Trailblazing equine surgeon Doug Herthel dies at 71

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Dr Doug Herthel
Dr Doug Herthel

Pioneering equine surgeon Doug Herthel has died in the US at the age of 71.

During his time at UC Davis, Herthel was part of the team that conducted the first successful colic surgery, helping to take the odds of survival in cases requiring surgical intervention from 0% to above 90% today.

As well as being a pioneer in colic surgeries Herthel’s work in the field of regenerative medicine is the foundation upon which all other veterinary stem cell programs were built. He helped found the North American Veterinary Regenerative Medicine Association, and he inspired the work of veterinarians and Ph.D. scientists alike.

Herthel, who died on July 11, earned his undergraduate degree from UC Davis and was a member of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Class of 1971. It was at UC Davis where he met his wife, Sue. Shortly after completing his DVM studies, the couple founded what would become the Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in Los Olivos, California.

Over the years, they grew Alamo Pintado into one of the most well-known private practice equine referral hospitals in the nation. Their internship program hosted veterinary students, and the facility attracted clients from around the country, most notably President Ronald Reagan, whose ranch was nearby. Under Herthel’s leadership, Alamo Pintado was at the leading edge of adopting new technologies and offering them to clients, sometimes even before academic hospitals.

“Doug and I were friends since our earliest days in college,” said Dr. Gregory Ferraro, a classmate and former director of UC Davis’ Center for Equine Health and Large Animal Clinic.

“He was a great veterinarian and an even better man. I admired his knowledge and ability, his innovative spirit and record of performance, his morality and ethics; but mostly, I admired his kind heart. He and Sue raised a great family and developed a worldwide group of admirers. I treasured his friendship, and I — like many, many others — will miss him terribly. ”

In 1996, Herthel founded Platinum Performance, developing dietary health supplements for horses, and later expanding the company to include products for dogs, cats and humans.

That same year, the School of Veterinary Medicine honored Herthel with the Alumni Achievement Award in recognition of his development of innovative techniques in equine orthopedic and colic surgery and anesthesia recovery, and his development of a humane ambulance system for injured horses.

Herthel is survived by his wife Sue and their two sons, Mark, who runs Platinum Performance, and Troy, a surgeon at Alamo Pintado.

A celebration of Herthel’s life will be held on August 18 at the Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church, in Solvang, California.

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