CSU vet students and partners host health clinic for Denver pets, families

Photography: Isabella Mazariegos

For the fifth year, students and faculty from CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences hosted the Focus on Health Community Clinic, a free and open-to-the-public event designed to bring veterinary care, community education, and health resources to pets and families living in Denver’s Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods.

With support from faculty, a cohort of 20 CVMBS students administered vaccinations and conducted general wellness checks for nearly 150 dogs and cats, and guided pet owners to additional resources from various partner organizations.

The annual clinic will be one of many permanent programs offered at the future CSU Campus at the National Western Center, which is slated for completion in 2022.

In addition to the annual community health clinic, the CSU Animal Health Complex – one of three buildings to comprise the CSU Campus at the National Western Center – will provide K-12 educational programming, medical treatment for equine athletes, the second location of CSU’s Temple Grandin Equine Center, and living space for veterinary students and partners.

Community support, collaboration

Dr. Danielle Frey serves as director of veterinary international and outreach student experiences with CVMBS, and since 2015 has coordinated the clinic on behalf of CSU at Focus Points Family Resource Center in Swansea.

“It has been incredible to work in this community ahead of the future CSU Campus at the National Western Center and to engage with the people and pets of the GES neighborhoods,” said Frey. “I’m grateful to be able to continue working with community partners like Focus Points and Denver Dumb Friends League to offer veterinary care in this area of Denver.”

A diverse group of Denver area companies and organizations contributed to the success of the 2019 clinic:

  • Clínica Tepeyac, a Denver-based nonprofit healthcare center, provided one-on-one education about breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers, as well as information on health insurance and diabetes prevention.
  • Colorado Pet Pantry, a local food bank serving pets and families across Colorado, provided pet food, treats, and accessories.
  • CSU Denver Extension/4-H hosted a kids’ booth with arts and crafts activities.
  • Denver Dumb Friends League, a long-term partner of the annual clinic, brought an animal behavior specialist to help pet owners identify and correct behavioral issues such as barking and biting.
  • Denver Public Library Bookmobile provided library cards to residents and invited attendees to check out books from the mobile library.
  • Kong, a Golden-based pet toy company, provided attendees with reusable bags and dog toys.
Boy and puppy at Free pet clinic in Denver

Preventative, accessible care

Dr. Michelle Larsen, a Denver resident and home office vet with global animal health company Zoetis, has volunteered to support CSU vet students at the community clinic for three years.

Before moving to Colorado, Larsen practiced veterinary medicine in Arizona, where she saw “horrible” parvovirus and distemper outbreaks.

“In this kind of environment prevention is key, versus treatment, which is expensive and not always effective,” she said.

Larsen noted that pet owners in neighborhoods like Globeville and Elyria-Swansea often want to vaccinate their pets but may have trouble paying shelters the $10 or $20 exam fees, especially families with multiple pets.

“They realize that for no cost they’re getting at least a quick glance [at the community clinic], to see if their pet appears healthy or not and give the basic core vaccines,” said Larsen.

Students with pets at free Denver animal clinic

CVMBS students Stephanie Cruz (left) and Isabella Mazariegos (right) holding puppies that received care at the clinic.

Stephanie Cruz, a CVMBS student completing the second year of her doctorate in veterinary medicine, assisted with Spanish translation at the event – a critical service for the many Spanish-speaking residents in attendance.

For Cruz, the day’s success was marked by helping fellow vet students and community partners communicate more efficiently with residents; handling and providing care to puppies and cats was also a highlight, as she usually works with adult dogs.

“It’s really important to help these people and these animals that don’t have a lot of resources,” she said. “It’s really gratifying.”

CSU Campus at the National Western Center

Colorado State University has made a long-term commitment to the future National Western Center and its surrounding communities in north Denver.

The CSU Campus at the National Western Center will focus on research and educational programming in the areas of food, water, sustainability, and human and animal health within its three buildings: the CSU Water Building, CSU Animal Health Complex, and CSU Center for Food and Agriculture. What’s inside the buildings will bring together the brightest minds, inspire the next generation, and address global challenges.

The University is currently working to engage with the community and to partner with local schools, nonprofits, and businesses to create impactful research, collaboration, and year-round programming to this unique project.

For additional information, visit nwc.colostate.edu.