Founding Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and first President of the Veterinary Orthopedic Society

By Steven P. Arnoczky, DVM, DACVS; Charles DeCamp, DVM, Dipl ACVS; Gretchen Flo, DVM, MS

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Dr. Wade Oberlin Brinker was an integral participant in the birth and development of veterinary orthopedic surgery. Along with his early colleagues (Schnelle, Schroeder, Paatsama, Vierheller, Archibald, Rudy, and Jenny), Brinker helped introduce the fundamental principles of intra-medullary pinning and fracture fixation that are still practiced today in veterinary surgery. His surgical procedures for various joint problems have stood the test of time and remain mainstays in the surgical arsenal of most small animal orthopedists.

As the practice of veterinary orthopedics evolved, Brinker remained at the forefront, introducing the concept of rigid internal fixation and the principles of the AO/ASIF. He was an important fixture in the international AO community; he lectured all over the world on veterinary orthopedics and continued to do so well into his 70’s. His textbook on small animal orthopedic surgery with Gretchen Flo and Donald Piermattei remains a classic.

Brinker came to Michigan State University in 1939 as a graduate assistant. Except for the five years of service to his country during World War II, he never left MSU. He was chairman of the Department of Surgery and Medicine from 1957-67, and he retired as professor in 1978.

At MSU, Brinker developed an internationally renowned small animal surgical program. He received numerous awards for his work, including the Norden Teaching Award (1966), the Distinguished Faculty Award (1969) from Michigan State University, the Centennial Award for Distinguished Service (1963) from his alma mater Kansas State University, and the Veterinarian of the Year Award (1953) from the Gaines Dog Research Foundation. After his retirement from Michigan State University, Brinker continued to lecture and instruct the student surgery laboratories at the Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine (1981-90).

Brinker’s early contributions to the art and science of veterinary surgery made him a natural selection as an organizing member of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and one of its charter diplomates (1965) and president (1968). The wisdom and foresight of these founding members created the “blueprint” for the specialty colleges that followed. Brinker was honored by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2005 with their inaugural Founder’s Award for Career Achievement for his many significant contributions to the art and science of veterinary surgery.

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Brinker also was a founding member of the Veterinary Orthopedic Society, and served as its first president (1974-76). He saw the importance of broadening surgical perspective, and was instrumental in bringing physicians such as the late Howard Rosen, MD, into the society to share their expertise.

The real testimony to Brinker is that he has achieved his revered status in veterinary surgery not only because of his many surgical innovations, but also from a lifetime of dedication to teaching the principles and procedures of veterinary surgery to literally generations of students, interns, and residents. Indeed, the list of surgery residents mentored by Brinker reads like a who’s who of veterinary surgery and the ACVS. Therefore, it was not surprising that literally thousands of his grateful students came forth to honor Dr. Brinker’s many contributions to veterinary surgery by creating the Wade O. Brinker Endowed Chair of Veterinary Surgery at Michigan State University, the first such chair in all of veterinary medicine and a fitting tribute to one of the true giants of the profession.

Brinker always represented his profession, the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, and Michigan State University in the highest standards. He spent his entire professional career advancing the art and science of veterinary surgery around the world, and has been a respected cornerstone of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons for more than 40 years. Brinker will forever remain the father of small animal orthopedic surgery.