From a young age I thought I would like to be a veterinarian, but I was reluctant to commit myself without first being sure I had explored my options. I became interested in marine biology during college and even spent time volunteering at the medical center in the New England Aquarium. After graduating from Bowdoin College in Maine, I had decided I wanted to go to veterinary school, but not directly after four years of undergraduate studies; so I worked as a research assistant at IDEXX Laboratories, a biotechnology company that makes veterinary diagnostic tools.
Throughout college, and while working at IDEXX, I worked part time as a veterinary technician. After leaving IDEXX, I became a full-time technician for a clinic on Nantucket Island. I really enjoyed the client/patient interaction and recognized that, if I pursued marine medicine, I would miss it. I was drawn to the animals that required more medical work-up and greater interaction with the client and the veterinarian to get a diagnosis. Here, I had my first exposure to dogs and cats undergoing cancer treatment. I met a lovely Golden Retriever named Sunny that helped me realize that pets with cancer could have an excellent quality of life during and after treatment.
After graduating from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and completing a one-year small animal internship at Colorado State, I was thrilled to be accepted into the very competitive residency program for medical oncology. I knew this was the best place to acquire the additional four years of training necessary to become a veterinary medical oncology specialist.
Throughout my residency, I was involved with the clinical trials program. A unique feature of the program at the Flint Animal Cancer Center is that all residents are involved in clinical trials from day one and learn early on how trials are conducted and the skills needed to run a successful trial.
All residents are encouraged to do an out-rotation and I chose Children's Hospital in Denver. There I was exposed to all aspects of clinical trials, from handling regulatory details, the screening and enrollment of patients, to creating the database for managing patients. It was wonderful to see the differences - and the similarities - in how human and veterinary clinical trials are conducted.
I am now a board certified medical oncologist and the first dedicated clinical trials faculty member at the Flint Animal Cancer Center. The clinical trials program conducts investigations of new drugs, treatments, and procedures for cancer in companion animals and has been part of the center's mission since its creation 25 years ago. Results of these trials have contributed to major advances in translational research, bridging the gap in bench-to-bedside therapies for animal and human cancer patients.
One of my goals is to ensure that every owner whose pet might be eligible for a clinical trial is aware of that fact so they can choose from all available treatment options. Through these scientific studies, we increase our knowledge of the disease and make great strides in improving treatments. Many owners have told me that they understand the purpose of these studies: to not only help their pet and other pets with cancer, but also all future cancer patients of every species. I am deeply grateful to all the clients and patients who are helping us in our quest for a cure.