Clinical Trials Veterinarian
I grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, and I have always loved every kind of animal. I expressed some of that love through my deep involvement with horses, showing and competing in hunter-jumper class for many years.
Medicine was always of interest to me growing up. As a teenager trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I first volunteered at a hospital, and then at a veterinary clinic where I immediately felt more at home. For me, the veterinary clinic was the perfect combination of what I found most appealing: biology, medicine, and hands-on work with animals. Although I was seriously interested in veterinary medicine, I didn’t make that career decision right away.
At the University of Victoria I earned an undergraduate degree in biology, followed by a master’s degree in developmental biology, before deciding to pursue my D.V.M. at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatchewan.
I enjoyed every minute of veterinary school, although it was a lot of work. At last I was immersed in something I really loved. The work with small animals appealed to me the most. Perhaps it was the faculty, who were wonderful and generous mentors, or perhaps it was how small animal medicine is practiced, but I made the decision to keep horses as a hobby rather than pursue equine medicine.
After completing my internship and residency in Small Animal Internal Medicine at Washington State University, my husband and I decided to start a family and moved to California where I worked in both private practice and a university setting. Of the two, I found that I preferred a university teaching hospital as a work environment. The focus on teaching, learning and service, and the variety and depth of research conducted is both exciting and encouraging. The atmosphere of collegiality, support, and sharing is also wonderful for growth.
When my husband, who is also a veterinarian, was offered a career opportunity with Colorado State University, we talked openly about options I might pursue. I wanted to work in a university hospital setting again and was very happy to be offered a position with the clinical trials service at the Flint Animal Cancer Center. Although I had little experience working in clinical trials, my skills as a small animal internist were complementary to those of a medical oncologist. Because there is a lot of patient assessment required, through physical exams and performing procedures that can range from an endoscopy to a biopsy, my skill set is valuable to the service and helpful in teaching oncology residents who are learning to perform those procedures. In turn, I learn a lot from the oncologists. This is the benefit of the diverse culture of a large teaching hospital.
At any given time, we have between 10 and 15 clinical trials running concurrently and I have to know what is involved with each one to knowledgeably discuss them with pet owners and referring veterinarians. I enjoy working with families whose pet has been entered in a study. We develop a relationship born of compassion, respect, and hope as they come in for weekly or bi-weekly checkups.
It is thanks to clinical trials that so many new treatment therapies, drugs, and care-delivery protocols are available to today’s cancer patients. These studies provide hope for our patients, as well as a possibility for better outcomes and scientific breakthroughs for both animals and people with the disease.
Away from the hospital, our family enjoys doing things together, whether it is exploring interesting places within Colorado or returning to the West Coast to enjoy friends, family and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. With a young daughter and a son, my husband and I have the opportunity to see things with new eyes almost every day.
Our family also includes our two dogs, a Bullmastiff named Lola and a little Chihuahua-Dachsund cross named Linus, who manages to keep the whole family entertained.