Episode 11: Connecting human and animal welfare with Dr. Mark Stetter

This is a transcript of the Spur of the Moment episode “Connecting human and animal welfare with Dr. Mark Stetter.” It is provided as a courtesy and may contain errors.

Mark Stetter: It didn’t matter if it was an exotic chicken or a gorilla that we were working on, people wanted to see it, and they stayed for the entire procedure. And what they came away with was a deep understanding of not only maybe that specific animal and that specific condition, but also better understanding of how people want to really help animals and that human-animal bond.

Jocelyn Hittle: Welcome to “Spur of the Moment”, the podcast of Colorado State University’s Spur Campus in Denver, Colorado.

Mark Stetter: You know, I’m sad to report that the veterinary profession, I think, is the whitest profession out there, and we have a lot of work to do. And I find anytime you can combine fun and learning, it’s obviously a much more productive and memorable way, and people want to spend a lot more time in that space than they do having somebody lecture in front of a chalkboard.

Jocelyn Hittle: On this podcast, we talk with experts in food, water, and health about how they are tackling big challenges that we face in these three areas. I’m Jocelyn Hittle, and on this episode, I was joined by Dr. Mark Stetter, who was, at the time, the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at CSU. Dr. Stetter is a board-certified zoological veterinarian and an international leader in wildlife research and conservation. Dr. Stetter came to CSU in 2012 from the Walt Disney Company, where he was director of Animal Operations. And Dr. Stetter has his veterinary degree and undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois. Welcome, Dr. Stetter!

Mark Stetter: Well, hello, Jocelyn, thanks for inviting me.

Jocelyn Hittle: Happy to have you. So we’re gonna dive right in and find out a little bit more about the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Can you tell us about the college?

Mark Stetter: Absolutely! So it’s a great place, we’re located up here in Fort Collins. We’re one of eight colleges at Colorado State University and have been around for over 100 years, so lots of history and lots of wonderful things that we’ve accomplished through those 100+ years. Probably known most for our Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. So we graduate about 150 veterinary students every year. It’s a very intensive program, very similar to medical school. So they spend four years with us, learning about all the different types of critters from dogs and cats, to chickens and pigs and horses, and then how to do all the different medical and surgical work with them. So that could include routine exams, or listening to the heart, or having to do a surgery, or if it’s a horse or a cow, a variety of different types of hoof work and a huge variety of things. So it’s a great program; we’re typically listed as one of the top programs in the world and have many, many thousands of students that try to come here and gain entrance. Now, in addition to the veterinary program, we do a lot of work also in human health. So the second part of our name, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the biomedical sciences is a great deal of human health research and teaching that we do. So we have about 700 undergraduate students that are getting degrees in biomedical sciences, think about anatomy, and physiology, and infectious disease and things of that sort. And then we have a lot of people that are doing research in things like neuroscience or reproduction and microbiology. So it’s a great place to learn, and it’s a great place to provide a lot of services to society that we all need, especially in a time like this, when there’s a worldwide pandemic that’s facing us.

Jocelyn Hittle: Absolutely. I think one of the things that the college is known for is innovation around these areas of health and there are a couple of different avenues I’d like to follow there, but why don’t we start a little bit with some of the innovations around how you teach, since you mentioned your teaching programs first. What are some of the ways that CV MBS, which is the shorthand for those of us within the college refer to it, how are you teaching students, both undergrad and graduate students, in innovative and unique ways?

Mark Stetter: So there’s two main trends that we’re really on the cutting edge. Number one would be hands-on learning. And so at least for folks like me, it really helps reinforce what you might read or listen to if you’re able to do it. And when I say do it, if it’s, for example, maybe in microbiology, your laboratory includes going out and collecting samples from the world around us and determining what germs live in your shoes and what lives in your mouth and what lives on the couch at home, and being able to do those kinds of hands-on experiments and bring them to the lab and learn from your faculty who can help teach you those kinds of things. And in the veterinary world, obviously hands-on means how do you learn how to put a halter on a horse, and how to listen to a cow, and how to fix a broken leg with different critters? So we do a lot of the hands-on to augment the more traditional learning in books and in lectures, but we also use technology in lots of exciting and innovative ways. And one of them is using virtual reality. So as you know, Jocelyn, we’ve been able to take what has historically been kind of a fairly book centric course like anatomy and turn it into the virtual world. So we can take you now through the human body or through the animal body in the virtual space. And we have whole laboratories where 100 students can put on VR goggles and literally travel through the human brain or heart. And then we also are able to use that to connect people from around the world. So we have people that are at high schools across Colorado that can look at the same thing that our professors do here and walk you through the different parts of the animal body or human body. And I’m excited that this is part of what we’re implementing down at the Spur Campus, and being able to take school groups and families, and learn more about how the body works, animals and people, and be able to show them in a really engaging, interactive way in the virtual reality space. And I find anytime you can combine fun and learning, it’s obviously a much more productive and memorable way, and people want to spend a lot more time in that space than they do having somebody lecture in front of a chalkboard.

