Veterinary teaching hospital is a hub of research, passion

Serena Bettis

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. 


“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.”

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 or on Twitter @serenaroseb.