Dr. Midge Leitch, 67, veterinary trailblazer, horse specialist

Midge Leitch, one of the first female equine practitioners to become board-certified, served as veterinarian to the U.S. Equestrian Team.
Midge Leitch, one of the first female equine practitioners to become board-certified, served as veterinarian to the U.S. Equestrian Team.
Posted: February 25, 2014

Midge Leitch, 67, of Cochranville, a groundbreaking equine specialist who was veterinarian for the U.S. Equestrian Team, died Saturday, Feb. 15, of breast cancer at home.

Dr. Leitch was in the vanguard of women entering veterinary medicine.

She was one of the first women to serve a surgical residency at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's New Bolton Center after graduating from the school in 1973.

In 1982, she became one of the first female equine practitioners to become board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.

She served on the New Bolton surgical staff from 1976 to 1980, and then went into private practice.

Her practice supported horses in a variety of disciplines, including show-jumping, dressage, combined driving, three-day eventing, endurance, and racing.

Eventing, the triathlon of equine sport, occurs over three days and includes dressage, show-jumping, and coursing across country.

Dr. Leitch served as an official veterinarian to the U.S. Equestrian Team, treating elite equine athletes in Poland, Sweden, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Canada, and Spain.

She served at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, and was there as the U.S. won a gold medal in eventing at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Dr. Leitch also provided veterinary support for the Devon Horse Show, the Washington International Horse Show, the Radnor Three Day Event, Fair Hill Three Day Event, and Dressage at Devon.

Dr. Leitch was a member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners for more than 40 years. In 2008, she was honored with its President's Award, and in 2012 with its Distinguished Service Award. In 1988, she was given the Alumni Award of Merit by Penn's vet school.

During her career, she delivered 60 invited lectures, and contributed material to many journals and books.

She returned to New Bolton in 1996 as adjunct assistant professor of surgery, and from 2005 until 2011 was staff veterinarian in the sports medicine and imaging section.

It was a boost to the hospital when she agreed to oversee the radiology service, said Dean Richardson, chief of New Bolton Center's surgery section.

"To have someone with her decades of experience and hard-won knowledge right here for students, residents, and faculty was an incredible gift," he said.

When she arrived at the New Bolton Center, she was an absolute dynamo, and she never slowed down, he said.

Corinne Sweeney, associate dean and executive director of the New Bolton Center's large-animal hospital, said Dr. Leitch had very good judgment. "If you were wise, you would seek her advice, and if you were really wise, you would follow it," she said.

Joan Hendricks, Penn Vet's dean, said: "Midge was a major influence on my veterinary student training, and was important to me when I became dean.

"She was honest, frank, insightful, smart, and willing to still be a friend even when she disagreed. Her time here was far too short, but she gave her friends - including the many four-legged ones - intense loyalty, affection, and care."

In her spare time, Dr. Leitch, an Ambler native, helped Penn veterinary students through the Opportunity Scholarship program.

She was active with the Southern Chester County Soccer Association; Londonderry Township, where she served as a supervisor for several years; Canine Partners for Life; and the Seeing Eye, for which she served as a puppy-raiser until her death.

She is survived by two nieces.

A memorial is being planned for later this year.



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