Jocelyn Hittle: Absolutely; I can’t say strongly enough, how exciting the VR learning experience is, you know, putting the goggles on and being able to see sort of floating in front of you, animals, even molecular structures of molecules, right? Things that really make so much more sense in 3D and in front of you and you can move them around with the handsets that you have. It is a really incredible experience and I am jealous of all of the people who are trying to learn organic chemistry or anatomy in that format, as compared to the way I had to do it.

Mark Stetter: Understood!

Jocelyn Hittle: Let’s talk a little bit about another way you all are innovative and you’ve hit on this already, which is the concept of One Health. So can you tell us a little bit about what that term means, why it’s important, and why it’s been a focus for the college?

Mark Stetter: So, One Health is this concept that we really need to pull in all the different areas of health and better understand how they overlap and work together in a collaborative way. So let me give you a couple examples. You know, typically if we think about human health and going to medical school, or if we think about veterinary medicine and animal health, or if we can think about the ecosystem and ecology, when we teach those subjects or when we have research grants, or when we think about those, they’re often isolated in different pockets and we don’t often think about how they interact with each other. I think COVID-19, the pandemic, has really helped us understand that all of these things are interconnected, right? So the disease came from animals and the disease came from probably animals that were in wildlife. And so what are some of the things that we need to better understand and prevent the next pandemic to understand how diseases go from people to animal and animal to people? What are the things that we’re doing to disrupt the natural environment that caused these diseases to come out? Ebola is another great example. It’s probably been around for 100 years, but the only reason that now it’s becoming a big problem with people is because we’re going into places in the jungle that we didn’t before. There’s now roads and logging that take you there. And that people now can leave the jungle and go into a community or travel on a plane and now potentially cause a worldwide epidemic. So understanding how human health, animal health, and the ecosystem are all very much connected is what One Health is all about. And CSU, I’m proud to say, has developed the One Health Institute that really is bringing together faculty and students to think about these things more holistically and it’s become a whole new area of study. So a variety of medical schools and veterinary schools and universities across the nation have embraced this idea and it’s something that I think a lot of students and the public are going to be interested in more and more about.

Jocelyn Hittle: Speaking of the public being more interested in these subjects, I think there’s no better time than right now to think about One Health and to talk about One Health in terms of the general public’s understanding of this concept. It’s been so front and center with the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year. Can you talk a little bit about how you’ve seen the public understanding of One Health expand over the last year or so, and then also we can maybe use that as an opportunity to say, how has the college also engaged around COVID-19 specifically? I know there’ve been a lot of research projects that have been not only seeking to understand the pandemic, but also seeking to be helpful in fighting it.

Mark Stetter: Absolutely, so let me give you a couple other examples, when we think about One Health that people might not be aware of. One would be what I guess we often call translational medicine or the overlap between animal health and human health. So, cancer is a great example of how we’re learning a tremendous amount of things from animals that have developed cancer in a natural model and how it can help people. So our animal cancer center here has about 30 different clinical trials where we’re trying new drugs, new chemotherapies, new ways to treat cancer that are experimental, learning about these things from animals who develop the same diseases and how that can help influence how we help people is a big part of One Health. I’ll give you another example and that’s about the tragedy that’s been happening across the country with homeless populations. And we know that in many situations, homeless populations may not have access to their own medical care. So they might need more traditional care as far as a physician, but they also might need social workers and they also might need counseling in different ways. And we often find that this group of people may not want to go to a hospital, but many of them as you know, have pets. And we’ll see that they’re very invested and care very deeply about the welfare of their animals and what we’ve seen here, both in clinics in Fort Collins, clinics in Denver, and then across the nation, is that if we can provide no-cost veterinary care to the pets of the homeless, that often the homeless will come in and help take care of themselves also. And so it’s a great way when we think about One Health or combining animal health and human health and facilities and society needs, you can start to see how we can build, bring together physicians, veterinarians, students, and these different populations that need access to veterinary care and need access to human health care, need access to other things that they wouldn’t do without using the veterinary medicine piece to kind of, as a hook, to bring them in. So that’s just one other aspect from how we’re kind of combining animal health and human health in new and innovative ways.

Jocelyn Hittle: Thanks so much for those additional examples. I think what you just described is some additional great examples of also how we provide care in a more comprehensive way, not just understanding the system better, the human-animal-environmental health connection, but also how do we proactively provide care that’s more focused on all three of those things at once. Speaking of providing care and also that translational medicine piece, can you talk a little bit about the collaboration that CSU has started with UC Health?

