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Penn Vet’s Dr. Lesley King, Pioneer in Veterinary Critical Care, Dies at Age 51

By Ashley Berke Published: May 18, 2016

Dr. Lesley KingLesley Geraldine King, MVB, originally from Dublin, Ireland, and a resident of Coatesville, PA, died May 14, 2016, at the age of 51, after a long illness.

Dr. King, Professor of Critical Care, was a founder and pillar of critical care at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) and beyond. She was instrumental in the development of the veterinary intensive care specialty, particularly in expanding and refining mechanical ventilation.

A 1986 graduate of the University College Dublin School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. King spent her entire career at Penn Vet, where she was responsible for training numerous emergency and critical care residents, interns, and technicians. She held leadership positions as Director of the Intensive Care Unit at Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital and as President of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. A founding Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine-Companion Animals, she also served as a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.

Dr. King’s contributions to the University and to the field were recognized with the 2012 Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching from the University of Pennsylvania, the 2013 Jack Mara Scientific Achievement Award from the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, and the 2013 Ira M. Zaslow Distinguished Service Award from the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society. 

Dr. Lesley King with an ICU patientA sought-after international speaker, Dr. King left lasting contributions about the treatment and diagnosis of challenging and life-threatening conditions of cats and dogs. Her research focused on respiratory failure, pulmonary medicine, applications of positive pressure ventilation in small animals, and outcome prediction in the critical small animal patient. Along with nearly 50 scientific research publications, she edited the authoritative Textbook of Respiratory Disease in Dogs and Cats, which was translated into Japanese and Spanish, and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Manual of Canine and Feline Emergency and Critical Care, now in its second edition. She also served as editor in chief of Today's Veterinary Practice, a peer-reviewed clinical publication for small animal practitioners and an official publication of the North American Veterinary Community.

“Lesley was distinguished, accomplished, and passionate. She had high standards and clear thinking, and was an unmatched administrator,” said Joan C. Hendricks, VMD, PhD, the Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Penn Vet’s Intensive Care Unit and the critical care specialty are in the hands of her professional children. We all mourn her loss, but are consoled by her lasting accomplishments and contributions.”

Dr. King was in the presence of her closest family and friends during her last days.

She was loyal, pure in her focus, and wholly devoted to her friends, patients, students, and ICU. In the management of her illness and the grief of her loved ones, she was brave, gracious, dignified, kind, and open. In full accordance with who she was, she has taken care of those she loved, including her pet chickens, horses, dogs, and cats.  She is survived by her mother, Violet, and siblings Caroline, Suzanne, and Richard.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in Dr. King’s memory for student scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Please make checks payable to the “Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania” and mail to the Penn Vet Development Office at 3800 Spruce Street, Suite 172E, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

About Penn Vet

Ranked among the top ten veterinary schools worldwide, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is a global leader in veterinary education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the first veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling nearly 35,000 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles nearly 4,900 patient visits a year, while the Field Service treats more than 38,000 patients at local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.

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