An Interview with... Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little

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May 01, 2006
By dvm360.com staff

Denis Marcellin-Little, DEDV, DACVS, DECVS, is a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner and an associate professor of orthopedics at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. He is the cofounder and chief medical officer of the Animal Rehabilitation and Wellness Hospital in Raleigh, N.C.

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


Dr. Marcellin-Little with 5-month-old Diego who has a forelimb deformity resulting from a fracture sustained at 3 months of age. Diego's deformity is being treated with an external fixator.
The significant development of specialty practice. The number of specialty practices in the United States has exploded, positively impacting medical care nationwide. Similarly, in Europe specialty colleges were created in the '90s and are steadily growing.

Who was your most memorable patient?

Bailey, a German shepherd I saw three years ago whose complex pelvic limb deformities forced me to change the way we treat such deformities. In collaboration with Ola Harrysson, PhD, and others in the Department of Industrial Engineering at North Carolina State University, we created full-size models of Bailey's pelvis and used these models to understand her deformities. We also used the models to design and rehearse her corrective surgeries. Bailey did well through therapy. A solid and sustained research collaboration has followed this patient. We now have one of the most active biomodeling and biomanufacturing groups in the country.

Who inspired you most in your career?

While I learned from a number of mentors and am thankful to all of them, two veterinary orthopedic surgeons have gone beyond being mentors and have been advisers, role models, and friends. Dr. Antonio Ferretti, DECVS, in Milan, Italy, not only is an expert in external fixation but has an outstanding life balance as well. And Dr. David DeYoung, DACVA, DACVS, Dean of Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts, gave me two valuable pieces of advice. He told me that when working with clinical patients, I should never ask the owners if I could perform surgery on their dogs. Rather, I should explain the benefits and drawbacks of the surgery and let the owners choose the plan of action. Second, he told me that before initiating a research project I should always ask myself if anyone will care about the potential results—the research should have clinical value.

What would you advise a new graduate?


Last year, Dr. Marcellin-Little helped introduce a custom, modular prosthesis using osseointegration in a cat born without the lower half of its hindlimbs.
Think ahead three to five years, visualize your career path, and develop and sustain relationships with people you consider role models.

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

Be an engineer or an architect.

What book would you recommend?

Albert Camus' The Plague (La Peste), a book that illustrates selflessness and self-determination.

What book are you reading now?

Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science, a hefty book describing mathematical patterns present in nature.

What are your favorite films?

Casablanca because it beautifully illustrates the importance and consequences of having high personal ethics, Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window because it is simple and suspenseful, and Columbo because of the unassuming and meticulous attitude of the lieutenant.

What favorite musicians would you include on your personal jukebox?

I like Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, Peter Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Johnny Cash, Jacques Brel, Neil Young, Cat Stevens, Iris DeMent, and others.

What is the greatest achievement of your career?

I'm not sure. I am working patiently to expand some areas of orthopedics: joint arthroplasty, external fixation, and physical rehabilitation.