Mark Stetter: We’re really excited to have a new branch campus of the medical school. So the Anschutz Campus, as you know, is in Denver, phenomenal facility for teaching medical students, and we’ve worked with the Anschutz Campus for years in some of these areas like I just mentioned, with cancer, and translational medicine, and research, and probably about six years ago, the leadership from the medical school and CSU got together and said, “Hey, we should do some more things together “and really helping, “whether you call it under this One Health banner, “or just collaborating more deeply.” And we decided to open a branch campus for medical students here at CSU. So this year, this just last month, we started with our first four-year cohort of medical students that will be here in Fort Collins for the entire four years that are part of CSU and part of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, but as a branch campus to the mothership, to the main campus, at the Anschutz Campus in the CU School of Medicine. So they’ll have the same curriculum that the students have down at the Anschutz Campus, but they’ll have faculty and facilities and exposure to everything here in Fort Collins. And it’s been great. I met with those 12 students just a couple of weeks ago. They’re excited to be here in Fort Collins. They’re excited to understand how they can better interface with the veterinary component and also the research component. So, on their first morning, the first day, they were wanting to know, “How do I spend time “over in the veterinary emergency care unit? “I wanna learn more about this,” or “I’m interested in neuroscience “and I wanna know if I can work with certain researchers.” So I think it’s gonna be a really exciting time for us to grow that cohort. So we’re starting with 12 students; in a couple of years, we’ll go up to 24 for each class, and then eventually we’ll have the ability, the building we created, to have 200 medical students at any one time. So I know the folks at the Anschutz Campus are excited about this collaboration and we are too.

Jocelyn Hittle: Yes, I would say that it’s one of the hallmarks of the college and CSU in general, this collaborative spirit, right? We’re interested in figuring out how we can do more together with other partners, including other universities. That’s a great example of that. So you’ve talked about the college’s education and obviously the College of Vet Med and Biomedical Sciences has been a top rated vet school for a long time. Can you tell us a little bit about the research side and maybe you can hit on a couple of things related to COVID, if you’d like, or really, maybe there’s some things that over the past year have been a particular focus.

Mark Stetter: Certainly. So let me give you just kind of a brief rundown on some of the human health research that we do and then we’ll finish up with COVID. But, we have a big neuroscience team and they are studying everything from addiction, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurogenic neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and such. They’re really a phenomenal group that have become world renowned in what they do and receive a tremendous amount of NIH and other funding in that space. We also do a lot of work in reproductive physiology and so when I say that, both in animals and in people, but how do we help if somebody wants to become pregnant and are infertile? There are a variety of hormonal and other assisted reproductive techniques that we’ve actually developed through the years and we’ve often used animals as the model, then been able to help people. And then we also do a tremendous amount of work in microbiology or infectious disease and to your point, COVID has been the big focus over a year and a half now. So whether it be, what are the best disinfectants for these types of viruses? What are the best ways to develop a vaccine for these? The other research we’ve been doing are, do animals get this? And we’re learning, yes, certain animals can get it in rare cases. They really don’t give it to people, which is great news. But if we were worried about that, are there vaccines that we can develop that are specific for animals? And so we’ve been working on vaccines, for example, for cats and determining if they need that kind of work. And then a huge amount of work to better understand how does this get transmitted? What are the aerosolization methods? And we know a lot more now than we did a couple of years ago when this was first happening, but we have people that are looking at mask quality. How far can droplets spread? What are ways we can mitigate spread and what are some of the drugs that we can use to help treat or prevent COVID? So our microbiology, immunology and pathology department, which has over 100 faculty, have really pivoted from any other work that they were doing in the last, you know, may have been decades. They’ve been working on HIV or bacterial diseases and now they’ve said, “Hey, we need to help fight this worldwide pandemic.”

Jocelyn Hittle: Continuing on the theme of collaboration, that in some cases, your researchers are also working with faculty out of the College of Engineering or Health and Human Sciences, because it really needed to be an all-hands-on-deck approach and all of this sort of systems thinking around One Health and around COVID, I think what you all have done in terms of collaborating within the college and with other institutions, it’s the hallmark of how best to attack these problems.

Mark Stetter: Correct, Jocelyn. And you know, we are also lucky to have a lot of the national headquarters here in Fort Collins. So the CDC has their Western regional headquarters, the USDA, a lot of these government agencies that we work with, heavily with research, being able to collaborate with them right in town has been very helpful.

Jocelyn Hittle: Great; yeah thanks. So now is the time for the sad question. Sadly, you’re leaving CSU, which all of us who’ve had the pleasure of working with you for a number of years are really sad about. Obviously, you have a wonderful new opportunity at UC Davis, and we’re really happy for you about that, but of course, we’re sad to see you go. So maybe we can just take a moment and have you reflect back over your tenure at CSU and tell us a little bit about what you’re most proud of.

Mark Stetter: I’ve been here coming up on 10 years and it’s been a great ride. So we’ve done just some phenomenal things and, as you know, a lot of them have been down in Denver. I’m really excited to come back and see Vida, the new animal health complex opened at Spur. What’s gonna happen there for the city of Denver, what’s gonna happen for just the general public that want to come visit and learn more about health. And what’s gonna happen with our students and helping animals is going to be phenomenal. So I’m really excited to see that blossom And after our years of figuring out how to get the money, get the collaborations and make a big difference, I think it’s gonna make a huge difference and I’m excited about that. Here on campus we talked a little bit about the med school collaboration already, but we’ve also been able to really grow a lot of our teaching and research and service facilities. So we kind of joke that, over the last nine years we’ve opened nine buildings, and so we’ve been on a tremendous growth spurt. Some of them are the virtual reality that we talked about. Some of them are new hospital facilities and how we take care of our animals, and some of them are new research laboratories in areas that we can find out new ways to stop the next pandemic. So it’s been really wonderful, and I, as you mentioned during the introduction, came from Walt Disney World, which is kind of an interesting career path. I was unsure how the ivory towers and how academia would welcome a Mickey Mouse veterinarian from Walt Disney World. And I think it’s safe to say that everybody’s been extremely open and welcoming and excited to have somebody new come in and bring some new ideas and see what we could do together. So, so all that’s been a great ride and as you know, Colorado is a phenomenal place to live, Fort Collins is beautiful place to do a variety of things outside, whether it be in the city or up in the foothills. So it’s been really a wonderful experience on all levels.

