Hall of Fame honors for equine health researchers

2018 UK Equine Research Hall of Fame inductees areThomas Divers, the late Steeve Giguère and Dickson Varner.
2018 UK Equine Research Hall of Fame inductees are Thomas Divers, the late Steeve Giguère and Dickson Varner.

Three scientists are being inducted into the University of Kentucky’s Equine Research Hall of Fame next month, in recognition of their contribution to horse health and husbandry.

The three were nominated by their peers and colleagues, and selected by other Equine Research Hall of Fame members for induction. They will be inducted on October 31 at the Hilary J. Boone Center on UK’s Lexington campus.

Thomas Divers, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVECC

Divers is the Rudolph J. and Katharine L. Steffan professor of veterinary medicine at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York. His collaborative research has changed over the decades dependent upon emergence of new medical disorders and equine research needs. Past collaborative research has included the first description of EHV-1 neurologic syndrome in the Southeastern United States and the initial research on equine efficacy and oral bioavailability of trimethoprim/sulfadiazine, permitting its labeling for use in horses; research on red maple toxicity in horses; research on numerous diseases of the nervous system, kidneys, and liver in horses and cattle; discovery of the cause, epidemiology, and pathophysiology of equine motor neuron disease; experimental infection studies on Lyme disease and leptospirosis in horses; and more. His current research focuses on the cause of Theiler’s disease (serum hepatitis) in horses, where collaborative studies discovered two new equine viruses, one of which appears to be a likely cause.

Divers received his bachelor of science degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1971 and graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1975. He completed an internship at University of California, Davis and an internal medicine residency at University of Georgia. Divers is a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.

“It is a tremendous honor to be selected for induction into the Equine Research Hall of Fame,” Divers said.

“I would like to thank all of those collaborators and would like to recognize two collaborators who have passed—Dr. Doug Byars, who was an early collaborator and longtime friend, and Dr. Bud Tennant for our nearly four decades pursuit of a cause of Theiler’s disease. It is my hope that some of our research findings have made a difference to the health of the horse.”

Steeve Giguère, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM

Giguère was a professor and Marguerite Hodgson chair in equine studies at the University of Georgia when he died on May 27.  Giguère was an equine infectious diseases and comparative immunology researcher. The majority of his research productivity was related to the pathogenesis of infectious disease in foals, specifically Rhodococcus equi, antimicrobial agent pharmacokinetics, and clinical monitoring of septic foals.

He graduated from veterinary school at the University of Montreal in 1992. He completed his internship at the University of Montreal and his residency at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his doctoral degree in veterinary microbiology and immunology at the University of Guelph. He became a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 1997. He received multiple teaching and research awards throughout his career, including the Carl Nordern-Pfizer Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006, the Intervet/Schering Plough World Equine Association Applied Equine Research Award in 2009, and the Zoetis Award for Research Excellence in 2017.

Giguère was nominated by Paul Lunn, dean of the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “Dr. Giguère was the star of his generation and, although his life was cut tragically short, he still contributed some of the most important equine research work in the areas of infectious disease for more than two decades,” Lunn said. “He established an international reputation as an equine researcher with a specific interest in infectious disease and neonatology.”

Dickson Varner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACT

Varner is a professor of equine theriogenology and the Pin Oak Stud chair of stallion reproductive studies at Texas A&M University. His research has a highly translational emphasis, with a focus on understanding mammalian sperm function, identification of stallion fertility probes, expanding in vitro methods for preserving cooled and frozen stallion sperm, capacitation of stallion sperm, development of assisted reproductive techniques, and subfertility in stallions. He identified a defect in the sperm’s acrosome, the “cap” on the sperm’s head that secretes enzymes required to penetrate the egg, which severely interferes with fertility of some stallions. He also helped develop the use of computer-assisted sperm analysis for semen evaluation and a variety of ways to improve storage, transport, and insemination of stallion sperm. These techniques ultimately help increase reproductive success in horses.

He earned his bachelor of science degree in 1976 and graduated from veterinary school in 1978 at the University of Missouri. He worked as an assistant resident veterinarian at Castleton Farm in Lexington from 1978-1981 before completing his residency at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his master of science degree from Texas A&M in 1990. He is a diplomat in the American College of Theriogenologists. Through this college, he received the Theriogenologist of the Year Award in 2002 and the Bartlett Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theriogenology in 2016.

“I am so moved to be inducted into the University of Kentucky Equine Research Hall of Fame,” Varner said. “I began my veterinary career in Lexington under the tutelage of Dr. H. Steve Conboy. I recall speaking at the inaugural induction ceremony regarding my mentor, the late Dr. Robert M. Kenney. It is such an honor to be included in the same Hall of Fame as someone that was my guiding light during my fledgling years as an equine reproductive specialist and continues as an inspiration to me to this day. The hall of fame abounds with esteemed scientists, and it is such a humbling, but fulfilling, experience to be included among them.”


Nominees to the UK Equine Research Hall of Fame can be living or deceased, active in or retired from equine research. Established in 1990, the Hall of Fame honors international scientific community members biennially who have made equine research a key part of their careers, recognizing their work, dedication and achievements in equine research.



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