of the nervous system, liver and kidneys in horses and cattle; discovery of the cause of equine motor neuron disease, along with the epidemiology and pathophysiology of the disorder; experimental infection studies on Lyme disease and leptospirosis in horses; and more.
His current research focuses on the cause of Theiler’s disease (serum hepatitis) in horses, where collaborative studies discovered two new equine viruses, one of which appears to be a likely cause. He received his bachelor of science degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1971 and graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia in 1975. He completed an internship at University of California, Davis and an internal medicine residency at University of Georgia. Divers is a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.
“It is a tremendous honor to be selected for induction into the Equine Research Hall of Fame. I am particularly humbled to have my name even mentioned with the list of previous inductees because I am, at best, a clinical researcher who has most often used a variety of clinical problems and clinical cases as the basis for my research,” Divers said. “Any successes that I may have had in equine research are a direct result of my collaborations with many wonderful colleagues, both those in universities and those in private practice. I would like to thank all of those collaborators and would like to recognize two collaborators who have passed—Dr. Doug Byars, who was an early collaborator and longtime friend, and Dr. Bud Tennant for our nearly four decades pursuit of a cause of Theiler’s disease. It is my hope that some of our research findings have made a difference to the health of the horse.”
Giguère is a former professor and Marguerite Hodgson chair in equine studies at the University of Georgia. He passed away on May 27. Giguère was an equine infectious diseases and comparative immunology researcher. The majority of his research productivity was related to the pathogenesis of infectious disease in foals, specifically Rhodococcus equi, the pharmacokinetics of antimicrobial agents and the clinical monitoring of foals with septic processes. He graduated from veterinary school at the University of Montreal in 1992. He completed his internship at the University of Montreal and his residency at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his doctoral degree in veterinary microbiology and immunology at the University of Guelph.
He became a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 1997. He received multiple teaching and research awards throughout his career, including the Carl Nordern-Pfizer Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006, the Intervet/Schering Plough World Equine Association Applied Equine Research Award in 2009 and the Zoetis Award for Research Excellence in 2017.
Giguère was nominated by Paul Lunn, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University.
“Dr. Giguère was the star of his generation, and although his life was cut tragically short, he still contributed some of the most important equine research work in the areas of infectious disease for more than two decades,” Lunn said in his nomination. “He established an international reputation as an equine researcher with a specific interest in infectious disease and neonatology.”
Varner is a professor of equine theriogenology and the Pin Oak Stud chair of stallion reproductive studies at Texas A&M University. His research has a highly translational emphasis, with a focus on understanding mammalian sperm function, identification of stallion fertility probes, expansion of in vitro methods for preserving stallion sperm in both cooled and frozen forms, capacitation of stallion sperm, development of assisted reproductive techniques and subfertility in stallions.
He identified a defect in the sperm’s acrosome, the “cap” on the sperm’s head that secretes enzymes required to penetrate the egg, which severely interferes with fertility of some stallions. He also helped develop the use of Computer-Assisted Sperm Analysis (CASA) for semen evaluation and a variety of ways to improve storage, transport and insemination of stallion sperm. These techniques ultimately help increase reproductive success in horses.
Varner earned his bachelor of science degree in 1976 and graduated from veterinary school in 1978 at the University of Missouri. He worked as an assistant resident veterinarian at Castleton Farm in Lexington from 1978-1981 before completing his residency at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his master of science degree from Texas A&M in 1990. He is a diplomat in the American College of Theriogenologists.
Through this college, he received the Theriogenologist of the Year Award in 2002 and the Bartlett Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theriogenology in 2016. Notable invited national and international presentations include the Milne Lecture (American Association of Equine Practitioners; 2007), the Bain Fallon Memorial Lecture (Australia; 2012) and the Nick Mills Memorial Lecture (London, UK; 2017).
“I am so moved to be inducted into the University of Kentucky Equine Research Hall of Fame,” Varner said. “I began my veterinary career in Lexington under the tutelage of Dr. H. Steve Conboy. I recall speaking at the inaugural induction ceremony regarding my mentor, the late Dr. Robert M. Kenney. It is such an honor to be included in the same Hall of Fame as someone that was my guiding light during my fledgling years as an equine reproductive specialist and continues as an inspiration to me to this day. The hall of fame abounds with esteemed scientists, and it is such a humbling, but fulfilling, experience to be included among them.”
Equine Research Hall of Fame nominees can be living or deceased, active in or retired from the field of equine research. Established in 1990, the UK Equine Research Hall of Fame honors international scientific community members biennially who have made equine research a key part of their careers, recognizing their work, dedication and achievements in equine research.
The UK Gluck Equine Research Center, in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, is home to the Equine Research Hall of Fame. Click here for more information.
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