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Dr. Doolittle, Med Times Copyright, All Rights Reserved, 2004-2005


Remember the cartoon character Dr. Doolittle who took care of animals, or maybe you’re thinking of Eddie Murphy who "tried" to help pets? Well, many of us who are thinking about a career in the medical field forget that doctors for animals are also needed. Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) are in great demand because there are more animals with medical needs than veterinary physicians. I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Makar, owner and D.V.M. of the Tustin Santa Ana Animal Hospital, to learn more about veterinary medicine.

George Makar knew that he was going to be a vet during high school, when he took his first biology classes and combined his interest in biology with his love for animals. He went to the University of Cairo for his undergrad and graduate courses. As an undergrad he took pretty much the same classes as bio majors, in addition to zoology and botany. He says that taking zoology is very helpful for veterinary school. He was licensed as a vet in Egypt, but when he came to America, he had to go through veterinary school again because the equipment and practice is much more advanced here.

While in America, he attended both Purdue University and the University of Oklahoma. There are four years involved for veterinary school. The first two years cover basic medical sciences such as biochemistry, anatomy, parasitology, and immunology. The difference between the courses in medical school and veterinary school is that you have to study more species in veterinary medicine, and that makes it more complicated. However, it’s doable. The third year involves clinical sciences such as internal medicine, surgery, anesthesia, and dermatology. Again, vet students apply these sciences to animals. During the third year, students choose from three different tracks of animal choices: small animals (i.e. birds, cats, and dogs), equine (horses), and farm animals (i.e. cows and pigs). Also in the third year, students begin the first test of a two-part board exam. During the fourth year, students can say goodbye to their books and start getting some hand-on training. Dr. Makar says that he also got some hands-on training in a couple of animal clubs, and sometimes these clubs taught him some things that weren’t covered in classes. Another way to learn about clinical veterinary medicine is to volunteer at animal hospitals and shelters, and Dr. Makar says that animal contact is crucial when applying to vet schools.

After Dr. Makar finished vet school, he immediately began working with a couple of vets. Since he didn’t decide to specialize in a specific field, he was finished with training and ready for work. By contrast, a specialist usually trains 2-4 years after vet school, depending on the specialization. He worked for a couple of years until he had his own animal hospital and became his own boss. Dr. Makar handles many services for small animals such as dogs and cats. He handles preventive care (vaccination), general practice (checkups and minor problems), general surgery for soft tissues, internal medicine (liver and kidney problems), anesthesia, and pharmacy. This is a huge list of responsibilities, but at the same time he says that these responsibilities keep him completely involved with his patients.

Dr. Makar likes being able to do almost everything for his patients, especially being with them from the beginning to the end of a case. This direct control of patient care is one of the most satisfying aspects of working with animals. Other advantages are that you don’t work for an HMO, you’re your own boss, you can have your own practice within a year, you have more jobs available to you, and you can still have time for family and a social life. In fact, Dr. Makar is able to go to his daughter’s soccer games on Saturdays and play a little soccer with his friends. He is also actively involved in his church. To "get away from it all," he goes on a vacation with family and friends at least once a year.

I want to end with a story that reminds Dr. Makar of why he enjoys being a vet. One of his patients was a dog with a ruptured bladder that was on the verge of death. The dog was in a coma, and within twenty minutes Dr. Makar made a diagnosis and immediately had the dog undergo surgery. Fortunately, the dog fully recovered and was ready to go home the very next day. Not only did Dr. Makar save the dog, but he also saved a family from losing their pet. He was able to give them back their family friend.