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  1. Animal Health Literacy

Dr. Carmela Stamper

Office of the Director

1. Why did you become a veterinarian?

Carmela Stamper with Maggie
Carmela Stamper with Maggie

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved animals. I was the only person in my family who really liked animals (imagine the difficulties!). I wasn’t allowed to have pets when I was young (except for a pet escargot snail that died after 5 days), so I compensated for my pet-less-ness by taking care of any sick or injured bird I found in the neighborhood. (And no, my success rate as a 10-year-old was not very high.)

By the time I was in 6th grade, I had read most of the dog stories and all the horse stories in our school library. One day, I noticed a horse picture on the cover of a book called All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. Since I hadn’t yet read that book, and it had horse stories in it, I decided to check it out and read it. In the book’s first page, James Herriot described how he treated a sick cow. At that moment, I suddenly realized I could take care of animals for a living! The rest is history….

2. What made you want to work for CVM?

In all honesty, I didn’t even know CVM existed until I moved from Ohio to Maryland. Once I learned about CVM, I realized I could use my veterinary experience to make a positive impact on many animals’ lives at one time, rather than seeing one patient at a time. That sounded like a great opportunity, and I’ve been here ever since (just over 17 years)!

3. What is the best thing about being a veterinarian for CVM?

I get to directly help people who have questions about the drugs, foods, and devices they use in their animals, and I get to teach people about what CVM does every day to help protect human and animal health. So many veterinarians don’t know CVM exists, let alone the general public. By answering email or phone questions from consumers, by writing various articles for our website about what we do at CVM, and by visiting and speaking with veterinary students, I feel that I make a positive contribution, as a CVM employee, toward protecting the health of people and animals.

4. What does the veterinary profession mean to you?

Whenever I speak with veterinary students, I tell them that our profession is a profession of endless possibilities. How many professions can impact so many lives locally, in our country, and around the world like we do? Veterinarians positively impact animals and people every day, whether we’re treating a pet with an infection, looking at new data for an animal drug, inspecting meat in slaughterhouses, working in Congress, teaching students, or writing articles. As a profession, we generally don’t draw attention to ourselves — we tend to let our work speak for itself. With the advent of “One Health,” other professions and the public are realizing the importance of veterinarians. I love being a veterinarian!

5. What is your most memorable moment as a veterinarian?

I have so many wonderful stories, and even some sad ones. One of my two most favorite patients was a tiny Boston Terrier puppy named, appropriately enough, Mr. Olympia. (No joke!) He was such a sweet boy, always happy and wagging his whole body; and he’d take a flying leap into my arms every time I came into the room to see him. His parents were wonderful and took very good care of him.

One Friday, Mr. Olympia became very ill and his parents brought him into the clinic for an exam. He had parvovirus, a very nasty disease that affects the stomach and intestines and kills many puppies, if left untreated. He was so sick and dehydrated when he arrived that I couldn’t get an IV catheter into his veins. After much trying, Limpy (as I called him) wound up with a catheter in his tiny back leg. Once the catheter was in, I could finally give fluids to re-hydrate him and the anti-vomiting drugs and other medications he needed to help him fight off the virus.

Limpy spent that first weekend at my apartment so I could keep an eye on him and make sure he received the proper amount of fluids and medications. Mom and Dad received daily updates and we encouraged each other, hoping that our get-well wishes would somehow make him better. Over the course of the following week, Limpy slowly improved. During the entire time I treated him, he never tried to bite, growl, or give me the Evil Eye (even while getting shots several times a day)! As he started feeling better, he began to wag his tail and whole body; that was the sign we needed—he’d made it through the worst of the disease.

Mom and Dad came to pick Limpy up a week later. They cried with happiness when they saw him. From then on, every time Limpy came in for a checkup and routine vaccinations, he’d jump into my arms and lick my face and eyeglasses non-stop. I miss seeing Limpy and his parents. As a veterinarian, I don’t think you can ever truly leave your favorite patients behind. They’re always with you, somehow.