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March marks the centenary of the opening of Australia’s first university veterinary school.

March marks the centenary of the opening of Australia’s first university veterinary school.

In the 100 years since the University of Melbourne’s Veterinary School was formed its staff and students have made an impact globally, carrying out groundbreaking research, performing surgical firsts and developing new vaccines and technologies that have improved the health of animals and humans.

More than 2,000 graduates have passed through the School’s doors, including Margaret Keats MBE, Victoria’s first woman to graduate with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree in 1923, who was added to the Victorian Roll of Honour for Women in 2008, and many, like Dr Warwick Bayly, who was recently appointed as the Provost and Executive Vice President of Washington State University.

Dean of the School of Veterinary ScienceProfessor Hinchcliff said: “The success of the School can be judged by the contribution that our staff and graduates have made all over the world, enhancing animal health and welfare, improving food safety and quality, and caring for animals that provide companionship to humans.

“Members of the School have also contributed to animal and human health through prevention and control of infectious diseases such as avian and equine influenza, prevention and treatment of parasite diseases, and advances in veterinary public health and biosecurity, wool production, and food production and safety.”

Former students have entered every realm of veterinary science, whether treating pets in private practice, tackling disease or helping monitor and regulate multi-million dollar industries, such as agriculture and horse-racing.

Recent achievements by members of the Melbourne School of Veterinary Science:

• Since 1980, Professor Marshall Lightowlers has been part of a team at the University that has developed the world’s first non-living vaccine for animal parasites. Recognised as the world leader in this area, in 2008 the team secured multi-million dollar backing to develop a vaccine that could eradicate a parasite that causes epilepsy and fatal brain disease in some of the world’s poorest regions.

• During the 2007 outbreak of equine influenza, Associate Professor James Gilkerson, Head of the University’s Laboratory for Equine Infectious Diseases and former President of Equine Veterinarians Australia, was one of a group that wrote the Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN) that was put into action in the days following the outbreak.

• In 2006, researchers began studying DNA from dogs to understand the genetic causes of common pet diseases, a study they hope will provide a model for combating diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis in humans.
• The first feline pacemaker to be fitted in Victoria was fitted to 15-year-old Heidi in March 2007.

• The Veterinary Clinic and Hospital based at Werribee began using recycled water in 2007 as part of its commitment to tackling climate change.

• The Veterinary School operates the Canine Blood Bank, Australia’s only registered supplier of blood cells for pets.

• In 2008 the School held Australia’s first ever White Coat Ceremony for veterinary students, which celebrates the transition of detached observers of animal health and disease in the classroom to individuals actively involved in the management of the health and well-being of animals in a clinical setting.