First-Of-Its-Kind Position in Nation Endowed at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Narda Robinson, a recognized expert in scientific and evidence-based alternative medicine, has been named to a position that is the first of its kind to be endowed in the nation in veterinary medicine.

The university announced today that Robinson’s professorship of complementary and alternative medicine at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is endowed. The position focuses on researching complementary medicine for veterinary practice and the application of alternative medicine approaches proven through sound scientific research to help improve the quality of life for animals with a variety of diseases such as cancer.

The position is funded by a $3 million gift given in 2000 by Charles and Lucia Shipley of Auburndale, Mass., with $600,000 of these funds establishing the endowment for the professorship.

"Dr. Robinson is trained and licensed in osteopathic and veterinary medicine," said Dr. Paul Lunn, head of the Department of Clinical Sciences. "She is now devoting her full-time career to the practice and development of alternative therapies in veterinary medicine, such as acupuncture, and to research that can benefit both humans and animals. Narda is a skilled, dedicated and compassionate clinician and has already demonstrated great leadership in studies of the scientific basis of complementary and alternative healing methods."

The position will expand current services and research in complementary and alternative medicine currently underway at the Veterinary Medical Center such as acupuncture and chiropractic care. Fifty percent of the position will focus on treating animal cancer patients at the hospital and researching alternative medical complements to traditional cancer treatments and pain management. In addition, the position will expand research into the medicinal benefits of plants. Robinson also will work with the college’s Center for Pain Management and consult with university neurology veterinarians.

"There is research showing that certain applications of alternative medicine – such as acupuncture and some herbs – are meaningful treatments," said Robinson. "But, we must be well-informed. Not all alternative and complementary medicine works well, and not all of what’s currently being used in humans and animals is safe. Our agenda is to be objective and base recommendations for alternative medicine on science and research."

Robinson founded the complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, service at Colorado State’ Veterinary Medical Center nearly ten years ago. Since then, the program at the university has grown considerably, pushing forward into areas of research that will upgrade the practice and promote education about science-based alternative medicine among veterinarians.

Professional interest in CAM and demand from clients continues to increase, with a marked majority of the university’s oncology clients using some form of these services. The CAM service provides acupuncture for patients at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital on campus, and owners are provided with tailored information about herbs or nutritional supplements that might help their animal based on each unique case. If owners are already providing herbs and supplements to their animals, they can receive specific education on a case-by-case basis about whether these products might interfere with other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy and be provided with scientific information about their effectiveness.

Currently, a significant number of people use herbs and natural healing on their pets and horses, according to research projects underway at Colorado State. However, little is known about the benefits of using herbs on animals, who may metabolize herbs differently than humans do. In addition, the benefits and dangers of treating animals and humans with alternative medicine can be controversial because of a lack of mainstream research supporting or debunking their use.

Colorado State students seeking a degree in professional veterinary medicine can take courses on the neurophysiologic basis of acupuncture, the scientific basis of herbs, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, nutritional supplements and homeopathy. Robinson currently runs the only science-based continuing education veterinary acupuncture courses in North America.

University veterinary students attend treatment appointments and participate in discussions about the pros and cons of various natural medicinal approaches.

Robinson’s current research includes the impact of acupuncture on dogs with dry eye, and she is developing the first, complete, neuroanatomically-accurate system of canine acupuncture point locations.

Robinson is trained and licensed in both human and veterinary medicine, although the main focus of her career recently has been in the veterinary field. In both professional realms, she passionately explores the truth underlying complementary and alternative healing methods to ensure safe and effective practice.  

Robinson acquired her bachelor’s degree from Harvard/Radcliffe in 1982, her doctoral degree from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1988, and her doctor of veterinary medicine and medical sciences degrees from Colorado State in 1997 and 2005, respectively. She is a board certified physician in medical acupuncture, a diplomate of the American Board of Medical Acupuncture and a fellow of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.

Robinson heads the examination committee for the American Board of Medical Acupuncture, which certifies physicians in medical acupuncture. She has served on the board for several years, and uses the experience and expertise she acquired in these leadership roles in human acupuncture to further the professionalism and level of discourse within the veterinary acupuncture profession.

The College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State, established in 1907, has been a leader in developing and evaluating new advances in health care for animals. The veterinary medical program, which awards doctor of veterinary medicine degrees, has consistently ranked among the top veterinary programs in the country.

The Shipleys gave $3 million to the college in 2000, devoting $1 million to fund the construction of a wing to house the university’s Animal Cancer Center and the Argus Institute and the remaining $2 million to be distributed over several years to the scientific study and application of natural treatments to improve the quality of life for animals suffering from a variety of diseases including cancer.