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MU veterinary professor receives award for 'professional excellence'

Friday, August 26, 2011 | 5:18 p.m. CDT; updated 5:23 p.m. CDT, Saturday, August 27, 2011

COLUMBIA — An MU professor of veterinary neurology has been recognized for professional excellence by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Dennis O'Brien was the 2011 recipient of the Robert W. Kirk Award for Professional Excellence, given for outstanding achievements and dedicated service to the veterinary profession, according to a news release from the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.

"I was kind of humbled because it's really the result of a team effort by a lot of people who all contribute," O'Brien said. "It was kind of embarrassing to be singled out as the person to get the award."

O'Brien helped found the Comparative Neurology Program at MU, which is dedicated to researching degenerative and developmental diseases in domesticated animals and using this knowledge to develop treatments for people and animals.

His work has focused heavily on researching genetic disorders in the nervous systems of domesticated animals. Some of his research has centered on Parkinson's disease in dogs.

"The bottom line is that dogs and people suffer from a lot of the same diseases, so anything that we can learn about this disease in one species helps us deal with that disease in another species," he said.

O'Brien said he hopes his research can lead to genetic tests for these disorders in dogs as well as treatments for them.

"All of his colleagues and students here at Mizzou have long known what an incredible clinician and scientist he is, but it was great to see his contributions so prominently recognized," said Leah Cohn, a professor of veterinary internal medicine at MU and president of ACVIM, in the release.

O'Brien began working at MU as an assistant professor of veterinary neurology in 1985, and he became a full professor in 2003, according to the release . He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois in 1975 and earned his doctorate in neuroscience in 1987.


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