Colorado State University’s Well-Known Veterinary Heart Surgeon Becomes Department Head

A Colorado State University veterinarian, who has built a premier program in canine heart surgery, has been hired as the new head of the Department of Clinical Sciences, a department that plays a critical role at CSU by staffing the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, by training future veterinarians, and by leading medical research that advances health care for animals and humans.

Christopher Orton has served as interim department head for the past 18 months; he will assume the post on a permanent basis starting July 1.

“In Dr. Orton, we have a leader who provides the focus and steady hand of a surgeon, while also inspiring students, faculty and staff to think critically and creatively about medical solutions,” said Mark Stetter, dean of the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “I’m pleased that he has accepted the job, and very excited to see the innovations Dr. Orton will continue to lead in teaching, research and clinical services.”

Orton will head a department of 140 faculty and staff and 350 students, the great majority of whom are enrolled in CSU’s outstanding Professional Veterinary Medicine Program. The Clinical Sciences faculty teach, conduct medical research, and provide care to pets and livestock at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

A leading authority in veterinary cardiovascular surgery, Orton is highly regarded for starting the first veterinary open-heart surgery program in the world. He has built his career at CSU since joining the Clinical Sciences faculty in 1983.

Orton said he hopes to incorporate new technology for teaching innovations; wants to further interact with Colorado livestock producers, especially in the beef, dairy and equine industries; and wants to encourage research advances, including those with translational potential.

“Translational” research refers to discoveries that may be built upon and applied broadly to help both animals and people. Orton’s own work, examining use of new technologies and techniques in heart surgery, exemplify this so-called “One Health” approach to medicine.

“I am super proud of CSU. I think we have the top veterinary medical program in the world,” Orton said. “We are uniquely positioned to take discoveries in our laboratories and bridge them, by using animals with naturally occurring diseases, to bring new therapies to other animals and to humans.”

Orton earned his bachelor’s degree in zoology at Oregon State University; his doctor of veterinary medicine at Washington State University; a master’s degree in clinical sciences at The Ohio State University; and a doctorate in cardiopulmonary physiology at CSU. He completed his residency in small-animal surgery at The Ohio State University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Cardiopulmonary Research Laboratory at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. He is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Veterinary Cardiology.

Orton holds multiple patents for discoveries in cardiac surgery. He teaches cardiology and respiratory medicine, and has directly advised or served on committees for more than five dozen graduate students. He has published dozens of papers in refereed journals, has authored a textbook on small-animal surgery, and has written or edited numerous textbook chapters and periodicals.

“With his range of experience and accomplishment, Dr. Orton will help us fulfill our contemporary land-grant missions in teaching, research, clinical service and outreach, while also helping the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences advance as a medical powerhouse,” Stetter said.