Jocelyn Hittle: Great, well, we wish you the best in your next chapter.

Mark Stetter: Yeah, so I joke in a somewhat serious way that yeah, moving out to where the fires are in California and the drought is in California and where we’re getting all the smoke from in California, so it’ll be an interesting transition over the next couple of months.

Jocelyn Hittle: I’m sure, yeah. Well, we’ll miss you, but know that our paths will continue to cross. I’d love to shift gears a little bit and talk a little bit about your path to where you are. So as you know, one of the things that we’re hoping the Spur Campus can do is to introduce, particularly young people but the general public as well, to careers that they might not have known about or considered for themselves before. And we want to showcase how each person who comes to Spur can connect with the big challenges that we’re facing in food and water and in health, regardless of what their background is, what their interests are, what lens they might be looking at those particular issues through. So can you tell us a little bit about your path to where you are? Were you one of those kids who was like, “Yes, I’m going to be a veterinarian” from early days? Tell us how you got where you are.

Mark Stetter: I’d say it’s been a fairly nontraditional route. So as a kid, I did volunteer at a local vet hospital and I loved the veterinary aspect, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do domestic animals, as far as dogs and cats. I seem to have more of the pets that were, you know, ducks and lizards and Guinea pigs than that, and I really was also intrigued by marine life and thinking about being a marine biologist. So when I was coming out of undergraduate, I was applying to both veterinary schools and to marine biology programs in graduate school, and when I got into veterinary school, I wanted to combine the two of them. So I really was interested in, you know, being a veterinarian for dolphins or working in marine biology and working with aquatic critters, which I was able to do fairly well during veterinary school. So going to school in the middle of the cornfields of Illinois we had nothing to do with aquatics, but I would spend all of my summers going to places that did. So I spent a summer out at Marineland of the Pacific out in California, which doesn’t exist anymore, but did provide me a great experience when I was out there. I was up in Iceland, I was out in Woods Hole, I worked at various places and all of them were very helpful in deciding I would like to do some level of aquatics, but I probably didn’t want to just work at an aquarium because, as you can imagine, veterinarians who work at aquariums do wonderful things, but a lot of what they do is looking at the animal through the tank and trying different treatments versus, I really am a very hands-on person, so I wanted to get my hands on the animal to do an exam or to do surgery or to get a blood sample. So I ended up doing kind of zoo and aquarium work together, and that’s been a wonderful experience at many places. So I started at the Audubon Zoo and the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans, right out of veterinary school. And they were opening the aquarium right on the Mississippi in New Orleans and helped them open that and worked at the zoo at the same time. And then I went up and did a residency in New York City at the Bronx Zoo, and they also were operating the Central Park Zoo and Flushing Meadows Zoo and down at Coney Island, the aquarium. So I got to work with Beluga whales, and gorillas, and sharks, and birds, and a variety of different things, which was a wonderful experience. And then they were opening the Animal Kingdom down in Orlando at Disney, and they called and said, “Hey, we’re trying to bring animal experts in “from all the country to open this brand new theme park.” They were bringing in thousands and thousands of animals and hundreds of people. So that was an exciting time, and I ended up staying there for about 15 years as we opened the Animal Kingdom and then also helped oversee all the places that Disney had animals, so over at The Living Seas at Epcot and all over the world. That’s kind of the strange, weird career path. A lot of folks ask me about veterinary medicine and career ideas, and a couple of things I would say is it’s been a wonderful ride, it’s terribly interesting to work with animals and very fulfilling to help them and help the people that are associated with them, but you do need to work hard, both to get into college and then to do well in college to get into veterinary school. It’s a very similar path to anybody who’s thinking about pre-med and I actually have had conversations through the years about a lot of folks that have gone through the pre-med, pre-vet route and have applied to both medical schools and veterinary schools and they’re trying to decide where their passion lies. Because going into it, it’s very similar as far as the courses that you may take.

Jocelyn Hittle: And then of course, after you left Disney, you came to CSU and maybe you can tell us a little bit about what it’s like to be the dean of the college of Vet Med and Biomedical Sciences. What’s sort of a day or week in the life?

