Brian Collins

Jack of All Trades

Never in his wildest dreams, did Dr. Brian Collins see himself as a teacher. And he certainly didn’t picture himself back at his alma mater.

“I never considered teaching,” Collins said. “I always assumed you need to be a specialist to teach at a veterinary school.

“I was more of a jack of all trades and master of none.”

Collins is selling himself short. He has worked hard to refine his veterinary skills, which he has put to good use as the clinical assistant professor with overall responsibilities for the College of Veterinary Medicine’s two Clinical Skills Laboratories.

It was a long and winding road on Collins’ return to Iowa State. After graduation, he worked in a mixed animal practice in his hometown of Elkader, Iowa, working primarily with dairy cattle. The U.S. Navy veteran is also a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, serving first with the 94th veterinary detachment stationed in Ames and currently with the 4-414th SROTC unit, also in Ames.

His wife, Jodi (’08), is also in the Army Reserves and the couple moved to Richmond, Virginia in 2015 where Collins worked at a “high volume, low cost” surgery and dental center, developing his surgical and dental skills.

“Over the years, I believe I’ve developed a diverse set of skills, which has come in handy in the Clinical Skills Lab,” he said.

Collins and his family moved back to Iowa in 2019 and he immediately dove into his job at Iowa State. In addition to his Clinical Skills Lab responsibilities, Collins is one of the instructors of the Junior Surgery class as well.

Both responsibilities fit perfectly with Collins’ skills and goals.

“The students want to be here,” he said. “It’s fun to work with them, they’re always excited to learn. It’s really wonderful when you see their faces when something clicks.” 

Most of Collins’ days are spent in the Clinical Skills Laboratory (CSL), which was created to provide opportunities for students to become more confident about any number of procedures. It solves an age-old dilemma on having student veterinarians gain experience in the profession before treating a live animal for the first time.

The CSL is equipped with medical simulators and models, some of which are commercially made and have been purchased through private donations and college funds.

Collins supplements the purchased models with homemade items. Since arriving at Iowa State, he has utilized a 3-D printer to create skin pads and spay models among other items.

“I have been able to be creative in finding solutions so we can make new learning models, enabling the students to get their techniques down pat,” he said. 

“The Clinical Skills Lab bridges the gap between lectures and their labs and clinical year. It’s great because nothing dies or gets injured if they make a mistake.”