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  1. Animal Health Literacy

Dr. John Mussman

Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer
Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation

John Mussman
John Mussman at Duart Castle,
Isle of Mull, Scotland

1. Why did you become a veterinarian?

The combination of medical science and helping animals was the initial attraction. Later I realized that veterinary medicine is as much about helping people who interact with animals.

2. What made you want to work for CVM?

The ability to get closer to the cutting edge of a major part of veterinary medicine—the medicines. Also, the ability to interact closely with other scientists and their research, and do something that impacts the lives of every American in a real way.

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

I am part of a small group of dedicated scientists who are directly responsible for ensuring the effectiveness and safety to the target animal of every veterinary drug used in the United States. In addition to directly approving new animal drugs in the U.S., our decisions influence safety and effectiveness determinations throughout the world, and in some cases are accepted without further examination by the approving country. As such, my job literally impacts nearly every single human being on the planet in some way. If nothing else, it makes one think twice before hitting the snooze button in the morning.

4. What does the veterinary profession mean to you?

Veterinarians, though relatively few in number, are a central part of world society.

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

A little dog came into the clinic where I worked after being rescued from a house fire. It had suffered smoke inhalation. At presentation, it appeared to be stable, but within a few hours the dog developed seizures from brain swelling (presumably secondary to lack of oxygen from the smoke). The dog’s seizures became more and more frequent until it went into status epilepticus (constant seizures), unresponsive to anything but full anesthesia. The owner understood the grave prognosis, but wanted to do everything possible. I hospitalized the dog under constant anesthesia. Periodically we would try to decrease the anesthetic to see if the dog would remain seizure-free. After about 10 days, the dog finally was able to be weaned off anesthesia and go home on a medicine the owner could give by mouth. After another few weeks, we were able to stop the oral medicine. The owner sent holiday cards with a picture of her dog for years. The dog’s only lingering effect was that it never regained its sight, but otherwise was a loving pet until it died of other causes.

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