Dr. Wagner is an instructor and a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer.
Tell us about your background.
My career began in physics. I have a degree in engineering physics and worked for Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before becoming a veterinarian.
I have been a veterinarian for 19 years and I have a wide range of experiences in general practice. If I had to sum up my veterinary career into prominent categories, it would be feline medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, and acupuncture. Over the nearly two decades I’ve been a veterinarian, I have worked as an employee, an employer, a locum, and a hospital owner. I also utilized acupuncture as a house call practice for over 12 years.
I’ve always been fascinated by the comparisons between human and animal medicine. When the recession hit and our profession went through so many changes, I decided to pursue a course of study that would be applicable in both fields. I chose ultrasound because I really do enjoy physics. My training is by way of a two-year degree per the human route, followed by an internship, and then board testing. There is no equivalent path in veterinary medicine.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I enjoy using whatever tricks I can to obtain the best images of the patient in front of me, but this is just the beginning. I prepare for each case as if I am that patient’s primary doctor. In private practice, I used to manage these medical and surgical cases so I put all of my prior years of experience to work when I do this job. I enjoy putting the pieces of the puzzle together to help support the interns, residents, and clinicians. I wrap it together and discuss it with the senior students in the imaging rotation so they can see how all aspects of diagnostics fit together to direct us toward an answer. I am so grateful to have ended up at a university where the next generation of veterinarians begin their journey.
Are there any tips or tricks to make reading ultrasound images any easier for vets?
Not really! It is so much more than picking up the probe. A thorough understanding of ultrasound physics is incredibly helpful in creating an interpretable image. There are some good quality ultrasound continuing education programs available in veterinary medicine. If a practitioner wants to learn ultrasound and make it a part of their practice enough to interpret, it is a serious investment. Once you achieve that image, nothing will ever take the place of reading and then more reading to learn to interpret your findings. Because different diagnoses can look similar on ultrasound, I do a lot of ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspirates to help sort things out.
Do you and our teleradiologist work “together” throughout the day or do you each have your own niche?
We each have our own niche, but if I am stumped by something, I definitely reach out for help.
What are your hobbies or interests outside of work?
I truly enjoy physical exercise. I stay active, enjoy being outdoors, and also practice yoga.
What brought you to Illinois?
I grew up in a small farming community in rural Minnesota, but I’ve spent enough of my adult life in Illinois that it has become my second home. The people here are incredibly nice, and I enjoy the rural environment of Urbana. I have worked with veterinarians from many states over the years, and those from Illinois have always been top notch. We have a great program here, and I am proud to be a part of it.