10 Questions for Dr. Kathy Van Buer
I knew that I wanted to go into medicine since I was about 3 years
old. My mom was a nurse and I was always treating all of my dolls,
stuffed animals, live pets and other critters that I would find. I
decided specifically on veterinary medicine in college, although spent
a lot of time with animals throughout my childhood.
2) What is the best thing about being a veterinarian?
The best part is actually getting to work with a huge variety of
critters from tiny animals like hummingbirds and sugar gliders to
turtles, dogs, cats and guinea pigs to really big animals like
elephants and giraffes! I only wish unicorns and dragons were real! I
find the wide variety of animals and various adaptations to their
various environments absolutely amazing and am honored to get an
opportunity to work with them all.
3) What have been your most interesting cases?
I’ve had lots of really cool cases over time.
The penguins from a zoo had been getting sick and dying and we found out
they were eating the lead pellets that were dropping out of the lead
belts the pool cleaners were wearing…or
The case of a missing snake
(We found that the other snake in the cage had eaten it- radiographs
showed a snake in a snake)!…or
The case of a dog from Florida with a
rash that turned out to be an unusual parasitic worm that had formed
inside blisters in it’s skin, easily treated with dewormer medication
once we knew the cause.
4. What is the most difficult part of being a veterinarian?
When there really isn’t anything much that I can do to help a patient, as I really like to fix things and make the animals all better. Oh, and paperwork- yuck!
5. Why did you become a veterinarian instead of a human doctor?
As a veterinairan every day is different. I get to be actively involved in all aspects of care of each animal from birth to death including preventative care, surgery, and diagnositics and am able to be a part of the pet’s family as well. No two days are ever the same and life is never boring!
6. Aside from loving animals, what other unique qualities do you think it takes to become a veterinarian?
Learning to read and interpret the animals’ symptoms since they can’t talk. In addition, you have to be rather creative, thinking outside the box, finding new uses for items, etc. Constantly learning new things and adapting old things to new situations. Problem solving and extrapolating from one species to the next.
7. What changes have you seen in veterinary medicine since your parents time?
There have been huge advances in human and animal medicine. Pets are more a part of the family. Increased technology in information sharing and diagnostics. More specialists available and referrals. Increased interest in exotic and nontraditional animals.
8. Other than species , what do you think the main differences are between human and veterinary medicine?
Patients can’t talk so you need to read signals, pay attention to small details, listen to owner observations to get information. Pets are the property of owners so treatment depends on owner decisions, there are few pets with insurance so may have limited resources despite ability to treat problems. There is a
lot of emotional attachment to pets. Degrees of pet care expectations
vary with the owner. Many costs regarding patient care and equipment
are the same but much lower fees can be charged for pets. Few
medicines are actually made specifically for animals. Euthanasia is an
9. What do you think the new horizons in veterinary medicine will be?
Advances in human medicine will also allow for advances in animal medicine especially regarding cancer treatments. More referral and specialty practices. Gene studies are likely to play a role in animal health futures as they will in human health.
10. If you could wave a magic wand and do it all over again, would you?
Yes- being a veterinarian has allowed me so many unique and amazing opportunities that I wouldn’t want to miss them by doing something else!