An Interview with... Dr. Robin Downing


An Interview with... Dr. Robin Downing

"Our ability to recognize and respond to animal pain is in its infancy," says this practitioner, author, and president of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management. "There are still animals that suffer needlessly because of our deficiencies."
Jul 01, 2006
By staff

Robin Downing, DVM, is the hospital director and co-owner of the Windsor Veterinary Clinic in Windsor, Colo., an affiliate faculty member at Colorado State University, the president of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management, and a Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member.

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

Dr. Downing with her 5-year-old cat Pearl, who was born with a twisted spine, resulting in paralyzed hindlimbs; 4-year-old Golden retriever Farrah (a.k.a. Farrah Leaky Faucet), who was born with ectopic ureters that have now been repaired; and 3-year-old Australian shepherd mix Opus, who is genetically deaf.
In my 20-year career I have witnessed firsthand the migration of pets from the backyard to the bedroom and from the kennel to the couch. (Thanks, Dr. Marty Becker.) This has transformed the practice of veterinary medicine in terms of how we serve our patients and clients.

Who inspired you most in your career?

Sharon, my partner of 28 years who believed in me even when I didn't; Dr. Greg Ogilvie, my mentor during veterinary school and beyond; Dr. Virgil Humphreys, who kept learning until his death; Dr. Marty Becker, who lives The Bond like no other; Dr. Peter Hellyer, a passionate pain management advocate; and Dr. Mary Beth Leininger, the first female AVMA president.

What would you advise a new graduate?

Commit to being an advocate for beings that cannot advocate for themselves. Keep an open mind. Remain a lifelong learner. Find balance in life. Never give away your integrity. Network, network, network—you never know how someone may help you. Have more fun than adults should have!

Who was your most memorable patient?

Murphy, my own black-and-white Great Dane. She survived 4 ½ years with osteosarcoma (twice) and served as the mascot for the Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University. She inspired my book Pets Living With Cancer: A Pet Owner's Resource, met retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, and taught me about grace under pressure.

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

Dr. Downing has received many awards, including the 2001 World Small Animal Veterinary Association's Excellence in Veterinary Healthcare Award and a Hill's Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award.
My first degree was in English, so I would be teaching English literature at a university somewhere. An English degree and a DVM degree are similar in that you can do anything and go anywhere with them.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

I'm a bit of both. We've shared our home with as many as 14 cats and five dogs at one time. Each of our animals has a disability. It sometimes feels as though we run an assisted-living facility!

Do you have a bad habit?

I love what I do, so my vocation and avocation are one in the same. That means I don't always play enough. I'm working on that!

What book would you recommend?

Two books I consider essential reading are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, both by Stephen R. Covey. The seven habits help you find your own voice. The eighth habit helps you guide others to find their voices—the core of servant leadership.