Valberg to be Inducted into Equine Research Hall of Fame

Stephanie Valberg, DVM, PhD, professor and director of the University of Minnesota Equine Center, will be inducted into the University of Kentucky Equine Research Hall of Fame on Sept. 23 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.

Established by the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Foundation, the Equine Research Hall of Fame is the highest honor for a lifetime of contribution to the body of knowledge in equine research. For a scientist to have merited such distinction is a great tribute to their work. The work of the Hall of Fame members spans several disciplines and covers nearly 100 years of scientific investigation in all parts of the world. Valberg will be the first woman to receive the honor.

Valberg has been a pioneer in unraveling the mystery of "tying up" and other muscle disorders in horses. Through her research, previously unknown muscle disorders were discovered, their genetic basis identified, and nutritional strategies developed to minimize muscle pain. Her work in equine muscle disease has revolutionized equine practice.

Born in 1958 in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, Valberg was an avid horsewoman from an early age. She completed a degree in veterinary medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in 1983, where she received awards for the highest overall academic standing. She was awarded a PhD from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Equine Exercise Physiology in 1986. After postdoctoral training in muscle disorders at the University of California, Davis, Valberg completed a residency and became board certified in large animal internal medicine in 1991. In 1993, she joined the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, where she rose to the rank of professor and director of the University of Minnesota Equine Center in 2003.

Valberg established the University's Neuromuscular Diagnostic Laboratory, which receives muscle biopsy submissions from horses around the world. These muscle samples formed the foundation for identifying novel myopathies including glycogen branching enzyme deficiency and polysaccharide storage myopathy. Together with Jim Mickelson, PhD, who is also with the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, she identified the genetic basis for these diseases and developed commercially available genetic tests.

Her work led her to other key insights into muscle diseases such as recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis, immune-mediated myositis, and atypical myopathy. Valberg developed the first low-starch, high-fat feed for horses, which has become a staple in the treatment of exertional rhabdomyolysis or "tying up," a condition characterized by skeletal muscle degeneration with light exercise. She was also a member of the team that sequenced the equine genome and identified the genetic basis for overo lethal white syndrome, a condition in which newborn foals die because of a nonfunctioning colon.

Valberg has trained more than 44 interns and residents and 13 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, many of whom are continuing her passion for equine research. She has over 125 research publications and, through more than 250 national and international presentations, brought awareness of new methods to diagnose and treat muscle disorders to veterinarians and horse owners.

"I am honored to be among such distinguished scientists in the Hall of Fame," Valberg said. "My research has been fueled by a passion for horses, by the wisdom of colleagues such as Dr. Jim Mickelson, and by the hard work of terrific graduate students."

The other new inductees are George Allen, PhD, a posthumous inductee formerly of the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center, and Eugene Lyons, PhD, of the Gluck Equine Research Center.

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