CVM Alumna Stars in New Nat Geo WILD Television Show

Story by Margaret Preigh

Dr. Lauren Thielen holds Onyx, the Asian water monitor, while filling a syringe from a bottle
Dr. Lauren Thielen prepares to perform surgery on Onyx, the Asian water monitor. (National Geographic/Gary Collins)

Aggie fans of Nat Geo WILD may see some familiar faces in the television channel’s newest veterinary-centered show “Dr. T, Lone Star Vet.”

The show, starring Dr. Lauren Thielen, a 2013 graduate of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), aired for eight weeks in fall 2019 and is now available for viewing on the Disney+ streaming service.

“Dr. T, Lone Star Vet” follows Thielen, former CVM professor Dr. Sharman Hoppes, and Dr. Bruce Nixon DVM ’85 as they treat exotic animal patients at Texas Avian & Exotic Hospital in Grapevine, Texas.

“I’m that type of personality that likes these things. I thought it would be great to educate audiences on exotic animals through an outlet so lovely as National Geographic,” Thielen said. “I don’t think I ever expected something like this to happen, but I’m really glad it did.”

This program marks Thielen’s second television appearance.

After graduating from the CVM, Thielen pursued an internship under Dr. Susan Kelleher at Broward Avian and Exotics Animal Hospital in Florida.

There, Thielen appeared on the Nat Geo WILD show “Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER” from its beginning in 2014 until she left in 2018 for Texas Avian & Exotic Hospital, near Thielen’s hometown of Fort Worth.

Thielen said she joined Hoppes and Nixon as a partner of the practice after being intrigued by the concept of putting an exotic animal practice within a larger complex of other veterinary specialties. At this complex, patients can also seek specialized care in veterinary surgery, internal medicine, cardiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, critical care, and dentistry services.

Thielen said she hopes her program will improve knowledge of how owners can properly care for their exotic pets. She believes it is her responsibility as a veterinarian to educate.

“In general a veterinarian’s job is to make sure the animals are cared for properly,” she said. “With exotic animals, more times than not, they’re just unfortunately not cared for properly because these people aren’t having proper education.”

Thielen estimates that 50 percent of cases she sees are caused by inadequate knowledge of proper pet care, a deficiency she believes is the result of exotic animals being less commonly owned. Thielen hopes that the wide-reaching format of television will help her address this problem.

“Television is a great format to be able to communicate exotic animal care and medicine because there’s so many people watching it,” she said. “I am able to talk to so many people at the same time, and to people who are unlikely to have sought out veterinary help for their animal otherwise.”

Additionally, Thielen said that not all exotic pet owners have easy access to veterinarians who are specialized in exotic animal medicine. Many of Thielen’s patients must travel to the Texas Avian & Exotic Hospital since it is the only exotics-exclusive facility in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Thielen said she also values the opportunity to inspire the next generation of exotic animal veterinarians.

“Little girls and even students in veterinary school write me and visit the clinic. They’re like, ‘I want to be an exotic veterinarian one day,’” she said. “I didn’t even know this job existed until I was already in veterinary school. For these people to already know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, I just think that’s so cool.”

Thielen hopes that viewers of the show will gain perspective on the current state of veterinary medicine and on how many treatment options exist for their animals.

“I want to show people how veterinary medicine is supposed to be practiced,” she said. “Being able to show veterinary collaboration at its finest is important. I want to show people that your birds can go to cardiologists, too.”

Thielen certainly has a lot on her plate between her new practice and television series. However, she feels confident that she can face whatever life brings through her clinic’s doors.

“Honestly, I see pretty much everything now,” she said in reference to the diversity of species she treats. “There’s much I haven’t seen yet, but I think I’m ready for almost anything.”

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Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Interim Director of Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216