I am sad to report that Dr. Frank Pellegrini passed away on December 22, 2016.
Franklin Louis Pellegrini, DVM was a remarkable equine veterinarian, a true genius without whom SUCCEED likely would not exist today. He was also a friend and significant partner in the origins of our business. He will be terribly missed.
I was introduced to Frank early in 2001. At the time, Frank was the youngest-ever State Vet for the state of Ohio, with an extremely successful practice. We had just moved our horses to Ohio. Trainer Bill Rodgers and I had rented a rather large barn and decided to run a show barn to offset some of the costs. I was looking to build a relationship with a good vet when Frank and I first met.
Before long, our vet/client relationship evolved into a business partnership that birthed Freedom Health LLC. It began with a new horse in the show barn, a lot of questions and Frank’s desire to chase down (and develop) better answers.
I’d recently learned that colic was the major killer of insured horses. Then a new show horse was delivered – along with a supply of Gastrogard. When I asked Frank what this was for, he explained: “Gastric ulcers in horses. About 90% of racehorses have them, and show horses are probably the same if they’re fed and managed in the same ways.”
A few weeks later, I asked Frank what causes colic. His answer started with, “Impaction colics, torsion colics…” when I interrupted “No, no! What causes colic?” Frank responded, “We really don’t know.”
I then asked (with the temerity of a complete newbie), “Could they have colonic ulcers?”
And Frank then truly amazed me: “We’re running CBCs on racehorses all the time: most are mildly anemic. If I ‘scope their stomachs and they don’t have a bleeding gastric ulcer, one of three things is true:
- They’re lacerated all over: I can discount that.
- They have a genetic defect whereby they don’t produce sufficient red blood cells: highly unlikely.
- They’re losing blood from somewhere else, and odds-on it’s the hind gut. The colon is the largest organ in the horse’s body.”
I then asked, “How can we check this?” Frank’s answer was, “I’m going to Texas!”
So the top Ohio state veterinarian dropped his practice and drove to Dallas with a supply of guaiac stain (subsequently deemed unnecessary) to examine cadavers of horses at one of the few remaining horse slaughter facilities in the USA. This gave rise to Frank’s remarkable peer-reviewed paper, wherein he showed that up to 97% of sport and race horses have gastric ulcers, colonic ulcers or both. These and other studies led to our patents on what is now SUCCEED Digestive Conditioning Program.
Frank was also the instigator and principal developer of the SUCCEED Equine Fecal Blood Test. He appreciated that guaiac stain was insufficient as a differential marker, but was committed to finding a method to detect GI tract lesions with an ability to differentiate foregut from hindgut sources. This led to the use of two blood proteins to non-invasively detect the presence of GI injury and differentiate hindgut from foregut lesions.
Frank was often ahead of his peers in many respects. One example is his discovery that levamisole, an anthelmintic and immune stimulant commonly administered to horses, can be metabolized by a horse into aminorex, pemoline, etc. He made the aminorex/levamisole association in about September 2006 when at least one of a group of horses that he had treated therapeutically with levamisole gave rise to an Ohio aminorex ‘positive’. This finding led Dr. Pellegrini and Freedom Health LLC to perform a carefully designed series of experimental administrations that ultimately showed the levamisole connection, which was subsequently confirmed by Dr. Steve Barker of Louisiana State University (Barker 2008) and later by Ho and others (2009).
Frank led all the research for Freedom Health LLC from before the company was formed until October 2015 when he decided to return to his first love as a practicing equine veterinarian.
The world will miss a truly remarkable man, “A man before his time, taken before his time.” Frank was just 52 years old.
President, Freedom Health LLC