William J. Tranquilli, DVM, MS, DACVA, is a professor of veterinary clinical medicine at the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a coauthor of Pain Management for the Small Animal Practitioner.
Dr. William J. Tranquilli
What is the most exciting change you've seen in veterinary medicine?
The sophistication of diagnosis and treatment rapidly evolved because of the development of specialty medicine. Society drove
this change by having high expectations and respect for the veterinary profession, and the profession responded by working
hard to meet the public's demands and maintain that respect.
We should all be proud of our profession's high standards and our high standing in the public. Many veterinarians still believe
that money is not the most important consideration in how they practice. Our professional image has been well-served by this
value system. My hope is that the corporate model for veterinary medicine will not jeopardize this perspective.
Who inspired you most in your career?
As a veterinary student, I was inspired by Dr. Erwin Small because of his lifelong dedication to the brotherhood of veterinary
medicine. And as a veterinary anesthesiologist, I was inspired by Dr. John Thurmon because he believed in my enthusiasm for
discovering and applying new knowledge.
What was the best professional advice you ever received?
My dad, a factory welder, sacrificed much for my education and reminded me that I should always take advantage of and appreciate
my education or else his life and sacrifice would be rendered foolish. I hope I've held up my end of the bargain; my father—now
89—would never tell me otherwise.
Who was your most memorable patient?
Grizz, an old yellow Lab. In his last months, he had many maladies but was a good-spirited friend, always trying to make his
humans feel better when the prevailing demeanor in his small part of the world was less than optimal. I learned a lot from
him that had little to do with medical diagnosis or disease but much to do with my care for him and his kindness and patience
with me. He did the better job.
What would you advise a new graduate?
Take care of your life and work with a purpose to learn from your experiences. Most of what you will eventually know to be
true about medicine and life does not come from a book or from other people.
What would you have liked to do if you hadn't become a veterinarian?
As a younger man, I was interested in human motivation and fancied myself as being good at coaching a sports team. As an older
man, my interests have turned toward the environment and ecosystem health—I would be happy working as an ecologist.
Are you a cat person or a dog person?
I'm more of a dog person but only because I can't understand why cats do what they do as easily as I can decipher a dog's
What book would you recommend?
The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown can weave a story like few others. As for nonfiction, I like to read about people who were willing to take a chance
doing what they thought was right even at great personal expense. David McCullough's books John Adams and 1776 come to mind. And any book about Lincoln's life is often inspirational.
What is your favorite film?
My favorite films include Glory, Saving Private Ryan, and Reds. The common theme is not violence but personal sacrifice for a noble cause. These movies will allow future generations to
remember these pivotal moments and sacrifices in man's struggles to advance civilization.