Since the early 1980s, the Flint Animal Cancer Center has trained more surgical, medical, and radiation oncologists than any other veterinary institution. Beyond the formal training program, each year, the FACC also welcomes dozens of guest observers from around the world. Over the years, this expanding collegial network has led to FACC’s growing global impact on cancer care for companion animals.
While teaching is fundamental to academic institutions, four decades ago, the FACC set the standard in veterinary oncology training and made exceptional teaching and learning a foundational principle. Through clinical and classroom experiences, cancer center trainees have the opportunity to employ advanced diagnostic tools and treatment protocols. But technology isn’t necessarily what makes the FACC’s program unique. What draws rising oncology specialists and other guests is the center’s willingness to share its model of comprehensive and compassionate care and the opportunity to work alongside experts in medical, radiation, and surgical oncology as they coordinate the best treatment plan for each patient.
“The multidisciplinary approach to cancer care distinguishes our program,” said FACC director, Dr. Rod Page. “I believe it’s important to share our model and decades of experience with veterinarians around the world, ultimately to benefit infinitely more pets with cancer.”
Conquering Cancer Together
According to Page, the FACC explicitly welcomes international trainees and visitors, a policy he plans to continue.
“We say cancer doesn’t care if you have two legs or four,” said Page. “Cancer also doesn’t care if you’re a dog living in Arizona or Australia. We believe every pet should have access to specialty care and that the more specialists we have treating and studying cancer, the more likely we will be to conquer cancer in all species.”
Alumni Influence on Three Continents
In 1984, the FACC’s first specialty trainee completed a medical oncology residency. Four years later, the first of many international trainees completed a surgical oncology fellowship. Since then, 98 residents and fellows and more than a dozen specialty interns have trained at the FACC. In total, current and past specialty trainees represent 11 countries. While some international alumni join specialty clinics or academic institutions in the United States following their training, others work in clinical practices back home. To date, FACC alumni have practiced in Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, and England.
While formal training is resource-limited, each year, the FACC welcomes visiting veterinarians and students from other institutions. These guests travel from across the United States and around the world. Over the last four years alone, the FACC has hosted more than 200 visitors. Nearly 70 of those traveled from outside the United States.
Professional visitors typically spend two to four weeks observing patient cases, attending patient rounds, and shadowing faculty. The FACC’s goal is to share knowledge and build relationships with every visitor to provide them with tools and experiences that they can bring back to the patients and clients they serve.
Three Specialists, Three Countries
In January 2019, Dr. Furuya Masaru, associate professor of veterinary sciences at the University of Osaka in Japan, began his nine-month visit working alongside FACC clinicians to learn more about the center’s oncology service. By embedding with the team, his goal was to learn as much as possible about FACC’s comprehensive care model. Now back in Japan, he is working to establish a similar veterinary oncology program to expand treatment options for companion animals in his country.
Dr. Thomas Lee, a native of Taiwan, is a radiation oncology resident at the FACC. Following vet school and a medical oncology residency, Lee worked at a teaching hospital in Taiwan. During that time, he began consulting with human radiation oncologists to develop therapy plans for his pet patients. With no formal training program available in Taiwan, Lee pursued a radiation oncology residency at the FACC.
“I selected the FACC because of its multidisciplinary model,” said Lee. “I think it’s important for our patients that we work with medical and surgical oncologists.”
Current FACC surgical oncology fellow, Dr. Tristram Bennett, joins a growing list of specialty trainees from Down Under. Bennett is originally from New Zealand, but following veterinary school, he moved to Australia. There, he completed an internship and residency in surgery with FACC surgical oncology fellow alumnus Dr. Rod Straw.
“In Australia, CSU is quite revered, likely because most of our big names trained there,” said Bennett. “There’s a catchphrase in our veterinary community that starts with ‘In Colorado, they ….’”
Now that Bennett is here, he looks forward to learning how things are done in Colorado and taking his training back to Sydney to benefit his patients. He also wants to share what he’s learned with colleagues and students. And, of course, have his chance to start a few conversations with the phrase, “In Colorado, we ….”
Private philanthropy supports several FACC trainee positions. Your gift to Elliott’s Long Paw Scholars helps to fund a three-year medical oncology residency. To invest in a future specialist’s training, please donate to Elliott’s Long Paw Scholars Fund today.