Dr. Devon Hague is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine and the head of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Surgery, Anesthesia, Neurology, Dentistry, and Shelter Services section as well as of the neurology service.
Tell us about your background.
I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., always around animals. I used to breed and show Old English Sheepdogs and Maltese with my family and travel across the country attending dog show events. There I was fortunate to meet many animal lovers and veterinarians, and I started apprenticing with professional dog handlers when I was around 14 years old. Then at 16, I started working for our veterinarian, first in the kennel and then as a veterinary assistant. In college, I also started working as a veterinary assistant with our local veterinary emergency service. There were times during my summer breaks in college that I would work an overnight shift at the emergency hospital and go directly to the general practice. Through working those long hours, I grew passionate about the field.
After my undergraduate studies, I did not get into veterinary school right away. Determined to get into veterinary school, the summer after earning my bachelor’s degree, I began working at the Ohio State veterinary teaching hospital as an emergency receptionist. It was through that position that I learned how tough that job can be and how valuable it is to have dedicated and caring client care representatives. (And how important it is for veterinarians to take care of and respect their staff members.)
About six months later, I was afforded the opportunity to work in the nutrition research laboratory at the hospital, studying lower urinary tract disease in cats. This was a profound experience that opened my eyes to the importance of clinical research and discovery. Through this research I also was exposed to academic and specialty medicine, which helped to shape my career path.
During veterinary school, I took every opportunity to learn about neurology and all facets of veterinary medicine. After graduation from Ohio State, I completed a one-year general small animal rotating internship, then a specialty neurology internship, followed by a three-year residency. All of my post graduate training was in private practice, which gave me a unique perspective on the high value of service required by specialists to the client and referring veterinarians. Following my specialty training, I was lucky enough to land back into academia at Illinois, where I restarted the neurology and neurosurgery service, which had been dormant for 10 years.
How did you become interested in neurology?
Neurology has always fascinated me. I enjoy the tactile and kinetic demands of the neurologic examination and putting those exam findings together like a puzzle in order to localize the lesion in a patient. Additionally, neurology allows me to specialize while also giving me the opportunity to us my skills of medicine, surgery, critical care, imaging, pathology, etc. This specialty also affords me the opportunity to engage and consult with practitioners in general practice and literally every specialist in the hospital. Finally, I enjoy the challenge and experience of interacting with clients to explain why their pet is not able to walk or is not behaving like themselves.
What are your special interests?
I enjoy all facets of clinical neurology and neurosurgery. I have publications in seizures and particularly enjoy lecturing on the realities and challenges facing both the patient and pet owner in epilepsy management. Aside from neurology, I am also interested in training students (our future colleagues) in areas of critical thinking, leadership development, and resiliency.
Tell us about a favorite case of yours.
So many! One of the most memorable cases was a young Maltese presenting with a peracute onset of tetraparesis (unable to move all four limbs) after a microchip placement. Unfortunately, as Mayzie was waking up from anesthesia, she moved while her microchip was being placed under her skin at her veterinarian’s office. The microchip unfortunately ended up penetrating her spinal canal.
The veterinarian called me right away, explained what had happened, and immediately sent the case to the VTH. We all knew that the microchip had to be removed in order for this sweet little dog to have a chance to be able to walk again. However, I had never seen this before (or since) and was not sure if surgery was going to go as we had hoped. Happily, surgery was not only a success, the procedure was fast and Mayzie was walking within a few days.
This was a great example to the students of the important relationship between the specialist and general practitioner, especially in cases where things don’t go as initially planned. It was also a reminder to the students that they will be presented with cases they have never seen before and need to use their skill set to develop a plan and proceed with caution and intent. Also, the dog had a great outcome and the owners were very happy with the response from their primary care veterinarian.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
I have had two neurologic diseases as a child. During infancy I had a reaction to vaccinations causing seizures (likely due to the older adjuvants that are no longer used in vaccines) and as a preteen I was diagnosed with a rickettsial (tick borne) encephalitis. Thankfully I recovered from both of these diseases without any side effects or current symptoms.