Ed Robinson


Dr. Edward Robinson earned his veterinary degree from the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London in 1965, and came to the US six months later for an internship in General Large Animal Medicine and Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. He then practiced as an associate in the veterinary medicine ambulatory clinic of the University of California at Davis.

In 1972, Robinson joined MSU as an associate professor. He worked on projects related to laminitis, while he also continued his study of heaves. (Heaves has been renamed Recurrent Airway Obstruction in large part due to Robinson’s work.) He also studied related conditions including exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) and recurrent laryngeal neuropathy (RLN), which defined his career for three decades.

Although the two never met, Robinson counted Matilda Wilson as one of his most significant collaborators. The Matilda R. Wilson Chair and the Matilda R. Wilson Equine Respiratory Disease Research Endowment gave him opportunities few ever have to make so much progress in one focused area. In Robinson's words, such endowments clearly convey that an investigator is “trusted to advance the science.”

Robinson’s Career Highlights:

  • Along with John Welser and others, he established MSU’s Veterinary Medical Center.
  • He was awarded the College’s first endowed professorship in 1988 when named the Matilda R. Wilson Chair in Large Animal Clinical Sciences. To build on that foundation, he worked with Fred Derksen to secure funding from the Matilda Wilson Fund to create the Equine Pulmonary Laboratory, now recognized internationally for numerous advances in chronic airway disease in horses.
  • His lab was the first to obtain NIH funding to establish the phenotype of heaves as an inflammatory, obstructive airway disease with all the complexities of similar conditions, such as asthma.
  • He spearheaded the development of the two-horse model for heaves, which studied a sick horse side-by-side with a control horse in the same environment. This has since become the standard model for studying the pathogenesis of this disease.
  • He helped found the World Equine Airways Symposium (WEAS) in 2009 to bring together veterinarians, scientists, and students to exchange ideas that can improve equine health. (The WEAS lives on as an important part of Robinson’s legacy, and will continue to feature some of his past students and longtime collaborators.)
  • In 2000, he chaired the International Workshop on Equine Chronic Airway Disease, where leaders in equine airway disease research from around the world came together at MSU to more accurately define heaves. For the first time, they differentiated it from the condition Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), familiar in human medicine. They also coined a new, more descriptive name for heaves: Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO).
  • Subsequently, he chaired the symposia that 1) agreed on a formalized grading system for recurrent laryngeal neuropathy, and 2) laid the groundwork for a better understanding of inflammatory airway disease.
  • He collaborated with industry experts in environmental quality to better understand air quality and other environmental factors that can impact RAO and the career of racehorses.
  • His team’s evidence-based investigations led to a better understanding of the efficacy of treatments for RAO and other equine breathing problems, including the development of new surgical procedures for upper airway obstructions.
  • He was particularly excited about current research with Cornell University into the genetics of recurrent laryngeal neuropathy ("roaring"). Funding from the Matilda Wilson endowment made it possible to obtain the collection of blood from the large number of horses necessary for such an investigation.
  • He is the founding editor of one of the most important textbooks in the field, "Current Therapy in Equine Medicine." First published in 1983 and now in its seventh edition, the text has been translated into both Spanish and Russian.
  • He served as associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies at the College, during which time funding was obtained for the "Containment Facility" at MSU.
  • He presented the inaugural Frank Milne Lecture to the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
  • He was named an honorary diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
  • He received the Docteur Honoris Causa from the University of Liege, Belgium.

In his farewell lecture on January 24, 2014, Robinson shared his philosophy of teaching. “Students – like all of us – are rough diamonds,” he said, “with sides you can make shine, and sides you need to hide. As educators, it’s our job to make those areas shine. When you bring out the best in your students, they will bring out the best in you.”