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In Memoriam: Dr. James Buchanan, Veterinary Cardiologist and Mentor

By Drs. Mark Oyama, Anna Gelzer, Marc Kraus, Oliver Garden Published: Jul 22, 2020

Dr. James Buchanan, Veterinary Cardiology, Penn VetIt is with great sadness that we report the passing of Dr. James Buchanan on July 20, 2020 in Philadelphia, PA.  Dr. B, as he was affectionately known to his colleagues and students, was a charter member of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialty of Cardiology. Along with distinguished colleagues, including Drs. David Detweiler, Don Patterson, and David Knight, Dr. Buchanan was integral in establishing veterinary cardiology as the scientific discipline we know today.

In the 1960s Dr Buchanan was part of Penn’s Comparative Cardiovascular Studies Unit, which was one of the first organized bodies to study cardiac disease in companion animals in collaboration with colleagues in the human medical community.  One Health was clearly a philosophy championed by Dr. Buchanan decades before it became de rigueur in academic circles. But Dr. Buchanan was not only a brilliant medical cardiologist: in a union of expertise so rarely seen in medical circles, he was also a very accomplished cardiovascular surgeon. He performed the first artificial pacemaker implantation in a client-owned dog in 1967 and was instrumental in developing surgical techniques to address various congenital cardiac defects in dogs.

Dr. Buchanan’s accomplishments also included development of the radiographic vertebral heart size measure, which continues to be used to this day. Although Dr. Buchanan retired from academia in 1996, he spent the next 25 years continuing to mentor, teach, and serve as a role model for many.

He was particularly generous and gracious to trainees and residents. Indeed, he hosted many board reviews, his last in 2013 being attended by over 30 residents from all around the world. His digitized collection of angiograms, electrocardiograms, pressure tracings, and case material is an invaluable teaching tool that he made freely available to all.

All through Dr. Buchanan’s retirement years, his friends and colleagues at Penn Vet continued to seek his advice on a routine basis, especially in regard to congenital defects such as pulmonic stenosis and abnormalities of the aortic arch. 

Dr. Buchanan was a giant amongst our colleagues, a mentor to many, and friend to all who met him. He is survived by his wife Marolyn, his four children, and his three grandchildren. 

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 35,300 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 5,300 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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