Out of the gate: New horse hospital breaks ground at CSU Veterinary Health Complex

five people in hardhats shoveling dirt
Dr. Tony Frank, Dr. Chris Kawcak, CSU president Joyce Mcconnell, Lynn Campion and Berit Campion of the Johnson Family Foundation perform the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Johnson Family Equine Hospital on Aug. 6, 2019. (John Eisele/CSU photo)

When Dr. Chris Kawcak speaks about the excellence of the equine care at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, he’s not only speaking from his position as director of equine clinical services, but as a horse owner.

“I’ve actually been a client in this hospital. My wife (Dr. Erin Contino) and I lost three horses in six weeks to severe problems. It was terrible. We had the horses here in the hospital during that time, and what I learned then was how fierce an advocate – faculty, staff, students – are for our clients and patients. We talk about ‘bricks and mortar’ but it’s really the people who make the program.”

man speaking at a podium
“First and foremost, you listen, and you care.” -Dr. Chris Kawcak, director of equine clinical services at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. (John Eisele/CSU photo)

Speaking Aug. 6 at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Johnson Family Equine Hospital, Kawcak thanked his colleagues, as well as the donors whose names will grace the building, slated to open in 2021. The Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation donated $10 million toward Phase 1 of the $34.6 million project, which will cover six acres north of the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital in the Veterinary Health Complex on CSU’s South Campus. Construction will begin later this fall.

“We teach, we do research, we provide clinical service, and that gives us interesting perspective on how we can push the envelope on health care – not just for the horse but for people too,” Kawcak told the assembled crowd. “Our goal is to teach, to advise, to inform, to innovate. It’s the attitude we try to instill in our students: first and foremost, you listen, and you care.”

Quoting Isaac Newton’s phrase often used in the sciences, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” Kawcak said “that is really true here. The discovery that we have today is built on the the previous discoveries of those people ahead of us, our mentors and predecessors.”

Lynn Campion of the Johnson Family Foundation at the equine hospital groundbreaking. Behind her is a rendering of the project. (John Eisele/CSU photo)

Lynn Campion, granddaughter of Helen and Arthur Johnson, spoke of her connection to the animals on her family’s ranch near Mount Evans, which led her to the late Dr. James Voss ,one of CSU’s “giants” who cared for some of her horses. “He’s pretty magical, so it’s pretty hard not to want to support CSU. I owe a lot to CSU, and our family really got behind what’s going on here. I’m so glad we could help.”

New CSU president Joyce McConnell, who has been in the role since July 1, credited chancellor Dr. Tony Frank for his leadership, and reminded the faculty and staff that “this is a truly extraordinary, excellent, world-class university. We ask people to invest in our buildings, but what we are really asking is ‘invest in our people, invest in our expertise and invest in our world-class work.'”

That work includes enhanced laboratory, clinical, and classroom learning opportunities for students, clients, and clinicians, including:

  • Bench-to-bedside research facilities with immediate benefits for diagnosis and treatment
  • Observation areas in critical care to provide improved teaching and learning opportunities for veterinary students along with the latest in biosecurity and care of critical patients.
  • The latest diagnostic capabilities
  • The largest research program in the world for equine sports medicine, orthopedic treatment, imaging, and neurology

With a horse-friendly design, the new hospital will bring 30 clinicians in all areas of care under one roof, strengthening CSU’s ability to provide exceptional services that improve the physical and emotional well-being of 4,000 patients per year. Hard- and soft-surface arenas for lameness evaluation, and the latest in advanced imaging technology will improve diagnostic ability, and board-certified specialists will offer a full array of services:

  • General and emergency care
  • Internal medicine
  • Surgery
  • Reproduction
  • Orthopedic, sports medicine and rehabilitation
  • Dentistry
  • Dermatology
  • Cardiology
  • Neurology
  • Ophthalmology

“This is a world-class facility that gives dignity to the horses because we recognize that they are truly athletes,” McConnell said. “This is a facility that will be unique in pulling all of our expertise together, our amazing students, our amazing staff to do research, education but also all the clinical work that will make a huge difference not just for our equine athletes but for research going forward. That may apply to horses, it may apply to human beings as we translate all of that work, and this facility is going to embody all of that.”

Interested in donating? Give to the Johnson Family Equine Hospital here.