Mark Stetter: Well, great question. I would say it’s a mixture of a fair amount of administrative, not very exciting things often. So, often students get to see me at commencements or times where I’m officially welcoming the new students or handing students their diplomas. But in general, much of our day is around meetings, which don’t sound very exciting, but they are, as you know, Jocelyn, that around meetings around new buildings, they’re around meetings around how we’re going to pay for certain things. and they’re around meetings around just how we keep things operating throughout the day. Some of that is very exciting and fulfilling ’cause we’re building great things and doing things for students and for society. Sometimes that they can be, you know, banging your head against the wall ’cause you feel like you’ve got a bit of Groundhog’s Day, but I’ll tell you, seeing some of the things come out of the ground and people enjoying them is very fulfilling and makes it all worthwhile.

Jocelyn Hittle: Yeah, I think it’s important to not over-romanticize, all of our jobs, right? There are meetings; that is real! At the same time, you know, the arc of the career, in some ways, is, what we’re looking at. And the results of all of those meetings are certainly worth it. You know, you were describing this career path and maybe it isn’t traditional, I suppose there are not that many people in the world who are zoo vets or aquarium vets, so it’s a bit of an uncommon path. It sounds completely fascinating. I mean, most people don’t get to say you work with gorillas and Belugas in the course of a week. There’s a lot of things that might be surprising about the work that you have done over your career. What might people find surprising other than maybe what seems obviously surprising to me?

Mark Stetter: We have a lot of students that are interested in that career route and I would say it’s a wonderful career route, but it’s probably not as romantic or glorious as one might think. So let me give you an example. When we think about bringing our domestic animals, our dogs and cats, horses, into the vet, those animals are awake, many times they might be wagging their tail, even if you have a cat that doesn’t want to go to the vet, while it might be somewhat traumatic for the owner and the vet and the cat, it’s usually not a terrible experience. And when we think about zoo and wildlife medicine, rarely is anybody going to the vet willingly, right? So even in a situation where you might have a non-aggressive animal, those animals, if they’re really wild, are not gonna let you listen to their heart, are not going to let you get a blood sample, or hold quietly for a radiograph or an x-ray. So what people don’t think about a lot is when you do zoo and wildlife medicine, typically those animals are anesthetized and you’re trying to do as much as you can, as far as blood samples and x-rays and a physical exam under anesthesia, and then learn what you can about their health, and wake them up. So I think that’s one area that people, maybe everybody’s watched too many circuses where, you know, people are up close with the tigers, or don’t understand that, when a vet’s working with these animals in a wild situation, it’s not like when you bring your dog and cat into the vet. These animals typically are sedated or anesthetized. Sometimes, in a lot of the modern zoos now, these animals are trained or conditioned to help with their physical exam. So if we think about, for example, elephants who are extremely smart, we’ve known for years that we can use positive reinforcement to have them help with their exams. So they often need a lot of foot work. So when I think about that, pedicures for elephants are quite common just because they can overgrow some of their nails. And so all the elephants that we think about that are in zoos actually are trained. They may get a carrot or a banana or something, and they will hold their feet up, out in front of them, through a bar so that nobody can get hurt. But through that, that somebody will sit there with a file or a very large nail trimmer that is basically giving them a pedicure while the animal is helping with their exam. And that can be true for an ultrasound to see if the animal is pregnant. That could be true for a variety of medical work that we do. And a lot of the other mammals also, for example, gorillas can help with their exam by holding their arm out and getting a blood sample. So we’ve learned through the years now that it doesn’t always have to be an anesthetic event for these animals, but I think people still have this perception that, if you’re a zoo vet, you’re cuddling with baby tigers all day long and how much fun could that be? I mean, what a great job!

Jocelyn Hittle: Thank you for that reality check and also for the mental image of elephant pedicures. These conversations range widely. People’s careers are so different and interesting. And you can go from meetings on one end of the spectrum to elephant pedicures on the other end. So one of the things that I’d like to talk a little bit about is the Spur Campus. Obviously I’d love to talk about the Spur Campus, but in particular, what the college is anticipating doing down here as part of the Vida building as you mentioned. You came from Animal Kingdom where you set up the first on-show veterinary hospital, where people can come, visitors to Animal Kingdom can come and actually watch the veterinary team doing what you just described, working on the various animals that are there at Animal Kingdom, working with them, procedures, exams, whatever needs to be done, and have taken that ethos and translated it to Spur. Can you say a little bit more about where the inspiration came for that original on-show piece at Animal Kingdom and why you continue to think it’s a good idea to do it at Spur as well?

Mark Stetter: You bet, thanks Jocelyn. So I’m constantly astounded by how intrigued the public is with veterinary medicine and with animal health and how we take care of critters. And what we found at the Animal Kingdom was that all ages, all backgrounds, really were intrigued by what we were doing. And it didn’t matter if it was an exotic chicken or a gorilla that we were working on, people wanted to see it, and they stayed for the entire procedure. And what they came away with was a deep understanding of not only maybe that specific animal and that specific condition, but also of the care, of how deep the science is in veterinary medicine, and a better understanding of how people want to really help animals and that human-animal bond. And so when we thought about what we could do at the Spur Campus, obviously there are things we want to do to help the animals themselves and provide a service to people with pets, and that might not be able to afford pets. And we wanted to work with phenomenal partners like the Dumb Friends League, and we wanted to do more with teaching our veterinary students down in Denver, so how could we have a place that does all that, but in addition, what a great opportunity to help educate the public about how wonderful science is, about how wonderful careers in animal health are, and how we do things that are really helping animals, and to reinforce that human-animal bond. So that’s kind of how we took the idea of yes, the hospital’s gonna be transformational. Yes, we want to help this group and teach our students. But how could we take that to the next level of bringing in school groups, bringing in families, opening the hospital up in big, wonderful ways so you could see everything from how to do a dental exam on a dog to what happens if your horse is lame and be able to ask people who are experts about these and really spend as much time as you’d like learning about health, and sometimes it’s animal, but sometimes it’s also translates into human health and how we can better deal with health in our families and in our world, too.

