Texas Tech University

Experienced Anatomic Pathologist Joins Faculty of Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine

George Watson

June 24, 2020

Mariposa Station

Michael Josue Cruz Penn comes to Texas Tech from the University of Kentucky’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

An important skill of veterinarians is the ability to distinguish abnormal from normal – or to know a sick animal from a healthy one. Veterinarians need to do this across all major domestic species like dogs, cats and cattle as well as for common wildlife. The next and sometimes very challenging detective step is to know what is causing the animal to be sick.

Just like on some TV crime dramas, that detective work also happens when a veterinarian performs an autopsy on an animal, referred to as necropsy in the veterinary world. A recognized specialist is called a pathologist – and more precisely for diagnosing disease beginning with the necropsy – an anatomic pathologist. Now, an anatomic pathologist is the latest expert to join the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo.

From the age of 16, Michael Josue Cruz Penn has worked toward a career in veterinary medicine and has performed extensive work throughout Central America. Now, the Costa Rica native brings his expertise to Amarillo as the newest member of the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine as an assistant professor of anatomic pathology. He began is new duties on June 15.

Cruz Penn
Michael Josue Cruz Penn

"I am excited to be a part of the formation of new professionals in the veterinary field and hope to develop research projects on forensic veterinary pathology and diseases of zoo and wildlife animal species," Cruz Penn said. "I'm particularly excited about participating in research on andragogy for the betterment of the education of future veterinarians."

Cruz Penn comes to Texas Tech after spending the last three years as a clinical instructor of anatomic pathology, specifically postmortem diagnosis techniques, for veterinary students from Lincoln Memorial University in Lexington, Kentucky.

After moving to the U.S. from Costa Rica in 2012, Cruz Penn completed a three-year anatomic pathology residence at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Worcester, Mass. He then served a two-year anatomic pathology fellowship at the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, becoming a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathology (ACVP).

"A defining feature of our school is that it is in a region that serves an outdoor teaching laboratory," said Guy Loneragan, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. "Animal agriculture, a key driver of Texas' economy, has its home around Amarillo. Dr. Cruz Penn will be able to take students outside the walls of the school and teach them how to diagnose disease in the real world. Developing the skills to effectively perform field necropsies and identify present diseases will help make our students highly sought-after. We are lucky to have someone like Dr. Cruz Penn join our team"

Cruz Penn earned Médico Veterinario con grado de Licenciatura – the equivalent of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – from the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica's School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. He spent three years as an on-call veterinary clinician and surgeon, performing relief small-animal medicine for more than 20 veterinary clinics in four of Costa Rica's seven provinces while completing his graduation thesis, which focused on veterinary forensic pathology in domestic and wildlife species.

Upon graduating from veterinary school, Cruz Penn served three years as a veterinary surgery and medicine instructor for students from around the world for the Vida Volunteer organization. He provided instruction for students in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Panama.

"Dr. Cruz Penn is bringing great experience to the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine, having worked with clinical-year veterinary students at the University of Kentucky's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, one of the busiest veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the country," said John Dascanio, senior associate dean for academic and student affairs. "Dr. Cruz Penn will lead our pathology courses and provide anatomic pathology services for teaching and research. Being fluent in Spanish, he will be able to engage many of the feedlot workers to improve animal health care based on pathology examinations, especially through field necropsies. We are very fortunate to bring Dr. Cruz Penn to the Amarillo campus."

Cruz Penn becomes the 16th faculty member for the School of Veterinary Medicine. Those already on the faculty are:

Additional faculty members will be added over the summer and fall.

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 2019, 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.