Praising Our DVM Authors And Icons

The world fell in love with veterinarians as they read James Herriot novels, but today things are different. In fact, life in the fast lane and in cities worldwide finds many pet owners seeking help at larger veterinary hospitals with multiple associates who often refer them for specialty care at mega-practices.

The contemporary sick-pet story no longer has the quaint James Herriot-style feeling. Pet owners who encounter high-tech veterinary medicine have a quite different experience. But the human-animal bond remains the same.

The bond is the mortar, grout and glue that holds together the foundation of our profession. Modern veterinary authors are stepping up to tell today’s story. We can wistfully look back to the good old days, but we must read the new DVM authors, inspired by Herriot, who write about our evolving profession.

We need to acquaint ourselves with the newest generation of veterinary authors who address their books to the public, such as Nancy Kay, Nick Trout, Tami Shearer, Debra Eldredge, Robin Downing, Shannon Nakaya, Elizabeth Hodgkins, Baxter Black, Marty Becker, Robert M. Miller, yours truly and many others too numerous to mention here.

Our clients have the opportunity to witness the day-in, day-out drama and challenges of pet injury, illness and aging.

Read and Learn

Here is a medley of the wonderful books written by the above-mentioned authors.

  • “Tell Me Where It Hurts” by Dr. Trout details one amazing day of service, mentorship, humor and reflection in this transplanted British surgeon’s life as senior staff surgeon at Angel Memorial in Boston. A delightful must-read!
  • Dr. Kay, in “Speaking for Spot,” tells us that her decision-making ordeal during a breast cancer scare jump-started her determination to help pet owners become informed advocates for their sick pets. She explains hundreds of prevalent diseases in understandable language to guide families selecting treatment options.
  • Dr. Nakaya, in “Kindred Spirit, Kindred Care,” reflects on decision making for sick pets as part of one’s viewpoints on relationships, life and death while honoring the human-animal bond.
  • Dr. Hodgkins helps cat lovers look at total feline health and nutrition in her brilliant and courageous book “Your Cat.”
  • Drs. Downing, Debra Eldredge and I have given books for pet owners to harvest knowledge and guidance about managing pets with cancer.
  • Drs. Black, Becker and Miller offer a unique exposure to veterinary humor and horse sense with their special artistic and literary talent.

Janis Audin, RIP

Writing is about informing others. Since this article is about authors and icons, I am sad to report that our profession lost Journal of the American Veterinary Medial Assn. Editor-in-Chief Janis Audin on April 22. Janis was 55 when her pancreatic cancer was diagnosed. She fought heroically for three years and worked until mid-February. The world benefited from her diligent work, and thousands of us will miss her.


In honor of Dr. Audin’s battle, I have asked JAVMA to start including the specific cause of death in obituary columns if the family gives permission. It is not just my 37-year career in oncology and pet hospice that makes me want to know why our colleagues have passed on. There is a general demand to know, and I think JAVMA should feel that now is the time to make the change and give us a 21st century obituary column.

Today’s veterinary membership is much different, both by gender and demographically, from the old American Veterinary Medical Assn. We are more open about our beliefs, who is in or out of the closet, which diseases or addictions we suffer from, and what type of cancer we are challenged with.

We shave our heads to support friends with cancer, and we run marathons, attend benefits and wear pins to raise money for research.

Many of us use blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, list servs and chat rooms to tell others what is going on in our lives. We want to share our experiences in the hope of helping others stay longer on the peaks and get through the  raging rivers and dense jungles that keep us stuck in the valleys of life.

JAVMA uses an obituary form. All the editors need to do to meet HIPPA requirements is add a question that asks the family of the deceased whether the membership can be told the cause of death.

No Reason to Wait

From conversations and e-mails with Dr. Audin, I know she favored this change, but she showed frustration, offering a statement that went something like “The wheels of change at AVMA go slowly.”

Anna Worth, president of the American Animal Hospital Assn., eloquently presented the slogan “The Time is Now” at the annual meeting in Phoenix to inspire members into taking action. Dr. Worth, one of the heroines in our profession, has been challenged by cancer as well, yet she continues to serve and live her life on the highest peaks while mentoring others.

JAVMA should catch on to Anna’s momentum and drive this request home. All respondents to my initial survey said they wanted this information! Send your opinion to or call 800-248-AVMA.

How about doing it now? The Time is Now.

Alice Villalobos, DVM, is director of Animal Oncology Consultation Service in Woodland Hills, Calif., and director of Pawspice pet hospice in Southern California.

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