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Spring 2006 - Vet School

Destination Purdue > Spring 2006 - Vet School

Vet school's world-class facilities make it a leader in equine medical research

By Brooke Baker

"Purdue's veterinary medicine program is very well recognized," said Cecilia Perez Moreno, a Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine graduate student. She should know about its international reputation: she's from Argentina.

Griffey and Moreno

Photo by Brooke Baker

Donna Griffey (left), an equine veterinary technician, and Cecilia Perez Moreno, a graduate student in veterinary medicine, condition a horse for pulmonary hemorrhage research at Purdue University’s Equine Sports Medicine Center.

"The teachers are greate people who love teaching." It's easy for the faculty to enjoy teaching in a university recognized around the world for its work. Although students may not realize it, their studies in equine (that is, horse) medicine are at one of the world's premier facilities.

Graduates of Purdue's veterinary school walk away with a degree that any veterinarian or veterinary technician around the world would envy. Purdue also attracts many people like Moreno, who are already veterinarians, to study as master's students.

According to Laurent Couëtil, associate professor of veterinary medicine, the veterinary school's Equine Sports Medicine Center (ESMC) is on track to being viewed as the best by many of the world's equine experts. "The Equine Sports Medicine Center offers state-of-the-art equipment that can be found at only three other facilities in the country," Couëtil said.

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"The use of Purdue's equine treadmill for research, client horses and teaching students is unique," Couëtil said. "The other facilities with the technology only use it for personal use or for research, not both." Using the equipment this way brings many different types of horses into the center so students experience more before graduation, Couëtil said. That allows students to see and work with many of the possible cases and treatments they may encounter in the real world.

Moreno agreed that Purdue's veterinary school and its ESMC are some of the best in the world. She added that because of the small number of people at Purdue directly working in the ESMC, the teachers are very good about letting students work with the horses and getting involved. "A benefit of coming to Purdue will be that when I leave, I will have the professionals to turn to if I ever need assistance in my own vet practice," Moreno said.

In addition to the treadmill, the ESMC has a device that can scan a horse's legs for lameness. The machine is more than an ordinary X-ray; it uses nuclear scintigraphy to provide a more precise determination of limb problems.

These aspects of the center, and the fact that students get hands-on experience while still being monitored and evaluated by veterinarians, draws students to Purdue. This means students will learn to perform proper techniques and assures that animals are in good hands both now and in the future.

"Purdue's large animal hospital is the only place in the world performing lung function testing such as forced expiration, or acoustic rhinometry, to analyze respiratory problems," said Couëtil. He also said Purdue developed a treatment for infected joints that provides better odds of recovery. Students learn to perform joint surgeries from highly skilled surgeons, also. These developments have allowed for quicker recovery time and helped put Purdue equine medicine on the map.

To keep from standing still in equine sports medicine research, Purdue continues working to expand the ESMC facilities. "An on-campus research barn is being completed at Purdue, as well. The facility is designed so a research lab can be added right in the barn," said Couëtil. An MRI, a machine for studying soft tissues in horses' legs, and a custom-built table to support horses during CAT-scanning is also being added. Digital radiography is now available for use. This allows quicker X-ray images of higher resolution to be sent back and forth with other facilities to aid in diagnosis, so students can learn from facilities worldwide.

Couëtil says all agriculture students should appreciate Purdue's ESMC, because animal science students and other agriculture majors also have access to the facility. "Many classes come for treadmill demonstrations each year or use it in research projects," said Couëtil.

As a student, Moreno said the facilities are important because they helped her learn about equine health issues with which she was unfamiliar. "My experiences in equine medicine at Purdue have been very valuable and pleasant. I have learned interesting things working with the treadmill, since all my work experience has been with equine reproduction," said Moreno.