Stepping up? Or down?

Jul 292003
Authors: Shandra Jordan

After 17 years of association with the No. 1 veterinary program in the country, Cornell, David Lee joined CSU, the No. 2 program.

“The only thing more fun than working for the No. 1 school is helping the No. 2 school become the No. 1 school,” Lee said.

On June 1 Lee took over as director of the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at CSU after a nation-wide search.

“There are only a handful of schools I would have considered and Colorado State was certainly one of them given its excellent reputation,” Lee said, “and its location doesn’t hurt either.”

Lee has a master’s of business administration, a doctorate in veterinary medicine and a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences, all from Cornell.

He has held several positions at Cornell including executive director of external affairs and marketing for the College of Veterinary Medicine, executive director of strategic planning and business development and assistant director of the endocrinology section of the diagnostic laboratory.

He has also taught in the areas of practice management, hospital administration, community practice service, and ethics and professional development, according to a press release.

“Dr. Lee is an excellent fit,” said Lance Perryman, the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “He’s a veterinarian with experience in private practice, he has an MBA degree so he has the knowledge base to be an effective manager and he’s absolutely committed to client satisfaction.”

Additionally, Lee worked for a private small animal practice in Portland, Maine.

One area Lee hopes his experience and education will benefit the teaching hospital is in customer service and business practices.

“The veterinary profession in general has not been particularly business savvy,” Lee said. “We are part of a profession that is not money driven, which is good. People are in it for the right reasons. But if people end up dropping out of the profession because they don’t have enough money to live, they can’t help very many animals.”

Lee said there is more competition now in the veterinary medicine field, which means the Veterinary Teaching Hospital has to be more customer-service oriented than before.

Many years ago, a teaching hospital was the only place to go if you needed a complicated or unusual procedure done, Lee said. Now, more private clinics can perform those services as graduates of these teaching hospitals start their own practices.

“We need to work on getting people more interested in not just the money but the client customer service,” Lee said. “I think the people here are dedicated to that and we’ll see results pretty quickly.”

Lee also emphasized that continued funding for the hospital was important to not only the hospital, but also CSU in this time of budget cuts.

“Now is not the time to cut programs and staff because that would just create a downward spiral,” Lee said.

Because CSU is a land grant organization, it has a three-part mission of teaching, research and service.

“All three occur here,” Lee said.

The clinical training at the hospital is the most expensive part of veterinary training, Lee said, but it is worth the investment to have a teaching hospital rather than “farming-out” students to private practices.

“The quality of work that’s performed here is excellent, we still have quite a bit of demand for services,” Lee said.

The hospital makes enough money to cover most of its operating costs each year, Perryman said.

The hospital trains about four classes from the College of Veterinary Medicine with about 135 people per class.

“It’s much larger than Cornell,” Lee said. “This school services many of the western states and I think the supply and demand for veterinarians is about right.”

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