When Douglas Brum was a child, he went through a stage in which he hoped to grow up to become a paleontologist/comedian. And though he no doubt would have excelled at it – and maybe even pioneered an entirely new career track – dogs and cats all over greater Boston would today be the poorer for it.
Brum is a general medicine veterinarian. He's going on 15 years of prowling the hallways and examination rooms of Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston, Mass. In a place overflowing with board-certified experts in everything from orthopedic surgery to pathology, he's among the few long-time staffers to hold no official specialty. Instead, he's become a highly regarded, well-liked animal doctor by keeping a hand in a bit of everything.
A Variety of Specialties
"I like being a veterinarian," he says. "I like being a general practitioner. I like working with people. And I like working with them on a long-term basis.
"By not really specializing in one particular aspect, I maintain more client continuity over the long term. And by working at Angell, I get the expertise of various specialties right here. If I have a case that involves cardiology or oncology that I would like input on, I can get that and still take care of my patients."
Brum has a loyal following. Part of his popularity is that he's a kindly man who has a way with pets – not to mention their human counterparts. But even if he was a curmudgeon, his calendar would still be full, simply because he is a top-flight veterinarian.
"I do have my special interests," he says. "I see a lot of, and I really do enjoy, problems like adrenal disorders – like Cushing's disease – and auto-immune diseases. I'm interested in oncology, too."
Ready for the Challenge
Mention Cushing's to some veterinarians and you might notice an increase in their heart rate and respiration. Diagnosis of the disease is often less clear-cut than many practitioners would like. You can perform a lot of tests but, in the end, discover that it comes down to clinical intuition, which is the result of seeing plenty of cases over the years.
"I got into it mainly because it was a disease no one wanted to deal with," Brum says. "Those cases are labor intensive and they're not easy. They require a lot of communication and owner education."
Brum thinks this is great. After all, here's an opportunity to make a difference, not only in an animal's life, but in the lives of the humans who care about him, too. "It's nice when you know the people well enough so that you can really help them make decisions," he says. "You see them when they're just so distraught and upset and if you can pull the animal through, they're just so happy. It's really nice. You feel like you've done something good."