Jocelyn Hittle: You hit on this, but April Steele, who is the executive director of the Dumb Friends League has been a guest on the podcast and described in a bit more detail what Dumb Friends League does. And just to remind our listeners that Dumb Friends League at Spur will be operating a clinic that serves qualified families, low-income families, so that they can afford to bring their animals in for veterinary care. And at the same time, we’ll be teaching our veterinary students who are there on rotation, so they’re there for two weeks at a time, working with those veterinarians, understanding how to be a clinical vet in that context. And then sort of the icing on all of that is this fact that it is on show, that one wall of the entire hospital is glass, that the veterinarians and the technicians will have microphones that will allow them to interact with the general public on the other side of that glass. So an amazing opportunity and certainly stealing from your Animal Kingdom playbook on that one, and we’re really excited we opened so soon and are excited to see how the general public, to your point, they stay and watch procedures at a zoo veterinary clinic from start to finish, and we think that will happen for us as well. Another question related to the Spur Campus around diversity. So, you know that the Spur Campus also is interested in all of this outreach and bringing families in and bringing K-12 field trips, and a lot of what we’re hoping to do is to interest more diverse students in careers in science and technology and health. Can you talk a little bit about diversity in veterinary medicine and the fields that you’ve been in now and some of the challenges and what you hope that the Spur Campus and other similar programs do?

Mark Stetter: Thanks Jocelyn, absolutely. I’m sad to report that the veterinary profession, I think, is the whitest profession out there and we have a lot of work to do in all of the different forms when we think about diversity. Cultural, racial, a long list of things there that we need to work on to help improve diversity in the veterinary workspace. And I think things like the Spur Campus and getting kids in at an early age and showing them how interesting science and how interesting health is, getting them excited about going to college, is really a big, big part of that. So it takes a variety of things, everything from looking at outreach programs, scholarship programs, new pipelines and funnel programs to get more and more people into the sciences and into health in general. But this is one area that we’re really excited about because of the general public’s interest and because I think, as we said before, about virtual reality, if we can make learning fun and applicable to our lives, which I think is exactly what Spur is all about, we’ll get a lot of people from all different walks of life that are interested in learning more about it and hopefully having careers in that space.

Jocelyn Hittle: That’s our hope as well, and a function that we hope the Spur Campus can provide just a space to house that intersection of various different people with various backgrounds, with careers they may not have even been thinking about, whether it’s actually being a veterinarian or being a technician or one of the other careers within that broader health spectrum, veterinary health or human health. So we are almost out of time so we’re gonna just wrap up here and I’ll ask you to let us know how people can find the college, how people can find you on social media, if they wanna follow what you’re up to, and how they can get more information about the college in general.

Mark Stetter: Sure, so please check out @ColoradoStateUniversity; they’ve got sections for all of our eight colleges, but our college, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences has a phenomenal website and if you’re interested in bringing your animal into our veterinary teaching hospital and all the different specialties, you can find information there. If you’re interested in coming here and getting a Bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and running off to med school or something fun like that, lots of information about how to apply. If you’re interested in veterinary medicine and if you’re interested in the research that we do, there’s a ton of great information and I’d encourage you to check out our website. And we’re also a great place to visit. I’ll put a plug in, once we open at Spur, that’s gonna be innovative and new and a wonderful place to spend some time. And we obviously have a beautiful campus up in Fort Collins, come by anytime.

Jocelyn Hittle: Great, and yes, thanks Dr. Stetter. Our last question, our “Spur of the Moment” question for you.

Mark Stetter: I’m sitting down, okay!

Jocelyn Hittle: You are? So this question is a tough one for some people to answer, but I’m gonna ask it anyway, and I’m going to make it a little easier by giving you three. So if you had three albums that you got to take with you to a deserted island.

Mark Stetter: Oh really? Three albums? So, a fairly big U2 fan. So I’d probably have to pick maybe “Greatest Hits” or one of their early albums. In the day, I was a big Elton John dude so I think I might have to pick “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” or something along the along those lines. And then I would probably have to flip a coin for a long list of others in that oldies genre. I think, just actually heard the band Chicago a couple of weeks ago at Dumb Friends League events. So I love the old Chicago band, but there’s Doobie Brothers, and there’s a long list of other folks that I’d probably have put on the list.

Jocelyn Hittle: The “Spur of the Moment” podcast is produced by Peach Islander Productions and our theme music is by Ketsa. Please visit the show notes for links mentioned during today’s episode. We hope you’ll join us in two weeks for the next “Spur of the Moment” episode. Until then, be well.


