Longtime department chair
Dr. Colin Burrows retires


By Sarah Carey

From left to right are UF's Dr. Rowan Milner, incoming chairman of the department of small animal clinical sciences; Dr. David Guzick, senior vice president of health affairs; Dr. Colin Burrows and Dean Glen Hoffsis. Dr. Burrows holds a framed photo of the new small animal hospital, presented as a retirement gift.

After more than 30 years at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, where he migrated from clinics to administration, expanded and fine tuned clinical services and relationships with practitioners and industry representatives alike, Dr. Colin Burrows has finally bid the college farewell.

His retirement from the chairmanship of the college’s department of small animal clinical sciences was effective July 1, exactly eight months after the official grand opening of the new Small Animal Hospital he helped to develop and oversee.

“Right up until the very end, Colin was working and making sure things were getting done that needed to get done,” said the college’s dean, Dr. Glen Hoffsis, during a party held June 25 in Burrows’ honor in conjunction with the traditional reception held after the college’s annual Referring Veterinarian Appreciation Day. “A lot of people would have coasted, but not him.”

Burrows family, including his son, Alex, daughter in law Elaiza, and wife, Joyce, were present at the party, along with many friends and colleagues from all over the state and beyond.

“This is ‘Mr. Veterinary Medicine’,” said Dr. Doug Mader, a renowned zoological medicine specialist and immediate past president of the North American Veterinary Conference. “All over the world, people know him.”

Burrows has been invited to speak in more than 50 countries and said he had learned a lot from his many friends in veterinary medicine around the globe. He has won numerous awards as well from key professional groups and has been specifically recognized by his peers for his contributions to international veterinary medicine.

Although Burrows intends to remain very active on the veterinary scene, both through his continuing and longtime role as executive director of the NAVC and in his new appointment as vice president of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, he leaves the college with mixed emotions.

“I’m lucky I’m not going into a vacuum, as I have the NAVC and the WSAVA to keep me busy,” he said. “I’ve always said, you don’t retire ‘from,’ you retire ‘to.’ But it’s a strange feeling.”

A graduate of the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London, Burrows received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and as a clinician  specialized in canine and feline gastrointestinal, hepatic and pancreatic disease. Although he left clinic duty behind for the most part when he began his position as department chair at UF in 1996, Burrows always stayed abreast of the latest information in his field, sharing articles of interest he would find in professional journals with faculty colleagues.

But when he arrived at UF in 1980, he never thought he’d stay as long as he did.

“Back then they called UF ‘Penn South and Davis East’ because almost  half of the original clinical faculty had been recruited from Penn and Davis,” Burrows recalled, adding that at the time, UF was a new school, finding its way.

He looked forward to coming to UF to work with his old pal and mentor from the University of Pennsylvania,  Dr. Al Merritt, an equine gastroenterologist now retired from UF’s faculty, and his friend Richard Halliwell, who was then department chairman. Years later, in 1996, Burrows accepted that position, following the death of Dr. Mark Bloomberg. As chairman, Burrows oversaw both department  and small animal hospital operations, since up until last year, the chairman’s duties also included  serving as chief of staff of the small animal hospital. 

Burrows’ contributions to college life are too many to list, but include creating and strengthening the Visiting Practitioner Program, through which veterinary practitioners spend time at the college learning more about areas of interest to them; the referral liaison positions, which strengthen communication and relationships with the referral community; the client advocate program, through which community volunteers provide assistance to hospital clients; the Referring Veterinarian Appreciation Day;  and the shelter medicine program, which provides a key link to the local animal shelter and provides students with valuable clinical experience performing spay and neuter surgeries in the Merial clerkship. That program has now expanded to perform statewide outreach and with inroads into forensic medicine with support from Maddie’s Fund.

Many international students, residents and practitioners were also given opportunities to learn and contribute to life at UF, thanks to Burrows’ support and wide network of connections.

“That is one of the things I’ve really learned over the years, and through NAVC as well; it’s all about relationships and communication with industry and with referring veterinarians,” Burrows said. “I’ve had a sixth sense for the importance of that over the years that has been developed over time. PR and marketing are different, but related. I learned the importance of marketing the college and hospital over the years.”

Burrows said he was proud of the clinical services  developed under his aegis  in cardiology, oncology, emergency medicine and critical care, and of the acupuncture and rehabilitation service. All of these programs continue to grow, many due to support from donors and friends who have strengthened their bonds with the college through Burrows’ involvement. Burrows’ industry contacts also included representatives of the Florida Association of Kennel Clubs, a group which has provided scholarship support to the college.  Speaking of scholarships, Hoffsis announced that a student scholarship has been created in Burrows’  honor with almost $80,000 donated thus far.

“The opening of the new hospital last fall certainly helped us turn around the declining caseload that was driven by the economy,” Burrows said. “The associated publicity made more people aware of our existence than before and I think the excitement surrounding the grand opening gave us a big lift.  Opening a comprehensive 24-hour emergency service also helped.”

But despite the fancy new building and the excitement it engendered, in the end Burrows said that’s not what, for him, it’s all about.

“It’s not bricks and mortar that makes a great place,” he said. “It’s the people who work there.”

Editor’s note: To make a contribution to the Colin F. Burrows student scholarship, contact Karen Legato, senior director of development and alumni affairs, at (352) 294-4256 or email her at legatok@ufl.edu.

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