Practitioner Updates

Faculty Spotlight: Patrick Barko, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVIM-SAIM

Patrick Barko Headshot

Dr. Patrick Barko is an assistant professor in the small animal internal medicine service.

Tell us about your background.

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Mich­igan, and my family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, when I was a freshman in high school. After high school, I was unsure of my career path and worked in a welding shop before taking a job cleaning cages at a local veterinary clinic. This was my first exposure to veterinary medicine, other than taking our family pets to the vet.

I was inspired by how the veterinarian I worked for was able to use his scientific knowledge to help pets and people in the community. Though I had never consid­ered becoming a veterinarian, I started to think it might be a good option for me.

I enrolled in community college, progressed to Northern Arizona University, then moved to Wash­ington State University. There I earned both an undergraduate degree in molecular biosciences and a veterinary degree. Then I com­pleted an internship and residency in small animal internal medicine here at the University of Illinois.

In May 2024, I completed a PhD focused on investigating the role of the intestinal microbiome in chronic gastrointestinal and pancreatic disorders in dogs and cats. I joined the faculty as an assistant profes­sor in November 2023.

What drew you to small animal internal medicine?

I became interested during my third year of veterinary school because of an influen­tial professor. What I love most about it is that it requires integration of knowledge from diverse disciplines – clinical pathol­ogy, diagnostic imaging, immunology, infectious diseases, endocrinology, etc. You never know what a day in small animal internal medicine will bring.

Tell us about a favorite case of yours.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite from the many cases I have been involved with, but I have two favorite types of patients. First, I enjoy diagnosing and managing chronic gastrointestinal disorders. These diseases are complex and not well understood, so I am also happy to contribute to research efforts to better understanding them. I also appreciate that, despite the com­plexity of these cases, many patients can be treated successfully with nutritional therapy alone.

Second, I am a cat enthusiast, and geriat­ric cats are among my favorite patients. Older cats experience several health problems, including chronic gastrointesti­nal diseases, chronic kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism. These conditions can significantly impact quality of life, but with proper management, geriatric cats can live full and happy lives. Finally, I appreciate their spirited and independent nature. Earning respect from a grumpy old cat is very rewarding.

What are your special interests inside or outside of the clinic?

My special clinical interests are mostly related to gastroenterology. I also enjoy teaching in a clinical setting. My favorite moments are when I can help students, interns, and residents work through challenging cases and learn how to apply their scientific and medical knowledge to diagnose and treat patients.

Outside of the clinic I have many hobbies and interests. My wife and I love to ski in the winter and bicycle, hike, and camp in the warmer months. At home I enjoy cooking and learning new recipes and culinary techniques. My wife and I frequently travel to experience different cultures around the world. Finally, I listen to lots of music, play guitar, and try to see as much live music as possible.