Mark L. Morris: Legacy of a Veterinary Pioneer

Mark L. Morris, Sr., DVM (1900-1993)

Long before the term evidence-based medicine was applied to veterinary practice, Mark L. Morris, Sr., DVM, embarked on a scientific journey in his veterinary hospital. He had a desire to provide more accurate diagnosis and treatment for small animals at a time when farm animals were frequently the only animals receiving veterinary care. Using borrowed laboratory equipment, he conducted his own research and soon became known in those early years as more than a veterinarian, but also a scientist.

After graduating from Cornell University in 1938, Dr. Morris began practicing veterinary medicine in Edison, New Jersey in one of the first companion animal hospitals in the country. As co-founder and first president of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Dr. Morris was committed to his profession. In 1943, he developed a theory that certain diseases in pets could be managed through carefully formulated nutrition. Consulting with leading academicians and scientists, he determined that changing patients from a high-protein diet to a low-protein, low-salt diet could successfully manage some canine kidney ailments.

The opportunity to prove his theory came when Morris Frank asked Dr. Morris if anything could be done to save his guide dog, Buddy, who was suffering from kidney failure. Dr. Morris promptly placed Buddy on his carefully formulated mixture of dry cereals, vitamins, and minerals mixed with fresh cottage cheese, fat, and meat. Buddy responded favorably to the diet. The result of Dr. Morris’ efforts was the nutritional formulation that would become the first Hill’s® Prescription Diet® product, Canine k/d®, and the world’s first pet food designed to therapeutically manage dogs with kidney disease.

His early success encouraged Dr. Morris to study the beneficial effects of dietary management of other dog and cat diseases. His innovative work led to the creation of the science of clinical nutrition, and also lead to what is now known as the complete line of Hill’s® Prescription Diet® brand pet foods, the brand of pet food most trusted by veterinarians for the management of sick and at-risk pets.

The company founded by Dr. Morris, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., continues to bring the broadest range of highly palatable dry and canned therapeutic solutions to veterinarians to help them manage patients with specific disease conditions. It is Hill’s aim to continually validate and improve the clinical efficacy of its products through Hill’s Evidence-Based Clinical Nutrition ” the integration of the best research evidence with clinical expertise. This systematic framework using the “rules of evidence” aids veterinarians in making decisions about the most effective nutritional therapies for their patients.

Hill’s has an extensive staff of veterinarians and board-certified specialists in nutrition and internal medicine and more than 200 veterinarians who work across all functional areas of the company. These veterinarians and scientists are major contributors to the 4th Edition of Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, published by the Mark Morris Institute, the most widely used nutritional resource for veterinarians around the world.

Hill’s experts publish countless articles, abstracts and technical monographs related to pet nutrition each year including Hill’s Key to Clinical Nutrition, and the Hill’s Atlas of Veterinary Clinical Anatomy.

To keep veterinary health care teams informed of the latest developments in clinical nutrition, Hill’s offers seminars and symposia, extensive sponsorship of continuing education at state and national conferences, and educational grants for many scientific programs.

Online access to the latest clinical resources, research and practical nutritional information is available at no cost to veterinarians and their health care teams.

Founding Hill’s Pet Nutrition allowed Dr. Morris to reach a lifelong dream. He said, “In the years between 1930 and 1950, the need for canine and feline research was very obvious in our practice–almost daily. There was no one responsible for organizing or funding companion animal research. For years animals have been used for medical research into human ills, and now it’s time that something was done for the animals themselves.”

Founded by Dr. Morris in 1948, Morris Animal Foundation is the world’s largest private supporter of companion animal and wildlife research. With more than $40 million dollars provided to animal studies, Morris Animal Health has made significant achievements in controlling and solving deadly diseases.

Like Dr. Morris, its founder, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. continues to be committed to improving animal health. It sponsors animal health studies through the Morris Animal Foundation and annually awards a $20,000 grant to the Foundation in honor of the recipient of the Mark L. Morris, Sr. Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition, individuals, corporations, veterinarians and animal clubs also provide financial support to the foundation.

From the evidence-based medicine of Hill’s veterinarians and scientists today to animal health projects funded by the Morris Animal Foundation, to the work of this year’s recipient of the Mark L. Morris, Sr. Lifetime Achievement Award, Dr. Morris’ legacy does indeed live on.


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