Former United States Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission

Mr. Edward Drusina, P.E. retired from the United States Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) in 2018. Mr. Drusina has served his community and his country with distinction. Mr. Drusina was appointed Commissioner by President Barrack Obama on January 19, 2010 and remained Commissioner until his retirement on May 2018 completing 44 years of engineering service to his City, State and Country.  A licensed Professional Engineer in Texas and graduate of University of Texas at El Paso, his career has lead him to successful work in both the private and public sectors. Prior to the IBWC appointment, Mr. Drusina was the Regional Director for Paragon Resources Inc., President and CoOwner of Omni Construction Management Services, Corperate Associate of Moreno Cardenas Inc, Director of Public Works for the City of El Paso, and Design Branch head for the US Army at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Mr. Drusina also headed some very impactful undertakings related to water in the Southwest. He represented the City of El Paso on the Far West Texas Water Planning Group, was the Construction Manager for the pipeline and injection wells for the largest inland Desalination Plant named the Kay Bailey Desalination Plant and was the City of El Paso stormwater manager.

Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Drusina has also remained active in the different organizations along the border region. He was one of the founding members of UTEP’s Alumni Academe of Civil Engineers, served on the American Red Cross Board, was the Department of State’s advisor for the North American Development Bank Board,  and served on different state and federal committees aimed at addressing border environmental concerns.     

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Founding Partner, Centro Luken de Estrategias en Agua y Medio Ambiente

Roberto F. Salmon Castelo is a founding partner and consultant at Centro Luken de Estrategias en Agua y Medio Ambiente. He served from April 2009 until May 2020 as the Mexican Commissioner to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) and has a solid experience in international negotiations related to water and boundary issues between Mexico and the United States. In this capacity, he led the Mexican team to accomplish the signing of 11 binational agreements (Minutes) with the United States, which are binding for both countries.

From 2002 until 2009, he worked for the Mexican National Water Commission (CONAGUA), first as the Northwest Regional Manager and later as the General Director of the Northwest Basin Region, based in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico from where he oversaw all affairs related to water resources. In addition, Mr. Salmon served as the Planning and Special Projects Director for the Center for Research and Development of Natural Resources (CIDESON) of the State of Sonora. He also started a consulting company oriented to surface, groundwater, and environmental studies and projects.

He also has vast experience in financial projects. He served as the Director of Budget and Planning and later as the Chief Financial Officer at the University of Sonora and other private entities. He is also a founding partner in three financial enterprises in the State of Sonora.

Mr. Salmon has participated as a leading consultant in many projects on various subjects, such as water resources, plant location, financial engineering, statistics, economic feasibility, agriculture, and strategic planning.

In the academic sector, he served as a professor at the Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora, University of Sonora, Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey (Campus Guadalajara and Obregón), as well as a teaching and research assistant at the University of Arizona in the departments of Agricultural Economics and Hydrology and Water Resources.

He has authored or co-authored several articles on water resources and US-Mexico transboundary water issues and has been a speaker at binational and international conferences.

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Associate Vice Chancellor for CSU Spur & Special Projects, CSU System

Jocelyn Hittle is primarily focused on helping to create the CSU System’s new Spur campus at the National Western Center, and on supporting campus sustainability goals across CSU’s campuses. She sits on the Denver Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Council, on the Advisory Committee for the Coors Western Art Show, and is a technical advisor for the AASHE STARS program.

Prior to joining CSU, Jocelyn was the Associate Director of PlaceMatters, a national urban planning think tank, and worked for the Orton Family Foundation. She has a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton, and a Masters in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Jocelyn grew up in Colorado and spends her free time in the mountains or exploring Denver.

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Chancellor, CSU System

Dr. Tony Frank is the Chancellor of the CSU System. He previously served for 11 years as the 14th president of CSU in Fort Collins. Dr. Frank earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Wartburg College, followed by a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. and residencies in pathology and toxicology at Purdue. Prior to his appointment as CSU’s president in 2008, he served as the University’s provost and executive vice president, vice president for research, chairman of the Pathology Department, and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He was appointed to a dual role as Chancellor in 2015 and became full-time System chancellor in July 2019.

Dr. Frank serves on a number of state and national boards, has authored and co-authored numerous scientific publications, and has been honored with state and national awards for his leadership in higher education.

Dr. Frank and his wife, Dr. Patti Helper, have three daughters.

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Consul General of Canada

Sylvain Fabi (BBA, Bishop’s University, 1988) joined the Consulate General of Canada in Denver in October 2020. As Canada’s Consul General in the U.S. Mountain West Region, Mr. Fabi oversees a team of 17 people who work within Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Utah and Wyoming to strengthen trade and economic ties; enhance political, academic and cultural links; and assist Canadians visiting or living in the five-state territory.  He is also Canada’s chief negotiator for the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty with the United States.

