Dr. William R. McGee, the first-ever intern at the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky. turns 100 Feb. 1, a few weeks before one of his best-known patients. McGee came to Kentucky at the age of 23 and began work under Dr. Charles Hagyard, the co-founder of the clinic who treated four Triple Crown winners during his 40-year career.
McGee went on to practice at Hagyard for more than four decades, becoming a partner in 1947. In 1951, the company was named Hagyard-Davidson-McGee Associates. McGee is also believed to have performed the first successful cesarean section operation on a horse along with Dr. A. Gary Lavin in 1963. He served as president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, where he published a four-point position paper in 1963 to begin addressing some of the controversy surrounding veterinary practice on the racetrack.
One of McGee's most famous patients was certainly the great Man o' War, whose 100th birthday will fall on March 29 of this year. McGee and Haggard advised Man o' War owner Samuel Riddle on the stallion's retirement following the horse's heart attack, and McGee spoke at the big chestnut's funeral in 1947.
Sixty-eight years later, McGee visited 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah at his Churchill Downs barn. He was most struck by the bay colt's temperament.
““I've never seen one that had the calm attitude that he had,” McGee said at the time. “He's a people's kind of horse. A lot of people think that the Triple Crown should be broken up, but it's a supreme test of ability and endurance. I don't have the authority to judge whether it should be changed, but it seems to be doing pretty well.”
Now retired, McGee lives in Naples, Fla.
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