Dr. Brandan Janssens, BVSc, DipECVS MRCVS
Assistant Professor, Surgical Oncology
I grew up in South Africa, and we always had pets growing up. Mostly Boxers and Siamese cats. I used to tag along to their veterinary visits, which gave me an early exposure to the profession.
Early on, I wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, but at some time during my teenage years, I shifted to veterinary medicine. I think this was my visits to the vet and being in awe of how smart they were. I spent summers while in high school shadowing a veterinarian, Dr. Joubert, who was an early mentor.
I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Natal and my veterinary degree at the University of Pretoria. Both in South Africa. South Africa had only one vet school at the time; it is a very close-knit group. I spent a short time in private practice in South Africa before moving to the UK to do an internship and subsequent surgery residency at the University of Liverpool.
When I was still in vet school, I knew I wanted to be a surgeon, and when I was an intern, my focus turned to surgical oncology. Nearing the end of my residency, I met Dr. Sarah Boston and spent a week at the University of Florida. Dr. Boston is a graduate of the surgical oncology fellow program at the FACC. Anyone interested in surgical oncology has heard of the Flint Animal Cancer Center. Dr. Boston encouraged me to apply to the fellowship, and the rest is history.
In 2017, I completed my surgical oncology fellowship at the FACC and then joined the faculty at Texas A&M University as a surgical oncologist. I was there for three years before moving back to the FACC.
I returned to the FACC because of the team. Their shared dedication to the mission is like no other. And I value all of the opportunities available to me, from the support for clinical and research development to the chance to make a difference for so many patients and their families each year.
During my career, I’ve found all aspects of caring for cancer patients so rewarding, including counseling and supporting owners through their pet’s diagnosis and treatment, personalizing a treatment plan with the entire team, following the dog or cat through treatments. The old line of never becoming attached to your patients and owners emotionally is nonsense. Being emotionally invested is what makes us better doctors – we are more conscientious and make more balanced decisions, in my opinion.
Professionally, I describe myself as a surgical oncologist, meaning I am both an oncologist and a surgeon. I think I identify more as an oncologist, with surgery being my weapon of choice. I aspire to be a clinician-scientist – I am working on the scientist part. Part of my research is looking at ways to investigate novel treatments in our small animal patients to ultimately bring them into treatment strategies for people with the same cancer type. This is what drives me from a research perspective.
In my private life, I am a doting and proud father and dutiful (or compliant) husband. My fur family includes my fat cat named Wilbur, who is perfect, and my two-year-old Golden Retriever, George, who is not. I’m a huge fan of the South African Springbok rugby team, who are the current world cup champions.