I know exactly what your days look like, because I’ve been there.
I know that, as a clinician, you spend each day juggling a busy, possibly overbooked schedule. I know you are managing curbside protocols, barking dogs, phone calls, texts and emails, budget issues, drug shortages and staff interactions… all while trying not to get scratched by that sassy cat in exam room #2.
At Innovative Vet Path, I am sensitive to the pressures, challenges, and constraints that veterinarians in general, emergency and specialty clinical practices face every day. I value your time and expertise. I understand the challenges of puzzling out a subpar pathology report and translating it into a treatment plan that can be conveyed to an owner. Added to that are the pressures that pet owners are less willing to spend endless dollars on diagnostic tests and have increasingly high expectations regarding the accuracy and timeliness of those test results. This is where Innovative Vet Path can make a significant difference for veterinarians and owners alike.
Because Innovative Vet Path is a veterinarian-owned, independent practice designed to prioritize quality over quantity, I have the time and experience needed to thoroughly review and research each referral. This environment allows me to extract as much clinically relevant information as possible from every biopsy, dermpath, and cytology case. Utilizing my own clinical background, I construct biopsy and cytology reports that provide clear interpretations that can be readily applied to your diagnostic plan. As a clinician, you save time and energy when you receive a carefully executed report and owners are satisfied with timely and accurate test results.
Extraordinary Cases… Excellent Results
Over the years, I’ve seen many biopsies submitted with long, frustrating histories. Typically, the patient has sought treatment at as many as three previous clinics. Some of these cases even come with previous biopsy reports. When all of these factors combine, it’s often an indication that the case is something complex or unusual.
In these situations I clearly understand that if I fail to provide the most accurate diagnostic information possible, it may mean the loss of a client for your business and continued suffering for the animal. To me, this outcome is unacceptable — your success is my success.
Finding Answers for Oaken and Phoenix
I recently encountered a case that was submitted with over 100 pages of clinical records and multiple pathology reports. This dog had been seen by multiple vets and clinics with no satisfying results. Needless to say, both Oaken and his owners were frustrated and miserable.
The diagnoses in the previous pathology reports were, perhaps, technically adequate but I could tell there was something missing. To be clear, there were no overt misdiagnoses in the reports; they simply hadn’t been interpreted in the larger clinical context. Having the time and experience needed to examine this case as a whole allowed me to notice important details that had been previously overlooked. Such oversights are completely understandable in the fast paced demands of veterinary clinics, particularly when relying on confusing or incomplete test results.
After carefully reviewing the history, clinical photos and biopsies, I concluded that Oaken had a sterile inflammatory process that was periodically developing secondary superficial infections. Once the dog was started on appropriate treatment for the underlying problem, his lesions resolved and the veterinarian looked like a rockstar. Most importantly, the client was happy and no longer hopping from clinic to clinic. When I reached out to the vet to find out how the dog was doing, she said, “He’s doing really, really well! The best he’s ever done. All the lesions dried up amazingly well. He’s doing great!”
Another dog that I recently helped to diagnose was Phoenix. He was a very special dog who had touched a lot of people’s hearts. His story had gone viral, making him something of a canine celebrity!
Unfortunately, he had a very rare auto-immune condition that was especially challenging to diagnose. The initial biopsy had a mix of inflammatory patterns that had been interpreted as a suspected primary allergic/hypersensitivity process. His veterinarian and caretaker requested that I review his biopsies and I found changes consistent with a diagnosis she had suspected, and that fit with her clinical findings and assessment — systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). During a call with her and her colleague to discuss Phoenix’s condition — I asked them to check his urine for proteinuria — it turns out he did have protein in his urine. All the pieces of the complex puzzle started to come together. Once the right diagnosis and process was confirmed, he was able to get specialized treatment and care for his complex condition. Sadly, Phoenix’s body could no longer sustain the battle against SLE, but he brought a lot of joy to many people during his life, and left a lasting impression. He was given more time because his caretaker made sure to seek out colleagues who shared her passion for solving the puzzle.
These are examples where the difference between an adequate and an excellent diagnosis becomes clear. This is where the pathologist you partner with can really help you build your practice and reputation. It’s my mission to set up clinicians, pets, and their owners for success and the ability to live their best lives.
A Passionate Dedication to Accuracy
In my practice, each case is much more than just another number.
I founded Innovative Vet Path because of my passion for diagnostic pathology. I love the challenge not only because it provides priceless insight for appropriate treatment but also allows me to utilize my curiosity. During my internship, it was satisfying to unblock a cat or perform a pericardiocentesis on a dog with a right atrial hemangiosarcoma. But although it was exhilarating to provide direct care, I also felt frustrated.
I always wanted to know exactly what was causing the problem. I enjoyed reading a blood smear or looking at a cytology slide. If there was a tumor, what kind was it? What did it look like and what were the treatment options? If it was a metabolic problem, how did it all tie together? I always wanted to know more about each diagnosis or condition. Even better was calling the pathologist and finding out what the final diagnosis was on a submitted sample!
A common misconception is that pathologists are robotic, automated introverts. I’m exactly the opposite! I became a pathologist because I love animals and want to help as many as possible in a meaningful way! Obtaining the most accurate and complete diagnosis has such an important impact on the outcome of a case and the patient’s quality of life.
There are so many things that can and do go wrong in an animal’s body. To me, pathology is the ultimate strategy to answering that puzzling question, “What’s going on here?” It allows me to continuously learn and help many species of animals with wide-ranging conditions. And now, with telepathology, geography is no longer an obstacle!
A Uncertain Start with a Bright Future
In 2015, I was laid off from Abaxis Veterinary Reference Labs when it was sold to Antech by the parent company and then quickly dissolved.
My experience at Abaxis was intense. Institutions like Abaxis require pathologists to read a minimum of 60 cases per day. Typically, each case is afforded approximately eight minutes to read slides, review the signalment and history, write a description, formulate a diagnosis and write comments for the case. This leaves very little time to research unusual cases, consult with colleagues or build relationships with clinicians. That’s roughly 14,000+ cases per year. With that time pressure, what are the odds of making a mistake or not catching something? Of course, a misdiagnosis or oversight can, and does, happen to every pathologist.
The best way to reduce the likelihood of misdiagnosis or oversight is to focus on quality, not quantity. I don’t want to practice the type of pathology that stops at merely “adequate”. I don’t want to be a cog in the wheel of corporate veterinary diagnostic pathology. I’ve learned the only way to deliver superior diagnostic pathology services is to cultivate my own independent practice. I prefer knowing the clinicians I’m collaborating with and how I can best support them.
Over the years, I have learned from many generous colleagues in many different settings and I am indebted to them all. I am proud that I have created a veterinary diagnostic pathology service that offers tremendous value to clinicians and their clients. It’s a fulfilling career and an opportunity for which I am incredibly grateful.