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MU CVM Professor Dennis O’Brien
Receives Kirk Award for Professional Excellence

Dennis O’Brien, a professor of veterinary neurology at the University of Missouri (MU) College of Veterinary Medicine, is the 2011 recipient of the Robert W. Kirk Award for Professional Excellence. Presented annually by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), the award recognizes outstanding achievements and dedicated service to the veterinary profession. Kirk Award recipients’ careers in veterinary medicine have garnered national and international recognition for contributions and service in activities such as clinical medical practice, instruction, research or public service.

“The Kirk Award is undoubtedly the most prestigious honor possible for any veterinarian working in the fields of internal medicine, which includes small and large animal internal medicine, neurology, cardiology, and oncology,” said Leah Cohn, professor of veterinary internal medicine at MU and president of ACVIM. “I can’t tell you what a joy it was for me as the president of the ACVIM to see this important recognition go to Dr. O’Brien. 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.”

O’Brien, whose pioneering research in hereditary diseases is benefitting both animals and humans, received his DVM in 1975, from the University of Illinois. After three years in private practice, he returned to the University of Illinois where he entered a neurology residency program in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine, and completed a doctorate in neuroscience in 1987.

He became an assistant professor of veterinary neurology with the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery at MU in 1985 and was appointed full professor in 2003. In 2007, he was named the MU Chancellor’s Chair of Excellence in Comparative Neurology.
O’Brien is an internationally recognized expert in veterinary neurology and has contributed both through scientific discovery and publication in scholarly journals. He has lectured internationally on topics related to clinical veterinary neurology and his research on canine inherited neurologic disease. He is well known for expertise in neurodegenerative disease, metabolic encephalopathies, movement disorders and epilepsy in dogs and cats. He has pioneered the discovery of canine dysautonomia. He is considered one of the leading experts in genetic disorders of the nervous system of dogs and cats.

O’Brien helped found the Comparative Neurology Program in the College of Veterinary Neurology, which today is part of the Mizzou Advantage One Health, One Medicine initiative. Research in the Comparative Neurology Program is devoted to understanding the causes of developmental and degenerative diseases of the nervous system in domestic animals and translating that knowledge into the therapies of tomorrow for the benefit of both human and animal patients. His current research focuses on understanding canine multiple system degeneration, a naturally-occurring form of Parkinson’s disease in dogs for which he received funding through the National Institutes of Health.

His service on committees of the University of Missouri campus has been extensive and currently includes the Campus Promotion and Tenure Committee. O’Brien, a diplomate of the ACVIM since 1984, has served as president for the Neurology Specialty of the ACVIM and as a member of the Board of Regents from 1999-2002. In addition, he served on the Board of Directors for the Central Missouri Humane Society for six years.

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Last Update: February 29, 2012