I am from Spartanburg, South Carolina, a small town nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near the North Carolina border. My mother’s family has been there for generations and, although my father was born in Chicago and grew up in Oklahoma, he has adopted the South as his home, too.
My mom's father was anesthesiologist at the hospital, but also had his own general practice. We lived next door to my grandparents so I was exposed to the medical profession at an early age. I can recall several of my elementary school teachers telling me that my grandfather had delivered them as babies and had been their physician. Despite this, I didn’t consider a career as a physician. Instead, I was the kid at summer camp always out looking for all kinds of wildlife, or making friends with any stray dogs that crossed my path. That comfort with and love for animals, coupled with my love of science made me think I could make a career of caring for animals.
After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a degree in biological sciences, I was briefly tempted to follow my family’s urging to go into "real medicine." I started studying for the MCATS and thinking of medical school, but then I came to my senses and got back on track. I worked for two years at a veterinary hospital to gain solid clinical experience and an understanding of the day-to-day workings of a hospital. I was thrilled when my application was accepted at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.
Veterinary school was an exciting environment, with all doors open to me. I considered specializing in radiology but, when I rotated through oncology in my 4th year, I fell in love with it as a field. I had experienced some cases of cancer before I my senior rotation. One in particular served as an introduction to the specialty. While rotating through ophthalmology, we encountered a case of acute blindness that was finally diagnosed as a highly unusual case of epitheliotropic lymphoma. This was my first experience working with such a dire diagnosis and determining how best to talk with the client about the diagnosis and explain treatment options.
My interest in oncology is more than just the science of cancer, which is fascinating; but I also have a deep appreciation for the unique clinician-patient-client bond that develops. Being able to help a patient’s family through such a chaotic, confusing time is what medicine is all about: helping and healing.
I believe one of my most important responsibilities as an oncologist, in addition to determining how best to help my patient, is to give the pet owner hope and make sure they know all the options available to them. Such extraordinary progress has been made in the past decade, thanks to translational research or comparative oncology. We can now tailor many treatments to the specific patient, ranging from palliative care to those that extend pet lives, but always with the stipulation that the quality of life must be good.
It is a great opportunity to be here, to be a part of this team of knowledgeable, skilled and caring professionals. The work atmosphere is always generous, positive and collegial. That feeling communicates itself throughout the staff and extends to the client and the patient, as well. That positive, welcoming feeling is part of what makes this place so special. The FACC faculty and staff believe in the mission statement that we strive every day "to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in pet animals" and, just as importantly, that our work contributes to improving treatments for cancer in people, as well.
I try to maintain a good work/life balance so, when I am off, I enjoy getting outside and spending time with my pets: Banjo, a Border collie mix; Ollie, a terrier mix; and my sweet little cat, Ivy, who actually rules the house with an iron paw!
I’m still adjusting to the Colorado climate and outdoors environment. As a Southerner, I’m more accustomed to a landscape of rolling hills and deciduous trees with lush canopies, but I’m learning to appreciate and enjoy the unique beauty and culture of the West.
I also love playing soccer. I've played all my life, and have played in a few pick-up games at the local parks for fun. It's a great way to relax and get to know other dedicated soccer players in the Fort Collins area.