Peter Rossdale recently celebrated his 90th birthday. Tim Greet describes the career of this pioneering equine vet
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Peter was the son of a general medical practitioner in London’s west end; he was brought up on the Romney Marshes in Kent. Unlike his two brothers, he chose veterinary rather than medical training because of his love for horses.
A graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge and the Royal Veterinary College in 1953, he joined the only equine practice in Newmarket. Five years later he set up his own practice in the High Street and the seeds of Rossdales Equine Hospital were sown.
Degree in natural sciences, Cambridge
Veterinary degree, Royal Veterinary College
Set up Rossdales Equine Surgeons in Newmarket
FRCVS by dissertation
Fellowship of the Australian College of Veterinary Sciences
Founder and later president of the British Equine Veterinary Association
Diploma in equine stud medicine
Honorary doctorates from Berne, Edinburgh and Sydney
Scientific advisory boards of the Animal Health Trust, the Wellcome Trust and the Horserace Betting Levy Board
Editor, Equine Veterinary Journal and is now emeritus editor
Editor-in-chief, Equine Veterinary Education
While founding the largest private equine practice in Europe, he was also an internationally recognised equine clinician, research worker and collaborator, writer, publisher and editor of the leading equine veterinary journal in the world.
He contributed the weekly ‘Postscript by Totaliser’ column to The Veterinary Record between 1975 and 1992. This often discussed a comparative medical topic and was always interesting and provocative.
His literary flair covered a much wider range than veterinary medicine and he could write equally entertaining articles about skiing or travel. He also contributed significantly to the education of horse owners writing several books explaining equine veterinary subjects for the general public.
He formally retired from the practice he set up in 2004, leaving a partnership that now operates from four main sites, including ambulatory practices in Hertfordshire and Lambourn. Forty-five vets work in Newmarket plus eight veterinary consultants and there are four vets in Hertfordshire and two in Lambourn.
Science underpinned Rossdale’s approach to veterinary practice
Science underpinned Rossdale’s approach to veterinary practice and his research has achieved worldwide recognition. He has published over 200 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, many of which involved collaboration with colleagues in the human medical, as well as the veterinary field.
Outside practice he has been a member of the scientific boards of the Animal Health Trust, the Horserace Betting Levy Board and the Wellcome Trust.
His determination was to bring an evidenced-based approach to equine medicine. When he graduated, equine practice was still based upon traditional thinking. Clearly, he was ahead of his time. By the diligent recording of clinical information and by engaging with other enthusiasts in both medical and veterinary fraternities, he helped to develop a modern approach to equine practice.
As a clinician and researcher, his passion lay in paediatric medicine, of which he might arguably be considered the founding father.
In his practice, he set a precedent by creating equal partnerships for young veterinary surgeons and was a great investor in equipment, as well as encouraging the development of young veterinary talent.
This may have been partially because, as a young assistant in the 1950s, he had wanted the practice to buy an ECG machine. The idea was unenthusiastically received by his then senior colleagues who dismissed him as ‘Dr Gadget’!
It has been by a combination of scientific innovation, precise recording and the creation and empowerment of high quality teams that he has helped to drive forward a modern approach to equine clinical practice.
Although recognised by the award of an OBE, Peter Rossdale’s true legacy lies in the careers of dozens of veterinary surgeons over decades, who have benefited significantly from his encouragement and support.
Still an enthusiast on matters including politics and philosophy, he retains an interest in equine medicine and a paternal overview of the developments in his practice; he is an intermittent correspondent to The Times letters page. His mind remains sharp and he loves nothing more than a friendly debate on such diverse subjects as evolution, consciousness and Scottish independence!
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