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Clinician Interviews

Dr. Audrey Cook, BVM&S, MRCVS, DECVIM-CA, DACVIM (Small Animal Internal Medicine)[Read Interview]

Dr. Audrey Cook

1. What inspired you to become a veterinary specialist?

I always felt that I'd rather know a lot about a little than a little about a lot. Also, the teachers I had in vet school and during my internship were very inspirational.

2. What was the best academic/professional advice you ever received?

That's a hard one…. I guess I'd have to include the following:
"If you hear hoof beats, it's probably a horse not a zebra"
"Common things occur commonly"
"There's no such thing as an idiopathic disease"

3. What was your most memorable experience as a veterinary student, intern, or resident?

I will never forget my first case as a veterinarian… Her name was "Babe" and she was a pointer with nasal fibrosarcoma. We missed the diagnosis initially and subjected her to a miserable and aggressive treatment for fungal rhinitis. I cried the day we got the true answer.

I will also never forget being made to go through the biohazard waste in surgery prep when I was an intern, looking for a piece of stomach tissue which the surgical resident wanted submitted to the path lab but which had somehow got lost. It was a Friday evening and I just wanted to go home. All the stinky and bloody surgical waste had been dumped in to a huge garbage container and I had to sort through the whole thing. I never found the stomach...

4. What would you advise a student interested in pursuing specialty Board certification?

Several points come to mind:
a. Grades matter, and it's hard to make up for a slow start in vet school. So, pay attention and work hard from the outset as it's almost impossible to overcome mediocre grades from the first few years.
b. Get to know your clinical teachers as early as possible, as they are the ones who write your recommendations. Ask questions after class, participate fully in any interactions, show that you are interested.

5. What part of your work do you enjoy most? What part would you consider the most challenging?

I enjoy teaching small groups of students. Morning rounds can be the best part of my day, especially if someone clearly gets something they never quite understood before, or begins to think like a doctor.

The most challenging is dealing with a group with very mixed interests and abilities. It is hard to engage every one if the group is disparate.

6. What kind of pet(s) do you own?

I have a DSH cat - 12 years, female (s), absolutely gorgeous, called Skye.
I have a black mouth cur (sort of) - 2 years, male (n), absolutely fabulous, called Texas

7. What activities do you enjoy most in your spare time or while on vacation?

I like to sew, work in the garden, exercise (walk, ride my bike, play bad tennis) and cook.

8. What makes a good veterinarian?

A good veterinarian is smart and able to think on his/her feet. A great veterinarian combines those smarts with kindness to people and a true love of animals.

Dr. Tracy Norman, DVM, DACVIM (Large Animal Internal Medicine)[Read Interview]

1. What inspired you to become a veterinary specialist?

During my internship (before which, I was determined to go into surgery or radiology) I found it very rewarding to work on really sick animals. Not only was it gratifying to have our efforts benefit sick horses, but the study of the diseases proved to be fascinating. Ultimately, it was the kind of work that led me to become a veterinarian in the first place.

2. What was the best academic/professional advice you ever received?

The animal always holds the key to his own health or disease. Lab work and other diagnostics are a great help, but nothing yields as much information as a really good physical examination. (This came from a variety of sources, including Drs. Keith Chaffin, Alan Roussel, and Jill Beech)

3. What was your most memorable experience as a veterinary student, intern, or resident?

Early in my residency (here at A&M), a local equestrian center had a barn fire. Most of the horses were lost outright, but we treated 6 of them for burn injuries. Several of the horses were owned by veterinary students. I will never forget those brave horses or their owners.

4. What would you advise a student interested in pursuing specialty Board certification?

Make sure that you are doing it for your own interest and satisfaction. There are really no financial incentives for boarded folks (especially in my field: Equine).

5. What part of your work do you enjoy most? What part would you consider the most challenging?

I really enjoy the sleuthing that leads to a diagnosis, and of course, it is really rewarding to know that an animal's life is better (and longer!) because of our efforts. The most challenging part of the job for me is dealing with demanding or difficult clients. I really like to make people happy, so it is discouraging when folks are difficult or irrational.

6. What kind of pet(s) do you own?

One cat; embarrassingly, she is obese.

7. What activities do you enjoy most in your spare time or while on vacation?

I enjoy yoga, horseback riding, skiing, and hiking. Also, I'm a real movie buff.

