I grew up in Mammoth Lakes, a small ski resort in Northern California, and completed my undergraduate degree in animal science at the University of Nevada at Reno.
A love for animals is in my genetic makeup, a characteristic I inherited from both my parents. When I was small we had a goat, a horse, chickens and ducks in addition to cats and dogs which, over a few years we pared down to just several cats a couple of dogs and cats.
The horse belonged to my mom who, for years, participated in competitive jumping. My father, who is an entrepreneur, wanted to a career as a veterinarian when he was younger and both parents encouraged me in that direction when they recognized that potential in me.
For the first three years at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, I wanted to specialize in emergency and critical care; but that changed during my junior year after I spent a week volunteering in oncology over the Christmas holidays. It was one of the most enlightening weeks of my veterinary career; learning more about the biology of cancer, observing patients in treatment, talking with clients and listening to the various options clinicians were able to offer patient families was so fulfilling.
Then, my eight year-old Rottweiler, Dahlia, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and was treated through the Flint Animal Cancer Center. Now I experienced oncology from both sides. Although she underwent chemotherapy, the prognosis was poor. We made sure that her last months were spent doing the things that she loved: playing in the snow, lounging on the couch, and chasing squirrels.
I liked medical oncology, but once I discovered radiation oncology, I found my focus. As veterinary students, we didn't get a lot of information about radiation therapy, so I approached one of the radiation oncology faculty, Dr. Jamie Custis, and arranged to do an elective week with him. He was generous with both his time and knowledge and offered a lot of encouragement. I also shadowed several of the radiation oncology residents, learning a bit about how they assembled such complex, precise plans for their patients.
After graduation in 2015, I completed a one-year small animal emergency and critical care internship at DoveLewis Hospital in Portland, Ore.; a busy, wonderful hospital with a variety of specialists. I gained tremendous experience and determined that radiation oncology was my destined pathway. Ultimately, I wanted to complete my residency at the best place in the world to learn about this specialty: the Flint Animal Cancer Center.
Another reason I was excited to return to the FACC is the considerable amount of translational research conducted here, and the center’s collaboration with one of the finest human cancer centers: the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Denver. Cancer is the same in animals and humans, which means that, as a veterinary oncologist, I can have meaningful conversations with my counterparts in human medicine.
On my own time, I’m typically found outdoors, either climbing another one of Colorado’s famous fourteeners, camping, gardening or, during the winter, you’ll find me skiing or snowshoeing.
My two younger brothers are in college. One is a star with San Diego State’s football team studying business, and the other is studying wildlife ecology and knows everything about surviving in the outdoors under any conditions. They have both been a huge source of support throughout my life and I am so proud of all their accomplishments.
I have three dogs: a Mastiff named Daze, a Lab mix named Riley, and a Chihuahua named Rogue; and two cats, Tweak and Pickle. The dogs are great outdoor campers, but Daze no longer hikes. He thinks he has the best deal in the world staying home with a delicious peanut butter-filled toy and a warm, comfortable sofa. Needless to say, my pack keeps me busy outside of the clinics.