Virginia Tech Magazine
Winter 2009

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center: Providing pre-eminent health care for horses

Inside a stately brick hospital in Loudoun County, some of the nation's leading equine veterinarians are providing 21st-century health care for horses ranging from flat-track superstars and hunter-jumpers to paddock pets.

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC), located on 200 rolling acres in Leesburg, Va., opened on Oct. 14, 1984. As the population and needs of the region have grown, the Equine Medical Center has grown as well. In its first year of operation, it welcomed 760 patients; in 2008, the caseload reached 3,000. In 1984, the center was comprised of three faculty veterinarians and 18 employees. Today, 10 faculty members and approximately 100 staff members work at the EMC. Originally, the center featured a 29-stall barn. Now, after the addition of two separate barns, the EMC can accommodate 51 patients at any given time--to date, more than 45,000 horses have been admitted to the hospital.

Marion duPont Scott

The Equine Medical Center was founded with a gift of $4 million from Marion duPont Scott, a respected horsewoman who recognized the need for a premier health care facility for horses that would be located in Northern Virginia. Two other important gifts assured that the center would become a reality. One was the donation of 200 acres of land from the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation (former estate of Westmoreland Davis, Virginia's governor, 1918-22). The other was an accumulation of $2 million in donations that provided the equipment needed to begin treating the first patients.

Most recently, the center opened a new research lab, which is equipped to investigate the molecular aspects of disease and injury. The research lab is expected to help faculty researchers discover treatments that will improve health care--and not necessarily just for horses.

Client and patient care

The EMC boasts a sterling reputation as a premier full-service equine health care facility, one of only eight full-service veterinary teaching hospitals on the East Coast. Part of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM), the Equine Medical Center is the only stand-alone teaching hospital in North America devoted to equine medicine and surgery, providing a vital, hands-on learning experience for the next generation of equine veterinarians and specialists.

Operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the center provides services that its clients have come to expect, appreciate, and rely upon. Many cases involve emergencies, such as fractures, colic, infectious disease, performance problems, and neonatal diseases in foals. It is not unusual to have three veterinarians, a veterinary technician, veterinary students, and a variety of staff members seeing to a horse that has just been admitted. The center's high success rate is due to continuous monitoring, which is key to detecting changes in horses' vital signs so that treatment can be administered quickly.

The range of services offered is comprehensive. Diagnostics cover the spectrum of care: two radiology suites, an MRI unit, a nuclear scintigraphy imaging suite, two surgical suites with four induction/recovery stalls, a five-stall intensive-care unit, an eight-stall isolation unit, a clinical laboratory, a pharmacy, a farrier shop, and a high-speed treadmill. A newly constructed 12-stall barn is ready for outpatient stabling. Specialized equipment includes surgical lasers, arthroscopes, bone-plating equipment, digital and computed radiography, high-resolution ultrasound, and endoscopes sized for equine patients.

As extraordinary as the facilities and equipment are, however, the center's greatest asset is its faculty and staff--their knowledge, experience, and expertise are second to none. Each faculty member is board certified in surgery, internal medicine, or anesthesia, and the staff includes licensed technicians as well as competent, compassionate support personnel.

Engaging the community

The center continually strives to be a resource for the equine enthusiasts in the commonwealth, offering tours of its facilities to anyone interested in learning more about its services and veterinary medicine. From pony clubs to local school groups and from curious individuals to prospective veterinary students, thousands of people have enjoyed guided tours of the center.

Education about equine health issues is also at the forefront of the effort to give back to the community. Tuesday Talks--free lectures presented by faculty on topics related to equine health--have drawn hordes of horse enthusiasts to the center. These lectures have touched on subjects from colic to cancer, from nutrition to neonates, and everything in between. As well, the center's website at is frequently updated to provide useful information on a wide variety of subjects to a broad audience.

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is fully integrated with the missions of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, consistent with the land-grant traditions of Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland. The center's constituents are those with an interest in the horse: students, veterinarians, horse owners, and horse professionals. Faculty and staff strive to provide

• Pre-eminent equine health care services for the region;

• Exemplary educational experiences for all of the Equine Medical Center's veterinary students; and

• New knowledge for the well-being of the horse and for the economic benefit of the equine industry.

Good relations with equine organizations are a priority at the EMC. Faculty and staff members work diligently to foster strong bonds with veterinarians, horse clubs, breed associations, the Virginia Horse Council, and legislators. The center recently hosted the Virginia Agribusiness Council's roundtable forum, which helped showcase EMC's resources and reinforced the message that the equine industry is a vital contributor to the commonwealth's economy. The center also operates a fully equipped ambulance that provides important triage and emergency services at steeplechase races that take place throughout Virginia during the spring and fall.

Another means of engaging the community is offering volunteer activities at the center. One popular opportunity involves the Foal Watch program, where participants provide 24-hour supervision of foals that face serious health problems.

Looking forward

From its very first days, the EMC has largely owed its success to generous donors and council members who have given much in the way of time, expertise, and monetary contributions. The Equine Medical Center Council, founded in 1989, provides expert guidance on business matters and generous financial assistance to help the center carry out its mission. Thanks to the council's support, the center will be celebrating its 25th anniversary throughout 2009.

Looking back at the center's first quarter-century, its faculty and staff members are proud of its growth and the advances that have been made. Even more important, however, are the horses cared for and the people helped. The center's next 25 years should be just as exciting.

CATHLEEN LEE is public relations coordinator for the Equine Medical Center.

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