Our many friends and donors make such a difference in the way we care for our patients, teach our students, retain world-renown faculty, and conduct research with a global impact. Here we have the opportunity to say thank you.

Barbaro, Dr. Richardson, Gretchen Jackson

 Leaving A Legacy of Hope

When Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro shattered his hind leg at the Preakness in May 2006,
owners Gretchen and Roy Jackson had him brought to Penn Vet's New Bolton Center.

The world watched and waited. Barbaro's right hind leg, fractured in three places, required five hours of surgery. Months later, 80 percent of Barbaro's left hind foot was removed after laminitis developed,
but the painful condition could not be halted.

The Jacksons made the difficult decision to euthanize the champion in January 2007. His death, mourned by millions, prompted a surge of interest in laminitis, and the Jacksons endowed the Dean W. Richardson Chair for Equine Disease Research at Penn Vet.

"There was never any question where Barbaro would go," said Mrs. Jackson. "We knew that New Bolton Center had the experience to make good diagnoses, the best equipment, and facilities. Everyone here displayed knowledge, capability, caring, and determination. Dean Richardson called us every day, usually around 6:30 a.m. He knew I woke up wondering if Barbaro had made it thought the night. We felt the best way to honor the surgeon and the School was to endow a chair that would help find a solution for laminitis."

Penn Vet donor and friend, Connie Buerger and Max

 Realizing – and Supporting – Potential

A few years ago, Connie Buerger brought her beloved 11-year-old Portuguese water dog, Max, to Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital to have a group of masses growing on his left shoulder evaluated. Connie brought Max to Ryan Hospital because her daughter-in-law, and Penn Vet Overseer, Krista Buerger, had shared with her the excellent care her own Portuguese water dog, Kobe, had received just a year before. 

Max was diagnosed with myxofibrosarcoma, an aggressive soft-tissue cancer. After receiving this tough news, Connie placed her confidence – and Max’s life – into the expert hands of Ryan Hospital’s surgery and oncology teams. With David Holt, BVSc, professor of surgery, and Lili Duda, VMD, Dipl. ACVR, adjunct associate professor of radiation oncology, on his team, Max had the best chance at fighting and defeating his cancer. 

Max’s surgery to remove three cancerous masses from his shoulder was a success, but he still required a full course of radiation therapy. For the next six months, Max and Connie became daily visitors to Ryan Hospital’s Rosenthal Imaging Treatment Center (RITC) where Max received his treatments. Max quickly became one of Ryan Hospital’s favorite patients, and at the end of his treatment course, to everyone’s great relief and delight, received a clean bill of health – no small feat for an 11-year-old dog. 

During her many hours in the RITC waiting room, Connie had an opportunity to get to know Ryan Hospital well and was immediately impressed by the expertise, compassion and dedication of each clinician and staff member to improve the health and quality of life of pets. She even found that parking attendant Sly was always ready to help find Connie and Max a parking spot close to the RITC entrance so that Max would not have to walk too far to receive his treatment. 

And what really made Connie start to think about veterinary medicine and its role in preserving the human-animal bond, was learning about Ryan Hospital’s construction of a new minimally invasive surgery suite. 

This minimally invasive surgery suite would be the first of its kind at any veterinary teaching hospital and offer an impressive variety of minimally invasive surgery techniques, such as laparoscopy, endoscopy and arthroscopy.  It would be the next leap in the care available to pets – the benefits of minimally invasive surgery were very clear to Connie and Alan – less chance of infection, a significantly shorter recovery time and significantly less pain for pets.  An important component to Ryan Hospital’s plans for the minimally invasive surgery suite that resonated with Connie and Alan, was that Ryan Hospital clinicians also hoped to offer these benefits of less infections, shorter recovery times and less pain to members of the shelter animal medicine community. They would provide spays for those animals still looking for their forever homes, but needed a fund from which to subsidize these procedures. 

Having seen what advanced medical technology combined with the best clinical expertise can accomplish, Connie and Alan decided to give a naming gift to complete the construction of the minimally invasive surgery suite, and also to start an endowment that would enable Ryan clinicians to perform minimally invasive spays and neuters on some of the most deserving patients, shelter animals.  Seven years in the planning, this dream for what better care would be available for pets became a reality because of Connie and Alan’s generosity and love of animals.

Since its opening on October 3, 2011 – a year after Max’s first visit to Ryan Hospital – The Buerger Family Foundation Minimally Invasive Surgery Suite has served many routine and some extremely challenging cases.  The suite has also become a hub for exchanging knowledge and advancing current veterinary medicine procedures and its teleconferencing capabilities permit remote consultations and broader teaching opportunities.