Awards / Honors

Equine surgeon honored for research that helps horses and humans

October 24, 2013
by Coleman Cornelius

Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, a Colorado State University Distinguished Professor and world-renowned equine orthopaedic surgeon, recently received one of the highest honors in his field from the Academy of Surgical Research.

Dr. Wayne McIlwraith performs joint surgery on a horse at the CSU Orthopaedic Research Center.Outstanding contributions

He earned the Jacob Markowitz Award for outstanding contributions to medicine through the art, science, and technology of experimental surgery. The award was established by the Academy of Surgical Research in 1986 in honor of Jacob Markowitz, who changed the course of surgical research as chief of experimental surgery and a professor of physiology at the University of Toronto.

McIlwraith, who is founding director of the CSU Orthopaedic Research Center, gained the honor for pioneering, developing, and refining arthroscopic surgery in the horse. He also was recognized for leading the development of large-animal models for the surgical repair of cartilage defects and evaluation of articular cartilage repair.

McIlwraith is world-renowned for pioneering arthroscopic surgery in the horseNew insights

His discoveries have provided new insights for orthopaedic advances in human medicine. In fact, McIlwraith is the only equine surgeon to earn the award among more than two dozen medical luminaries who have discovered new surgical techniques and technologies to improve patient outcomes.

“It’s an honor to receive this award in light of the landmark work of previous recipients,” McIlwraith said. “I hope my own work has helped to advance surgical research by focusing on arthroscopic techniques and cartilage repair. This work wouldn’t be possible without the contributions of many other people, including surgical residents, graduate students, and both clinical and research colleagues.”

McIlwraith's research is 'translational,' providing insights for horse and human health.McIlwraith received the award during the Academy of Surgical Research annual meeting in Clearwater Beach, Fla., in late September.

He also delivered the keynote address, “Arthroscopic Surgery in the Horse: Research to Address Limitations for Repair in Horses and Humans,” which detailed the evolution of arthroscopic surgery and development of equine models for surgical repair of cartilage defects. Cartilage is essential for joint function, so its successful repair is significant in maintaining movement and performance, whether in humans or horses.

Fitting, then, that the National Football League Charities has been among the funding agencies to support McIlwraith’s investigation of new surgical techniques for knee injuries.

Novel methods

At the CSU Orthopaedic Research Center, McIlwraith and his colleagues conduct research aimed at novel methods for detecting, preventing and treating musculoskeletal problems, especially arthritis and joint injury. For instance, the center is investigating use of gene therapy for equine osteoarthritis and stem-cell therapy for tendonitis. The center’s veterinary specialists also provide clinical care for top race horses, cutting and reining horses, jumpers, and dressage horses.

In a sign of its leading-edge work, the center recently landed a $6 million gift from the Malone Family Foundation, led by media magnate and philanthropist John C. Malone, whose wife, Leslie Malone, is active at the top levels of U.S. dressage.

“Dr. McIlwraith’s newest honor, the Markowitz Award, is a tribute to his pioneering research in arthroscopic surgery, joint disease, and cartilage repair,” said Dr. Mark Stetter, a veterinarian and dean of the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “We’re very proud of the work he and his colleagues are doing to advance musculoskeletal innovations in our teaching, research, and clinical service.”

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