Veterinary prof awarded for coaching confident practitioners

Close-up of Dr. Craig Webb

Dr. Craig Webb, a Colorado State University veterinary professor, recently received the 2014 Colorado Veterinary Medical Association Outstanding Faculty Award for instilling in students knowledge and confidence in their clinical skills – sometimes adding extra motivation with triple gold stars and candy bars.

“Well, the candy bars only work if the students are food-motivated,” Webb said jokingly. His fun and interactive teaching tactics, including prizes for correct answers, have landed him on a prestigious list of 30 current and retired CSU faculty who have received the award.

Webb is among faculty in the CSU Department of Clinical Sciences who conduct research, treat animal patients and teach aspiring veterinarians in the university’s DVM Program, ranked the No. 3 veterinary school in the nation.  With a total annual enrollment of more than 550 students, the top-notch program influences all of veterinary medicine – adding weight to Webb’s accolade.

“It’s something I never would have expected,” said Webb, head of the Small Animal Medicine Section at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

A born teacher

Dr. Craig Webb speaks to students while sitting in a chair in his scrubs veterinary coat
Dr. Craig Webb reviews the cases of veterinary patients with D.V.M. students during “rounds” at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

The CVMA Outstanding Faculty Award recognizes a CSU faculty member who has provided unselfish assistance to private practitioners, is a proficient and capable teacher, and has made significant contributions to continuing education.

“His casual and positive teaching style allows you to feel confident in a challenging environment,” fourth-year veterinary student Kari Frankhouse said. “He pushes us to find the right answers without being condescending. He thinks through the problem with us.”

Webb knew he was going to be a teacher before he knew what he was going to teach.

“I always knew I wanted to teach. It was the kind of environment I was raised in,” Webb said. “If I asked my dad why the sky was blue, he would tell me the exact reason.”

His “aha” moment came while Webb was studying for his doctorate in neuroscience at Hahnemann University in Philadelphia.

“My parents’ cat was hit by a bicycle,” Webb said. “I remember hearing about all of the amazing things the veterinarians were doing to save its life, and that’s when I knew exactly what I wanted to teach and what I wanted to do.”

Webb received his veterinary degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997. He completed an internship at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, where he was featured on the former Animal Planet television program “Emergency Vets.”

After his 15 minutes of fame, Webb came to the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences for a small animal residency and has remained on faculty ever since.

“It’s a phenomenal environment to be a part of,” Webb said. “Not only do you get to work with students, but you get to interact with other faculty, house officers, and people who share a passion for what you’re doing.”

Satisfied students

Students in Webb’s small animal rotation say much of their understanding stems from case studies, peer quizzes and group discussions.

Dr. Craig Webb converses to students while sitting in a chair in his scrubs veterinary coat
Students say Webb’s interactive teaching style is a key to his success.

“He is amazing. He has a way of asking a broad question and making each of us think and research to come up with our own conclusions,” Cait Martinez, another fourth-year veterinary student, said. “He forces us to think of all of the possibilities.”

Webb encourages students to think about individual cases and examples rather than memorizing textbooks and lectures. The goal is for students to fully understand a problem before considering solutions, he said.

“It allows us to completely think through the case step by step, rather than just jumping from symptoms to treatment,” student Cassie Durant said.

One of Webb’s tactics is to have students create their own quizzes based on patient cases. It allows classmates to share the questions and observations each encountered during their interactions with animal patients and their owners.

“He makes us work through each client case as if it were a puzzle,” Martinez said. “It’s fun and interactive. It makes even the most difficult questions and cases feel less intimidating. It gives me the confidence I need to apply my own knowledge to each case.”

Webb is often referred to as a leader in small animal medicine and an excellent role model. He is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and lectures throughout the United States and Europe. Webb received the CVMBS Outstanding Faculty Award during the annual convention in Loveland.