Dr. Starkey, Hello. How are you?
Doing well, the temps seem to be finally cooling off here in Alabama.
Tell us a bit about yourself. When did you know you wanted to become a veterinarian?
I’m one of those that wanted to be a vet since childhood—either that or an Olympic figure skater or gymnast (for which I never went ice skating until I was in college and have never done anything that others would recognize as “gymnastics”). Funny enough, I made the decision that I wanted to focus on small animals over mixed/large animal when I was about 10 and witnessed my dad’s herd of beef cattle during their preg checks. I wanted nothing to do with having to lose sight of my arm like that. And here I am today specializing in, well essentially, poop!
Where did you receive your DVM? Where do you practice now?
I got my DVM at Oklahoma State University in 2011 (Go Pokes!) and I’m currently on faculty as an assistant professor at Auburn University.
What advice would you give a Technician just starting to learn about parasitology?
Some of this stuff is really fun, but some can be frustrating! Practice good techniques and reach out to someone who knows if you are having trouble. Recognizing parasites in fecals is the easy part, the hard part is knowing when something ISN’T a parasite.
What do you feel are the questions as a parasitologist, as a veterinarian, we should be asking right now?
Tough question…one big question I have is why does it seem like the number of positive cases for vector-borne infections is continually increasing. I feel like we have great preventive options…if we could fix the big broken component of compliance I personally feel like we would see far fewer cases.
We are in a time of crisis now, everything is in flux. Does parasitology become more difficult during this period? What should we be aware of?
COVID has sure turned the world upside down for so many, and everything is different it seems. Regarding parasitology in practice…the preventives are still there, and I think most clinics now are at a point where things are back to pretty routine with the exception of many clinics remaining curbside. Clients should still be able to bring fecals at their visits, blood can still be drawn to perform heartworm testing, and preventives should still be prescribed…but there’s no way of knowing the financial impact this virus has had on our pet owners or how it has altered their daily routines, and I think those things are playing a role in situations involving preventive health and medicine. One thing I think we all need to remember though (and I know it sounds super corny) is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, still. If we can effectively communicate to our clients how important it is to continue investing in preventive practices, not only limited to those involving parasites, for the health of not only their pets, but their family also, that will yield so many benefits moving forward.
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