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Veterinary teaching hospital is a hub of research, passion

Dogs are said to be man’s best friend, and when dogs get sick in Fort Collins, many head to the Colorado State University James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital to receive care. 

Opened in 1979 and currently ranked the third-best veterinary school in the United States, the teaching hospital has grown to include 28 specialties, over 350 staff members and over 40,000 patient visits each year. 

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“When we were created, the primary mission was teaching veterinarians,” said Tim Hackett, the interim associate dean of the CSU veterinary health system. “Over the decades, we’ve also become a training center for specialists, who come with international reputations for certain diseases and certain projects.”

Director of Marketing and Communications for the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Kris Browning-Blas said that in the 2019 fiscal year, the hospital served 31,677 dogs, 4,907 cats, 6,637 equines, 1,402 livestock animals and 2,361 exotic animals. 

Hackett said a large number of patients come for the hospital’s worldwide reputation, skilled specialists, ability to conduct extensive research and access to state-of-the-art equipment. Open 24 hours, the hospital is a resource for other veterinarians in the area to send after-hours emergency cases or more complex surgical cases that require expensive technologies to. 

“We have a lot of really great expertise if your animal gets sick,” Browning-Blas said. “We respect the other vet clinics in town, and we are bound by law to not undercut them on price. We want all the vet clinics in this area to do well.” 

(The specialties are) driven very much by some strong personalities, some very entrepreneurial surgeons who came to the hospital just as a general surgeon.” -Dr. Tim Hackett, veterinary health systems interim associate director

This is something that attracts many students as well. Browning-Blas said the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program received 2,284 applications this year for 148 spots. 

“The teaching hospital did help me realize how much I enjoy surgery and the ability to work with my hands to help alleviate or fix an animal’s problem,” said Catalina Forero, a fourth-year DVM student. “The soft tissue surgery department at the VTH receives an array of different cases that gave me a broad view of the things available through surgical management and how far veterinary medicine has come with minimally invasive procedures.” 

While the teaching hospital conducts general community practices such as wellness exams, vaccines, spay and neuters and more, it has a wide range of specialty practices, including oncology and radiation, dentistry, dermatology and orthopedic medicine. 

The teaching hospital also provides care and research for larger animals, including llamas, bears and elephants.

“(The specialties are) driven very much by some strong personalities, some very entrepreneurial surgeons who came to the hospital just as a general surgeon,” Hackett said. “What all these people have in common was that they were hired originally as general surgeons to work in the clinic, and because they’re faculty, because they’re passionate about research, passionate about moving the needle, they have created these opportunities for themselves.”

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Hackett said the specialty that sees the most patients is oncology, which deals with the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of tumors. 

“It comes down to people,” Hackett said. “Veterinary oncology was a spinoff of internal medicine. The personalities that drove that change were here. We have professors of surgery that saw a niche that wasn’t being addressed with cancer care and cancer surgery, and we became internationally known.”

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.

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About the Contributor
Serena Bettis
Serena Bettis, Editor in Chief
Serena Bettis is your 2022-23 editor in chief and is in her final year studying journalism and political science. In her three years at The Collegian, Bettis has also been a news reporter, copy editor, news editor and content managing editor, and she occasionally takes photos, too. When Bettis was 5, her family moved from Iowa to a tiny town northwest of Fort Collins called Livermore, Colorado, before eventually moving to Fort Collins proper. When she was 8 years old, her dad enrolled at Colorado State University as a nontraditional student veteran, where he found his life's passion in photojournalism. Although Bettis' own passion for journalism did not stem directly from her dad, his time at CSU and with The Collegian gave her the motivation to bite down on her fear of talking to strangers and find The Collegian newsroom on the second day of classes in 2019. She's never looked back since. Considering that aforementioned fear, Bettis is constantly surprised to be where she is today. However, thanks to the supportive learning environment at The Collegian and inspiring peers, Bettis has not stopped chasing her teenage dream of being a professional journalist. Between working with her section editors, coordinating news stories between Rocky Mountain Student Media departments and coaching new reporters, Bettis gets to live that dream every day. When she's not in the newsroom or almost falling asleep in class, you can find Bettis working in the Durrell Marketplace and Café or outside gazing at the beauty that is our campus (and running inside when bees are nearby). This year, Bettis' goals for The Collegian include continuing its trajectory as a unique alt-weekly newspaper, documenting the institutional memory of the paper to benefit students in years to come and fostering a sense of community and growth both inside the newsroom and through The Collegian's published work. Bettis would like to encourage anyone with story ideas, suggestions, questions, concerns or comments to reach out to her at editor@collegian.com.

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