Honoring a Legacy: Dr. Steve Adams Retires as Longtime Professor of Large Animal Surgery

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

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Dr. Adams stands in the Purdue University Large Animal Hospital next to a horse holding it's harness

An era of outstanding teaching, scholarship, and clinical service came to a close in 2021 with the retirement of Dr. Stephen Adams, a longtime professor of large animal surgery. Legendary as a caring and beloved teacher and an accomplished large animal clinician, Dr. Adams concluded more than 45 years of tireless service to animals and their owners when he retired this past summer.

Dr. Adams began his experience working with animals by helping raise Standardbred horses before earning his DVM degree in 1975 at Cornell University. He then came to Purdue where he completed his large animal surgery residency, earning his master’s degree in 1978, and then joining the faculty as assistant professor of large animal surgery. In 1981, he became board certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). Rising through the academic ranks, he was promoted to professor in 1987.

During his time at Purdue, Dr. Adams earned numerous teaching awards, including the prestigious Raymond E. Plue Outstanding Teacher Award. As a scholar, his research interests focused on equine orthopedics and orthopedic infections, joint disease, and lameness. Throughout his career, he had numerous equine studies published, wrote 20 book chapters, and co-edited the seminal work, the Atlas of Equine Surgery. He also was sought after as a speaker, delivering presentations at national and international conferences.

One of his most recent projects involved serving as a vital member of the team that launched the Caesars Entertainment Equine Specialty Hospital in Shelbyville, Ind., a satellite facility of the College of Veterinary Medicine. He then became the facility’s medical director. Dr. Adams also was recognized as an Honored Mentor of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. “I have been blessed with a career in a profession that has been extremely rewarding,” Dr. Adams was quoted as saying upon receiving his recognition as an Honored Mentor. “Mentoring residents has been a major part of that career and has always been a great joy. It has been fun to assist residents in becoming certified by the ACVS and I have learned a lot from each of them.”

archival image of Dr. Adams examining a horse's mouth

One of those residents, Dr. Karine Pader, who completed her residency at Purdue in 2011, commented in a quote on the ACVS Foundation website, “Dr. Adams, with his contagious passion and enthusiasm, has been an outstanding mentor in equine surgery. Because of his years of experience and his ability to mix the old with the new, learning from him has always been enlightening. Knowing him has challenged me to become a better surgeon.”

Dr. Adams’ ability to utilize new and innovative surgical techniques was reflected in his involvement with the first unilateral lung resection in an adult horse to treat an extensive granular cell tumor. Additionally, Dr. Adams has been recognized for his empathy and compassion toward his clients and patients and for always making students’ learning a top priority.

As professor of large animal surgery, Dr. Adams not only has effectively trained hundreds of students and numerous residents, he also has provided leadership in his area of specialization, even serving on the ACVS Board of Regents and then as ACVS president in 2010. Thanks to his longevity as a large animal faculty member at Purdue, Dr. Adams even has had the privilege of teaching the children of veterinarians who themselves had taken his classes.

Dr. Adams works with the veterinary team performing surgery on a horse

A native of upstate New York, Dr. Adams has been in Indiana long enough to be considered a “Hoosier.” In recognition of his retirement, he received a unique tribute from clients and colleagues who honored him during Purdue Veterinary Medicine’s 2021 Equine Wellness Forum February 6. Held in a virtual format, the conference, designed to inform horse owners and equine industry professionals about horse health issues, provided a perfect opportunity to recognize Dr. Adams for his outstanding tenure as a teacher, scholar, and clinician. The special recognition coincided with a talk Dr. Adams gave during the conference. Colleagues, as well as hospital clients who had their horses treated by Dr. Adams, shared memories during the special tribute. Messages that were submitted for the virtual recognition included several letters as well as a video that included a clip showing Dr. Adams sledding with members of the PVM family.

One of the letters shared at the forum came from a client who wrote, “I am a relative newcomer to the Equine Clinic, but my experience has been better than I could ever have expected.” The client, Liz Canty, continued, “I brought my 19-year-old Qu mare to the clinic for severe founder [laminitis]. Dr. Adams showed me a case study and gave me the necessary information so I could proceed with a bilateral tenotomy with confidence.” Noting that the horse turned 21 the previous spring, Canty continued, “She has never been as sound as she is now. I can even ride her again, which was a gift I had not expected. Huge thank you to Dr. Adams and best wishes for a wonderful retirement!” Her message summed up the feelings of many who honored Dr. Adams for his outstanding career and legacy of excellence in education, research, and service.

Congratulations Dr. Adams!

Writer(s): Kevin Doerr |

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