January 15, 2018

 

 Clinician-scientist, now AAEP president, wants her passion to be contagious

Posted Jan. 3, 2018

Dr. Margo Macpherson undoubtedly has had a successful career. The tenured professor of reproduction and former chief of reproduction services at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine was installed as president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners during the AAEP's 63rd Annual Convention in San Antonio (see JAVMA, Jan. 15, 2018). One of her goals this year is to help others become as successful in equine medicine as she has been.

​Dr. Margo Macpherson (Photos courtesy of AAEP)


"I love what I do, and there are young people dying to do what I do. I want them to feel the same way 20 years later, and not five years later that they can't do this anymore," Dr. Macpherson said. She knew of one veterinarian who had spent years in school doing horse-related research and wanted nothing more than to be an equine practitioner, yet decided after only her first year in equine practice to take a regulatory position. "It's because of the lifestyle. That's an area where, if I can make a dent in that, it would make me happy," she said.

Dr. Macpherson had known she wanted to be an equine veterinarian since middle school. She says she was born with "the horse-loving gene" even though she wasn't around horses much as a kid. Still, she doubted herself as she attended Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She said, "I didn't have the confidence that a suburban girl from Detroit could make it" in equine medicine. But her husband encouraged her to stick with it, and so she did. Her first job was working for a solo practitioner in north-central Pennsylvania doing equine and mixed animal medicine after graduating in 1990.

The 2018 AAEP officers: Drs. R. Reynolds Cowles Jr., Free Union, Virginia, immediate past president; Jeffrey T. Berk, Lexington, Kentucky, president-elect; Margo Macpherson, Gainesville, Florida, president; Lisa Metcalf, Sherwood, Oregon, treasurer; and David Frisbie, Fort Collins, Colorado, vice president.

Knowing that the future involved specialization, Dr. Macpherson went to Texas A&M University to pursue a residency in reproduction research. There she met Drs. Terry Blanchard and Dickson Varner, who shaped the rest of her career by teaching her well and introducing her to others in the field. Dr. Macpherson was required to complete a master's degree, which exposed her to "good clinical science and encouraged me to publish and present that information." She became board-certified by the American College of Theriogenologists in 1994. That same year, Dr. Macpherson presented her first abstract at the AAEP annual convention in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"It was life-changing to get up in front of an audience of people you emulate and admire and to share something you really worked hard on. It was exhilarating to potentially change the bar on what someone does in veterinary medicine. I knew from then on my future was probably best in an academic path," she said.

Eventually, in 1998, she took her dream job at the University of Florida, becoming a clinician-scientist. Work from Dr. Macpherson's laboratory has helped direct treatment choices for mares with placentitis-one of the most common causes of pregnancy loss in late gestation-by providing information about the efficacy of commonly used antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory drug treatments.

"I feel like I am a much better veterinarian because of the research I've done. It's helped me solve problems and do things differently," she said.

Teaching, too, has been rewarding for Dr. Macpherson. With students, she enjoys veterinary clerkships when they come stall-side and solve problems together. "In that process, I empower them to do what I do. ... Sometimes they're afraid to do it, but I encourage, and then they realize they can do this, and that translates into being a good veterinarian."

Being a good veterinarian, to Dr. Macpherson, also means being a part of organized veterinary medicine. It's something she has aspired to since veterinary school, and this was reinforced by all her mentors being involved in the AAEP and other entities.

"Once you become part of that community, you realize how much you rely on them for support, ideas, and fun. It's a gigantic extended family. Recognizing in this organization that there are almost 10,000 people who do what I do and understand my life is very gratifying," she said. "You can't ask for nicer people on this earth than equine vets."

Dr. Macpherson served a previous term on the AAEP board of directors from 2011-14. She was a longstanding member of the Educational Programs Committee and made substantial contributions to student programming. She also served on the Nominating and Reproduction committees and as reproduction anchor for the Kester News Hour at the AAEP Annual Convention from 2006-10.