With the statement "Recognition of early faculty members is important in the life of our school," Dean Bennie Osburn, faculty and friends re-dedicated the J. D. Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory June 1 at its new home in Veterinary Medicine III A.
Although the building was not quite finished, graduates from 1952-1956, former colleagues, staff members and friends of the school were able to meet in the new lab, tour part of the facility and share in remarks about Wheat's influence in veterinary education and research.
Former dean and close friend William Pritchard said, "He was best known for teaching and clinical work, but the striking thing about Don was that his mind was always working to find a better way. That is real research."
Space within two floors has been set aside in the five-story Veterinary Medicine III A building for this orthopedic research program, in which researchers investigate musculoskeletal diseases or disorders of performance horses, companion animals, production species and wildlife.
Equine surgeon John D. "Don" Wheat came to the School of Veterinary Medicine in 1950 and taught for 42 years as a member of the school’s founding faculty. He is a professor emeritus in the department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences. He served as department chair for many years.
Wheat helped found an equine research laboratory in Haring Hall in 1988 as an outgrowth of a strong equine clinical program. In 1998, the Dolly Green Foundation established an endowment to name the laboratory in his honor.
Researchers in the J. D. Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory discovered that stress fractures and high intensity exercise in racehorses can cause catastrophic fractures. This work, under the direction of Susan Stover, has led to changes in training methods, horseshoe types and track surfaces. The team has also improved surgical treatment of fractures in horses and, on the companion animal side, explored new approaches for treating canine dysplasia.
Standing in her new lab, Stover, a former resident of Wheat, stated, "His mentoring molded the future of students and residents who worked with him. His insight was incredible. Without such mentors, I’d probably still be worming horses, and we would never have made the strides in equine health that we have achieved."
John Pascoe, executive associate dean and also a former resident of Wheat, described a demanding professor and a creative researcher. "His ideas and early publications in the 1950s covered such advances as injection of medicines into joints and colic surgery. He described for the first time some of the upper airway abnormalities of the horse."
The occasion was videotaped to share with Wheat and his family, who were unable to attend the event.
Veterinary Medicine III A is located next to the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and Gladys Valley Hall. School officials expect the facility to be up and running in autumn. School officials are now focusing efforts on raising construction funds for Veterinary Medicine III B. This building, expected to cost more than $95 million, represents the second half of the Veterinary Medicine III research facilities project in the Health Sciences District.