Veterinary professor Michael Lappin wins international scientific award

Michael Lappin, Professor of Clinical Sciences, with a cat at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. June 13, 2014

Dr. Michael Lappin, a veterinary professor at Colorado State University, recently won the 2015 World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s International Award for Scientific Achievement for significant contributions to knowledge about the cause, detection and control of infectious diseases in pets.

“This award is really exciting because it recognizes the things that are most important to me – improving the lives of pets and their owners, international collaboration, and mentoring the next generation of veterinarians. It’s a great honor,” said Lappin, who was honored with the award at the 40th World Small Animal Veterinary Congress in Bangkok, Thailand.

With 96 members representing more than 158,000 veterinarians, the association aims to improve the quality and availability of small animal medicine around the world. Lappin earned the award for improving global veterinary knowledge of small animal infectious disease.

Lappin is a member of the association’s One Health committee, which advocates for collaboration among human and animal medicine practitioners.

Three decades of research

At CSU, he recently won a One Health seed grant from the Office of the Vice President for Research to study toxoplasmosis transmission in humans, domestic animals and wildlife. Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, that is hosted in wild and pet cats and can sicken people and other warm-blooded animals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls toxoplasmosis a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness in the United States.

That’s just one of Lappin’s interests.

A professor of small animal clinical veterinary medicine and infectious disease, Lappin has taught and conducted research at CSU since 1988. His laboratory studies immune responses to respiratory virus vaccines and other vaccinations in cats. He oversees a large diagnostic service for feline infectious agents at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. As director of shelter medicine, Lappin also investigates disease outbreaks and management at animal shelters.

He holds the Kenneth W. Smith Professorship at Colorado State, an endowment honoring the life and work of Dr. Kenneth Smith, a 1932 CSU graduate and a longtime professor and veterinarian. Investment income from the $375,000 endowment supports Lappin’s infectious disease research, helping him to seek solutions that help pets and people. The professorship is awarded to a senior faculty member specializing in small animal care, and Lappin is the first and only recipient of the professorship.

“I am grateful to the Smith family, whose generosity has enabled me to pursue, and now, achieve my goals,” Lappin said.

In 2007, Lappin used professorship funds to create the Center for Companion Animal Studies, which aims to promote quality of life for pets and their owners by supporting research into new veterinary tests, vaccines and treatments. The center distributes industry-donated research dollars to CSU veterinary students, clinical interns and residents, graduate students and faculty members. Through project grants, the center’s Young Investigator Award program supports the ambitions of aspiring veterinarians, and through their research, pet health.

“I’ve gotten to know Mike over the years and he’s doing very productive, practical kinds of research. He’s an excellent teacher who really stimulates the students to go on and do great things,” said Dr. James Smith, a retired physician and son of veterinarian Kenneth Smith. “My dad was a pioneer in small animal medicine, and Mike has made significant contributions to that field.”

To support the Center for Companion Animal Studies, donate here.