Friday, Jan. 12, 2001



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Professor makes return as official Iditarod veterinarian
April Middleton
Kansas State Collegian

Derek Mosier is prepared to head to what he calls a 'truly different environment' to perform his voluntary duties as a veterinarian in Alaska.

For the fifth year in a row, Mosier, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology in K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine, will head to Alaska in March as an official veterinarian for the 29th annual Iditarod. The Iditarod is a 1,049-mile dog sled competition that commemorates a 1,925 sled relay race to bring 300,000 units of serum to Nome to fight the effects of a winter diphtheria epidemic.

Mosier was introduced to the work by a former coworker who was involved in the annual run; he's been back ever since.

Randy Basaraba, associate professor of pathology at Colorado State University, worked as a professor at K-State for almost eight years before going to Colorado a year ago. Basaraba has served as a veterinarian for the Iditarod for six years. He said another volunteer was needed to share the yearly responsibilities, and Mosier was a perfect candidate.

"This is a significant yearly responsibility," Basaraba said. "When another person was needed to share the commitment, Derek was an obvious choice because of his capabilities and adventurous spirit."

Mosier will be one of about 35 veterinarians camped at 25 checkpoints between Anchorage and Nome.

The vets are housed in anything from cabins to tents along the route. Mosier said their accommodations depend on what is available.

Basaraba said everyone who participates in the annual run must be open to some adventure.

"It's definitely a lot of work," Basaraba said. "You keep unusual hours and are sometimes up all night. It's rigorous, but definitely a great opportunity."

Mosier said being on hand to care for approximately 1,500 dogs is a change of pace.

"The experience is one that is much different than what I do here on campus," Mosier said. "I get to meet new people and experience something completely different."

The Iditarod and other dog sled competitions are different than other events because much more emphasis is placed on the animals.

"It's a joint effort between the musher and the dog team," Mosier said. "Both have to be prepared for their role or they won't do well. I've seen it happen before."

Although roughing it and braving the hardships of Alaska to serve as a volunteer isn't what Mosier calls a vacation, the experience and people keep him going back.

"It's interesting the variety of people you run into and their reasons for being there," he said. "You get to meet some of the other vets that are there each year, so when you go back it's like a homecoming of sorts."

M.M. Chengappa, head of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, said Mosier is participating in a wonderful opportunity -- and he is perfect to fulfill the duties.

"I fully support Derek's efforts in the Iditarod event," Chengappa said. "He's always willing to take on new challenges. His work in the Iditarod is only one example."

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