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Fulfilling a Dream!

Friday, April 01, 2016

Erika Gibson, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology)
Garden State Veterinary Specialists

Growing up in a high-rise in New York City, I was limited in the pets I was allowed to have. We always had a cat, but that did not stop me from asking for a horse. We lived just blocks from the now gone Claremont Stables and Riding Academy located in a multi-story brick building that used ramps and a freight elevator to move horses from floor to floor. From there, one could rent horses and ride over to the bridal path in Central Park.

Like many veterinarians, I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to helping animals from a very young age. In fact, when I learned what the word for an animal doctor was, at the age of three, “veterinarian” was my unwavering answer to the question “and what do you want to be when you grow up?”

In high school biology class, I learned about a railroad worker who lost most of the frontal lobe of his brain during a work accident. He survived the injury, but his personality became dramatically different. How fascinating, I thought, that damage to one small portion of the brain could cause such a profound change in behavior. And just like that, I had my career path set- I’d become a veterinary neurologist!

After high school, I attended Duke University, majoring in biology with a focus in neuroscience. I worked in labs that researched learning and memory and even got to study brain specimens during my independent study at the Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

After college, I worked in a small animal veterinary hospital as a technician, and shadowed an equine veterinarian. I attended Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama where I formally began my veterinary education. During summer breaks, I participated in a wide variety of experiences ranging from pre-auction exams on cows and horses in Texas to performing lab research in Colorado for the CDC. During an internship at Michigan State University, I met my mentor, Dr. Charles Lowrie, one of the first veterinary neurologists in the country. From there, I worked as a general practitioner at County Animal Clinic in Yonkers, NY.

The next step on my path was a neurology residency program at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. It was during these years that I finally was able to study only neurology. After my residency I became a board certified neurologist at Garden State Veterinary Specialists.

Although the path to becoming a veterinary neurologist was long, and difficult at times, it was well worth it to be able to practice the profession I had dreamt about as a child. It is truly humbling to go to work each day with the purpose of helping animals with neurologic diseases. Whether it is treating a cat with seizures, or removing a ruptured disk from around a dog’s spinal cord, veterinary neurology holds something new and exciting each day. I can’t imagine a more rewarding and fulfilling career!

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.

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