When I was 19 years old, I decided that if I was really going to do this veterinary medicine thing, I should work in a veterinary practice. So I went and applied to clean kennels at our family veterinarian. The doctor called me into the OR, so in I went, where he was scrubbed and gowned, but also smoking a cigar. As I came through the door, he said, hey, “catch,” and threw something at me that bounced off my forehead and skittered across the floor. As it turned out, he was doing an extracapsular lens extraction and had just thrown a lens at me. When I realized what happened, I nearly fainted (the one and only time I have ever come close to fainting in a medical situation!) I got the job, and spent the next few summers taking care of animals that had cataract removals, conjunctival flaps, entropion surgery and more under Dr. Bill Jackson’s care. When I went to University of Florida for veterinary school, I mistakenly assumed that all small animal vets did surgeries like that, but I didn’t pay much attention because I was all set to become an equine surgeon, having spent much of my childhood years riding horses. After two years watching colic surgeries, I decided maybe that wasn’t really what I wanted to do, so I started thinking about small animal practice. NCSU took me as an intern, and I realized that all those cases Dr. Jackson had been doing really were interesting, plus I could see all species. A project with Mark Nasisse eventually led to my first publication, and Mike Davidson gave me the advice I give to students today: “If a residency is your goal, make it a 3-year goal.” I took his advice to heart when I didn’t match and ended up in small animal practice in Atlanta GA, where Tracey King let me tag along at every opportunity, and later swore to the faculty at UW that I really was a good candidate (thank you Tracey!).
When I applied at University of Wisconsin, I came to the interview thinking of it as just practice because as a native Floridian, I thought living in Wisconsin was insane, and I could barely find it on a map. After two days (in November no less-not a good time for Wisconsin to make a good first impression!) with the people at UW, the program quickly rose to my first choice. Chris Murphy, Paul Miller and Jim Schoster were wonderful mentors, and I could not have asked for a better program. Nineteen years later, I am still here, now as faculty, and still working with Paul and Chris and now Gill McLellan, who are fantastic colleagues. I have served on the ACVO Exam Committee, Residency Committee and now the ABVO Board, and have found that service to be a wonderful way to give back to the college and help shape the profession.
My husband of 19 years, Chuck, has put up with years of on-call and late hours, and has been an incredible partner in the crazy life project that is child-raising. I realized that my family puts up with an awful lot of work talk, when a few days ago during a four square game, my kid threw the ball, and then said, “Mom, I phaco-ed you out! Get it?!” I’ve doomed him to a life of obscure humor, but at least I’ll be laughing.
I always tell people that I somehow ended up in the best possible career-I can’t imagine a job more engaging than seeing the huge variety of patients, teaching students and residents, and asking clinical questions, then doing the research to answer them. I was fortunate to have this rewarding job not exactly land in my lap, but rather hit me in the forehead all those years ago.
The ACVO Diplomate Spotlight honors Active or Emeritus Diplomates in the profession who are leaders in their field, are in good standing with the ACVO and have an interesting story to share. Please submit your nomination for this feature to the ACVO office for consideration.