An Interview with... Dr. Charles E. Short


An Interview with... Dr. Charles E. Short

A founding member of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists, Dr. Short is a professor emeritus of anesthesiology and pain management at Cornell University. Throughout his veterinary career, he has strived to boost the recognition and control of pain in animals.
Jan 01, 2005

What's the most exciting change you've seen in veterinary medicine?

If someone makes you really mad, use the energy to achieve something good rather than get even.
I've seen incredible progress in the development of better vaccines, parasiticides, nutrition, and drugs, as well as in the efforts to improve humane treatment of research animals. However, for me personally, the most exciting change has been the increased recognition of and improvements in relieving pain and suffering in animals. We've developed new analgesics, refined our anesthetic and pain management protocols, and recognized the need to provide excellent anesthetic and pain management for our patients. It's thrilling to observe a stabilized, comfortable patient during surgery and a smooth, pain-controlled recovery. It's equally exciting to be able to relieve a senior patient's arthritic pain or a horse's severe colic pain.

Who was your most memorable patient and why?

Two immediately come to mind. The first was a mature Saint Bernard presented to the teaching hospital at Cornell with fractures of both forelimbs and the mandible, thoracic contusions, intracostal hemorrhage, traumatic myocarditis, and extensive pain. During the first five days after the trauma, three anesthetic and surgical procedures were completed with excellent pain control, which alleviated the cardiac dysrhythmias; the dog fully recovered. It was an example of a critical case in severe pain requiring anesthesia, surgery, critical care, and pain management—a multidisciplinary, cooperative, successful effort.

The second was a calf at a research lab. I surgically transplanted the calf's kidney in order for colleagues to study tissue immune responses for the future development of human transplant programs. After I transplanted the kidney, the first urine the calf produced was evidence of a successful transplant.

Who inspired you most in your career and why?

We will have to address the potential health problems as the edge of the rain forest moves inward.
B.F. Hoerlein, DVM, professor of small animal surgery at Auburn University. He was tough and honest and an excellent surgeon who insisted each person do his or her best. He was equally concerned about teaching us what he knew and exploring new surgical techniques and procedures.

One of the greatest anesthesiologists of all time, A.S. Keats, MD, professor of anesthesiology at Baylor University College of Medicine, taught me the basics of clinical anesthesia and instilled in me the dedication to ensure that each patient is well cared for.

J.J. Bonica, MD, professor of anesthesiology and pain management at the University of Washington Medical College, taught by example and provided encouragement.

And I was inspired by my father, W.E. Short, an elementary school teacher and principal. I realized late in my career that his teaching methods were some of the same ones I used with my students.

I also appreciate the contributions of many students, including interns and residents, and colleagues from all aspects of our profession whose help and support made it possible for me to have a great life as a veterinarian and for my wife and family to be included in the overall atmosphere of our profession.

What was the best professional advice you ever received?

If someone in the profession makes you really mad, use the energy to achieve something good rather than get even—advice from Dr. Jack Knowles, past president of the AVMA. It worked and even stimulated the formation of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists.

What would you advise a new graduate?

Remember to be a complete person. You need to be an excellent veterinarian, and you also need a life with your family, friends, community, and church. If you care for others, they will return the favor, and your life will be filled with satisfaction. You need support from others to succeed.

What would you have liked to do if you hadn't become a veterinarian?

Be a physician. I chose veterinary medicine over medicine because at the time I was very shy and didn't believe I had enough people skills to be a good physician.