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A Passion for Answers

Veterinary researcher finds fulfillment through endowed chair.

A Passion for Answers

Since he was 14 years old, Professor N. Edward “Ed” Robinson wanted to be a veterinarian.

In 1966, Robinson, a UK-trained veterinarian and intellectually-curious researcher, came to the U.S. where he obtained post-graduate training at the Universities of Pennsylvania and California (Davis).

He arrived at Michigan State University in 1972, and throughout his 42 years at MSU—more than 20 as the Matilda R. Wilson Professor of Large Animal Clinical Sciences—Dr. Robinson has seen a tremendous evolution of knowledge.

“When I came to the Department of Physiology, the chair was Professor Fran Haddy, who was also then-president of the American Physiological Society,” Robinson said. “Haddy's group of cardiovascular investigators took me under their wing; that's where I really learned to do research, and to truly enjoy it.”

Robinson had an initial joint-appointment between the Departments of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and Physiology. After hundreds of papers and book chapters, eight books and many graduate students mentored, Robinson has done what every researcher dreams of, in terms of a fulfilling occupation.

Robinson has spent his career researching lung disease in horses, with particular focus on heaves, a disease similar to COPD or asthma in humans. Through years of groundbreaking research, Robinson and his team have brought basic science into clinical practice, and in turn, have improved the entire science around treatment and understanding of respiratory disease in horses.

“The molecular and immunological tools that we need to study chronic disease in horses are only just becoming available,” Robinson said. "Most of those tools have been provided by private funding, and by groups collaborating internationally to advance science on a small budget."

“The future is going to be very exciting, I wish I could start over again,” he added with a smile.

Earlier this year, Robinson retired from academic life and gave the college’s first-ever Last Lecture at the 2014 Michigan Veterinary Conference. The witty and honest talk was an ode to those who changed the course of Robinson’s life, and spoke to the incredible legacy he leaves not only to the profession, but also to those students who have been fortunate to be inspired, motivated to discover the truth, and who have felt unafraid to fail.

“I really enjoy teaching. Teaching is a very personal thing. One needs to instill enthusiasm that encourages learning, not just deliver facts,” Robinson said. “And an endowed chair is one of the most honored positions—I actually think I have had the best job a person could have.”

Author: Sarah Wardell