Lately, I see myself racing after sensationalism. Along with my project Veterinary Journalism, I let myself guided by the burning flame of self-knowledge and thirst for information. The path I was walking on, allowed me to explore and understand better the portrait of the successful women in the field of veterinary medicine. Feeling more than amazed, I wanted to find out more about the successful woman, standing at the wheel, outside the daily round.
The old, conservative image of the housewife, has vanished. Women no longer promote that kind of image. The nowadays women, are powerful, taking the lead with strength and confidence. They can choose to be excellent mothers, running bussineses from their homes, or they can master in science, research, or even changing the face of medicine. Whatever they choose to do, they do it absolutely brilliant.
My personal journey about Canine Rehabilitation and Sports medicine, opened up once again a door to the chamber of successful woman in veterinary medicine field.
My guest for the interview is an incredible and powerful woman. Not only that she works in one of the best hospitals in the world, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and researches the pathogenesis of HIV infection, but also she creates a better approach for the canine athlete, in the field of canine rehabilitation and sports medicine.
Passionate about her work, intelligent and competitive, natural and full of life.
Doctor Christine Zink (DVM, PhD, DACVSMR, CVSMT, CAC).
V.J: Since your graduation, from the perspective of a professor in one of the best medical schools in the world, Johns Hopkins, how do you see the future education? How students deal with the modern face of medicine and how much it means to have access to modern items like technology, new books, hands on labs?
How much does it count for the future of a student, to study into an accredited institution by AVMA for example?
C.Z: From the point of view of students in the US, the institution at which you train is very important. There is a significant hierarchy here of institutions. That is very different from Canada where the schools are all public, so the institution is not so important, because most are very good. In the United States, there is a range of quality in institutions because many of them are private, so quality varies a lot.
Internationally, if a vet student wants to work in other countries, it can be helpful to come from an institution that is AVMA accredited.
It is of course very important for students to have as much hands-on experience and the latest equipment. Here in the US, many times private practices have better equipment than the veterinary schools because the private practices have more money.
V.J: You are a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists and a professor and director of the Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. How do you manage your time as a veterinarian? You also do research and canine sports.
How can students and veterinary staff learn time management, working in veterinary hospitals, research or even trying to get some time for themselves? How did you managed to make things work for you?
C.Z: Time management is very difficult to master. And it is more difficult all the time with our constant availability by email and texting, which adds to the interruptions. I think that one key is to be very insistent that you have the time to accomplish what you need to get done. If you give a little time away, you will not get as much accomplished. So you have to be very persistent to get the time you need and then make the best of what time you do get.
V.J: You have done a lot of research in the infectious diseases field, particularly in the pathogenesis of HIV infection. Please share us some valuable points regardind this research. I think it is absolutely fantastic your great interest and also, the result of your research. Also, you have researched about stem cell therapy for dogs. Please offer us a short sneak peek.
C.Z: HIV, the agent that causes acquired immunodeficiency (AIDS), is a lentivirus that causes persistent infection, immunosuppression with resultant opportunistic infections and chronic disease including encephalitis and pneumonia in humans. One of the important characteristics of lentiviruses is their ability to replicate in macrophages; replication in these cells is linked to the development of neurological disease and pneumonia in infected individuals. We study the SIV/macaque model of HIV infection to understand how HIV causes systemic and tissue-specific diseases.
We have demonstrated that SIV replication in the brain induces the expression of chemokines, particularly MCP-1, that recruit lymphocytes and macrophages to the tissue. This influx of cells results in inflammation within the tissue, which may have both beneficial and detrimental effects. On the one hand, the inflammatory cells may include specific immune cells that can kill virus-infected cells and lower viral load. On the other hand, some of the inflammatory cells may themselves be infected, resulting in an increase in viral load. How these two scenarios play out in the tissue probably determines the outcome of infection.
We have recently identified an antibiotic that is inexpensive (patent has expired) and completely safe that suppresses replication of HIV/SIV and significantly suppresses the encephalitis and neurodegeneration associated with HIV/SIV infection. We are currently examining the mechanism by which this exciting drug functions in the CNS.
We also are performing pre-clinical testing of a number of other drugs that have shown neuroprotective activity in high throughput assays, treating SIV-infected macaques with these drugs to ameliorate the effects of SIV replication and the resulting inflammation on the brain.
V.J: You have written great and valuable books like Peak performance: Coaching the canine athlete, Jumping from A to Z: teach your dog to soar, Dog health and nutrition for dummies.
Also, a new book is on the veterinary medicine bookshelves in libraries: Canine Sports medicine and Rehabilitation, with coauthor Dr.Janet Van Dyke. Can you please present us a short intro to your books?
C.Z: I wrote my books to fill in a significant gap in veterinary medicine. When I started writing the books, everything in veterinary medicine was written from the perspective of the pet dog. There was little to nothing written about canine sports and the canine athlete. So what I wrote was to fill that gap.
