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Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald of Denver wins national veterinary award and that's no joke

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"I'm 62 but I read at a 63-year-old level." - Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald.

The Denver veterinarian can't help cracking jokes. When he's not treating animals at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital, he's performing as a professional standup comedian around town.

But Fitzgerald was speechless recently when he was told he had won Morris Animal Foundation's ( www.morrisanimalfoundation.org) "Veterinary Excellence Award" for small-animal veterinarians . A client nominated him for the national honor.

Morris, located in Denver, is the largest nonprofit foundation dedicated to funding research studies to protect, treat and cure animals. Each year the foundation honors a small-animal and large-animal veterinarian for their work.

"I was tremendously honored," Fitzgerald said today. "I never saw this coming. Morris does as much groundbreaking animal research as anybody in the country."

Right now, for example, Morris is involved in lifetime study of hundreds of golden retrievers , tracking their health to gain insights into preventing and treating cancer and other canine diseases.

Fitzgerald said he is " lucky to be part of the veterinary community we have in Denver."

"We see everything," he added. "You don't sit on your laurels. I'm only as good as the next (treatment room) I'm going to." That room might contain "everything" in it, such as the bright green lizard perched on his shoulder while Fitzgerald made his rounds one day.

The veterinarian has a loyal following and is known for being a gentle doctor. Why?

Fitzgerald tells the story about being in St. Joseph Hospital a few years ago for gall bladder removal - the first surgery of his life. "I was scared," he said. "They were rolling me around and there was this hatchet-faced nurse with me. She asked me: 'you're scared aren't you,' and reached over to hug me. Then she said, 'nobody's going to be scared on my shift today.' "I remember that....I can't always help an animal but I can be kind."

And of course, Fitzgerald can be funny, too.

"I haven't performed in five days," he joked, "and audiences are delighted."

Ba-dump-bump.

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