These two photographs show me with two of my most important mentors: Dennis Brooks (left) and Gus Aguirre (right).
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There is a bridge that connects the research and clinical buildings of the Veterinary Medical Center at Michigan State University (MSU). I must walk on this bridge about a dozen times every day in order to reach our eye clinic from the laboratory, and vice versa. This bridge symbolizes my role as a clinician scientist: to constantly bring new questions from the clinic to the laboratory and then return, with the hope of bringing answers about disease mechanisms and new treatments back to the clinic. It has been an amazing experience to have been directly involved in the development of new retinal gene therapies that subsequently entered human clinical trials.
Even before I entered veterinary school, I knew that I wanted to become a clinician scientist—it was, and still is, my dream job. My father was a veterinarian in small animal private practice, which gave me the opportunity to be involved in the veterinary profession from a very early age; I had the good fortune of experiencing the life of a private practitioner up close. I developed a desire to learn more about the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the diseases seen daily in clinical practice. The career path to becoming a clinician scientist is a long and challenging one, and I was very blessed to have been supported by wonderful mentors and role models along the way. Many of these individuals are ACVO Diplomates, and I would like to dedicate this page to them.
During my veterinary medical training at the University of Zurich, Bernhard Spiess and his team supported my interest in veterinary ophthalmology. I then received great mentoring from David Ramsey while I was an intern at MSU. But it was Dennis Brooks who encouraged me to enter the fascinating fields of vision science and veterinary ophthalmology; under his guidance I was able to obtain my PhD and DAVCO status at the University of Florida (UF). Thanks to Dennis, I benefited from training by other great minds at UF, including Kirk Gelatt, Stacy Andrew, and the late William Dawson. Subsequently, I was given the opportunity as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor to work at the cutting edge of science with the amazing Gustavo Aguirre at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). Gus has been and still is a wonderful and effective mentor and role model. Other Diplomates (ACVO and ECVO) at Penn who were great teachers and friends include Gregory Acland, Elaine Holt, Stephen Gross, James Schoster, William Beltran, Mary Lassaline, and Jill Beech (DACVIM). For nearly four years I have served as a faculty member at MSU alongside Simon Petersen-Jones and Joshua Bartoe.
Due to space limitations, I cannot list all the other people who helped to make me a better clinician and scientist, especially fellow residents, graduate students, and collaborators, as well as past and current residents, research assistants, veterinary technicians, animal caretakers, and of course veterinary, undergraduate, and graduate students. I owe great thanks to the animals who were either part of our research studies or clinical patients. Finally, I am eternally grateful to my family members for all the sacrifices they have made to support my career.
I feel truly blessed to be a Diplomate of the ACVO.