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New hospital director takes the reins

HorneDr. Bill Horne says life is all about balance: too much of one activity, no matter how great it is, has the potential to set you on a course for discontent, unease, and yearning. This quest for balance has driven his personal and professional lives and is the basis for how he will direct the Cornell University Hospital for Animals. Dr. Horne assumed the directorship on July 1, and he intends to continue the Hospital's historic focus on clinical innovation.

"I was a resident at the time when total hip replacement surgeries were done exclusively at places like Cornell," said Dr. Horne. "Now this is a routine procedure at many specialty practices. The Hospital's role is to make advances in patient care, to improve, and in some cases totally rethink, the treatments and techniques in use today. My role as the director will be to enable these discoveries and to feed the drive that is needed for life-enhancing procedures and strategies. The work done at the Hospital must fill unmet veterinary medical needs."

In the spirit of balance, though, Dr. Horne says the Hospital also exists to support the unique relationship between animals and people.

"We're not just scientists," said Dr. Horne. "We support the physical and emotional needs of people and animals. Our pets are often our best friends and most reliable support systems. It is our role to extend and enhance these relationships."

An anesthesiologist, Dr. Horne has a long history of serving client and patient needs. After training as a resident and completing his doctorate in pharmacology at Cornell in the 1980s, he accepted a faculty position for three years in the College's Department of Pharmacology. Since then, he and his family have traveled across the country and to foreign lands to take advantage of often "once in a lifetime" opportunities.

For instance, he was part of a start-up company, Neurex, where he helped develop new classes of analgesic agents that target neuron-specific calcium channels. He has anesthetized polar bears at the San Diego Zoo, elephants in Africa, walruses in Alaska, Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico, and gorillas at the North Carolina Zoo. He has served on the clinical faculty at North Carolina State and Biomedical Sciences faculty at Colorado State. He has taught in courses in cell biology, ion channel biophysics, anesthesiology, pharmacology, and pain management. His research, investigating the molecular mechanisms of pain, has been funded by the NIH and the NSF, and he was one of the first veterinarians to earn the NIH Physician Scientist Award. With every professional experience, though, he has felt that the balance between conducting research and practicing clinical medicine was not ideal.

"When I was at Neurex, I missed being a veterinarian," said Dr. Horne. "At North Carolina State, I had plenty of clinical time, but not much time for research."

Dr. Horne returned to Cornell in June of 2006, where he says he has found the perfect balance of basic research and clinical medicine. "The return to Cornell has felt like coming home," says Dr. Horne. "The development of veterinary clinician scientists has long been the mission here at Cornell. This is one reason why we are ranked number one in the country."

As the Hospital director, Dr. Horne will maintain his research lab and lead all of the functions of an innovative hospital. In particular, his aim is to encourage clinicians, residents, interns, and students at all levels to constantly look for "what's next."