Innovative theme and a whopping big prize draw scholars from across North America and beyond

By Collene Ferguson, UCVM

Sept 13, 2018 -- The 2018 Masters at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Alberta, plays host to world-class equine athletes and, this year, it hosted world-class equine researchers as well.

The inaugural Calgary International Equine Symposium hosted by the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) was billed as a global celebration of innovation and discovery in all areas of horse health research, and symposium attracted both renowned researchers and up-and-coming graduate students.

“It was not your typical veterinary conference where the focus is usually on a particular theme like reproduction, cardiology or neurology,” said Dr. Renaud Léguillette, DVM, PhD, professor at UCVM and Calgary Chair in Equine Sports Medicine and one of the organizers of the event. “Instead, our theme was innovation and discovery in different fields, so we’d have a great variety of scientific discovery.”

Exciting findings in areas including equine metabolic syndrome, the causes and effects of asthma in racehorses, and genital cancer in horses were presented.

But the grand prize went to Dr. Noah Cohen, DVM, PhD, from Texas A&M University for his research into a vaccine against Rhodococcus equi. Pneumonia caused by the bacteria is the leading cause of disease and death among foals worldwide.

“I was very happy this year with the level of science and with the winning presentation,” said Léguillette. “Dr. Cohen presented a significant advancement in the field of equine medicine, a new vaccine for Rhodococcus equi. We’ve been waiting 20 years for this to happen.”

Along with outstanding research by established investigators, the symposium put great importance on the work of graduate students, with representation from all five veterinary schools in Canada, as well as students from the United States, Mexico, and Germany. Each student had the opportunity to present their work to the entire symposium in a “rapid-fire” format. 

“It’s very important for students to have the opportunity to come and present. That’s how you create future collaborations and exchange,” said Léguillette. “The goal of the symposium was to elevate UCVM as a leader in equine research and innovation and celebrate the contributions of UCVM scientists and students.”

After a full day of sharing science, a social evening and prize award ceremony was held at Spruce Meadows, during the internationally acclaimed Masters Tournament.

“It was unbelievable. Attending a high-calibre event like the Masters and being part of it, too, with our grand prize ceremony in the ring in front of the general public and the cameras,” said Léguillette. “The stands were packed with people who learned that someone had just developed a new vaccine that can save the lives of foals. It raises awareness of the university and our faculty.”

The second annual Calgary International Equine Symposium is already set for September 6, 2019. And thanks to the generosity of presenting sponsor Spruce Meadows, the prize will once again be presented in the international ring at the Masters event.

“We are grateful for the incredible partnership we have with our presenting sponsor Spruce Meadows,” said Dr. Baljit Singh, dean of UCVM. “The combination of a world-class equestrian competition and world-class research to benefit horse health is perfect synergy.”

The symposium was also supported by sponsors the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking and Nortev.

For more information on Dr. Noah Cohen’s research into a vaccine against Rhodococcus equi, read A Breakthrough in the Hunt for a Vaccine Against Deadly Foal Pneumonia.

Photo: Dr. Noah Cohen, centre, was awarded the symposium's $10,000 grand prize during the Spruce Meadows Masters event, by head judge Hugh Townsend, left, and Baljit Singh. Photo by Adrian Shellard, for the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine



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