8. What makes a good veterinarian?

A good veterinarian is a person who can be intellectual and practical, compassionate and reserved, thorough and efficient. A good veterinarian can balance what's best for a patient with what's best for the owner. A good veterinarian can keep his or her head and be steady in a crisis. A good veterinarian is not only an "animal person" but also a "people person"; communication skills are just as important as most of what we learn in veterinary school. A good veterinarian is a highly principled person, upholding the ethics of our profession.

Dr. Kenita Rogers, DVM, DACVIM (Small Animal Internal Medicine, Oncology)[Read Interview]

1. What inspired you to become a veterinary specialist?

I entered my internship at UGA quite sure that I wanted to be a surgeon, but I met a fantastic mentor there (Dr. Jeanne Barsanti) who happened to be a small animal internist. She got me really excited about that specialty and I then applied for an internal medicine residency and matched to the program at TAMU. While doing this residency, I found that my favorite patients and clients were the oncology cases and got really inspired by Dr. Barton to try to become a good cytologist. After passing internal medicine boards through ACVIM, I took the oncology boards and remained at TAMU as a faculty member.

2. What was the best academic/professional advice you ever received?

If someone asks you to do a job… even if you don't want to, even if it seems like it will take too much time, even if it isn't exactly in your area of expertise… try to say yes if at all possible. You really can't predict what you might learn, who you might meet, or what contacts you might make simply because you were doing a good job at the right place and the right time.

3. What was your most memorable experience as a veterinary student, intern, or resident?

There are many, but I think my favorite experience was being given the opportunity to work in a private practice in rural England for a summer between my second and third year of veterinary school and then backpacking alone through Europe.

4. What would you advise a student interested in pursuing specialty Board certification?

As a student or as an intern, take every opportunity to step up to the plate and accept the most difficult cases and clients. You will learn so much more by being in challenging situations than by taking the easy road. Students and interns that are able to handle stress and still keep a smile on their face really get noticed.

5. What part of your work do you enjoy most? What part would you consider the most challenging?

As an oncologist, my favorite scenarios are cases where the students are very involved and we are able to diagnose the problem and work closely with the owner on a plan that everyone feels good about. I love a fabulously cool cytology slide and the fact that no matter how long I have been doing this, there are still things that I haven't seen before and can learn from. It is also unbelievably invigorating to work in an academic environment and be surrounded by expert colleagues that are great teachers and clinicians. The most challenging part for me is losing a pet when we have grown close to both the animal and the clients; they often consider us a part of the family and it sometimes feels like we let them down by running out of options.

6. What kind of pet(s) do you own?

I have a golden retriever named Hank from a rescue organization.

7. What activities do you enjoy most in your spare time or while on vacation?

I love anything related to the beach, reading for pleasure, and I just started kayaking.

8. What makes a good veterinarian?

I think that a great veterinarian is able to combine a series of traits including integrity, compassion, collegiality, intellectual curiosity, and a few leadership skills. To stay a great veterinarian, you must find something to be really passionate about and pursue that passion; it can be an aspect of your work, a hobby, participating in something in the community, etc.

Dr. Allen Roussel, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Large Animal Internal Medicine)[Read Interview]

Dr. Allen Roussel

1. What inspired you to become a veterinary specialist?

I was frustrated seeing conditions over and over and not fully understanding them. I also wanted to teach. I went back to school after 5 years of practice to teach and do research, and there I learned what a specialist was. By the way, now I see even more cases that I don't fully understand.

2. What was the best academic/professional advice you ever received?

I believe I was "mentored" more than "advised." I watched a lot of successful people and learned from them. I can't really choose a "best"piece of advice from a career standpoint. From a board-certification perspective, I think it was regarding passing ACVIM boards. Several people told me to study but not to panic. They said to relax, do your best and be calm. I did it and I passed.

3. What was your most memorable experience as a veterinary student, intern, or resident?

I was a city boy. I wanted to be a cow doctor, but I had doubts. I asked 2 different professors if they thought a city boy could do it. They both said "yes" and told me of success stories they had witnessed. I don't know if they really believed it, but I did!

4. What would you advise a student interested in pursuing specialty Board certification?

Don't make up your mind too early. One step at a time. Get a DVM, practice or do an internship and follow your dreams. Your desires may change. Keep your eyes and options open. You can do about anything you commit to.

5. What part of your work do you enjoy most? What part would you consider the most challenging?

At the beginning it was the cool cases. Then teaching got to be fun and research was stimulating. Now I like mentoring students, house officers and younger colleagues. Teaching has remained fun and challenging. Choosing which of the many opportunities to pursue is the greatest challenge.

6. What kind of pet(s) do you own?

3 cats. I love cats.

