Dr. Richard Woerpel
Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital
Richard Woerpel, MS, DVM 1950-2009
Dr. 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
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
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
pathology. That this was being done in a private clinical setting
was all the more difficult. However, these studies laid the some
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.
In 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
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
www.blackbeautyranch.org, a sanctuary for horses and other
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
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
got the chance to work with him.
Edward L. Spenser, MS, DVM