From Andy Wolter, CEO, Equinosis:
Nearly every day there is a reason I am optimistic about the future of science & objectivity in equine veterinary medicine. But, now and again, I am reminded of how far we still have to go.
Reading a 2020 article titled “Is the use of objective gait analysis inevitable?” seems like debating whether the Earth really is flat – if you just keep your feet on ground. The evidence on objective measurement is in, and it is irrefutable.
A lack of education is certainly at play for many detractors of science. But there are some who have a vested interest contradictory to the science. If you are always right and no one can question your subjective opinion with anything but another subjective opinion, why would you want science to change that?
And I guess that’s when things can get personal – when the science is not on your side.
Recently in an equine veterinary message board, Dr. Keegan was forced to defend his work - not based on the merits of the science, but whether the science was corrupted by his profit motivation.
As the leader of a company dedicated singularly to the objective veterinary care of horses, that cuts pretty deeply. But even more troubling, is the attack on a man who has dedicated his career to the betterment of his profession and the care of his patients. Clearly the people that write these comments – whether due to misinformation or fear – have never met Kevin Keegan. Had they, they too would appreciate how selflessly Kevin pursues the truth through science – without any concern for personal reward.
That Dr. Keegan needed to publish the following defense illustrates the work that remains for objectivity and science in veterinary medicine. Know that the Equinosis team is fully committed to this effort.
An Open Letter to Veterinary Colleagues
From Kevin G. Keegan, DVM, MS, DACVS:
As one of the listed inventors of the Lameness Locator and founder of Equinosis, I feel compelled to clear something up, that of my financial stake, which has always been fully disclosed in any manuscripts that have been submitted for publication. I do not receive and never have received any salary, consulting fees, dividends, or other payments for any services, from Equinosis.
I have served on its board without payment until just a few years ago, when I was replaced by University of Missouri Hospital Director Dr. David Wilson (whom, I readily admit, is a better business leader than I am). A single digit percentage of a portion of sales is paid by Equinosis to the University of Missouri. The University of Missouri owns the technology, licenses it to Equinosis, and re-distributes a portion of these royalties to all the inventors, or (if deceased), to their heirs.
The portion distributed to me and my family averages somewhere between $0 and $3,000 per year since 2007. I currently own about 27% of the company and pay taxes on 27% of the profits made by Equinosis, if there are any. I have never received any dividends from this ownership. When I go to meetings to speak about using Lameness Locator to evaluate horses for lameness, I do not take any compensation and if there is a standard speaking fee awarded for an invited lecture I have been donating it back to the organization. In the end, financially, it is pretty much a wash for me.
I fork out about as much as I get back, some years I fork out more. But, this is the way I prefer it. If you count the legal fees I have had to personally pay regarding this adventure I have certainly come out on the losing end. Living on a one income University salary, my frugal wife frequently reminds me of this. Making money promoting commercial interests has never been my goal. I love my job as an equine surgeon, and I am grateful to my employer (the University of Missouri) for allowing me to work as a clinician, to teach veterinary students, and to do science; all in the same job! This is what I want to do.
I use the equipment every day (and have now for almost 20 years) because it helps me do my work. To think that use of this equipment somehow takes away from learning how to subjectively evaluate for lameness is laughable to me. I know how to look at a horse for lameness and I am confident in my training and abilities. I was taught by experts and I have been doing it now for 37 years.
It is a completely frustrating and disheartening experience to me when I still meet or hear about equine veterinarians who disguise and conflate their understandable initial skepticism with negative and false remarks about Lameness Locator. It is clear to me that they do this because they do not know how this equipment works. Some, I suspect, really do not want to know. Lameness Locator has never been forced down anyone’s throat. It was never made to replace the veterinary examination and I have always made this abundantly clear. It is a veterinarian’s aid. It is a very good aid. The more you already know about equine lameness and what causes it, the more you will appreciate the data that it provides you. I think that if you are confused about lameness you will not be fully able to understand how Lameness Locator works.
There are some people who believe as fact whatever they happen to think, i.e. they never have any doubt that they could be wrong or misguided. When you are not surrounded by other professionals (residents, interns, colleagues, veterinary students) daily, who frequently question or test you, I can see how one can settle into such a state. I sympathize with this predicament but do not condone or recommend it. I am glad I have had good people looking over my shoulders and challenging and disagreeing with me over the years. In much of any other information gathering task, if it is possible and practical, we measure or image things to keep us honest and to see things we cannot see. Otherwise, we are just guessing. I try to guess less and know more.
Measuring lameness makes the detection and quantification of lameness easier for the clinician so that he/she can more rapidly put their skills and training to work. That is all this equipment does, but this is a major improvement in standard practice. Lameness diagnosis and treatment is still difficult work, and there remains much need for clinical acumen.
But the needed clinical acumen should be reliant on the deep and complex knowledge base of the experienced veterinarian, and not on some “gift” of sensation that cannot be explained. This concept, of the “gift” of lameness detection, in my opinion, is bogus, and I think it has been more than adequately exposed over the years.
Conceptually, it (detecting and quantifying lameness) is not that complicated. But, technically. because of sense limitations, bias, distraction, and inaccuracy of memory, it can be quite difficult in practice.
We should not be spending our time and effort guessing at detecting and quantifying lameness. We should be spending our time and effort at what we are trained and educated to do.
Kevin G. Keegan, DVM, MS, DAVCS