Message from the Dean

Recruiting More ‘Bright Minds’ in Anesthesia

[four anesthesiologists at Iliinois veterinary college]

This message will appear in the October/November 2019 issue of the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association Bulletin.

Fifth Faculty Member Arrives This Fall

I’m delighted to report that over the past four years we’ve recruited from near and far to build a team of five in our anesthesia and pain management service. It’s remarkable growth, considering that as recently as last year our teaching hospital had only one boarded anesthesiologist.

It also connects to a historic strength at Illinois.

Founding Practitioners

Dr. John Thurmon joined the Illinois faculty in 1962. During his 36 years here, he helped found the anesthesia specialty and served as the first president of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists. His impact on veterinary anesthesiology as a whole and on the Illinois anesthesiology research and training program cannot be overstated. (Read more about Dr. Thurmon in a memorial article published when he passed in 2017.)

Through the work of Dr. Thurmon and fellow faculty members Drs. G. John Benson and William Tranquilli, Illinois became a leader in the field of anesthesia, analgesia, and pain management. Together they developed injectable anesthetic protocols, including the “triple drip” combination, which made surgical procedures for a variety of species safer and more affordable and which continues to be used today in large and exotic species.

Dr. Thurmon’s influence grew when he took on the editorship of Lumb and Jones’ Veterinary Anesthesia, the definitive work on veterinary anesthesia. He oversaw the third and fourth editions of that text, which were published in 1996 and 2007. The fifth edition, which came out in 2015, was edited by Dr. Tranquilli and three others trained at or on faculty at Illinois: Drs. Stephen Greene, Kurt Grimm, and Leigh Lamont.

Current Anesthesia Team

Today the Illinois anesthesiology service is led by Stephanie Keating, DVSc, DVM, DACVAA. She was educated at the Ontario Veterinary College and practiced in the Toronto area before relocating to Urbana in 2016.

“I enjoyed my time as an anesthesiologist in private referral practice, but I found that I really missed teaching and the opportunity for research, which ultimately guided me back to academia,” she said shortly after joining our faculty.

“It was an easy decision to make the University of Illinois my new home because of the opportunity to pursue these interests surrounded by welcoming, experienced, and collaborative colleagues. Illinois has always had bright minds in anesthesia and I feel lucky to be joining the team.”

Dr. Keating and Dr. Ashley Mitek recently created a free online training course on safe prescribing of opioids in veterinary medicine. You can take this course by visiting

Tamas Ambrisko, DVM, PhD, DACVAA, DECVAA, joined the faculty in 2018 after having served at veterinary colleges in New Zealand, Austria, and St. Kitts. He earned his veterinary degree in Hungary, followed by a PhD in Japan and an anesthesia residency at the University of Pennsylvania. He directs the research program for the anesthesia service in addition to participating in teaching and clinical service.

Newest Members

Of the most recent doctors to join the anesthesiology service, two are hardly new to Illinois. Both Dr. Mitek and Danielle Strahl-Heldreth earned their DVM and completed their anesthesia residency here. We are excited that they are continuing in the role of faculty member.

Dr. Strahl-Heldreth completed her DVM in 2014 and her residency in 2019. She brings a strong interest in exotic species to her anesthesia specialty.

Dr. Mitek graduated with the Class of 2011 and has remained active in the hospital and college ever since. A teaching assistant professor, Dr. Mitek divides her time among many interests, including serving as the small animal Extension veterinarian, developing video-based instruction modules for the college’s i-Learning Center, and working in the Clinical Skills Learning Center to deliver and evaluate instruction.

Graeme Doodnaught, BSc (Hons), BVM&S, MSc, DES, MRCVS, DACVAA, is the fifth doctor who will join the anesthesia service this fall. He recently completed his residency at the University of Montréal.

Each of these “bright minds” is eager to serve veterinary practitioners throughout Illinois as a resource for ongoing anesthesia education and consultation.