The Washington National Primate Research Center supports outstanding research directed towards significant human health issues and nonhuman primate health and biology. In order to accomplish this mission, we carefully monitor the health and well-being of our animals. We are proud of the high quality animal care that is provided by our personnel. The BioBulletin newsletter will include interviews with various staff to help explain their roles in the Center’s scientific mission.
The following is an interview with one of our clinical veterinarians.
Interview with Kathryn (Kate) Guerriero, PhD, DVM, DACLAM
What factors led you to a career as a veterinarian?
I have always had a strong curiosity and interest in biology and animals, and knew from a very young age that I would pursue a career in the science/medical field. I really enjoy the problem-solving aspect of being a veterinarian and having to utilize creative ways to help animals, especially in research animals where clinical treatment can affect study outcome.
Tell us a little bit more about your background and education; and how it contributes to your foundation in primate care?
When I was 11 years old, I started volunteering at a local animal hospital and knew within a few days of this experience that I wanted to become a veterinarian. In high school and early college, I worked as an assistant veterinary technician at a few animal hospitals but never felt like a career in private practice was where I saw myself. Because of my love of science, I decided to see if a career in research was worth pursuing. In college, I worked as an animal care technician as GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceuticals and joined a primate neuroscience research. My interest in research grew and I ended up working as a graduate student at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC). During completion of my PhD, I had many amazing opportunities to work with the skilled primate veterinarians at the WNRPC and decided that a career in laboratory animal medicine with a focus on primates was the career I had been looking for, as it combined my interested in veterinary medicine and research. I particularly enjoy working with investigators to help manage the challenges that arise when utilizing primate species in research.
What is your role as a veterinarian at the Center?
I wear many hats in my role at the WaNPRC. First and foremost, I am a clinician, and oversee the daily health and well-being of the animals. One of my favorite roles here is to teach and train many of our staff and students to perform a variety of veterinary procedures and surgeries. Another important part of my job is to work closely with the investigators to support their research projects. This often means consulting with them on the planned research studies and helping them to navigate the world of primate husbandry and clinical care to support their research projects. As the facility veterinarian, I often act as a mediator between the various DPR groups for any husbandry, behavioral, research, and clinical issues that come up on a daily basis.
What challenges are you working to overcome?
I wear many hats in my role at the WaNPRC. First and foremost, I am a clinician, and oversee the daily health and well-being of the animals. One of my favorite roles here is to teach and train many of our staff and students to perform a variety of veterinary procedures and surgeries. Another important part of my job is to work closely with the investigators to support their research projects. This often means consulting with them on the planned research studies and helping them to navigate the world of primate husbandry and clinical care to support their research projects. As the facility veterinarian, I often act as a mediator between the various Division of Primate Resources (DPR) groups for any husbandry, behavioral, research, and clinical issues that come up on a daily basis.
What challenges are you working to overcome?
The WaNPRC is a large research institute supported by many groups internally. When I first started as a veterinarian here, I found it challenging to understand the roles of each group and how they comes together in the daily operations of the center. Overtime, I have been able to gain an understanding of how the various groups integrate their roles to support the center. Another challenge that I am currently working on is to standardize and streamline procedures between the facilities. For example, I have been working with husbandry staff to create clinical isolation signs and carts that can be used for each facility in the event that an animal acquires certain infectious pathogens. My hope is that these standard carts and signs will facilitate a quick response to clinical isolation of an animal room.
What are your vet-related goals for the future?
I really enjoy teaching and training, and the WaNPRC has so many opportunities for entry-level veterinarians to learn new skills and increase their primate knowledge. Therefore, I would like to eventually set up a formal veterinary internship or residency training program. Additionally, I would like to continue gaining more experience with the extensive research models currently utilized at the center, so that I can further support the research needs of the investigators.
What should Center personnel and the public know about animal care in our Seattle facilities?
The vet staff works hard to provide the utmost care for these research animals. We spend so much time with them on a daily basis, that we really get to know the animals’ personalities and this helps motivate us to provide the best care than we can. We are always searching for newer and better ways in which we can support the animals’ health and well-being, and often draw from the current standard of clinical care in human medicine.
What strategies did you utilize in order to balance your work duties and studying for the ACLAM boards?
Organization, time management, and support from colleagues and coworkers were key to balancing work and studying for the boards. I am the type of person that works best when I have a set list of tasks to complete, so every day I would write up a to-do list to work through. I also don’t like wasting time (procrastination has never been my style) and am always striving to develop ways to be more efficient in completing tasks while preserving quality of work. Support from coworkers was also critical in my success through the studying process. Sometimes this meant delegating work to them, so that I could focus on study, and I am so grateful for their willingness to take on extra responsibilities so that I could spend more time preparing for the exam.
Please describe your experience with the exam?
It was a tremendous amount of work with too many hours of studying to count and a lot of emotions (terrified, nervous, anxious, excited, and relieved). The best part of this process was getting to know the other members of our study group. We were all in the same boat in terms of trying to balance work and studying, and really bonded over this experience. We supported each other on the rough days when we were up late studying, and celebrated with each other when we all passed the exam.
Did you have a mentor through this process?
Yes, I had several mentors during the exam process. First, my residency program director, Dr. Pete Smith, was monumental in helping me prepare and submit my application to sit for the ACLAM board exam. My residency faculty mentor, Dr. Steve Wilson, was also a tremendous support during this process by periodically checking in with me to see how the studying was going and assuring me when I had doubts as to my ability to successfully pass the exam.