10 Questions for Dr. Lauren Hughes
1. How old were you when you decided to become a veterinarian?
Like a lot of my colleagues, I wanted to become a veterinarian ever since I was a little kid, around 5 years old. It was the idea of what a veterinarian actually was that changed for me over the years. When I was in high school, I got to job shadow through the Interact program and Key Club and got a much better idea of what the job entailed and I fell in love with the career. My work as a zookeeper at Niabi Zoo solidified my want to work with wildlife and exotic species.
As much as I love the work with the variety of species I see on a daily basis, what I love most about the job is giving back to the community and working with the owners of all these pets. Establishing a relationship with my clients and their family and getting to know them is a lot of fun.
3. What’s the most interesting case you’ve ever had?
During my last year of vet school, a large male Rottweiler came into the clinic with a swollen abdomen and we took x-rays, thinking the dog had a twisted stomach. When we began surgery, there was nothing wrong with the stomach at all and everything appear normal within the abdomen. During surgery, the dog’s right hind leg began to swell and he did not recover well from surgery. We ended up having to keep him in the ICU and do several more surgeries and through diagnostic testing and bacterial culture, we discovered that he had flesh-eating bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis, and was unfortunately unable to recover. I will probably never see a case like that again in my lifetime.
4. What’s the most difficult part of your job?
Humane euthanasia is always the most difficult part for me. It is such an emotional time for the owners and I’m a crier anyway, so it doesn’t help the situation. The blessing of working with animals is that we have the ability to alleviate their suffering in cases of a severe, incurable disease or when it’s time for them to cross that rainbow bridge, but it’s never a happy experience and doesn’t get any easier.
5. Why become a vet when you could have gone into human medicine and made more money?
Because of the variety of species I work with, every day brings something new and challenging. With the exotic animals that I see, as well as the animals from Niabi Zoo, the database of knowledge in some of these critters is extremely limited and brings about my “MacGyver” skills, trying to find new ways to treat patients that have never been done before as well as diagnose their diseases. More money would be nice, but I think I would get bored. I love what I do, so the money really isn’t a factor for me.
6. We know you have to like animals for this job but what are the other unique requirements?
Communication skills, creative thinking, and flexibility. Not every patient presents the same way, even if they have the same disease, and not every owner has the same budget so the approach to disease treatment and animal management is always different.
7. How has veterinary medicine changed since your parent’s time?
8. Even though both jobs require the same amount of education; how does veterinary medicine differ from human medicine beyond the obvious question of species?
Many veterinarians “do everything” still, even though we have specialists. There are so many general practitioners in the veterinary world that act as a surgeon, dentist, nutritionist, physical therapist, Chiropractor (wink, wink Dr. Meredith), radiologist, and many more. Your role changes so frequently based on your patient and its needs. This is much different than practitioners in the human world.
9. What do you think the new horizons for veterinary medicine will be?
Holistic medicine is becoming more prominent, as well as animal nutrition. Owners are becoming much more aware of the nutritional needs of their pets and asking a lot more information about appropriate diets.
10. If someone gave you a magic wand and you could go back and do it over again, would you still become a vet?
Yes, but I’d never want to do vet school again!