Editor’s note: Decades of travel has allowed me to meet some of the most famous (and some of the most infamous) equine veterinarians and researchers in the world. When the opportunity presented itself to share some stories from Dr. Des Leadon, I jumped on the chance, especially when he told me he had taken the time to write these stories to fulfill a promise to our late friend Dr. Michelle LeBlanc.
In the coming weeks, we will share these stories with you in serial form. I hope you enjoy this series of remembrances and tales from Dr. Leadon as much as I have.
Special thanks to award-winning writer and photographer Milton C. Toby, J.D., who edited and compiled these articles from Dr. Leadon.
From Dr. Des Leadon, March 2020: These stories fulfill a promise I made to my colleague and dear friend Dr. Michelle LeBlanc before her untimely death on April 13, 2013. Michelle and I collaborated on various projects after meeting at a Havermeyer Foundation Lecture on neonatal foals, and she soon became a wonderful friend to both my wife, Mariann, and me. When Michelle was first diagnosed with her terrible disease, I visited her in Florida. After conceding that I would not be able to visit her as often as I would have liked, I promised that I would write to her every two weeks. I honored that promise for the rest of her life. These stories formed the basis of that correspondence.
The final story, titled “Michelle’s Gift,” is among others still to be edited. These stories are a review of many transatlantic clinical equine research collaborations between her, myself, Peter Rossdale, Marion Silver and many others. At the time, I imagined these stories were my gift to Michelle. The reality, though, was that they were much more Michelle’s everlasting gift to me—a rediscovery of the joys of writing and, perhaps, an analogy for so much else in life.
About Dr. Des Leadon
Desmond (Des) Patrick Leadon, FRCVS, has worked in equine practice in Ireland, England, Australia and Spain. He has provided consultation services in Russia, China, Italy, France and many other countries, and he has been involved in equine clinical research for more than 30 years.
Leadon graduated as a veterinarian from Trinity College Dublin in 1975. He returned there and was awarded his Master of Science degree by thesis. He subsequently joined the world-famous equine specialist practice of Rossdale and Partners in Newmarket and was awarded the degree of Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, London, by thesis, in 1982. He returned to equine practice in County Meath, Ireland, before joining the then newly established Irish Equine Centre in 1984. The Irish Equine Centre is Ireland’s independent equine diagnostic and research laboratory.
Leadon is Head of Clinical Pathology at the Centre and a member of its Management Committee. He is an external lecturer for the Equine Science course at the University of Limerick and is an Honorary Faculty Member of the Veterinary Sciences School at University College Dublin. He is both a European College and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Registered Consultant/Specialist in Equine Medicine.
He served as president of both the British Equine Veterinary Association (1993-1994) and the World Equine Veterinary Association (2001-2006). He continues to serve on the Past Presidents Advisory Committee of the World Equine Veterinary Association (2006 to date). He is a Founding Diplomate and former Vice President of the European College of Equine Internal Medicine (2002 to 2008). He served an initial term as the International Director of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (2009 to 2011) and was invited to serve a second term (2011 to 2012).
He has published 74 reports in equine scientific literature, in text books, and in lay publications, and he has made more than 200 presentations at national and international equine scientific meetings. His special interest areas include the problems inherent in transporting horses long distances by air, the spread of infectious disease, and Rhodococcus equi. He has received research funding grants from organizations that include the International League for the Protection of Horses, The International Equestrian Federation, The Hong Kong Jockey Club, Ireland’s National Development Plan and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association.
Leadon is a pre-race inspector for the International Racing Bureau (for the Hong Kong International Races) and acts as an Advisor and as an Arbiter in insurance disputes for Lloyds Underwriters. He is a Veterinary Advisor to the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association (ITBA), Chairman of the Veterinary Advisory Committee of the European Thoroughbred Breeders Association (EFTBA) and Chairman of the Veterinary Advisory Committee of the International Thoroughbred Breeders Federation (ITBF). He was appointed to both the Equine Liaison Group of the Department of Agriculture and the Veterinary Medicines Committee of the Irish Medicines Board in January 2011.
Leadon was presented the “Outstanding Contribution To The Industry Award” by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association in January 2014.