7. What activities do you enjoy most in your spare time or while on vacation?

OK, I love France. I love reading about it and going there. I enjoy studying French. And now I have a spare-time job guiding tours there. Know any potential clients?

8. What makes a good veterinarian?

A good person. You have to like people and want to help them. You have to be concerned about your client and their animal(s) or production operation. That means caring enough to make sure you know or find out what to do to help.

Dr. Jörg Steiner, DMV, PhD, DECVIM-CA, DACVIM (Small Animal Internal Medicine)[Read Interview]

Dr. Jörg Steiner

1. What inspired you to become a veterinary specialist?

The daily challenge of cases that don't follow the book.

2. What was the best academic/professional advice you ever received?

Research is fun and easy!

3. What was your most memorable experience as a veterinary student, intern, or resident?

The first day as an intern on overnight service - the shock of being a vet and having to make decisions all of a sudden.

4. What would you advise a student interested in pursuing specialty Board certification?

Get involved - there are many opportunities to do so while you are in vet school.

5. What part of your work do you enjoy most? What part would you consider the most challenging?

Seeing a patient walk out the door that came in on a stretcher. Finding research results that will help many patients.

6. What kind of pet(s) do you own?

2 cats

7. What activities do you enjoy most in your spare time or while on vacation?

travel, architectural design, home remodeling, model trains

8. What makes a good veterinarian?

Logical thinking and an open mind.

Dr. Michael Willard, DVM, DACVIM (Small Animal Internal Medicine)[Read Interview]

Dr. Michael Willard

1. What inspired you to become a veterinary specialist?

My mentor during my internship.

2. What was the best academic/professional advice you ever received?

The job is there to support your family. Don't get it turned around.

3. What was your most memorable experience as a veterinary student, intern, or resident?

Working with a musher whose sled dog was bleeding out due to a gastric ulcer.

4. What would you advise a student interested in pursuing specialty Board certification?

Be sure it is what you want. Everything comes as a package, and becoming a specialist has its costs as well as its rewards. Ask yourself if you are doing this for yourself or for your clients and patients.

5. What part of your work do you enjoy most? What part would you consider the most challenging?

Teaching is by far the most challenging and rewarding part.

6. What kind of pet(s) do you own?

Two cats

7. What activities do you enjoy most in your spare time or while on vacation?

Traveling with my spouse. Working on our farm.

8. What makes a good veterinarian?

Lots of things. One thing is being focused on helping your clients more than helping yourself.

Dr. Heather Wilson, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology)[Read Interview]

1. What inspired you to become a veterinary specialist?

I had a 4th year rotation in oncology that I loved so much I decided I wanted to do it for the rest of my career. I had two very good instructors that supported me and coached me to do an internship and residency. These two professors made a huge difference in my life and I credit them with helping me to become the person I am today.

2. What was the best academic/professional advice you ever received?

Be nice to your technicians. They will take amazing care of you if you take good care of them.

3. What was your most memorable experience as a veterinary student, intern, or resident?

As a veterinary student I was able to work with Pat Head-Summit and her dog that had been attacked by a wild animal (likely a raccoon) in her yard. She brought in 3 of her players with her and, though I have never felt so short in my life, it was one of the coolest memories I have of vet school. She was very nice, down to earth and pretty tolerant of the fact that I was star-struck in the room.

4. What would you advise a student interested in pursuing specialty Board certification?

Work harder than your classmates. If you put in more effort, it will be noticed. When applying for internships and residencies everyone looks pretty good on paper, what sets them apart is their letters. The better your letters are, the better your chances are.

5. What part of your work do you enjoy most? What part would you consider the most challenging?

I love the variety in my job. I love to be on clinics but I also love research and teaching. My job is a combination of all of these elements. I get to do everything I like everyday.

The most challenging part is likely dealing with emotional owners during difficult times. It is hard to know what to say in a difficult situation. Grant writing is a close second, though.

6. What kind of pet(s) do you own?

I have 2 cats (a Siamese and a Persian), 1 mixed breed dog and about 50 fish that breed incessantly (if anyone wants Cichlids, please let me know!).

7. What activities do you enjoy most in your spare time or while on vacation?

Camping, hiking, reading for fun

8. What makes a good veterinarian?

Compassion and thoughtfulness. A person who takes the time to think about how their owners, colleagues and patients are feeling is key. It is also important to take the time and think about what you are doing. The day can get rushed, but you must always take time to stop and think about a challenging case or you may miss the forest for the trees