University or Institution

Colorado State University

Primary Mentor:

Chris Kawcak, DVM, Ph.D., Diplomate ACVS, ACVSMR. Professor of Surgery, Orthopaedic Research Center and Translational Medicine Institute, Colorado State University. Fort Collins, CO 80523. [email protected]


Mentor Team:

Wojtek Zbijewski, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University. Traylor Building, Room 605, 720 Rutland Ave, Baltimore, MD 21287. [email protected]

Brad Nelson, DVM, Ph.D., Diplomate ACVS. Assistant Professor, Orthopaedic Research Center and Translational Medicine Institute, Colorado State University. Fort Collins, CO 80523. [email protected]

Holly Stewart, DVM, Ph.D., Diplomate ACVS. Postdoctoral fellow, Orthopaedic Research Center and Translational Medicine Institute, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523. [email protected]


Note: After January 1, 2023, Dr. Stewart’s contact will be:

Holly L. Stewart, VMD, Ph.D., DACVS-LA, Assistant Professor of Large Animal Surgery, Department of Clinical Studies – New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine

Description of Potential Research Project(s):

Joint disease, especially osteoarthritis is a progressive, debilitating disease that can result from acute traumatic damage to the joint, but usually results from repetitive stress accumulation over time that results in an insidious, progressive deterioration of the joint. Characterization and identification of factors that can be used to identify and monitor early changes in joint tissues can help to improve our understanding of the disease, but also help to identify early changes for early intervention and treatment to slow the progression of the disease and help people and animals have a productive, active life.

Changes to the osteochondral tissues of the joint occur early in the disease process and many progressive changes can occur before the development of clinical signs. These tissue changes are similar to adaptive changes that occur in athletes, and the equine metacarpophalangeal joint demonstrates this fine line between normal adaptation and disease progression. Palmar Osteochondral Disease of the Thoroughbred racehorse possesses characteristics similar to osteochondral damage in other species including humans. Our collaborative work has demonstrated texture and shape characteristics of osteochondral tissues that differentiate normal adaptation from disease progression.

Veterinary specialists appropriate as fellows for your research opportunity: American College of Veterinary Surgeons; American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (LAIM); American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.


Additional Training Opportunities:

Both the Orthopaedic Research Center and the Translational Medicine Institute provide enhanced training for residency-trained veterinary specialists in the musculoskeletal disciplines. This includes Monthly Orthopaedic Research Center Journal Club, weekly Equine Surgery rounds and Journal Club, weekly Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation rounds, and weekly Equine Imaging rounds. The Johnson Family Equine Hospital is physically adjacent to both programs and it also provides enhanced experience in the clinical setting. In addition, didactic courses with experiential laboratory exercises are provided through the Department of Clinical Sciences. The Orthopedic Bioengineering Laboratory is located within the Orthopedic Research Center and provides advanced training opportunities in the engineering disciplines. Investigators from the Data Science Research Institute at CSU are also involved with the mentors in the field of data science.