I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, from the day I learned there were doctors who treat animals. The fact that I never changed my mind, some might say, shows my determination, while others might characterize it as stubbornness. I believe it is a little of both. Being a veterinarian has been a great privilege. I have learned so much from my patients and their owners and I have been inspired by so many mentors.
Becoming a veterinarian has been, in many respects, a great journey. Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, I graduated veterinary school from the University of Montreal. Further training took me to the University of Illinois where I completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery. If veterinary medicine was my vocation, I discovered that surgery was my passion, so I fulfilled my residency in small animal surgery at Washington State University. Throughout my education and training as a veterinarian, I had been simultaneously fascinated and intimidated by patients afflicted with cancer. Now, I decided to make oncology my mission. I was fortunate to be accepted for a fellowship in surgical oncology at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the only fellowship of its kind at the time.
Following the fellowship, I chose to stay in academia for a couple of reasons. First, it allowed me to teach, which I tremendously enjoy (“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”). Second, and just as importantly, it allowed me to pursue research. That is a benefit of academia: the incredible opportunity to fix a problem rather than just complain about it. A clinician in academia gains a unique perspective through being able to treat patients, assess the shortcomings, and actively work to find solutions to produce better outcomes. As a veterinary clinician-scientist, I can satisfy both my passion to treat animals and my curiosity for finding better, safer treatment options for my patients.
I joined the faculty at the University of California at Davis, where I spent five years, followed by seven years at Oregon State University. During this time, I was able to meet and collaborate with many talented colleagues who helped to further shape my career. My interest in translational medicine and research, fostered during my fellowship at CSU, flourished at both institutions as I took advantage of the many opportunities for collaborative research. For example, while at Oregon State University, I worked with Dr. Charles Keller and his team from Oregon Health & Science University in Portland; and Dr. Seth Pollack and his team from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash., to explore better treatments for dogs and children afflicted with bone cancer. What we learn in one species is very likely applicable to the other.
I am thrilled to be back at Colorado State University and to once again have the opportunity to collaborate with this incredible group. The comprehensive team approach to treating cancer patients, of which I was a part as a fellow, is still a hallmark of the oncology group. What is new is the expanded team of researchers and clinicians and the stunning, state-of-the-art facility which makes the Flint Animal Cancer Center one of the leading cancer research centers in the country. This success is thanks to the extraordinary vision and hard work of Dr. Stephen Withrow, a very influential person in my career.
While I will be conducting cancer research at CSU, I will also continue my collaborative work with colleagues in Oregon and Washington, which is also translational in nature, and in line with the mission of the FACC. Oncology continues to be a rapidly evolving field and new challenges will emerge, needing to be tackled. I am ready to meet those challenges. This is where my determination, but perhaps more my stubbornness, will help me.
When not at the hospital, I enjoy time with my wife, Lisa, and our two children. My family helps to keep me grounded and able to put my work in perspective. Together, we like to be active by skiing, sailing or enjoying other activities that allow us to appreciate the beauty of nature around us.