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A Pioneer in Small Animal Surgery

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Professor Emeritus Leighton received the congratulations of many colleagues and former students at the conference where he received the Foundation Legends Award November 3, 2011.

November 7, 2011

At the School of Veterinary Medicine, Professor Emeritus Robert Leighton has been a legend for a long time, even having a room unofficially named for him in the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in honor of his contributions to the development of orthopedics in pets and unflagging dedication to teaching veterinary students the rudiments of surgery.

Now, Leighton’s peers throughout the country have recognized his ongoing influence on the veterinary profession.

The American College of Veterinary Surgeons has selected  Professor Emeritus Robert Leighton, VMD, to receive the 2011 Foundation Legends Award.

The award is presented to an ACVS diplomate who has developed a surgical or diagnostic procedure of significant value, which has become the treatment or test of choice for a given condition.

Leighton, a member of the School of Veterinary Medicine faculty until his retirement in 1983, specialized in small animal orthopedic surgery. He placed a metal pin into bone to connect each side of a broken bone; this intramedullary pinning procedure stabilized the fracture until bone could regrow around it. Along with the technique, he invented the Leighton Shuttle Pin and the Leighton Pin Introducer, which veterinary surgeons used to repair fractures for more than 20 years. He is associated with novel repairs of ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments in dogs. Leighton also collaborated with a veterinarian, physician and an engineer who together developed one of the first practical canine total hip replacements.

Leighton is the author or co-author of Small Animal Orthopedics, Radiology of Small Animal Fracture Management, Some Techniques and Procedures in Small Animal Surgery, and A Compendium of Small Animal Surgery. He has published 140 refereed articles and book chapters.

As a professor, he taught and trained hundreds of veterinary students and veterinary residents. He developed plastic dog models for teaching bandaging techniques and a synthetic “bone in a box” to teach the mechanics of fracture repair methods; these tools were among the first alternatives to the use of animals in teaching.

Leighton has lectured in 17 foreign countries and built continuing education programs for veterinarians in the US and abroad. His travels to practitioners in Irvine, California, for example, resulted in a continuing education program that endures today at the School of Veterinary Medicine.  

The Foundation Legends Award was presented to Leighton November 3 at the 2011 ACVS Veterinary Symposium in Chicago, Illinois.