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2016 Bartlett Award Winner
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Dr. Dickson Varner


Dr. Dickson Varner has been a leader in stallion reproduction for over 30 years, performing both cutting-edge research and top clinical stallion diagnosis and management. He is in demand throughout the world to work with problems in these extremely valuable individuals.

One breeder stated, “It may seem like I am a bit over the top about Dickson. But in saving my stallion’s fertility, he didn’t just allow me to get more foals from [the stallion], he saved my entire ranch and livelihood.”

Dickson guided the Section of Theriogenology at Texas A&M to become one of the top research and clinical facilities for stallions in the world. He pioneered research into factors affecting stallion sperm during processing, including effects of fractionation, dilution ratios, centrifugation and density gradient separation techniques, cooling and transport, and cryopreservation. Dickson has pioneered work on instrumentation to allow objective analysis of sperm parameters. He was integral in developing the use of CASA in stallion semen evaluation, and with his colleagues instituted the use of flowcytometric analysis to evaluate acrosome status, membrane integrity, and DNA structural integrity in stallion sperm. Dickson performed the first study on induction and characterization of the acrosome reaction in equine spermatozoa in the 1980’s, and continued to study the effects of heparin on capacitation and acrosome reaction. He was the first to identify an inherited defect in stallion sperm acrosome reaction as a cause of familial infertility, and went on to identify the genetic locus implicated in the defect, testis-sperm specific FKBP6. He has continued to explore the physiology of stallion sperm, including the cholesterol-tophospholipid ratio in sperm and seminal plasma, relationships among morphologic characteristics and membrane integrity of stallion sperm, and sperm mRNA content and identity as it relates to fertility. Dickson’s research is truly translational as he applies his knowledge of assisted reproduction techniques daily in his evaluation of subfertile stallions to determine causation, and in his recommendations for management to utilize these stallions effectively. Procedures and approaches that Dickson has pioneered are used worldwide in the equine industry.

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The Society for Theriogenology is an organization of veterinarians dedicated to animal reproduction, whose mission is to promote standards of excellence in reproductive medicine, to provide outreach and education to veterinarians, and to foster continual improvements in theriogenology.

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