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Dean's Message

By: Joan C. Hendricks Published: Feb 6, 2013

As I write this, summer is coming to a thankfully cooler close. But while summer brings thoughts of long, lazy days, this summer Penn Vet was alive with activity. There is no off season for us.

In the short three months of June, July and August, we celebrated the advent of the Class of 2016 as well as the career – so far! – of Ralph L. Brinster, VMD, PhD with a two-day symposium in his honor, which welcomed brilliant scientists from around the globe who have been impacted by Dr. Brinster’s work. And, of course, we are off to a running start with fall classes.

We are also on the brink of closing the extraordinarily successful $125 million Making History campaign in the face of an unprecedented economic collapse that was in full swing the week we had our launch celebration in 2008. Our students, faculty, staff – and new as well as established buildings and programs – are sustaining and catapulting our record of excellence into the future.  

The end of summer is a reflective time every year, and this year the combination of celebrations of the past and future evokes the thought that “past is prologue.”  

Our present is determined by our history – and our future builds on where we are today.

We are fortunate to have the history of vision, wisdom and excellence embodied by Dr. Brinster. It is fitting that his own work focuses in exquisite detail on the origins of  mammalian life in the germ cell and early development because of his impact on Penn Vet. His line of work and his example of excellence might be said to have set the course of development of the entire institution as an integrated unit where fundamental scientific discoveries are applied to improving the health of animals and the people who depend on them.  

But Dr. Brinster was not alone in helping to set the tone for Penn Vet. It is clear that the vision of the leaders of the 1950s made possible not only superb basic science in a veterinary context, but also the innovations in teaching and the development of science-based clinical specialties that have been crucial in advancing the level of care and improved lives for non-human patients.  

In looking back on our history we also can see the remarkable innovations of Dr. Leonard Pearson, whose triumph over bovine tuberculosis was a national and international model; the work of Dr. Evan L. Stubbs on avian influenza and avian leukemia that carries us into the present day; the globally important work of politically active veterinarians such as Dr. Martin Kaplan, who was a leader of the Nobel Peace-Prize-winning Pugwash Movement, to see that the seeds of our growth were sown early and nurtured throughout our development.

And this tradition of integration and excellence continues.

As you will see from our Student Inspiration Award winners, the vision, creativity, energy and boldness is a fitting legacy for the prologue represented by the School’s luminaries of the past.  

You’ll also notice how our faculty are continuing to change the face of veterinary medicine. Our cover story for this issue of Bellwether focuses on Mark Oyama and his work to better understand and better treat a devastating heart disease often found in large-breed dogs, including Dobermans.

Similarly, in our feature about public health, you can see that beyond the clinic our faculty are continuing to work towards a common good for both people and animals with the work they are each doing in rabies, leishmaniasis and MRSA.

Finally, you’ll see several photographs from the recent opening of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center – the brainchild of Cynthia M. Otto, DVM, PhD. Afterresponding to the attacks of September 11, 2001 to serve the working dogs who were called to duty, Dr. Otto set her sights on following the health of these dogs as well as working to ensure the health and safety of future generations of working dogs. This September 11 we celebrated the opening of the center with seven puppies to be the first class of dogs trained as well as with three dogs who were on the ground in New York in 2001.

As the final phase of our Making History campaign, we are literally engraving in stone the names and/or sentiments of faculty, staff, donors and friends who wish to purchase pavers on the Philadelphia or New Bolton Center campuses. The stones are beautiful granite and the ability to leave a permanent written legacy is precious.  In honor of all that is past – and in hopes for the future that is “in yours and my discharge,” I have decided to dedicate the paver I am purchasing “in honor of Penn Veterinary leaders—past, present, future.”

—Joan C. Hendricks, V’79, Gr’80
THe Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine