Renowned equine reproduction specialist Dr. Michelle LeBlanc died at her home in Florida April 13 after a battle with colon cancer. She was 58.
LeBlanc, who most recently worked at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, had been in and out of remission the last two years but continued to work and travel the world to give veterinary presentations.
A well-respected theriogenology educator, researcher, and practitioner with more than 30 years of experience, LeBlanc was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Equine Veterinary Association in 2011 and was named 2000 Theriogenologist of the Year by the American College of Theriogenologists.
Last summer, the Theriogenology Foundation, in partnership with Rood and Riddle, held a symposium honoring LeBlanc at the conclusion of the annual Theriogenology conference in Baltimore, Md. Veterinarians and researchers around the country and world gathered at the event to show their support of LeBlanc.
LeBlanc's clinical emphasis was on mare infertility, late gestational problems in the mare, and embryo transfer. Throughout her professional career, she continued to be active in teaching and clinical research. She was also a past president of the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners.
Prior to Rood and Riddle, LeBlanc served as the director of the Equine Research Program at the University of Florida. For many years, she also continued to work as an adjunct professor at the colleges of veterinary medicine at Florida and at Mississippi State University.
"She was a great friend to many and will leave a long lasting impact on equine reproduction," said veterinarian Chris Sanchez, associate professor at the UF's college of veterinary medicine. Sanchez worked closely with LeBlanc and remained a close friend for many years.
LeBlanc, who owned Thoroughbred/warmblood crosses and competed in dressage, garnered other such honors throughout her career as the Carl J. Norden Distinguished Teacher Award and the McDaniels Clinical Research Award for work on oxytocin in infertile mares.
"In my practice lifetime, Michelle had the greatest impact on equine reproduction of any person I've worked with," said veterinarian Tom Riddle, co-founder of Rood and Riddle. "She was an outstanding professor, teacher, practitioner, and researcher.
"She was also an amazing person throughout her illness...she never thought about herself; she was always concerned with other people," Riddle added.
Last month, Rood and Riddle re-named its reproduction center after LeBlanc. "Fortunately, she was still well enough to know what we had done," said Riddle. "We're honored to now have the LeBlanc Reproduction Center at Rood and Riddle."