An Interview with... Dr. Stephen J. Ettinger


An Interview with... Dr. Stephen J. Ettinger

Feb 01, 2005
By staff

Stephen J. Ettinger, DVM, DACVIM (internal medicine, cardiology)
What's the most exciting change you've seen in veterinary medicine?

The development of the veterinary specialties—not only the veterinarians who are board-certified but also those general practitioners who have developed on their own—advancing this profession as well as themselves.

Who was your most memorable patient and why?

I honestly don't think I have an answer to that. I have been blessed with so many wonderful clients and patients. Every day I see new and old clients, people who are on their third generation of pets with me and who I still love to meet and greet. As a perfectionist, I tend to remember those patients that, despite my best efforts, I did not succeed with. Regardless, I've learned from my mistakes and, I hope, have became a better veterinarian as a result.

Who inspired you most in your career and why?

Without a doubt it was Dr. Bob Kirk, who gave me the impetus for small-animal medicine and who let me know what we as veterinarians could do. I owe my career to his mentorship and teaching.

What was the best professional advice you ever received?

I am reminded daily of the saying, "Every man who has a dog to adore him needs a cat to ignore him."
The worst was when, as an undergraduate, I was told that I had no aptitude for veterinary medicine. The best: My own feelings that I loved the profession and had to go for it.

What would you advise a new graduate?

Every year, I tell new graduates how fortunate they are to be in a profession where we love what we do—the pets, the science, and the owners. Even after all these years, going to work is still a pleasure.

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

Become a veterinarian.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

We have both at home, but I think I bond more with the dogs. However, I am reminded daily of the saying, "Every man who has a dog to adore him needs a cat to ignore him."

What book are you reading now?

I read a lot, both fiction and nonfiction. I like all of Paul Theroux's nonfiction travel books, and I just finished The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. I have read most of Peter Matthiessen's books, and I especially enjoyed reading both the fiction and nonfiction of V.S. Naipaul. I usually read two or three books at a time. On my desk now are Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas by Elaine Pagels, In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson, and Angels & Demons by Dan Brown.

What would you include on your personal jukebox?

I listen to music from the 1960s and '70s, plus a good deal of classical music. My kids think it is all terrible—just what I thought of the music my folks listened to.

What part of your work do you enjoy most?

The people and their pets. Without the people the pets would often not be terribly interesting, but with them the story is complete.

What do you consider the greatest threat to the profession?

The tendency to work less and, perhaps, to take less personal responsibility. I hope that these are just the thoughts of an older person reflecting on newer times.