ACVO Member Spotlight
Dr. Jeffrey Bowersox, DACVO
Spring 2017

I was born and raised along the shores of Northeast Ohio in the western suburbs of Cleveland. I knew at the age of 9 that I wanted to be a veterinarian. A strong work ethic and determination were instilled by my parents. My father worked in the steel mills of the Flats and my mother was a bank teller for almost 30 years. My parents always provided many opportunities and experiences for my younger brother and me even as they would juggle their work schedules and swing shifts. I owe much of my drive and determination to my parent’s example. I had a paper route, was a boy scout, participated in many school activities, including high school marching band, and like most of my peers from Northeast Ohio, was involved in every sport possible, including playing ice hockey from the age of 6 (something I still do today) — typical Midwestern upbringing.

(Right photo: Pet Charity event in Delaware)

When I was 12, my father told me that if I was truly interested in being a veterinarian, I needed to discuss this with our small animal veterinarian. I was told by him that I needed experience and exposure to the profession, so at the age of 12, I picked up the yellow pages and started “cold calling” veterinarians to ask for a job. By the age of 14, I was riding routinely with an equine veterinarian from farm to farm. One of my main duties was to load and unload radiograph equipment for lameness examinations. Due to an equine patient with fungal keratitis, I was introduced to Dr. Charles Parshall. I got up the nerve (with the help of Chuck’s wife Barb) to ask Chuck at one point if I could “hang around and learn about eyes.” Barb and Chuck were always welcoming to me in their practice. My love and interest in ophthalmology was sparked by my time with Chuck. I was hired in the summers as a veterinary assistant. One of my favorite stories from this time was visiting the Cleveland Zoo to evaluate a new born giraffe with juvenile cataracts. I was in charge of carrying the ladder and running around behind Chuck and the keepers as the baby giraffe was gently pinned against the enclosure wall for examination. I did the holding of the ladder and I don’t think I ever got to actually see the eye, but the experience none the less was thrilling. It was Chuck who invited me to my first Midwest Ophthalmology Society meeting at Purdue University. At this meeting, I was first introduced to some of the founders of our college, Dr. Milt Wyman, Dr. Sam Vanisi, Dr. Kerry Ketring, to name a few. I was impressed by the congeniality and passion for the veterinary ophthalmology profession that I witnessed, as well as some of the typical Midwest meeting antics.

My college years at Ohio State and Ohio State Vet School were some of the most formative years of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed the busyness and activity of this time in my life. In school, I had an affinity to cardiology and general surgery, but remained very interested in veterinary ophthalmic microsurgery. I was a student coordinator for the Raptor Rehabilitation program at OSU and learned quite a bit about wildlife rehab during this time. Dr. David Wilkie, Dr. Brian Gilger, and Dr. Sandra van der Wordt, were clinicians at Ohio State during this time and their presentation of ophthalmology to the students was very thorough and interesting. Our Rehab group worked closely with all three of them on several occasions and watching Dr. Wilkie perform evisceration surgery on a screech owl for our service - further engrained my desire to learn microsurgical techniques.

The balance of my training after veterinary school was not the traditional university route. I was accepted into a private practice internship at a referral center in West Hartford, CT. I had no experience with living outside of Ohio—when I told my parents I wanted to move to Connecticut, my mom reacted like I was moving to Europe and she would never hear from me again. The specialty referral center where I participated in an internship was also associated with a general practice and as interns, we were responsible for attending to general practice appointments and surgeries. On more than one occasion, I had many long discussions with Dr. David Covitz about case management and his experiences. He was always a kind and encouraging voice and his clinical experience and gentle words are missed.

(Left photo: Our Crew in NYC Central Park at New Year’s Eve last year)

After my internship, I practiced in Northern Virginia for almost four years in general practice. During this time, I did not give up my dream of becoming a veterinary ophthalmologist. I applied for residency position several times and realized I needed more clinical ophthalmologic experience. I hit the phone book again and found Dr. Seth Koch. Seth and his technician Cindy allowed me to shadow their practice every Wednesday for almost three years. Keeping up with Seth’s energy was always a challenge and he and Cindy always kept me on my toes. We would have a new “word or the week” discussion at each surgery and when they found out I was handy at mechanical repairs, I was occasionally tasked with odd jobs repairing things around his house. Seth also guided me and took me to my first ACVO meeting in Sante Fe, New Mexico. I must have shown some progress, or Seth really wanted to get rid of me, as Seth’s recommendation letter helped me finally obtain a residency position. Dr. Koch introduced me to Dr. Ron Sigler in New Mexico. I’d like to thank Dr. Ron Sigler and his wife Pat for their hospitality and friendship and support and allowing me free access to their citrus grove during my residency. As most people that have met Ron know, it is always enjoyable to visit with him.

After completion of my residency, my travel took me back to the east coast and the beautiful Bay areas of Delaware. Delaware did not have a veterinary ophthalmologist when I moved here, so everything here was a start from scratch. I tried to utilize a “learn by example” approach and my experiences with colleagues and mentors helped guide me. I am now currently an owner and partner of The Veterinary Specialty Center of Delaware and daily am I thankful for the staff and colleagues that I work with. Helping manage a large referral hospital keeps me busy. As the largest veterinary hospital and only referral center in the state, it is a privilege to be part of bringing modern veterinary medicine to the region and to actively be involved in improving the veterinary profession and the health of animals in the state Delaware.

Outside of work, I’ve done lots of things and had great experiences in this small state. I am involved in several animal rescue groups in our area and will continue to enjoy trying to keep up with my growing children and their activities. I have also tried to be very involved in organized veterinary medicine and promotion of our profession. I was able to help write legislation that now provides for a statewide spay and neuter program to help decrease euthanasia rates in Delaware. I have served in all leadership positions on the board of the Delaware Veterinary Medical Association, including President, and I have been a leadership representative for Delaware on the AVMA Leadership Committee in Chicago. (Left photo: with Dr. Sigler; Bottom photo: AVMA Government Relations Office in Washington DC)

I have enjoyed my time as a member of the ACVO PR Committee and the friendships our college has provided. I am thankful for the experiences and opportunities that my career path has provided, for my wife, and for my family, friends and colleagues in our college.

- Jeffrey Bowersox, DACVO

The ACVO Diplomate Spotlight honors Active or Emeritus Diplomates in the profession who are leaders in their field, are in good standing with the ACVO and have an interesting story to share. Please submit your nomination for this feature to the ACVO office for consideration.