Dr. Cathryn Mellersh & Prof. Sheila Crispin win International Canine Health Awards
Today, I was a guest at the International Canine Health Awards ceremony held in Cambridge. Joint winner of the International Prize was Dr. Cathryn Mellersh who is well-known to Dachshund owners for her ground-breaking work on cord1 PRA. Winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award was Prof. Sheila Crispin who has been working with the Dachshund Breed Council to investigate Distichiasis in Mini Longs. They are pictured here with Sponsor, Vernon Hill.
Now in their third year, The International Canine Health Awards have attracted illustrious candidates from around the world and through the generous prize money have supported further research to improve the health and wellbeing of dogs. Joint winner of the International Award was Professor David Argyle and winner of the Postgraduate Student Award was James Swann for his work on IMHA.
Administered by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust and underwritten by a major gift from Vernon and Shirley Hill, Founders of Metro Bank, the International Canine Health Awards recognise innovative researchers and veterinary scientists whose work has had a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of dogs. A significant prize fund is on offer for the winners of each award, representing an opportunity not to be missed by anyone working for the betterment of dog health.
I was pleased to be able to provide one of the references for Cathryn:
Cathryn has made an outstanding contribution to the genetic improvement of dogs’ health through her work at the Animal Health Trust since 2001. She began collaborating with Dachshund Clubs at a time when we had a serious problem with Progressive Retinal Atrophy in one of the Dachshund varieties. Through her work, she
and other colleagues developed one of the first commercially available DNA tests for an Autosomal Recessive Mutation (cord1 PRA). Cathryn’s role in supporting our breed has been critical in helping breeders and owner to understand how and why DNA testing should be adopted and, today, we have virtually eliminated cases of Dachshunds going blind due to this particular mutation. Cathryn has freely given her time to speak at Breed Club seminars and to write guidance (in plain English) that clubs can use in their Newsletters and on their websites. She is never too busy to respond personally to enquiries from individual breeders or the Breed Clubs.
She has willingly invested her time and that of her team to carry out research studies on our behalf. These have helped us to establish the mutation frequencies of other health conditions and then to offer advice to breeders on whether or not a DNA test should be adopted. Her advice to us in setting up these studies has been invaluable, for example in advising on required population sample sizes.
Cathryn is currently working with us on a major investigation into the genetics of Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). This is a complex study and she has, once again, freely given her time to advise on how we should structure the project and the key stages she and her team will adopt. She is part of a multi-disciplinary team that we have put together to advise on our approach to IVDD. While she is definitely the “genetics lead”, there is no doubt that she is a team player and more concerned with how we can work together for the benefit of the breed, than any desire for personal recognition or publicity.
Through my work as a member of one of the Kennel Club’s Dog Health Group sub-committees, I know that Cathryn’s approach with Dachshunds is replicated across many other breeds. She provides advice and support to the KC and also to individual Breed Health Coordinators who are the champions for health improvement in each breed.
With an ever-increasing number of DNA tests becoming available, Cathryn is called upon more frequently to offer advice on breeding strategies. She can always be relied upon to present the evidence in a sensitive way, together with practical recommendations that anyone can understand.
Her team continues to be at the forefront of canine DNA test development in the UK and I am sure her leadership will be instrumental in making further breakthroughs for the improvement of dogs’ health.