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When Dr. Anne Barger was named head of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine last year, she knew that faculty recruitment would be a top priority. The department has around 100 faculty members, who not only teach in every year of the DVM program but also deliver clinical and diagnostic services and, in many cases, devote time to discovery.
Recruitment never ends in a large and growing department. Adding to the challenge, veterinarians—especially specialists—are in high demand, and a career in an academic setting does not appeal to everyone.
Luckily, Dr. Barger came with a recruitment strategy: accessing the Illinois veterinary alumni network.
“I know the past 20 years of graduates,” she said at that time. “I plan to contact them about our open faculty positions.”
(Check out our “Careers” webpage to see current openings.)
The strategy has been very successful. Over the past year, a dozen veterinarians with an Illinois connection—either our DVM graduate or a former trainee in our hospital—have joined the department as faculty members.
Dr. Sarah Gray and Dr. Todd Marlo shared with me some of the reasons our alumni return.
‘Exceptional People … Wonderful Students’
Dr. Gray, who is a board-certified equine surgeon, completed her residency at Illinois in 2020. She earned her veterinary degree from Iowa State University and did internships in Texas and at Tufts University.
“The people of Illinois were really my deciding factor when taking a position here at the college,” she says. “Not only the exceptional people I get to now call colleagues, but the wonderful students that frequently become practitioners in the area.
“I think there are a lot of passionate, dedicated, and hard-working people at the College of Veterinary Medicine, and I am excited to be a part of that again.”
Before rejoining Illinois, Dr. Gray worked at both Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and Purdue University. She was excited to find that in the intervening years we’d added a lameness arena and launched a renovation and expansion of the equine surgery suites.
“These areas will give us a bigger and better space to be able to provide care to the horses of Illinois,” she says. “Hopefully with a remodeled facility and increased caseload, we can spark more student interest in equine practice.”
Seeing the Lightbulb Go On
While Dr. Gray has been involved in teaching students for years, given her many experiences in academic settings, Dr. Marlo, a 2013 DVM graduate, had spent his time in private practice. After serving as a locum in the hospital’s ophthalmology service over the past two years, though, the interactions with students became a powerful motivator.
“I witnessed students starting to connect things that they had seen in lecture with clinical patients and be excited by it,” he says.
That excitement led him to consider the switch to academia. Now his private practice experience informs his teaching.
“I use that experience to teach students about common mistakes/cases that I have seen,” says Dr. Marlo. “My goal is to give students the skill set to treat difficult ophthalmological cases, but also let them know that veterinary ophthalmologists exist for a reason, and it is okay to refer patients.”
We are delighted to have our alumni return in many capacities.