I grew up in Seattle, WA, and quickly jumped ship to the much sunnier California for my undergraduate degree, followed by veterinary school at UC Davis. Following graduation, I discovered what real winter was in Minnesota for my rotating internship at the University of Minnesota, where my aspirations to pursue surgical residency were confirmed by working with the surgery group there. Following this, I u-turned back to California for surgical residency at UC Davis. I was extraordinarily lucky to be paired with Ingrid Balsa as my residency mentor, and through her guidance and mentorship discovered a love of minimally invasive surgery as well as a research interest focused in minimally invasive treatment of benign and malignant diseases. As a result of working within the fold of the UC Davis Soft Tissue Surgery service as a resident, I was also mentored by other senior and highly skilled minimally invasive surgeons such as Phil Mayhew, Bill Culp, and Michele Steffey, who further motivated and supported my career goals focused in minimally invasive and interventional techniques.
Tell us about your current role (ie. Practice type, position, professional and research focuses?)
Currently, I am acting as a staff surgeon within the Soft Tissue Surgery service at UC Davis. This role has allowed me to continue to grow as a surgeon, from a foundation of skills formed as a resident, as well as contribute to student and resident training. The group of surgeons I am able to continue to work with as colleagues and mentors are pioneers within their respective fields of interest within minimally invasive and interventional techniques, which has helped to better define my own clinical and research interests. Ultimately, I am interested in developing novel treatment and diagnostic strategies with minimally invasive or interventional techniques, to minimize morbidity to our patients.
How do you incorporate MIS into your surgery clinic?
We are lucky to have a robust referral platform from local general practices, as well as our own speciality groups such as Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology, to provide us a strong caseload in MIS. The research interests of our well established minimally invasive surgeons, as well as the skill set of our anesthesia service, also allows for a strong set of MIS cases. As a resident, exposure to the high caseload was important in my growth as a surgeon and I think that prioritizing MIS cases for students and residents to engage with will continue to help expand the field.
What excites you about MIS? (or tell us about a MIS success story)
I love MIS for many reasons, the most important ones being how significant our interventions and treatments can be, with minimal morbidity to our patients. MIS in veterinary medicine is a new frontier of technology, and having been exposed to some of the newer modalities, ie 3-D imaging systems, needlescopes, and novel intraoperative imaging (NIRF), it is clear that there is so much opportunity for expansion and research which I find exciting.
Why do you love being a VES member?
I was lucky enough to attend and present at a VES meeting in 2018 as a first-year surgery resident and was quickly enamored by the research and clinical content of the meeting. The surgeons and internists who make up the membership of VES are also an incredible group of people, who’s willingness to share experiences, mistakes, techniques, and research for the betterment of minimally invasive surgery in veterinary medicine is both exciting, and humbling.
Where would you like to see veterinary MIS go in the future?
I would love to see veterinary MIS achieve a role in surgery as it has in human medicine, which is to become a treatment option that is offered as standard of care in all practices and is not limited by equipment availability or skills/comfort with these procedures. I think communities like VES are the best way to continue to generate interest, research, and skills that will enable this to occur.
What do you like to do for fun outside of veterinary medicine?
I have a 9 yo Australian Shepherd (Kato) who continues to keep me on my toes and accompanies me on runs and hikes throughout California. More recently, road biking has been taking up some time and allowed me to explore some local routes, and I’m hoping to take the bike on some other more distant adventures. Kato is also an excellent winery and brewery dog, like any good Californian, and happily supervises tasting trips.