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Remembering Linda Munson

June 4, 2010

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The School of Veterinary Medicine is saddened by the loss of one of its dedicated veterinary experts.

Faculty member Linda Munson, D.V.M., Ph.D., DACVP, died May 13, 2010, after a long and determined battle with cancer. She was 61.

Dr. Munson was born December 11, 1948, and earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Cornell University in 1980. She was a large animal practitioner in Vermont and a small animal practitioner in Maine before returning to academia. Dr. Munson completed a residency in wildlife pathology at the Zoological Society of San Diego and she was board certified in anatomic pathology by the American College of Veterinary Pathologists in 1985. She received her Ph.D. in reproductive pathology from Cornell in 1988.

In 1988 she became an associate pathologist and research fellow at Smithsonian Institution until she became a member of the faculty in the Department of Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Tennessee in 1991. Dr. Munson joined UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology in 1997 to lead the Anatomic Pathology Service as service chief and augment the school's wildlife health and pathology program. She achieved full professor status in 2001.

Dr. Munson's research interests included reproductive pathology and diseases of free-ranging and captive terrestrial wildlife. Her work on infectious diseases of cheetahs became a model of how comprehensive disease surveillance programs can further the health and welfare of animals. In wild and captive cheetahs, she investigated diseases such as Helicobacter gastritis, veno-occlusive disease, and the role of captive stress in cheetah health. She pursued research of the cheetah, lion, wild dog and hyena in Namibia, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. Her 2008 paper, "Climate extremes promote fatal co-infections during canine distemper epidemics in African lions," is considered a major contribution to understanding the ecology of canine distemper virus in wildlife.  

Dr. Munson also explored the causes of endometrial growth disorders and the effects of progestins, particularly in carnivores, and she performed safety assessments of felid contraceptives.

Dr. Munson played a central role investigating the impact of infectious disease on the endangered Channel Island Fox as part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Island Fox Recovery Team established in 2004.

“Linda Munson was a major leader in the development of veterinary pathology professionals. Her leadership in training of these key individuals who subsequently go into industry, academia and diagnostic laboratories to protect animal health, the food supply and wildlife conservation will be sorely missed,” stated Bennie Osburn, dean. Her teaching duties included courses on reproductive pathology, conservation medicine, and diseases of wild canids and felids. She was responsible for clinical instruction of veterinary students and residents in biopsy and necropsy procedures. As director of the residency training program in anatomic pathology, Dr. Munson incorporated an intensive training process into a service that advanced patient care with results of the highest diagnostic quality. Her daily commitment to the smooth running of a very active service was commendable.

She also conducted advanced training of students in the Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine program and the Graduate Group in Comparative Pathology.  

Among dozens of publications and contributions to books, Munson wrote “Necropsy Procedures for Wild Animals,” a guide for necropsies and collection of pathology samples in the field. This manual has been translated into several languages.

Dr. Munson served as 2001-2002 chair of the faculty and participated in many school committees, including eight years on the Executive Committee; she also served on the Building Committee for Veterinary Medicine 3 A for approximately eight years. The intensive input, insight and careful planning that she dedicated to the overall mission of the Veterinary Medicine 3 A building concluded with the largest and most state-of-the art necropsy facility in the United States.  She had been active in the American College of Veterinary Pathologists since 1996, including a term as president of that organization from 2003 to 2004.

Dr. Munson served as the pathology adviser for the cheetah, red wolf, lion, and jaguar Species Survival Plans of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and she worked with the association's Taxon Advisory Groups to develop population management and conservation recommendations for these and other species. In recognition of her lifelong commitment to the conservation, care and understanding of zoo and free-ranging wildlife, Munson received the 2001 Emil Dolensek Award from the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians. She also received the 2003 UC Davis Faculty Development Award and the 2007 Presidential Award from the American College of Veterinary Pathologists. 

Thank you to Dennis Wilson, Dept of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, and Becky Griffey, Anatomic Pathology Service, for their contributions to this report.