Mr. Fabi joined the Trade Commissioner Service of External Affairs and International Trade Canada in 1992.  He worked in various geographic and trade policy divisions in Ottawa.  He was senior departmental adviser to the Minister of International Trade (2009 to 2010), Director for bilateral relations with South America and the Caribbean (2010 to 2013) and Executive Director of the North America Policy and Relations Division (2013 to 2015).

Mr. Fabi’s assignments abroad include trade commissioner at the embassy in Moscow (1995 to 1998), commercial counsellor at the embassy in Havana (2001 to 2005) and commercial counsellor at the embassy in Santiago (2005 to 2009). Mr. Fabi served as High Commissioner for Canada in Jamaica and the Bahamas (2015 to 2017). Before becoming Consul General in Denver, he was Executive Director, U.S. Transboundary Affairs Division (2017 to 2020). 

Mr. Fabi is married to Jany Joyal and has two children, Frédéric and Isabelle.

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Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry & Columbia Foundation Chair in Soil and Water Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Dr. Chefetz’s research interests relate to physico-chemical processes of organic pollutants occurring in water, reclaimed wastewater, soils and sediments. An overarching goal is to elucidate physical, chemical and biological processes that influence the fate of organic molecules in the environment with special emphasize on the agricultural environment.

Special interests are: (1) Fate of pharmaceutical compounds in soil and water; (2) Sorption-desorption behavior of xenobiotics in soils and sediments; (3) Irrigation with reclaimed wastewater: effects on human health; (4) Nano particles in the environment; (5) Nature and reactivity of dissolved organic matter. 

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Director, Colorado Water Center
Professor of Ecosystem Science & Sustainability, CSU Fort Collins

Dr. Tracy serves as Director of the Colorado Water Center and as Professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Colorado State University. Dr. Tracy has led research initiatives on understanding and developing sustainable water management practices in a wide range of hydro-climatological systems across the western United States, including the western High Plains, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Great Basin and Pacific Northwest regions. His more recent efforts have focused on developing programs to: increase our understanding of the integrated behavior of water resource systems under the influence of changing hydrologic, economic, and social conditions; developing science based approaches to support the management of transboundary aquifer resources; addressing the linkage between water management and health outcomes; and understanding community water security from a socio-technical perspective. Dr. Tracy received his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering at Colorado State University in 1980, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering at the University of California at Davis in 1986 and 1989 respectively. Dr. Tracy also served as President of the American Water Resources Association, the University Council on Water Resources, and as Secretary/Treasurer of the National Institutes for Water Resources. 

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Co-Founder and General Partner, ICI Fund (Innovation. Community. Intelligence)
Board Member, Kando, Viridix, Genda, Suridata, Tailor-Ed, Illustria

Gili is a Co-founder and General Partner at ICI Fund (Innovation. Community. Intelligence), investing in early-stage Israeli companies with artificial intelligence solutions that secure our future and supporting their scale up in the US market. Gili sits on the boards of Kando (AI & Wastewater), Viridix (AI & Agriculture), Genda (AI & Construction), Suridata (AI & Cyber), Tailor-Ed (AI & Education), Illustria (Cyebr security) and is an investor in PredictaMed (AI & Healthcare). 

Previously, Gili was a Managing Director at SynTech Bioenergy, a renewable energy company located in Colorado.  Gili is an Israeli lawyer who worked at Naschitz Brandes, ADV., one of the leading Israeli Corporate law firms and at Ernst & Young as Tax Consultant, providing tax advice to US and European VCs investing in Israeli companies. Gili served on the Board of Directors of the B’nai B’rith of the Rockies, Colorado.  Gili holds an LLB and BA (in Law and Business) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. Gili also served in the Israeli military (IDF), driving tanks and guiding combat soldiers to shoot anti-tank guided missiles out of a tank. She is an avid snowboarder and is melted by dark chocolate!

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Mayor of Fort Collins

Fort Collins has been home since I was three weeks old.

After attending Moore Elementary, Blevins Junior High School, and Poudre High School, I earned an undergraduate degree in Sociology at Colorado College. Soon afterwards I earned an MA in Geography from the University of Colorado followed by an MA in Special Education from Purdue University in Indiana. After teaching special education for a few years, I earned a Ph.D. in Literacy and Language from Purdue. 

When I was away—in college, in the Peace Corps (Morocco), in graduate school, living and working in Mozambique, Africa— Fort Collins was always my home. When the opportunity arose to live anywhere, my husband, Channing, and I enthusiastically returned to Fort Collins with our three children. My work experience includes Congressional intern, ESL teacher, Peace Corps volunteer, secondary special education teacher, middle school principal, International Baccalaureate Coordinator, university faculty member and department head.

In addition to working, teaching and attending school, I have been an active volunteer. Serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco was an honor. I served on school boards in Lafayette, Ind. and in Mozambique. After moving back to Fort Collins, I served on the Commission on Disability as well as Childsafe before running for State Representative in 2014. As a State Representative I have focused on water, agriculture, small business and public education. After 3+ terms in the General Assembly I was elected Mayor of Fort Collins in April, 2021.

Personally, my husband of 32 years and I have three adult children. My mom, Libby James is my rock and role model. In my free time, I run, bike, swim, read and talk to people. 

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