Making a Difference as an Emergency Veterinarian for Dogs

Fresh out of veterinary school, Lillian Good was uncertain of what to expect when she stepped through the doors of Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston to begin one of the most challenging internships anywhere. She'd learned a lot at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, but now she was plunging headlong into a busy medical center for pets and one of the largest animal hospitals in the world. The consequences of her everyday choices had suddenly and substantially, multiplied.

Good, 26, along with her fellow interns, had numerous staff doctors at Angell to turn to for advice and support. But when all was said and done, the final decisions about patient care were their own. If you're a new veterinarian, such responsibility can be unsettling. "Even with the strong background that we all have, there was such a jump that we had to make," Good recalls, "just in terms of deciding 'yes, we're capable' and then moving ahead with the decisions we're making."

Good, it turns out, is very capable. In fact, she surprised herself, discovering that she actually enjoyed the high-stakes pressure of emergency care. Rather than worry about her own insecurities, she looked at it as a tremendous opportunity to help pets – and the people who loved them.

She liked the variety as well. One minute something as brutally obvious as a dog that had been injured by a speeding car would come rolling in on a gurney; the next moment might bring a cat that was mysteriously withering toward his death. The goal at Angell is to solve the puzzle quickly, so as to save the pet.

One to Remember

"One of my favorites was a young cat, Brigitta, who was extremely ill when she came in," Good recalls. "She was emaciated. She was extraordinarily weak. Her electrolytes were at very dangerous levels. She was very close to death.

"By doing tests on her, we figured out that she had a disturbance in which she wasn't able to produce enough of the hormone aldosterone. It's a problem we don't see in cats very often. By getting her started on medication, she's gained her weight back, she's frisky, she's happy and she's healthy."

Good is one of those people who passionately pursue knowledge. She's held internships and externships at a variety of zoos and aquariums around the country. And this summer, she jumps out of the frying pan of her Angell internship and into the fire of a residency in emergency and critical care, also at the hospital.

She's looking forward to it; less for the stress and more for the chance to be there for patients like Brigitta. "Even though it's definitely scary at times, it's well worth it," Good says. "And it feels so wonderful when we're able to help."