I entered Providence College pre-med, however, my future changed abruptly following a lecture I attended on elephant behavior. I was hooked. After completing my undergraduate degree, which included elephant behavior research, I entered the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Massachusetts. The variety of specialization offered at Tufts included zoo medicine, wildlife medicine and conservation medicine that incorporate the tools and perspectives of many different scientific and medical professions to solve global problems related to both human and animal health. This appealed to me based on what I wanted in my career.
Determining a specialty didn't come early in my veterinary school career. I participated in some overseas research projects in Africa and Nepal and, although the experiences were incredible and I had worked very hard to get there, I concluded that I was not suited for living and working abroad. I didn’t mind giving up this dream, though, because I had recently discovered a real calling to become a surgeon.
My one-year post-graduate rotating internship was with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) Hospital in Springfield, Mass., followed by a surgical internship and residency with the Animal Specialty Group, Inc. in Los Angeles. During my time in Los Angeles, I became familiar with reputation of the Flint Animal Cancer Center through stories shared by one of the surgeons who had worked with Dr. Stephen Withrow. We also referred some oncology cases to the FACC for specialized radiation therapy offered there. I was interested in the surgical oncology Fellowship offered at the FACC and was encouraged to do so by my mentors, but the timing wasn’t right.
In 2009, I joined the VCA Veterinary Specialists in Loveland, Colo. as a staff surgeon. Although I enjoyed my position there and the incredible doctors with whom I worked, I knew I needed to revisit opportunities in surgical oncology. I felt I wasn’t contributing as much as I could to the advancement of veterinary oncology.
In 2012, I attended the conference for the Veterinary Society of Surgical Oncologists meeting in Fort Collins. Not only was I deeply impressed with the research presentations delivered from FACC staff, former residents and current collaborators, but there was an electrical feeling in the air that was inspiring and hopeful. Listening to veterinary colleagues talk about comparative research projects to benefit both animals and people affected by cancer; and about surgical techniques and combined treatments that were making a difference in patients' lives was incredibly exciting.
In October of 2012, I accepted a position as a post-doctoral researcher in the Laboratory of Comparative Musculoskeletal Oncology and Traumatology, directed by Dr. Nicole Ehrhart at the FACC. Our research focuses on novel treatments to assist healing bone and muscle when large volumes of tissue are lost secondary to tumor resection, trauma, or massive infection. Our work directly benefits both animals and humans.
I truly feel blessed that for the next two years as a non-traditional Fellow candidate in surgical oncology, I will be continuing my research with Dr. Ehrhart AND participating in the clinic as a surgical oncology Fellow candidate. It is an honor to work with and learn from the leaders in veterinary oncology at the FACC.
Away from the hospital, I enjoy time with my family. My husband, Chapman, and I have two young children: our 2-year-old daughter Coral and our 7-month old son Teague. Our furry family members include two black labs, a lab/pit bull mix and two cats: Ripley, Ramsey, Lewis, Ellie and Jojo. Ripley is our "old guy," who was also a patient at the FACC; and Ellie is our "old lady" and my longtime love as I have had her since I was in veterinary school, my companion all along my career path.Family time includes visits to the park, hiking along Poudre Canyon, or just enjoying our backyard.