Rowan Milner and other UF veterinarians will be able to help more pets thanks to a legacy gift from the Dr. Larry and Ann Laiks Charitable Trust. Photo: College of Veterinary Medicine
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Looking After Man's Best Friend (and Other Pets)

UF veterinary oncology program gets boost via the Ann and Lawrence G. Laiks Canine Cancer Fund

By Sarah Carey, APR UF College of Veterinary Medicine Published August 11, 2023

Thanks to a generous legacy gift from a former dentist and his wife, who were Sarasota residents and dedicated dog lovers, canine cancer research at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine will be boosted annually into perpetuity.

The multimillion-dollar gift from the Dr. Larry and Ann Laiks Charitable Trust will consist of ongoing contributions through the Ann and Lawrence G. Laiks Canine Cancer Fund and will be made directly to the oncology program in the college’s department of small animal clinical sciences.

Lifelong learners and lovers of science, the couple created the fund in honor of their love for their dogs and their commitment to advancing cancer treatments for all canines.

At UF, the fund will be used to support special collaborative canine cancer research with the UF Health Cancer Center to elevate future discoveries, precision medicine, immunotherapy and genome mapping.

“This gift will enable us to further our important research in multiple ways, including cancer vaccines and immunology clinical trials,” said Rowan Milner, BV.Sc., Ph.D., a professor of small animal oncology and director for clinical and translational research at the college. “We are extremely grateful that the fund he established will provide us with the resources to be able to meaningfully build on the strong foundation we have established here at UF to enhance the diagnosis and treatment of canine cancer in all forms.”

Funds will be used in part to hire technical and postdoctoral staff to expand UF’s existing clinical trials program and to aid in the overall effort to answer fundamental questions relating to cancer immunology and resistance to immunotherapy, Milner said.

A Brooklyn, New York, native, Laiks attended the University of Pennsylvania for both his undergraduate degree and dental school. After college, Laiks served in the United States Air Force as a dentist, reaching the rank of captain.

It was during his tour of duty in Amarillo, Texas, that he met his beloved wife, Ann. They married and enjoyed 49 years together before she died in 2005 from cancer.

When Laiks retired from dentistry, they moved to Sarasota, Florida, where they cultivated a love for the arts, music and following local sports teams. An avid and competitive tennis player most of his life, Laiks played tennis every day until the age of 91.

Following Ann’s death, Laiks’ life was centered around his friends and his two golden retrievers — Phoebe and Kingsley. The dogs were the highlight of Laiks’ life. He took great pride in them, walking them twice a day and playing “fetch tennis” most afternoons.

In Laiks’ legacy planning, he created the Dr. Larry and Ann Laiks Charitable Trust. He directed distributions to be split between the oncology program in the department of small animal clinical sciences at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and the Flint Animal Cancer Center, part of the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University. Laiks established the Ann and Lawrence G. Laiks Canine Cancer Fund at each university to provide annual support for these two programs in perpetuity.

Laiks desired to use the funds to achieve the greatest advancements in research and treatment for canine cancers.

The oncology service at UF’s Small Animal Hospital offers a new level of care for veterinary cancer patients. With surgical, medical and radiation oncology specialists and facilities all under the same roof, UF’s integrated oncology service offers its animal cancer patients the best possible approaches to diagnose and treat cancer.

“We are deeply honored and grateful to be the recipients of Dr. Laiks’ incredible generosity, which is a testament not only to how much he cared for his dogs, but also to his vision that all dogs would one day have better chances of surviving cancer,” said Dana Zimmel, D.V.M., dean of the college.

“Our whole oncology team is passionately committed to making a difference in the lives of all animals who come to us for care,” she added. “We are gratified beyond measure that Dr. Laiks placed his trust in us so that we can continue to strengthen our mission of providing state-of-the-art care to our canine cancer patients as we acquire new knowledge that will impact the diagnosis and treatment of these patients for years to come.”

By Sarah Carey, APR UF College of Veterinary Medicine Published August 11, 2023