University of Florida launches new Mobile Equine Diagnostic (MEDS) program

New MEDS program will deliver state-of-the-art diagnostic tools
to referring veterinarians in farm settings, outlying communities
by SARAH CAREY

No more driving Miss Daisy long distances when she’s sick. University of Florida in Gainesville, FL veterinarians are launching a new program that aims to reduce horse owner travel hassle by taking UF’s veterinary diagnostic services on the road.

The Mobile Equine Diagnostic Service, known as MEDS, targets equine veterinarians in private practice and officially kicks off in November. The program is believed to be the only such service in the United States that will offer a sophisticated collection of equipment coupled with the ability to consult in real time with experts at a veterinary hospital.


Dr. Michael Porter will head up the UF Large Animal Hospital's new MEDS program.

"The collaboration between modern medicine and digital technology has advanced the field of medical diagnostics such that diagnoses that previously could be made only in a hospital setting can now occur at a distant location," said Michael Porter, D.V.M., Ph.D., a board-certified internist. As director of the MEDS program, Porter will respond to calls from referring veterinarians and provide diagnostic services to their clients throughout the state of Florida and southern Georgia.

Porter is committed to promoting the program as a useful tool for veterinarians inasmuch as it will often fill a gap in available diagnostic services, as well as provide needed convenience for horse owners. The comprehensive diagnostic package MEDS will offer far exceeds what most clinicians are able to access without visiting a referral veterinary hospital.

"We’ll have all the important diagnostic capabilities, including digital radiology, ultrasound, endoscopy, gastroscopy and echocardiography, plus the ability to share images and data via satellite technology while in the field," Porter said, adding that the additional capabilities MEDS will provide veterinarians will ultimately help them better serve their clients.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that Florida is home to 300,000 horses and that the horse industry generates product valued at $2.2 billion annually. The Ocala area ranks as the world’s fourth-largest breeding and training area, behind Lexington, KY; Newmarket, England, and Chantilly, France. Florida overtook California in 1998 to become the nation’s second largest producer of registered Thoroughbred foals.

"I think this program will definitely be beneficial to the referring veterinary community, particularly as a resource to those private ambulatory practitioners who are in business for themselves and not associated with a major clinic or hospital," said Ted Orosky, D.V.M., an equine veterinarian who is the sole owner of an ambulatory practice based in Ocala. "Most of MEDS’ usefulness will likely be directed to cases relating to soundness, lameness and trauma."

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An example of such a case would be a foal suffering from an acute head or neck injury—a situation where a private veterinarian would not be comfortable transporting the animal.

Here’s how Porter envisions the program will work.

Say Miss Daisy, a 26-year-old mare owned by the same family all her life, is in need of referral-level diagnostic services. Unfortunately, she is two hours from the closest hospital and her owners and veterinarian worry about the potential stress of transporting Miss Daisy in a trailer for two hours during the hottest days of the year.

Enter the MEDS program and Porter, who communicates directly with Miss Daisy’s referring veterinarian and schedules an appointment to perform an abdominal ultrasound and gastroscopy on the horse. One gastroscopy with intestinal biopsies and one abdominal ultrasound later, Miss Daisy is diagnosed with the equine version of inflammatory bowel disease. Miss Daisy’s owners opt to begin a medication program immediately, and within several weeks, Miss Daisy is doing better.

"We recognize that these days, animals are often regarded as members of the family," Porter said. "The MEDS program ultimately is about helping to preserve that bond by detecting disease as soon as possible and saving or improving the horse’s quality of life."

UF’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, the clinical arm of the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine, admits about 5,000 horses a year for treatment, the overwhelming majority of which are referred by private veterinarians.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call: 352 392-4700, ext. 4036

 

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