Renowned veterinarian Dr. Robert W. Kirk dies

Veterinarian had worldwide impact on profession

January 20, 2011 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

One of the 20th century's most accomplished and recognized educators of companion animal medicine died last night at his home in Ithaca, N.Y. Dr. Robert W. Kirk was 88.

Kirk was born on May 20, 1922, in Stamford, Conn. He earned a bachelor's from the University of Connecticut in 1943, and a DVM from Cornell University three years later.

After spending several years in private practice, Kirk became a clinician and professor at Cornell, where he developed three decades of advanced veterinary medical practice, particularly in the field of dermatology. By the time he retired in 1985, he was one of the most honored and recognized veterinarians in the world.

Apart from his trademark starched white coat and bow tie, Kirk is best known for authoring what many characterize as the textbook Bible for veterinarians: "Current Veterinary Therapy." Used by generations of veterinarians and veterinary students, the work is in its 14th edition, last released in 2008. While Kirk reportedly edited the first 10 editions himself, the book — now known as "Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy" — is revised and updated by new editors with more than 300 contributors, spanning everything from medical disorders to toxicity and infectious diseases.

With a passion for dermatology, Kirk co-authored the definitive text (now in its sixth edition) "Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology."

In 1989, the annual American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) Robert W. Kirk Award for Professional Excellence was established to honor ACVIM diplomates who have outstanding careers in veterinary medicine with national and international recognition for their contributions in areas such as clinical medical practice, instruction, research and public service.

Kirk is predeceased by his wife, Helen Grandish, whom he married in 1946. The couple leave behind three daughters. Funeral arrangements are not immediately known.

Kirk touched the lives of many veterinarians. On his blog "Veterinary Legacy," Dr. Donald F. Smith, professor of surgery and dean emeritus at Cornell's veterinary college, invites those who were influenced or impacted by Kirk to share their stories with him at

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