Former UKVDL Bacteriology Chief Receives National Award

Mike Donahue, PhD, served the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UKVDL) for 41 years before he fully retired in 2012. After a long and distinguished career, the veterinary medical community recognized his significant contributions to the field.

Donahue recently received the American Association for Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) Thermo-Scientific Award for Excellence in Diagnostic Veterinary Microbiology. The association presented the award Oct. 19 at its national meeting in Greensboro, N.C. The award recognizes distinguished scientists for service and research accomplishments resulting in new scientific findings that advanced veterinary medicine and animal health.

Donahue's nominator was UK VDL director Craig Carter, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVPM, who said Donahue's knowledge of infectious diseases in animals, especially horses, is extensive and his clinical savvy made him effective in working with clients.

Donahue completed a doctoral degree in microbiology at the University of Missouri in 1971 and joined the UK VDL as bacteriology section chief shortly after the lab opened. He then built a comprehensive microbiology diagnostic service from the ground up in support of Kentucky animal agriculture and the signature Bluegrass horse industry. He attained the rank of full professor in 1989.

"In my opinion, he ranks as one of the most scientifically prolific veterinary diagnostic microbiologists in the United States, especially in the equine species," Carter said.

While at UK, Donahue characterized the role of specific bacteria in Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome. He understood and diagnosed many equine-specific diseases including Nocardioform placentitis in mares, equine pericarditis, equine abortion and premature birth, equine arthritis and osteomyelitis, and the microbiology of the equine placenta.

"The UK VDL is a full-service laboratory with a very heavy caseload, often involving 20 or more large animals (mostly horses and cattle) for necropsy in one day," Carter said. "Most bacteriologists are happy to simply get their diagnostic casework out in a timely and accurate fashion, which he always did. But this wasn't enough for Mike. During his 41-year career he found the time to serve as the co-author of 63 peer-reviewed scientific articles in veterinary microbiology (16 as first author) and wrote four seminal book chapters."

Carter added that Donahue also wrote dozens of lay and extension articles and made more than 40 presentations at scientific conferences. He served as principal investigator or co-investigator on at least 16 significant research projects that have added to the understanding and knowledge base of infectious diseases, some of which have been devastating to the food, animal, and horse industries.

Donahue has been very active in organized veterinary medicine, serving on three AAVLD working sub-committees on anaerobic techniques, mycoplasmosis, and antibiotic susceptibility testing. He served as chair of the United States Animal Health Association's committee on leptospirosis. In addition, he has served as a reviewer for the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, Research in Veterinary Science, and the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.

Donahue served on seven graduate student committees, taught a graduate course in microbiology, and conducted numerous field investigations. Because of his contributions to the field of veterinary medicine, he was named an honorary member of the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association.

"To be certain, Michael Donahue has had a stellar career as a veterinary diagnostic bacteriologist," Carter wrote in his nomination letter, "His contributions are lauded by scientists the world over. His work has truly advanced the field of bacteriology in veterinary medicine. He has delivered more than four decades of outstanding diagnostic service that have greatly benefited the animal industries of Kentucky."

Aimee Nielson is an agricultural communications specialist within UK's College of Agriculture.

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