Alan J. Nixon, BVSc, MS
Diplomate - American College of Veterinary Surgeons
Professor Emeritus, Section of Large Animal Surgery
Director of Comparative Orthopedics Laboratory
Dr. Alan Nixon, a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon and long-serving faculty member at the College of Veterinary Medicine, passed away on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 after a valiant battle with cancer.
Alan was a pioneer in equine surgery, particularly novel orthopedic procedures and the repair of articular cartilage. He received his bachelor’s in veterinary science in 1979 at the University of Sydney, Australia, and moved to Colorado State University for a residency in large animal surgery. After five years on faculty with the University of Florida, Alan joined the faculty at Cornell in 1988. As a professor in the Section of Large Animal Surgery he served in many roles over the years, including as the director of the Comparative Orthopedics Laboratory and the first chief medical officer of Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists.
Alan was a prolific researcher, with approximately 200 peer-reviewed papers since 1980. He was a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and belonged to multiple national and international societies. He studied the basic mechanisms of orthopedic disease and developed innovative, targeted gene therapy and regenerative medicine therapies for humans and horses alike. In 2009, he was inducted into the Equine Research Hall of Fame for his exceptional contributions to the field. He also earned the Neer Award for Research Excellence for his study of rotator cuff fixation techniques, the ACVS Founders Award, given to a veterinary surgeon with transformative impact on the profession, and the BEVA Richard Hartley award, awarded to the year's best paper published in the Equine Veterinary Journal.
In retirement, Alan remained active in the profession as an emeritus professor at Cornell, courtesy faculty at the University of Florida, surgeon and consultant around the world. Dr. Susan Fubini, Senior Associate Dean, shared that “Alan was not only a phenomenal surgeon — he was also a beloved husband, loyal friend and devoted father. His impact on the training of our surgical residents, veterinary students and equine patients, over the years, is profound.”
The Comparative Orthopaedics Laboratory at Cornell University was founded to foster and expand multidisciplinary research into orthopedic problems of animals and man. The laboratory provides a focus point for the dedicated study of the basic mechanisms of orthopedic diseases and the development of innovative targeted therapeutic measures. The primary species of interest are the equine and human athlete. Results of studies involving the cause and treatment of diseases in the horse have been directly applied to similar syndromes in man and companion animal species. Examples include the development of cartilage cell transplantation for acute joint injuries in the horse. Research done by the Comparative Orthopaedics Laboratory allowed the continued application of cartilage cell transplantation to the human knee.
For shoulder injuries, a study of rotator cuff fixation techniques has paved the way for better surgical repair in people and was recognized by the American Society of Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons through the Neer Award for research excellence.
Education and Training
- 1983 Colorado State University, MS
- 1980 - 1983 Colorado State University, Residency in Large Animal Surgery
- 1979 University of Sydney, Australia, Internship in Large Animal Surgery
- 1979 University of Sydney, Australia, BVSc (Honors)
Honors and Awards
- 2013 Richard Hartley Award, BEVA, Best clinical relevant paper, EVJ 2013
- 2009 Equine Research Hall of Fame Inductee, University of Kentucky
- 2002 The Neer Award, Outstanding Clinical & Basic Research in Surgery, American Society of Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons
- 1985 Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Surgeons
1983 Most Outstanding Scientific Article in Veterinary Surgery
1982 Most Outstanding Resident Presentation, Annual Scientific Meeting, ACVS, San Diego
American Society of Gene Therapy
International Cartilage Repair Society
NIH, Center for Scientific Review, SBIR and STTR study section, grant review (1999-2002)
NIH NIAMS, Center for Scientific Review, Orthopedic and Musculoskeletal study sections (SBSR, SBDD), R01 grant review (Ad Hoc)
North American Veterinary Regenerative Medicine Association (Executive Board)
Orthopedic Research Society
Osteoarthritis Research Society