Jason Fritzler’s vast knowledge of parasites, bacteria and viruses will provide a key resource for future veterinarians.
Some people collect bugs. Those with money collect classic cars. Other people collect coins, or stamps or other trinkets that are associated either with their profession or their extracurricular interests.
Jason Fritzler collects parasites.
He has a good reason, though. Parasites are a vital part of his research and has been since his days as a doctoral student at Texas A&M University, where he realized there were vast opportunities available for parasitic research and education in animals. Now, he will bring his vast knowledge – and his parasite collection – to the first new veterinary school in Texas in more than a century.
Fritzler, who grew up on a family farm near New Deal, joined the faculty of the new Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo as an associate professor of microbiology with a focus on infectious disease. He began his duties on May 11.
"My expertise in microbiology, parasitology and biological safety will be a valuable addition to the array of professionals making up the faculty for the School of Veterinary Medicine," Fritzler said. "I am looking forward to the opportunity to not only teach the veterinary students in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, but also be a mentor to and director of students who are focused on their doctorate while enrolled here."
Fritzler, who earned both his bachelor's degree (2003) and Doctor of Philosophy in Veterinary Microbiology (2008) from Texas A&M, has been an assistant professor in the Department of Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences at West Texas A&M in Canyon since 2017, teaching microbiology, immunology and parasitology and beginner-level biology.
It was during his time at Texas A&M focusing on the parasitic protozoan Cryptosporidium Parvum, a parasite that affects the intestinal and respiratory epithelium of vertebrates, that he became interested in researching and collecting parasites. His teaching skills and vast knowledge of parasites, bacteria and viruses will provide a key resource for the School of Veterinary Medicine.
Throughout his career, which has carried him to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches and Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, prior to his stop in Canyon, Fritzler has established biosafety program policies, helped design the biological safety parameters of major science teaching and research facilities and served as an institutional biosafety officer.
"Even though we are only five months into 2020, it has been inexorably defined by a single infectious disease that originated in animals and 'spilled over' to people," said Guy Loneragan, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. "Veterinarians are on the front line of controlling infectious diseases in animals. They also are on the front lines to help protect us from these 'spill-over' events, whether that is ringworm in a show steer, hydatids in a dog or Salmonella in a horse. Jason is such a fantastic addition to our program, and he will benefit our students – and society – in so many ways."
Through his teaching, his student-focused and student-driven research programs and his personal research, Fritzler has become a nationally recognized expert in the field of infectious disease and antimicrobial discovery. In addition to his numerous publications in industry journals, he also has authored a book chapter on cryptosporidium and cryptosporidiosis published in the book, "Genome Mapping in Animals and Microbes."
"Dr. Fritzler brings a wealth of experience working with producers, researchers and educators in the Texas high plains area," said John Dascanio, senior associate dean for academic and student affairs. "He will be joining a group of other microbiologists at the school to investigate issues of importance to the region. His expertise in parasitology will help tremendously in teaching our veterinary students. Jason's multi-faceted talents are great addition to our school."
Fritzler joins Loneragan, Dascanio, associate dean for clinical programs Britt Conklin, professor of surgery David Dutton, assistant professor of general veterinary practice Bethany Schilling, professor of medicine László Hunyadi, professor of surgery Nancy Zimmerman, visiting professor Jerry Black, associate professor of Library and Information Sciences Howard Rodriguez-Mori and assistant professor of curriculum and assessment Marcelo Schmidt on the faculty for the School of Veterinary Medicine. Additional faculty members will be added over the summer and fall.
"I am honored to be a member of the founding faculty at Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine," Fritzler said. "The administration is very supportive of myself and the other new faculty, and we all are eager to combine our resources and knowledge to welcome the first class of students. It will very soon be the heart of veterinary medicine in the Texas Panhandle and surrounding areas."
About the School of Veterinary Medicine
Thanks to the generosity of Amarillo and communities across Texas, and the commitment of legislators from around the state, the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo, established in 2018, is working to enroll its first class in the fall of 2021, pending approval by the AVMA Council on Education.
The School of Veterinary Medicine will recruit and select students with a passion to practice and succeed in rural and regional communities. Its curriculum is focused on the competencies and skills necessary for success in practices that support these communities. Texas Tech's innovative and cost-efficient model partners with the wider community of veterinary practices across the state to provide clinical, real-world experiential learning.
In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law the biennial state budget, which appropriated $17.35 million for the School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo that will go toward operational needs in order to get the school up and running. The appropriation included language directing Texas Tech to move forward in establishing the school.