Seventh CSU Spur Focus on Health clinic pivots to support Denver pets, families

“When we take our veterinary oath, we pledge to protect animal health and welfare,” said Yoshua Goodman, a second-year D.V.M. student at CSU, while inputting notes into an iPad for one of the nearly 180 companion animals of north Denver families that received veterinary care at the CSU System’s seventh annual Focus on Health Community Clinic on Oct. 3, in partnership with Dumb Friends League and Focus Points Family Resource Center.

This year’s clinic was hosted at Swansea Recreation Center, roughly two miles east of the future CSU Spur campus, which will open to the public in 2022 and deliver a wide range of educational programming, resources, services, and support in alignment with its comprehensive anchor institution efforts.

“I think this is a great opportunity to advance animal health. It’s a great way to represent veterinarians and the veterinary profession,” said Goodman, one of 15 CSU D.V.M. students who volunteered at the event.

Goodman was born in Mexico City, moved with his family to Las Vegas when he was two, and became a U.S. citizen when he was nine.

“I always knew I wanted to be a veterinarian,” he said. “And CSU was my dream school.”

As a bilingual student-veterinarian, Goodman also provided translation services to help streamline interactions between Spanish-speaking pet owners and on-site veterinarians.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, the CSU System offered this year’s clinic in a drive-thru format to allow families and residents to remain socially distanced, with masks on in their vehicles, while their pets received routine examinations and vaccinations.

“We are excited to be able to adapt the program to deliver services even in these challenging times,” said Dr. Danielle Frey, director of international student experiences for D.V.M. students at CSU, who organizes the annual event alongside partners.

The clinic provides D.V.M. students the opportunity to volunteer alongside veterinarians from the community and CSU, allowing students to gain real-world experience while providing veterinary care and additional support services to pet owners and families in north Denver.

“It is great working with the community to ensure that the dogs and cats are able to receive the vaccines and examinations they need, while also keeping the families and volunteers safe,” said Frey, who also highlighted the important role of the clinic’s veterinary partner, Dumb Friends League, in supporting the event’s service offerings and capacity.

“We were able to join this clinic today due to the resourceful innovation of the Dumb Friends League Pet Resource Center team,” she said. “Their leadership and support truly drove the event.”

Dumb Friends League currently provides regular companion animal services throughout north Denver, and the nonprofit will open a donor-supported veterinary clinic in the CSU Spur Vida building when it opens, which will also offer affordable veterinary care and hands-on learning for CSU veterinary students and the general public.

Meeting community needs

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly all aspects of everyday life, and has also taken a toll on pet owners’ access to veterinary care.

“A lot of people weren’t able to get that care because some vet clinics had to shut down and places that were still open had huge wait lines,” said Jesse Ebner, a first-year D.V.M. student at CSU, whose background is in shelter medicine.

While Ebner has helped support similar clinics in her hometown of Philadelphia, this was her first public-facing clinic experience with CSU.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with the veterinarians,” she said. “They’re very willing to teach us and go a little bit slower so we can observe and learn from them.”

Ebner’s favorite part of the experience was the positive energy shared among the participating organizations, students, veterinarians, and community members throughout the day.

“Students are excited to be here; the vets want to be here and teach us; and the people that are coming with their animals are so grateful,” Ebner said.

One Health in action

“Connecting with the community is a really important part of veterinary medicine,” said second-year CSU D.V.M. student Leah Sauerwein, who serves as one of three student coordinators for the University’s One Health Institute.

Sauerwein is passionate about educating the community about the One Health initiative, helping residents understand critical connections between human health, animal health, and the health of the environment.

Taking care of community members’ pets and helping them stay up to date on vaccines also helps to ensure human health, “by default,” she said.

One of Sauerwein’s personal highlights of the day was “being able to have hands-on work.”

“During coronavirus, we’ve been mainly online,” she said. “Being able to connect with the community and being able to get some puppy love, as well, has been fantastic.”

If community outreach doesn’t become the basis of Sauerwein’s professional work beyond CSU, she said it is definitely something she will continue to pursue in her personal time.

“I think this event, especially at a time where pet care and these low-cost resources can seem limited due to coronavirus, is just great to have,” said Sauerwein.

Dumb Friends League — the clinic’s veterinary partner — plays a significant role in supporting the clinic’s service offerings and capacity, and currently provides regular companion animal services in north Denver. When CSU Spur opens, the nonprofit will open a donor-supported veterinary clinic in the campus’s Vida building, which will also offer affordable veterinary care and hands-on learning for CSU veterinary students and the general public.

About CSU Spur

In 2022, the CSU System will open CSU Spur, where innovative ideas and unforgettable experiences come to life at the National Western Center. CSU Spur’s three buildings at the center of the landmark project in north Denver will ignite and fuel new ideas around water, food and health and their impact on our lives and our world. Spur is where learning is open and accessible to all. Where researchers tackle the world’s most pressing problems around water, food and health. Where art and culture challenge and surround you. Where rural and urban, local and global intersect. Learn more at