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Remembering Dr. Richard Woerpel
Founding Partner
Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital

Richard Woerpel, MS, DVM 1950-2009

Richard Woerpel, MS, DVM 1950-2009Dr. Richard Woerpel died January 9, 2009 after a long illness. Dr. Woerpel, along with Dr. Walter Rosskopf, owned and practiced at the Avian and Exotic Animal Hospital of LA County in Hawthorne, California. Together they were pioneers in the field of avian and exotic animal medicine. Theirs was one of the first U.S. practices to specialize in avian and exotic animal medicine, and they developed and published many of the techniques, normal values, disease descriptions, and husbandry foundations still used by practitioners around the world today. Over the years they trained many associates, interns and visiting veterinary students from around the world, published many dozens of journal articles, book chapters, and textbooks, gave countless lectures around the world, and helped establish and develop avian medicine into what it is today.

Dr. Woerpel graduated from University of Illinois School of Veterinary Medicine in 1978 and joined Dr. Rosskopf’s solo practice in 1979. They stayed in practice as partners until Dr. Woerpel was forced to retire a couple of years ago due to illness. Although they collaborated on most of their activities, in the 1980’s Dr. Rosskopf took over much of the lecturing and writing while Dr. Woerpel “manned the fort”, seeing patients and running the practice. Dr. Rosskopf still owns and runs the practice.

They found that the lack of basic physiologic and practical knowledge of these species hampered their ability to treat them successfully, so set about to determine some of these normal values and basic needs. They worked with herpetological and avian researchers who were doing field work, and with pathologists and other specialists and helped develop protocols for drawing blood samples in the field and analyzing the results in the laboratory, and helped develop early laboratory standards for avian and reptile clinical pathology. That this was being done in a private clinical setting was all the more difficult. However, these studies laid the some of the groundwork for others to expand upon and develop the basic knowledge we have available today to treat these species. They also characterized and wrote about many basic disease agents, conditions and syndromes of psittacine birds in their published articles.

Dr. Richard Woerpel and his wife LynnIn addition to his contributions to avian and exotic medicine, Dr.Woerpel and his wife Lynn were passionate horse people, too. Dr. Woerpel loved riding his horses and working with horses and cattle on ranches in California and at their home “mini-ranch.” After he retired due to his illness he continued to practice when his health would allow it by working with animal shelters as a volunteer veterinarian and offering training to local practitioners in working with birds and exotics.

Richard with his beloved horses

 

The family has requested that any donations in his memory be made to one of his favorite animal rescue organizations.

The Oasis Sanctuary
www.the-oasis.org, a safe haven for exotic birds

The Black Beauty Ranch
www.blackbeautyranch.org, a sanctuary for horses and other large animals

Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue
www.wildhorserescue.org

The Elephant Sanctuary
www.elephants.com

 

Dr. Richard Woerpel writes about being a cancer survivor!

Dr Woerpel wrote a touching article about his struggles with his illness in the Cedars Sinai “Survivor” newsletter. It can be found at http://www.csmc.edu/pdf/CSSurvivorMar07.pdf

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Personal note: I spent several years, before and during veterinary school, as an unpaid volunteer student and researcher/photographer at Dr. Rosskopf and Dr. Woerpel’s practice in Los Angeles in the mid 1980’s. It was one of the most fun, rewarding times of my life. The office was a constant chaotic cacophony of people, pets of all kinds, and general mayhem and an amazing learning experience I shall never forget. I formed more than a few lasting friendships with the doctors and staff, including Dr. Woerpel and his wife Lynn. I shall miss him as will many of our AAV members who knew him and got the chance to work with him.

Edward L. Spenser, MS, DVM

 

 

 

 

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