Mind Over Miller: Remembering Dr. Wayne O. Kester

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Feb 01, 2005

Editors' note: After graduating from Kansas State College's Division of Veterinary Medicine in 1931 and practicing for two years, Dr. Wayne O. "Sage" Kester entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. He rose through the ranks and later transferred to the U.S. Air Force, where he eventually became the first veterinarian to obtain the rank of brigadier general in the Air Force Veterinary Service, which he helped to establish.


Army Service Forces
In 1956, while still on active duty, Dr. Kester was elected president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. He helped found some of the first specialties, including the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine and the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine. A lifelong horse lover, Dr. Kester assisted in the development of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and later served as its president and then as its executive director for 25 years. During his time with the AAEP, Dr. Kester helped it expand from a small group of fewer than 200 members to an internationally recognized organization. Below, Dr. Miller shares his personal recollections of this important veterinary leader.

When my wife, Debby, was 12, she had a dog with irreversible radial paralysis. The veterinarians and schools she consulted offered no hope, so, on her own, she wrote the chief officer of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, Colonel (later Brigadier General) Wayne O. Kester. She wanted to know if the Army had an effective treatment for wounded soldiers with radial paralysis. Dr. Kester kindly took the time to answer her letter.

Many years later, at a tribute to Dr. Kester at an AAEP reception, I told this story to his wife, Lucy. She replied, "He still answers letters from young people."

When he was 90, Dr. Kester was invited to speak at an AAEP banquet. He noted that he was probably the oldest person in the room. But he said that as he had gotten older, things had changed little for him except that life insurance salesmen didn't pursue him any more and he no longer bought green bananas.

An avid horseman, Dr. Kester rode year round, including in the snow in Colorado. In 1999, he died of complications from Lou Gehrig disease. When the disease was first diagnosed, Dr. Kester told Lucy, "Well, it's been a great ride."

Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker, and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member from Thousand Oaks, Calif. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his Web site at http://www.robertmmiller.com.