V.J: You have been awarded in 2008 by the Dog Writers Association of America for the Best Publication of the year and in 2009, you have received from AVMA the title Woman of the year. Honestly, how did you feel back then?
How it’s like to be a powerful, intelligent and successful woman and how hard success can be accomplished?
C.Z: The most important thing is to follow your passion. When you are passionate about something, then you will be a success with it. Veterinary medical training provides a very broad education, and it is a wonderful education to branch off into many different careers. As one of my friends (the first female chair of surgery) at Johns Hopkins says, „The only time you run out of chances is when you don’t take them!”
V.J: How have you guided your professional life, from college to the accomplishment of your dreams? Have you ever considered quiting the college or the job, for being too much or too hard for you?
And how would you describe yourself as a person now, regarding the many obstacles, sacrifices and hard work you have done for succeeding in being one of the best?
C.Z: I always knew that I had a backup plan. If I wasn”t successful in getting grants for my research, I would do pathology. If I was unsuccessful at pathology for some reason, then I would do clinical veterinary medicine. It was always very helpful to have a backup plan, because I knew I would never be left to do a job that I didn’t like.
As for obstacles, sacrifices and hard work, I have never felt like there were any of those, because all I did was follow my passion. If you do that, then there are no obstacles, and hard work just feels like fun.
V.J: How Zink Integrative Sports Medicine was born?
C.Z: I recognized that there was a need to help canine athletes and their people in a comprehensive way. There were orthopedic veterinarians and there were rehabilitation professionals, but there were fewer people who were integrating complementary aspects of veterinary medicine such as chiropractic, acupuncture and herbal medicine into the traditional therapies for canine athletes. I therefore decided to acquire training in these aspects of veterinary medicine and apply them to the canine athlete in an integrative manner.
V.J: How you managed to develop your sense of entrepreneur?
C.Z: When I wrote my first book back in 1992, I realized that the large book publisher did not know how to market books to owners of canine athletes. That first book didn’t sell well at all. The publisher put the book out of print and sold all the books back to me for very inexpensive. I then put them on the market and sold all 5000 of them within 3 months. What I could see was that I had to learn from the ground level about marketing my books, DVDs and also my skills. So I read as much as I could and most importantly I got to know what the needs and wants of the public are – what kinds of products will successfully get them to the next level? That is what I try to produce in everything I do.
V.J: What does it take for a veterinarian to build and develop his own practice, in terms of management, skills and communication?
C.Z: You really need to know your client and you need to deliver what they want. I firmly believe that today’s client with a canine athlete wants a veterinarian who will listen to them, appreciate their knowledge, give them individual attention and follow through until the dog is healed. That is what I provide in my practice.
V.J: I can see from your pictures you have transformed the chalenge of a canine competition into enthusiasm and fun. Your dogs are happy champions. What it’s like to go for adventure with your dogs?
What have you learned from these canine contests, considering your advantage in canine sports medicine?
C.Z: I have learned a lot through training and competing with my dogs. I have learned that dogs love to move – they love activity. I believe that with the leash laws we have today, many dogs are not able to fulfill their athletic natures, and canine athletic competition provides them with an outlet. However, I also have learned that the athletic competitions are artificial constructs made by humans and the dogs don’t know whether they are coming first or last and we have to be advocates for what is best for their health, even if it means that we don’t achieve what we wanted in competition. Sometimes that can be hard, but I truly believe that most trainers want the best for their dogs.
V.J: Do you have a personal and favourite quote, which is significant for you?
C.Z: My favorite quote, which I live my life by is by John Lennon: „Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” This is a reminder to always be in the present.
V.J: Can you offer some advice about canine sports medicine to future students or residents who want to folow the same career like you did? By the way, how much canine sports medicine has evolved since then?
C.Z: Canine sports really didn’t exist as a profession when i graduated, at least not in Canada where I went to veterinary school. There were a few veterinarians taking care of greyhounds, but that was it.
Again, my main advice is to find your passion and chase it. Don’t be afraid to innovate if nothing exists in your current area of interest.
V.J: Is there anything you would like to see happen in Europe, any improvements, in this particularly field of canine sports medicine?
What is your opinion about veterinary medicine taught in European countries and is there something you know about veterinary medicine from Romania?
C.Z: Europeans have always been innovators. You should look at what the specialty is like in the US and make it even better and more relevant to your countries. For example, Europe has some of the best agility competitors in the world. This means that it is ideal for you to center your canine sports medicine activities around the sport of agility.
I do not know very much about Romania, but would love to know more. I hear that it is a beautiful country with a fascinating history. I would like to visit Romania some day.
Doctor Christine Zink
DVM, PhD, DACVSMR, CVSMT, CAC
Zink Integrative Sports Medicine
* An interview by Gratzia Bolat