Dr. Christine Hardy

Christine S. Hardy, DVM, MBA, MPH
Associate Director, Development, Operations, and Strategy
One Cure Program Lead

My brother, Russ, is the reason I work here. He is a childhood leukemia survivor, and he is alive today because of comparative oncology and clinical trials. My work here is my attempt to repay a debt of gratitude for Russ and all the others who get to live their lives thanks to groundbreaking cancer research.

I grew up on a dairy farm in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, alongside my two sisters and brother. My dad was a physician and my mom, a nurse. Medicine and animals were the two constants of my early life. 

As a child, a rare day went by when I didn’t bring home an animal, insect, or critter that needed a home – according to me. My parents were very patient with my love of animals and encouraged me to explore the world around me while also managing the population of critters that were offered permanent sanctuary with our family. 

After high school, I took a gap year and lived in Switzerland as an exchange student. This experience opened my eyes to the benefits of travel, expanding my comfort zone and opening my heart and mind to new perspectives and priorities for what it means to live a full life. I often think of the experience as the addendum to the life lessons I learned as the older sister of two siblings with major health challenges. I knew I wanted my career to impact the world for good – and experience as much of the world as possible. 

I went to James Madison University in Virginia. I double majored in German and biology, with an emphasis on pre-med. I also met my husband, Erik, during my undergraduate years. From there, I went to UNC Chapel Hill where I earned a Master’s in Public Health and solidified my goal to study medicine. 

After my master’s program, I really thought I’d follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a human doctor. Erik and I moved to Northern Colorado for his graduate schooling at CSU while I worked in human public health and prepared for medical school. Erik encouraged me to volunteer at a small veterinary clinic in Wellington, Colorado thinking it might be a better fit for me. As a way to prove him (and everyone else wrong), I did. Working with Dr. Tracey Jensen was the first time that I was exposed to high-quality veterinary care, from a female doctor no less. Working at her clinic was an ah-ha moment for me. Everyone had always thought I should be a vet, and I finally saw it for myself. Touche!

I applied for vet school at Colorado State and got in on the second try. By happenstance, my acceptance letter came with an announcement of a new combined MBA/DVM program. This program was designed for non-traditional students who had managerial work experience. I had always wanted to pursue training in business and Dr. Jensen solidified this goal when she told me about the challenges she had on the business side of her practice. I decided to go for it and was a member of the inaugural class of the CSU MBA/DVM program finishing in 2007. 

In September of my senior year of veterinary school, I met Dr. Stephen Withrow, founding director of the FACC, on my oncology rotation, working on a dog with breast cancer. Over one of my first surgery cases, he asked me what I wanted to do “when I grew up,” a common Withrow question. 

I told him that I wanted to put together my experience in veterinary medicine, public health, and business somehow but couldn’t articulate a clear vision for my career path. He listened to my ideas and suggested I speak with a few individuals on his team. I didn’t realize it at the time but those discussions were my interviews. Before he headed off on sabbatical I had my first job offer in hand along with the encouragement to figure out what I wanted to do by the time he returned several months later. 

I knew enough about the mission of the FACC to help all cancer patients and Dr. Withrow to know that this was the dream opportunity. I had a sense that the work that was being done here would have an impact well beyond veterinary medicine, and I wanted to be a part of it. I began working at the FACC before I even graduated in a very part-time role. 

Upon graduation, I jumped in full-time Monday-Thursday at the FACC while also working at Dr. Jensen’s practice on Fridays and the weekends for the first few years after veterinary school. It was a nice opportunity to also develop my clinical skills. Eventually, I decided that dedicating my efforts to the FACC was the right path for me. 

When I was first hired, I worked in business development, helping take ideas from the research department and commercialize them. In the more than 15 years I’ve been here, my job has morphed into donor relations, operations, and strategy. In short, my job is to be sure everyone else can do their job at the FACC. I am also the Program Lead for the One Cure initiative – the clinical trials arm of our research. In this role, I am the liaison between our external stakeholders and donors (who I call friends) who make this initiative possible and our internal team. One of my favorite parts of the job is helping our friends understand how an investment in One Cure is a contribution towards a better future for all cancer patients.  

I also aim to help educate the public about the value and importance of One Cure. It’s easy to be passionate about clinical trials because I understand so personally the importance and impact of this work thanks to Russ. 

There are so many things I love about working here. When I spend time on clinics, I love seeing when the students come to appreciate what can be done to help pets with cancer and when they learn about the field of comparative oncology. I also love that I get to see residents and fellows finish their programs – it’s an amazing culmination of their career dreams. Not to mention the patients themselves – I love them all! And being a part of a team that is considered the best in the world and doing meaningful work for all cancer patients, that’s a gift. 

The very best part of my job is the relationships I’ve built with the friends of the FACC. They are some of the most amazing people in the world. They can support any project they choose, but they believe in us, they believe in the people that work here, and they believe in the impact they can make by supporting our programs. Being a part of helping our friends make dreams a reality is remarkable. Quite literally what we do at the FACC is made possible by our many friends.

When I’m not working, you’ll find me outside, creating some sort of art or traveling – especially if it’s some kind of adventure-based travel preferably with Erik. We have a small horse farm and live in our barn, which turns out to be the most wonderful place to live (according to me, and thankfully, Erik agrees!). I spend lots of my free time taking care of the six older special needs horses who board on the property and otherwise being active outside. I’m also a certified veterinary acupuncturist and enjoy helping horses and dogs with this complementary therapy. We have two dogs, Jessi, a border collie, and Pepper, a rescue dog. We also have a potbelly pig named Miss Piggy Sue. 

I have recently taken up learning the traditional Huichol art form of skull beading. This art is derived from the Huichol people of Mexico, native to the Sierra Madre Occidental range that I have admired for decades via our travels. During the pandemic, I learned the traditional method of embedding each bead by hand into natural beeswax into intricate patterns. I hope this art honors the Huichol culture and the animals who have left the skull behind. It’s become a meditative practice for me that I find grounding in my otherwise very active lifestyle.

We have made incredible progress for the benefit of all cancer patients here at the Flint Animal Cancer Center and I’m so honored to be a part of this work together with our friends who make it all possible and the brilliant people on the FACC team.

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