Dr. Aki Otomo, DVM
Fellow Candidate, Surgical Oncology
I had my first hands-on veterinary medicine experience at the age of 16 as part of a work-based learning opportunity in high school. What started as a two-week externship in a local general practice veterinary clinic, turned into an after-school and weekend job that I quickly found my passion in. I’ve been a part of veterinary medicine in some way shape or form ever since and haven’t looked back.
My love of animals started before that though. As a young child, I gravitated toward pets and animals as my family had many cats over the years and I started taking horseback riding lessons at the age of six. When we’d visit friends or family, I would typically be more interested in interacting with and getting to know their pets.
I was born in Sendai, Japan, and immigrated to Vancouver, Canada at the age of three, and grew up there. I earned my undergraduate degree from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. I then studied veterinary medicine at St. George’s University, in Grenada with the completion of my clinical year of veterinary school at Oregon State University.
Given my 10 years of experience as a veterinary assistant working at Western Canada’s largest private referral specialty hospital, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in specialized veterinary medicine. Working in specialty referral practice provided invaluable exposure to specialty and referral-level veterinary medicine and surgery. I was grateful and awed to see the level of care and expertise that veterinary specialists can provide to their patients and pet owners. I soon aspired to emulate the many dedicated specialists I had the fortune to work with and learn from, and it wasn’t long before I decided to pursue a specialization in small animal surgery even before starting veterinary school!
After graduation from veterinary school, I started the journey towards specialization by completing a Rotating Companion Animal Internship at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in Ontario followed by a Specialty Surgery Internship at the VCA Animal Specialty & Emergency Center in Los Angeles. I was lucky enough after these two internships to match to a three-year small animal surgery residency at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Throughout my time and experience as a veterinarian, I saw just how prevalent cancer is in pets and how devastating the diagnosis can be for pet parents. This led me to become particularly passionate about oncology and I am deeply interested and dedicated to optimizing patient outcomes and quality of life for oncology patients. In particular, within a setting such as the Flint Animal Cancer Center, where an integrated oncology service combines the expertise of medical, radiation, and surgical oncologists on a daily basis to determine optimal treatment plans for a patient in a collaborative setting.
This passion led me to the Flint Animal Cancer Center a world-renowned facility, that has an unparalleled history of training veterinary specialists in medical, radiation, and surgical oncology as well as an extensive research arm dedicated to translational medicine and collaborative research uniting veterinary medicine with human medicine to benefit both human and pet patients.
The FACC’s surgical oncology fellowship was the first of its kind and given its esteemed history within veterinary specialty medicine and the number of world-class faculty and researchers at the FACC, I was compelled and motivated to learn from the best. I am honored to have been accepted as a Fellow Candidate in their Surgical Oncology program.
As a surgical oncology fellow, I am undergoing advanced training in surgical oncology to obtain further sub-specialized knowledge and skills in the surgical treatment of cancer. This level of training will allow me to determine the optimal dosage of surgery to administer in the face of oncologic disease as well as the experience and knowledge gained from collaborating with medical and radiation oncologists to optimize patient treatment and care leading to a longer median survival time and greater quality of life for pet patients.
I feel that the knowledge, experience, and skills that I am obtaining during my training at the FACC are second to none. It is an honor to undergo advanced training at the FACC and be a part of the team. My favorite part of my work is when I get to see pet parents reunited with their pet on discharge from a challenging surgical procedure. Their pet is typically so happy and overjoyed to be back with their family and I can see how happy and grateful pet parents are. Making a tangible difference and impact in patient care and outcome so pets can continue to have a good quality of life for as long as possible is very rewarding.
When I’m not working, I love to be outdoors as I enjoy hiking and recreational running, and also love to travel and visit breweries. I still ride horses and I’m currently re-training an off-the-track Thoroughbred. I have two cats including a British Shorthair named Beautiful Diamond’s Princess and a Munchkin named Jack Jack. After my fellowship at the Flint Animal Cancer Center, I would ideally like to work in either academia or a private practice as a surgical oncologist continuing to help pet patients and their fur parents fight their courageous battle against cancer