Professor Sheila Crispin - Lifetime Achievement Award winner 2015

Professor Sheila Crispin, who lives near Kendal in the Lake District, has won a lifetime achievement award as part of the largest and most prestigious veterinary awards in Europe for her work as a veterinary ophthalmologist, treating a wide range of animals and saving the eyesight of many thousands of animals in this country and across the world.

Professor Crispin, now semi-retired, has devoted much of her life to comparative eye disease as a researcher and clinician and has won one of the coveted International Canine Health Awards in the category of lifetime achievement. The awards, run by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust and underwritten by  a major gift from Vernon and Shirley Hill of Metro Bank, highlight those individuals who go one step further to promote the health and wellbeing of dogs through their work in the world of veterinary science.

Her innovative research has focused on understanding the way eye disease develops, with particular focus on ocular diseases involving lipids (fats), some of which can severely compromise vision and even cause blindness if untreated.

Through her work Professor Crispin has confirmed many of the local and systemic factors that influence both lipid deposition and clearance in avascular tissues (those normally without blood vessels, such as the cornea), and explained species differences in susceptibility to atherosclerosis, a condition where the arteries become clogged by fatty substances, causing restricted blood flow and organ damage This pioneering research has benefited understanding of these disorders in both humans and animals, as well as bringing her worldwide acclaim.

Clinically, her research on disorders of lipid metabolism and the way they are seen in the eye has refined diagnosis and treatment and has meant that surgery is seldom needed and medical treatment, with or without dietary manipulation, is sometimes all that is required.

Another area in which Professor Crispin has made substantial clinical and research contributions is that of inherited and breed-related eye disease in dogs; she has been the Chief Panellist of the British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club/International Sheepdog Society Eye Scheme Panel on three separate occasions and is a long standing member of the Eye Panel Working Party and the Eye Scheme Panel. In addition to contributing to many educational seminars (for example, for the Kennel Club and Breed Clubs) and veterinary conferences she produces a regular update of Eye Scheme information which reviews breed-related and inherited eye diseases and their impact on canine welfare.

Her contributions to the veterinary profession are many and varied; she served as a Council Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons from 1997 to 2015 and was President from 2006-2007, she chaired the Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding from 2010-2014 and is currently a member of many committees and groups dealing with animal welfare and dog-related issues, including the Kennel Club’s Dog Health Group, the Canine and Feline Sector Group and the Associate Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare.

The awards were presented to this year’s winners by Mike Townsend, Chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, on Thursday 25th June 2015 at the International Conference on Advances in Canine and Feline Genomics and Inherited Disease, this year organised by the Animal Health Trust. The awards were for the Postgraduate Student, International Award and Lifetime Achievement Award and include prize money of £5,000, £20,000 (for each of the two winners) and £10,000 respectively.

Speaking about the award, Professor Crispin said: “I have devoted much of my life to the fascinating world of comparative ophthalmology and dogs, in particular, have figured very prominently in my endeavours. I am privileged and honoured to receive such a prestigious award. My work will continue but the crowning achievements of my research career have been delivering papers to medical and scientific audiences at International Conferences in the UK and abroad, primarily on advances in our understanding of lipid disorders in animals and humans. I must, however, also mention the joys of clinical work, restoring sight and helping many animals enjoy a better quality of life, be it orphan elephants in Kenya with a variety of ocular problems, animals with cataracts (including a gorilla) and other sight limiting conditions, or a blind Border Collie on a remote island in the Faroes. This most generous award will enable me to continue to visit remote areas to help tackle the many eye diseases of the local inhabitants.”

The awards are judged by a panel of influential representatives from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research. These included Professor Peter Bedford, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Ophthalmology at London University; Nick Blayney, Veterinary Surgeon and veterinary advisor to the Kennel Club; Professor Robin Franklin, Professor of Stem Cell Medicine at Cambridge University; Professor Alan Kelly, Emeritus Dean, Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Professor Donald Kelly, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Pathology, University of Liverpool; Professor Bennie Osburn, Emeritus Dean, UC Davies School of Veterinary Medicine and Mike Townsend, Chairman of Trustees, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust.

Mike Townsend, Chairman of Trustees at the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which runs the awards, said: “Professor Crispin is an inspiration to those involved in veterinary research, continually searching for answers to the most difficult questions and completely reinventing the way we view and treat canine eye disease. She has shared her passion and knowledge with the profession, holding many posts of high importance and influencing animal health in a wide variety of fields.”

Vernon Hill, Founder and Chairman of Metro Bank, and Shirley Hill, whose foundation underwrites the Awards said: ““As dog lovers ourselves, whose business is built around welcoming man’s best friend, we’re very proud to sponsor these prestigious awards and hope that the award money will help Professor Crispin to continue her inspirational work in tackling eye disease. The award winners are at the forefront of work that is changing the lives of man’s best friend and we are honoured to be able to support and reward them.”

Nominations are currently being sought for the next awards which will be presented at a ceremony at the Kennel Club in London on 24th May 2017. With a prize fund totalling £65,000, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust is urging people to nominate themselves or their peers by 13th February 2017. The awards will be judged by representatives from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research, including experts in each of the nominees' selected fields. For more information about how to apply visit the Kennel Club website now.

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