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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Alums Choose A Path Less Travelled

August 16th, 2018

According to market research done by the AVMA in 2017, 65% of licensed veterinarians are working in private clinical practice. Another 8% are working for government agencies. Only half a percent work in the uniformed services. OSU alums Kristen Hinatsu and Jake Tidwell are in that small group, and living that famous recruiting slogan: ‘Its not just a job, its an adventure!’

Jake Tidwell, Class of 2015, attended the OSU Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine on a scholarship from the U.S. Army. Following graduation, his first assignment was an internship at Fort Carson, Colorado. One year later he was sent to the island of Guam.

As an Army veterinarian, Tidwell’s primary missions are to care for military working dogs, and to promote public health and safety. “My activities can vary from performing surgery on a working dog in Guam one day, to conducting food production audits of facilities in Southeast Asia the next,” he says. He has also assisted researchers on the island by performing surgery on brown tree snakes as part of a project to control invasive species.

Kristen Hinatsu also graduated in 2015, and married Tidwell soon after. Although not in the army, Hinatsu works for them as a civilian veterinarian. She also provides veterinary services at the Navy base, and at the island’s only animal shelter, where she helped start a spay and neuter clinic.

“It’s interesting practicing veterinary medicine on a tropical island, and diagnosing diseases weekly that would be considered rare back in Oregon,” says Hinatsu. “I see tick-borne diseases almost every day. Heartworm is rampant here, and leptospirosis is very common (including many clients who have contracted the disease themselves). Poisonous toads are always finding their way into the mouths of dogs.”

Due to inbreeding in the stray dog population, Hinatsu also sees a lot of dogs with genetic disorders like cryptorchidism, umbilical hernias, and demodectic mange.

Guam is 1,600 miles from Japan and almost 4,000 miles from Hawaii. That isolation impacts veterinary treatment on the island. “Guam has no clinical specialists,” says Hinatsu, “so unless a client wants to fly their pet to Hawaii, I have to handle the case myself.”

Guam is 17 hours ahead of Oregon and that also has an impact on how she practices medicine. “The time difference makes it extremely difficult to communicate with colleagues and resources in the States. While it has been challenging, I have definitely grown as a veterinarian here.”

Both veterinarians credit their OSU education with giving them valuable skills. “Learning to manage my time and stress levels effectively were the most valuable lessons that still serve me today,” says Tidwell. “We were presented with an infinite amount of information to learn in a limited amount of time, so time management and prioritizing were essential.”

Despite the hard work and stress of veterinary college, the couple have great memories of their time at OSU.

“My favorite memories of OSU involve the great people I spent my four years there with,” says Hinatsu. “From the traditional froyo before every exam, to making the senior skits, I couldn’t have got through that challenging time without my friends, roommates, and classmates. Not only did I meet my husband there, but I made life-long friends.”

Tidwell concurs: “My classmates and I spent four years together in a rigorous but rewarding program, and I will always look back on my time in Corvallis fondly.”

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