Veterinary Medicine

First woman to head veterinary training program

May 28, 2014
by Coleman Cornelius

A veterinarian with expertise in cardiovascular physiology and equine medicine will become the first woman to lead Colorado State University's renowned veterinary program starting in July.

Dr. Melinda Frye, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences who has taught graduate-level physiology for seven years, will become associate dean of Professional Veterinary Medicine in the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She will replace Dr. Dean Hendrickson, who has served in the post for two years and is returning to full-time teaching and equine surgery.

Frye, who began her career in human medicine, is the first woman to head the No. 3 veterinary school in the nation – a program whose population of about 550 students is 80 percent female. Her wide-ranging experience includes veterinary teaching; research supported by the National Institutes of Health into the links among dietary fat, obesity and heart disease; veterinary practice, emphasizing horse health, in both private and university settings; and service on curriculum and steering committees for the CSU vet school.

“I’m very pleased that Dr. Frye is accepting this vital leadership role in our college and for the veterinary industry nationwide,” said Dr. Mark Stetter, dean of the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“Dr. Frye has an impressive and diverse range of experiences and achievements that will benefit our students and our veterinary program,” Stetter said. “Beyond her admirable credentials in teaching, research and clinical service, it’s wonderful to have an accomplished woman in a role that so visibly demonstrates what our students can do in science, medicine, and the veterinary industry.”

Well-rounded perspective

Frye began her career as a registered nurse, a pursuit that brought her from Oregon to Fort Collins, where she worked at Poudre Valley Hospital in critical care, among other units. She considered medical school, but ultimately pursued veterinary medicine because of her love of animals.

Frye earned a D.V.M. at CSU, then worked at a mixed-animal clinic in Idaho before returning to complete an equine medicine residency at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. After gaining certification and becoming a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, she pursued a Ph.D. in physiology through CSU, completing her research at the Cardiovascular Pulmonary Research Laboratory at the University of Colorado.

Since turning her focus to basic science instruction several years ago, Frye has taught CSU veterinary students and graduate students in biomedical sciences. In addition to helping guide the vet school in advisory roles, she has served on the executive committee for the CSU Cardiovascular Research Center.

“I hope my experience gives me a well-rounded perspective on our CSU veterinary program,” said Frye, in an office surrounded by research posters, science manuals and photos of her Norwegian Elkhound dogs.

Building on current efforts

She noted challenges well-known to veterinary educators: An abundance of graduates pursuing companion-animal practice generally has restrained veterinary pay, often exacerbating the burden of college debt. CSU is addressing the issue with a new financial advising system, among other approaches.

“I look forward to building on Dr. Hendrickson’s strong efforts directed to training for unconventional veterinary roles, focusing on a broader array of careers,” Frye said. “At CSU, we plan to start pairing students with faculty mentors in unconventional career pathways to help open the doors to new and different options.”

Some of these options include foreign and zoonotic disease, epidemiology, veterinary law, laboratory animal medicine, ecosystem health, conservation medicine, and livestock herd health and management.

Students in the Professional Veterinary Medicine Program will benefit from continued improvements in academic rigor, experiential clinical learning, innovative teaching and faculty mentoring, Frye noted.

“I’m entering this role with an appreciation for collaboration and the idea of, ‘Let’s build on our strengths and be the best we can be,’” she said.