PennVet | Philanthropy Powers Revolutionary Robotic-Controlled Equine Imaging
New Bolton Center Kennett Square, PA
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Philanthropy Powers Revolutionary Robotic-Controlled Equine Imaging

By: Sacha Adorno Published: Sep 26, 2018

Sheep on the Schmidt's farmBlue Elephant Farm, 75 bucolic acres in Pennsylvania’s Newtown Square, is home to chickens, cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, miniature horses, and five Great Pyrenees puppies, a real menagerie (although it’s missing an elephant).

“Our family spends as much time on the farm as possible,” said Christa Schmidt, who owns Blue Elephant with her husband, Calvin. The couple purchased the meandering property more than 10 years ago, changing the name from Blue Dog Farm to reflect a love for elephants developed during travels in Thailand and Africa. “There is no better place for children (or adults) to run around than among the animals, plants, and produce it offers.”

Life on the farm may be magical, but periodically the Schmidts need to venture out of paradise to seek medical care for a sick or injured animal. Providentially, New Bolton Center is just a few miles away.

  Calvin and Christa Schmidt with their children.
Calvin and Christa Schmidt with their children.

“It’s natural to take advantage of this fabulous facility in our backyard,” said Christa. “Unfortunately, we have had to bring quite a few animals through the doors over the years, but it’s a relief knowing they’re getting the best care in the hands of excellent New Bolton Center staff, whom we’ve come to know over the past ten years.

”The Schmidts’ experiences with New Bolton Center inspired them to become more involved with Penn Vet. The family has given multiple gifts to support Penn Vet’s robotic-controlled 3-D equine imaging program, which has revolutionized horse diagnostics and treatment.

“We wanted to help Penn Vet bring the best possible care to patients through breakthroughs in science and technology,” explained Christa. “And we wanted to support something game changing in veterinary medicine. Robotic imaging is cutting edge, with tangible, immediately identifiable benefits.”

The School was the first veterinary teaching hospital to use this technology. Installed at Penn Vet in 2016, the system captures equine anatomy while the horse is standing, weight-bearing, and awake. Traditional CT and MRI systems require that animals be anesthetized.

“This approach to 3-D CT offers many advantages over standard CT, particularly for our large animal patients that simply cannot fit in a standard CT system,” said Dr. Barbara Dallap Schaer, Medical Director at New Bolton Center. “And theoretically, the overall radiation dose is lower because the images are acquired through a series of pulses as opposed to a constant exposure.”

After helping to bring the technology to New Bolton Center, the Schmidts have also helped promote it, facilitating lectures and events for the equine community to showcase the robots’ impact on equine medicine and welfare.

“It is so important to get the word out to the greater horse community, whether through seminars, sponsoring events, or even tables set up at different horse venues,” Christa said.

“Why not ‘shout from the mountaintop’ and show everyone the benefit of this technology! Our family is excited to support New Bolton Center and be part of something that has made great strides forward in the care of animals right now and, possibly, humans in the future.

”Dallap Schaer explained that Penn Vet expects to collaborate with Penn Engineering and Perelman School of Medicine to explore using robotic imaging with humans, particularly children who are too sick or compromised for sedation or general anesthesia. “Eventually, because of the system’s somewhat unique approach to motion correction, we are hoping to adapt it for dynamic (patient in motion) studies,” Dallap Schaer said.

“The University is the perfect place to advance such a clinically relevant technology.” Philanthropy like the Schmidts’ enables breakthroughs like these. According to Dallap Schaer, projects such as the imaging system are very “difficult to fund through grants because of the level of risk getting them off the ground, and they are prohibitively expensive for the school to fund,” she continued. “Christa and Calvin’s support has been absolutely critical.”

(Top and above) A few of Blue Elephant Farm’s beloved residents.
(Top and above) A few of Blue Elephant Farm’s beloved residents.