An Interview with... Dr. Stephen P. DiBartola
What part of your work do you enjoy most?
I love being around young, bright, enthusiastic people who have a healthy dose of scientific curiosity. Our veterinary students have paid the price of admission and want to be here—it's refreshing and perpetually humbling.Who was your most memorable patient?
Peaches, a little dog with acute renal failure. It was neither the dog nor the disease that was memorable but the circumstances. Peaches' veins were blown, and her intravenous catheter was clotted and had to be replaced. I was complaining about how I'd never hit a vein on the dog, but Maxey Wellman, a veterinary student who was restraining Peaches, talked calmly into the dog's ear and said, "Oh, Peaches, don't worry. I just know we'll get this catheter in with no problem." The contrast in our attitudes spoke volumes to me. I've been married to Maxey now for 27 years!
Are you a cat person or a dog person?
Both. I like the physical qualities of cats—they are sleek, compact, graceful, and efficient. Dogs are goofy and sloppy, but you can't beat their personalities. The loyalty of a dog is one of the finest things in nature.
Who inspired you most in your career?
If I had to pick one person it would be Dr. Dennis Chew. As a resident, I could not help but get caught up in his almost childlike excitement about clinical medicine. In addition, Dr. John Bonagura inspired me with the intensity of his work ethic, and Dr. Bill Fenner's tremendous breadth of knowledge astonished me. These veterinarians came to The Ohio State University in the 1970s after training at the Animal Medical Center in New York City and helped establish the school's strong internal medicine program.
What would you advise a new graduate?
Develop a methodical approach to taking histories and performing physical examinations, and follow it consistently no matter how busy you get. But at the same time, don't ignore your intuition. Nurture your curiosity. If you are always asking "Why?" you will always be learning.
What would you have liked to do if you hadn't become a veterinarian?
Be a musician, but my poor sense of relative pitch would never allow it.
What books would you recommend?
Four books I've read twice come to mind. In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, things are often not as they seem, and first impressions can easily be wrong. When reading Far from the Madding Crowd, you can feel the weather that Thomas Hardy describes. Also, the book has a veterinary connection: Gabriel Oak trocarizes Bathsheba's sheep to save them from bloat. The fourth book is Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. I enjoyed Levin's search for meaning in life and the transcendent joy he derived from simple physical labor when mowing the fields alongside the peasants.
Some recent favorites are Empire Falls by Richard Russo, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.
What is your favorite film?
Annie Hall. Diane Keaton's outfits and la-di-das seem dated today, but Woody Allen's pessimistic view of life still resonates with me. One day after lecture, a student came up to me and asked, "Do you play the clarinet too?" I looked at him blankly at first and then burst out laughing. Over the years, students have told me my stage persona and Mr. Allen's are doppelgängers.