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Veterinary Medicine

Pioneer in pre-clinical orthopaedics to receive career achievement award for surgical research

October 24, 2013
by Rachel Griess

Simon Turner, founder of the Colorado State University Surgical Research Laboratory, will receive the American College of Veterinary Surgeons Founders' Award for Career Achievement at the 2013 ACVS Veterinary Symposium on Oct. 24 in San Antonio.

Best birthday present

Simon Turner, longtime professor in the CSU Department of Clinical Sciences, was awarded for achievements in surgical research. Photo courtesy of Nat White Photography"The award will be presented to me on my birthday,” said Turner, who joined the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 1977. “It will likely be the best birthday present I have ever received and one of the happiest days of my life.”

The award annually recognizes an ACVS Diplomate who has made outstanding contributions to the art and science of veterinary surgery.

Two successful careers

Turner is a pre-eminent translational scientist in musculoskeletal research and the first University of Melbourne Bachelor of Veterinary Sciences graduate to become a member of ACVS. In 2009, he received the Lifetime Excellence in Research Award from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

"Dr. Turner has had two amazing careers, each fully deserving of recognition – first as a pioneering equine surgeon, then as a leading researcher in pre-clinical orthopaedics,” said Chris Orton, head of the CSU Department of Clinical Sciences. “His accomplishments have brought great credit to CSU."

Turner, professor emeritus in the Department of Clinical Sciences, credits his success to the accomplished veterinarians he has learned from and collaborated with at the University of Melbourne, The Ohio State University, and CSU.

“There is a great saying from Sir Isaac Newton:  ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ In my case, the giants have been world-famous veterinary professors and practitioners,” Turner said. “I also could not have reached these shoulders without the help of my wife, the lovely Ann Wagner. She helped me on the climb to see farther than others.”

Turner's research accomplishments

As founder of the CSU Surgical Research Laboratory, Turner’s research and evaluation of medical devices and therapeutics using primarily sheep models resulted in 350 published scientific abstracts and papers in peer-reviewed journals, nine books, 10 book chapters, and 11 products available to the medical profession.

Turner’s research accomplishments include:

  • Use of ovariectomized sheep to investigate biological change in postmenopausal women. With this model, he researched health effects, notably including osteoporosis.

  • His research gained international attention by showing that the bone density in a sheep's hind legs increased when the animal was subjected to a very low force delivered at high frequency. This technology is now available to improve bone density in women at risk for fractures.

  • Working with human orthopaedic researchers, Turner’s lab pioneered a knee prosthesis designed to replace cancerous bone, providing extra stability compared with traditional implants and minimizing the likelihood of a limb amputation. This custom-fit prosthesis has been used in hundreds of human patients.

  • Turner has studiednew surgical techniques for spine fusion, aimed at improving the success rate in humans with low back pain.

  • He also has investigated new techniques for rotator cuff surgery.

Mentoring aspiring veterinarians

Turner, who has advised many graduate students, has received three Excellence in Teaching Awards at CSU and was inducted into the CSU Glover Gallery for distinguished alumni and faculty in 2001.

Turner is highly regarded for using sheep models to develop orthopaedic devices and techniques that help humans.Now he is focused on helping veterinary students and young practitioners acquire the best clinical learning opportunities available, Turner said.

He supports veterinary students at his alma mater, the University of Melbourne, through scholarships and mentoring. Turner also provides funding for each scholarship recipient to undergo a three- to six-week placement at CSU’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Turner has served on the review board of the Journal of Veterinary Comparative Orthopaedics and Traumatology and for more than 20 years has been consultant editor for Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice.

Previous winners

The ACVS Founders’ Award for Career Achievement has been conferred for eight years, and five recipients have been associated with CSU: 

  • 2006 - C. Wayne McIlwraith  

  • 2008 - William Lumb

  • 2009 - Donald L. Piermattei

  • 2012 - Stephen J. Withrow

  • 2013 - A. Simon Turner