Equine internist and ultrasound/cardiology expert Dr. Cris Navas joined Penn Vet’s faculty last year, but his history with the School goes further back. From 2008 to 2012, Navas was a cardiology and ultrasound fellow and then lecturer at New Bolton Center. He left for a few years to teach elsewhere in the U.S. and Switzerland before returning to the Kennett Square area in 2019.
Navas’s main interest is exercise-related deaths and cardiac disease in athletes. “It’s an issue that needs to be fixed and has gained public attention recently,” he said. “We’re learning more all the time as new technologies increase our capacity to collect data, but we need better tools and more knowledge to interpret the data.” He is currently testing wireless heart rate monitor wearables that are streamlined for equine wearers, friendly for users, and better able to collect data from a larger population of horses than traditional wired patches.
At the same time, he’s also using digital technology, such as handheld ultrasound devices, to create an equine telehealth program. “Remote access and telecommunication tools will allow us to access many more people and advise in real time on cases around the world,” said Navas.
Although he works a lot in the digital realm, Navas’s office still has some analog about it.
1 Ceramic Tile
Jill Beach, a retired Penn Vet professor, is a ceramist. She made this beautiful piece and gave it to me as a goodbye gift when I left years ago. She creates pottery full-time now and exhibits in the area.
2 Stuffed Cardiomyocyte and Textbooks
This soft-toy heart cell, a cardiomyocyte, was a gift from residents. It lights up. It’s sitting against the books I use frequently — you can see they’ve all moved a lot!
3 Catch-All Box
The box was packaging for a medicine that helps horses with tendon disease. Ginny Reef had a bunch of the boxes and gifted me one. I keep useful or meaningful things in it – little prototypes, flash drives, change, notes. After a bad day, reading thank you cards from students or clients helps — keeping them is a wellness strategy.
4 Tools of the Trade
(a) We are trialing this handheld Butterfly iQ ultrasound system. It fits in a pocket or belt holder, which opens many possibilities for on-farm care and telehealth. The image feeds into a smartphone or tablet app and is sharable through the cloud, allowing me to collaborate with other veterinarians in real time. (b) Currently, one of the limiting factors in equine cardiology research is we can’t get information on a large enough population of horses. Tools we traditionally use, like electrocardiograms, provide a lot of information but they’re not user friendly, restricting who can use them. I’m collaborating with a company called Second Wind that makes this wireless chip for humans. We’re testing it on horses now. The animal wears the chip on a belt. The device feeds heart rate information into a smartphone and saves it to the cloud. It holds great potential for large-scale data collection.
5 Lista and Her Bed
Lista frequently comes with me to the office. She’s a Podenco — a rabbit-hunting hound common in rural areas in Spain. A Swiss animal rescue brought her from Spain to Switzerland, where we adopted her. We knew she was meant for us as soon as we met her.
6 Extracted Horse Tooth
This was the tooth of a Thoroughbred filly I once treated. She had one problem on top of the other on top of the other. It all started because she’d had a tooth removed. I kept the tooth.