Equine researcher named to ‘Barbaro’ professorship

Dr Kurt Hankenson
Dr Kurt Hankenson

Veterinarian Kurt D. Hankenson has been named to the Dean W. Richardson Professorship in Equine Disease Research at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

Hankenson, DVM, MS, PhD, is the first incumbent of the professorship.

The Dean W. Richardson Professorship was established by Mr. and Mrs. M. Roy Jackson, following the hospitalization of their Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center. Their desire to contribute to the treatment and elimination of laminitis was the catalyst for their gift to endow the professorship.

The Jacksons said: “We are very pleased that this position has been filled and are confident that under Dr. Hankenson’s leadership significant steps forward will be made in the study of laminitis and other equine musculoskeletal diseases. We have faith in Penn Veterinary Medicine’s ability to do the kind of in-depth work that will bring about positive results.”

Hankenson did his undergraduate work at the University of Illinois, where he earned his BS in 1990, and then he earned his veterinary degree at University of Illinois’ College of Veterinary Medicine in 1992. Following his time as an equine clinician, he returned to academia and completed a Master of Science degree at Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 1997. He received a Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine in 2001.

His career has included an impressive range of clinical and academic positions at both human and veterinary healthcare institutions, and he currently holds a faculty position at Penn Vet and at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Dr Dean Richardson and Barbaro.
Dr Dean Richardson and Barbaro. © Kathy Freeborn

“I am thrilled to be entering a new phase of my research and teaching career at New Bolton Center, and to be expanding my research program to focus on equine musculoskeletal diseases, particularly laminitis,” Hankenson said.

Surgeon Dr. Dean W. Richardson and his team cared for Barbaro for nine months, from May 2006 until January 2007.

“We are very excited to attract a scientist of this caliber to this position,” Richardson said. “In today’s research environment, it will be an enormous advantage to have someone like Dr. Hankenson, who has a proven record of both research funding and productivity. He has a wide range of connections both here at Penn and throughout the scientific community. Dr. Hankenson’s roots are in the horse world and he is sure to make major contributions to equine research.”

The goal of the Dean W. Richardson Professorship is the development of a world-leading research program directly applicable to equine diseases, with particular emphasis on improving the understanding, prevention, and treatment of equine laminitis. A debilitating, painful, and uncompromising condition, laminitis is the second leading killer of horses worldwide and is presently uncurable. Winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby and a beloved American icon, Barbaro suffered a catastrophic fracture during the running of the Preakness. After undergoing successful surgery at New Bolton Center, he developed severe laminitis that eventually led to his death. This Professorship serves as a lasting legacy of Barbaro.



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