Renowned for his research on equine laminitis, Dr. Andrew van Eps has joined the faculty of Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center as Associate Professor of Equine Musculoskeletal Research.
Van Eps previously served as Director of the Equine Hospital and Associate Professor of
Equine Medicine at The University of Queensland in Australia, where he spent the majority
of his career. The university is also his alma mater; he graduated with his veterinary degree
(BVSc) in 1999 and his PhD in 2008.
The move marks a return to New Bolton Center, where he completed his residency in
large animal internal medicine in 2008 and spent another year as a lecturer and clinician.
“We are fortunate to have attracted Dr. van Eps to Penn Vet,” said Dr. Gary Althouse,
Chairman of the Department of Clinical Studies at New Bolton Center. “He comes to us both as a seasoned clinician and an equine researcher of international caliber.”
The focus of van Eps’ research is improving the understanding, prevention, and treatment of equine laminitis and other musculoskeletal diseases. Laminitis, the number-two killer of horses after colic, is a painful, debilitating condition with no known cure.
“The position at New Bolton Center is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,”
van Eps said.
“Although I have always had a strong interest in research, it has taken a back seat to clinics, teaching, and administrative work in recent years,” he continued. “This position at New Bolton Center allows me to prioritize research, which for me is very exciting.”
Van Eps, who is board-certified in internal medicine, will also become part of the New
Bolton Center hospital clinical staff. He said he was drawn by the “great clinical caseload and brilliant colleagues,” as well as the opportunities made possible by the new robotics-controlled imaging system.
New Bolton Center was the choice for his residency because he considered it to be “the
best place in the world to train in large animal internal medicine,” he said.
“I couldn’t have hoped for a better residency program,” van Eps said. “I was very lucky to
train under some of the most highly regarded and skilled clinicians in the world, and I am very grateful.”
A prolific researcher, van Eps has co-authored nearly 50 peer-reviewed publications along
with 15 additional publications. He’s given more than 60 presentations, primarily on topics
related to laminitis, in places from Hong Kong to Palm Beach. He’s been a co-investigator on 15 research grants.
As Althouse noted, “Andrew will bring an added dimension and depth to our existing
expertise at New Bolton Center, which will perpetuate our mission of being an international
leader in the field of equine musculoskeletal research and, in particular, in our goal of finding a cure for laminitis.”
Van Eps said he believes his work in the development and scientific validation of foot
cooling (digital hypothermia/cryotherapy) as a preventative and also a treatment for acute
laminitis is the most significant contribution of his work thus far.
“Laminitis used to be a common and fatal complication of systemic illness, and now with
the widespread use of digital hypothermia this is much less common,” he said.
Another research focus is on solving supporting-limb laminitis, the type that led to the death
of the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, who was treated at New Bolton Center for a
catastrophic leg fracture during the Preakness Stakes that year.
“We have made some significant inroads with regards to the cause of supporting-limb
laminitis and potential preventatives,” he said. “I hope to continue this work and develop some practical solutions at New Bolton Center.”
Van Eps grew up on the outskirts of Brisbane, Australia, with many animals on the family
property, including a horse and a donkey. Most members of his immediate family are human doctors and medical professionals. In fact, he started out studying human exercise physiology before he went to veterinary school.
While there, he worked at a race track hospital with Dr. Lester Walters, holding horses and
cleaning stalls, and became interested in equine medicine. His focus on laminitis was sparked by his studies with Professor Christopher Pollitt, internationally known for his breakthroughs on laminitis, during the rise of Pollitt’s research career in the late 1990s.
“I remember him coming in to give the lecture on laminitis and telling us to ‘throw out last
year’s notes; everything has changed,’” van Eps said. After graduation, he went into practice with Walters—who insisted he also start a research project with Pollitt, which launched his research career.
New Bolton Center has been significant to van Eps’ life in many ways. He and his wife,
Claire, met at New Bolton Center when he was a resident and she was an intern in surgery,
and then a fellow in imaging. “We have a two-year-old son, Edward, who is looking forward
to getting a puppy as soon as we come to America!” he said.