Always room for veterinarians

By: Megan Broad, administrative assistant, AVMA Governmental Relations Division

Former AVMA fellow showcases the diversity of skills veterinarians can provide

Dr. Terry Ryan Kane testing software that protects endangered birds from wind turbines.

Dr. Terry Ryan Kane testing software that protects endangered birds from wind turbines.

Dr. Terry Ryan Kane has pursued a few careers in her life. After starting Michigan’s first cat hospital, she wanted to go back to her roots as a scientist. That’s where the AVMA Fellowship Program came into play, helping her dive into a new career while teaching her the skills she needed to navigate a new field.

Kane completed a master’s degree in ecology from University of Illinois-Chicago and then attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s veterinary program. She had her hopes set on being a dairy veterinarian. But after working with a cat colony at the New England Primate Research Center while putting herself through her undergraduate education, she decided working with cats came more naturally. In 1981, she started Michigan’s first feline-only hospital, The Cat Practice, in Birmingham.

With her strong science background in molecular biology, chemistry and ecology, and her growing interest in advocacy, Kane decided to apply to AVMA’s Congressional Fellowship Program, where she was accepted for the 2010-2011 class.

Kane wasn’t shy to political action prior to the fellowship. Previously, she had volunteered with World Vets, worked in Mexico with spay and neuter clinics, and worked full-time with the Obama presidential campaign. She wanted to see real change happen and to be a part of it.

“I’ve always had strong opinions.” Kane said. “I knew I wanted to make a pivot, to do something different that challenged me.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (left) with Dr. Kane during her congressional fellowship

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (left) with Dr. Kane during her congressional fellowship

She was the first AVMA fellow to work in Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) office. While she felt in her element working on animal issues, Kane was often asked, “Don’t you want to be a veterinarian anymore?” She’d proudly tell her colleagues that veterinarians do much more than practice on animals and her goal was to ensure that the public understands the value and breadth of knowledge that veterinarians bring to many career fields.

“It’s important for young people to realize that being a clinical veterinarian is not the only way. We need veterinarians everywhere.” Kane said. “I see a great need in policy decisions. You can aim a different direction and be just as successful.”

After the fellowship ended, Kane moved from D.C. back to Ann Arbor, Mich., a hub for science and technology where she used her newfound networking skills to meet Russell Conard, founder of Ornicept, a natural resource management software company. Kane was quickly impressed with the company, which had just developed software to recognize different species of threatened/endangered birds. After talking about renewable energy industry regulations and wildlife issues for quite some time, Conard offered her a job to help the renewable energy industry protect wildlife, which she happily accepted.

Kane put her experience in public policy to use at Ornicept, working on policy issues that impact the renewable energy sector and U.S Fish and Wildlife regulations, such as the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Kane is the senior scientist on Ornicept’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant with the Department of Energy, providing funds to develop Specific Optical Avian Recognition (SOAR), which is software that identifies different bird species.

Ornicept’s software allows the renewable energy industry to better coexist with nature to create more fuel alternatives with fewer environmental costs. She is also helping to write the Phase II SBIR grant, taking this project to offshore turbine sites as well.

Kane and colleagues looking at Sandhill Cranes.

Kane and colleagues looking at Sandhill Cranes.

“My passion has always been the animals, so I feel pretty good about trying to protect as many of these endangered species as possible,” Kane said.

Though Kane has retired from clinical practice, she is still happy to call herself a working veterinarian. She hopes that young veterinarians look beyond clinical practice to the many avenues where they can contribute to the profession.

“We are some of the best problem solvers on the planet,” she said. “It’s not the clinical ability that stands out so much; it’s the management and problem solving.”

Kane hopes that there will be many more AVMA fellows in the future. Not only is it an “eye-opening experience for any citizen to see how Congress really works,” but she would like to see more veterinarians work in the public sector and the sciences.

“There’s room for more veterinarians everywhere.”

For more information on AVMA’s Fellowship Program and to apply, click here.

One thought on “Always room for veterinarians

  1. What a wonderful testament to the potential of veterinarians outside the world of clinical practice. Given the apparent lack of fiscal success in many geographies for clinical veterinarians, having the interest, training, experience and ability to be passionate about human/animal interactions of any kind could supply tremendous career satisfaction for those willing to look outside the practice environment. My own career, left the traditional path after 22 years in practice and I have never regretted those decisions or the fascinating things my veterinary education has allowed me to do. However, I still had to convince my mother that I was still a ‘veterinarian’.