Dr. Alex Pyuen, D.V.M., M.S.
Medical Oncology Resident
Lucy Oncology Scholar
Growing up, my mother was the biggest lover of animals I knew (turns out she still is today!) When I was a girl in a small town in Maryland, she worked as a receptionist at an animal hospital. With any chance I could get, I would find a way to go to work with her. She must have quickly realized however, that I was much more interested in what was going on behind the scenes and not at the front desk. At each visit to the animal hospital, I would find a way to sneak back to the treatment areas and hover outside the surgical suites, somehow finding myself in a pair of oversized scrubs, observing and asking questions. I believe this must have been where my passion for veterinary medicine was born.
When I was eleven years old, the most earth-shattering thing happened. My impressively strong and wonderfully sarcastic father, Steve, lost a year-long battle to multiple myeloma, a cancer of white blood cells. His cancer came on faster and stronger than anyone could have anticipated, and I distinctly remember the feelings of helplessness, anger, and frustration. What was this horrible disease, why is it so unpredictable, and why can’t we cure it?
Following my father’s death, my family relocated to Boulder, Colorado where I completed middle school and high school. As I grieved and processed my father’s death, I found myself growing more and more intrigued by the science behind diseases like the one that took his life. As I entered college and worked toward my bachelor’s degree in microbiology at The University of Texas at Austin, I considered the possibilities of pursuing both human and veterinary medicine. Ultimately, however, I found myself innately pulled toward veterinary medicine, much like I was pulled from the front desk at my mom’s animal hospital, back to the surgical suites and treatment areas.
After completing my bachelor’s degree, I was lucky enough to be accepted to Colorado State University’s D.V.M. program. During the early years of my veterinary training, I had the opportunity to pursue a small oncology research project with Dr. Doug Thamm at the Flint Animal Cancer Center. Ultimately, this small project and Dr. Thamm’s phenomenal mentorship led to an NIH funded research grant and master’s degree in cancer biology, which I was able to complete before receiving my D.V.M. degree. This experience provided such a meaningful way to combine my passion for veterinary medicine with my wish to learn more about and help fight the disease that has both frustrated and intrigued me since I was young.
I relocated to Athens, Georgia for a year to complete a small animal rotating internship at the University of Georgia. After this challenging and rewarding clinical year, I was lucky enough to be accepted back to CSU for my medical oncology residency. CSU was my top pick for residency training not only for the amazing research opportunities, exceptional training program, and beautiful new facility, but most importantly because of the wonderful people who work here, who make coming to work every day enjoyable.
People often question why I chose the field of oncology because they believe it must be sad and depressing all the time. However, I believe that more often than not, we are able to provide options, encouragement, and hope, where it might not have existed before. As a tangible example, in the 18 years since my father died, the survival time for multiple myeloma in humans has increased from an average of 2-3 years to 7-10 years thanks to ongoing cancer research. If we can make that much progress since I was a little girl, I can only imagine the possibilities for progress in both human and veterinary oncology in the years to come.
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my fiancé, Gustavo, who is not only completing a PhD in cartilage repair at CSU’s Equine Orthopedic Research Center, but is also completing his residency in Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. We love living in Colorado for all of the opportunities to hike, camp, backpack, ski, and enjoy the breweries. Our fur family includes two perfect strays: the sweetest and snuggliest black lab, Miss Champ (who was found on the streets in Athens, GA) and the fluffiest and bossiest Maine Coon cat named Kitters (who was found on the streets in Austin, TX).