January 10, 2010 -- Charles Raker, VMD, of Honeybrook, Pa., a revered and influential emeritus faculty member of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, was honored recently with the Sage O. Kester Beyond the Call Award.
Presented by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), the award is reserved for AAEP members who have helped shape the practice of equine veterinary medicine today. It is the highest honor bestowed by the AAEP and Dr. Raker is only the second-ever recipient.
He was honored with the award during The President's Luncheon, held Dec. 7, during the 56th Annual AAEP Convention in Baltimore, Md.
Recognized as one of the most respected educators in the equine veterinary community, Dr. Raker's influence on the careers of his students and veterinary colleagues has been profound.
At the age of 90, he continues to influence the future of equine veterinary medicine as the founder and chair emeritus of the Penn Vet Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides mentoring from alumni and faculty as well as financial support for deserving Penn Vet students.
Dr. Raker graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine as class valedictorian in 1942. After eight years in private practice, he returned to his alma mater to lead the department of surgery and large animal clinic. His reputation as a world-class surgeon and instructor helped to revitalize the clinic and spurred the development of Penn Vet's New Bolton Center, its large animal campus, in Kennett Square, Pa.
An enthusiastic teacher and humble colleague, Dr. Raker's resounding mantra throughout his career has been to "put the benefit of others before self."
Even today, though he is retired, Dr. Raker is eager to encourage and counsel the talents of his students and colleagues. During an era when women were an extreme minority in large animal veterinary medicine, Dr. Raker supported the careers of many women veterinarians and interns, hiring Olive K. Britt, DVM, the first female large animal surgery clinician in America.
With his fervor for teaching, Dr. Raker propelled countless skilled veterinary students to successful careers in equine medicine. Drs. Dean Richardson, Midge Leitch, Scott Palmer, Jill Beech, Harry Werner, Sue Dyson, Catherine Kohn and Bill Moyer are among those who count themselves fortunate to have received mentorship under Dr. Raker.
"Dr. Raker has been an exemplary teacher, clinician, and leader," says Joan C. Hendricks, VMD, PhD and Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. "His influence continues to be felt at New Bolton Center and throughout Penn Vet, including his advice to me as Dean."
Dr. Raker's expertise led to the development of many medical and surgical procedures that improved the quality of life for his equine patients.
As chief of surgery, Dr. Raker distinguished himself as an expert in surgical techniques of the upper respiratory system and joints. In addition, he assisted Dr. Jacques Jenny with procedures and research that established fundamental techniques for the surgical repair of equine fractures. In the 1950s and '60s, he was invited to lecture on equine surgery at veterinary schools across the country, as well as at the earliest AAEP educational meetings.
His foresight of developments in veterinary education led to his becoming a founder, Diplomate, charter member and president of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. He also served on the AAEP Executive Committee as director-at-large and as a member of the Ethics and Membership committees.
Dr. Raker has received numerous awards throughout his career including the AAEP's Distinguished Educator award in 2000, the 1998 Bellwether Medal for Distinguished Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1977 and the Legends Award from the American College of Veterinary Surgeons Foundation for his advancement of upper respiratory surgery in the horse in 2007.
"The Sage Kester award is the most prestigious award I have received," says Dr. Raker. "It is the crown jewel of my experience."
In his acceptance speech, Dr. Raker reflected on his long career at New Bolton Center. "I love to teach," he said. "When I have to clean the basement or wash the car, that's work. When I went into New Bolton Center, that wasn't work, that was a pleasure."