Career change: Guiding good health for all


A veterinary career in research medicine fosters life-changing innovation.

If walking into the exam room just doesn't get your blood racing anymore-or if it's racing in a way that worries your cardiologist-you may be looking to see if your veterinary skills can take you further than traditional veterinary practice. In this series, we're sitting down with several veterinarians who have taken paths less traveled and found success. Can you find a kernel of inspiration for your own life in these profiles? We hope so!

Dr. Stacy PrittFirst up, Dr. Stacy Pritt and her career in biomedical research. Pritt earned her veterinary degree in 1997 from Washington State University and worked for three and a half years in traditional veterinary practice. “I liked aspects of practice but it just wasn't for me,” she says.

Pritt had already been involved in research work during her undergraduate and veterinary school years. And just a year or so into general practice she was already back at school because she wanted to learn more about the business side. “I did this little four-course certificate at a local college,” she says. “That started me thinking about a business degree.”

Pritt found a love for the business side. “In science, this is the way it is. You memorize it, you regurgitate it and maybe you apply it,” she says. “In management it's more of here is a topic, here is a scenario, tell us what you think about it-and back it up.” She earned her MBA in healthcare management in 2004 and a master's of science in managerial science in 2009.

Pritt started her research career in a clinical position but says it's common for veterinarians who start out in the clinical arena to move on to the management and the regulatory aspects as they gain more experience.

Pritt is now the director of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at one of the country's leading academic medical centers. What is an IACUC? In a nutshell, it is the group at an institution that is responsible for appropriate research conduct. They review research protocols, visit facilities and make sure their institutions keep current on new regulations for animal research.

As the director of IACUC, Pritt says she:

  • Organizes committee meetings

  • Establishes institutional policies for research

  • Manages computer software programs

  • Implements training programs

  • Ensures high-quality research protocols.

She has also become a Certified Professional IACUC Administrator (CPIA), which is nowadays required to be a director of an IACUC. And in 2013, she became one of the three charter diplomates by examination for the American College of Animal Welfare (ACAW).

Nonclinical skills you'll need to study up on

Pritt says several skills are necessary to excel in biomedical research.

  • Project management-Organization and communication are paramount.

  • Computer skills-Boot up your inner techie.

  • Public speaking-Lots of staff training is involved.

  • Information gathering-You must be proactive, not reactive about getting regulatory information.

  • Document review-Make sure it's saying what you want it to say and will be interpreted correctly by your targeted audience.

Skills you already have

Many skills for this job veterinarians have in spades. You'll play well in this field with these strengths:

  • Customer service-Hours in the exam room mean you can handle about anything people can throw at you.

  • Ability to explain complex concepts in a simple manner-Remember all those creative analogies you've developed over the years to get across just what disease X means for pet owners?

  • Hard workers-Veterinarians? Without a doubt.

  • Ability to prioritize-The concept of triage transfers well.

  • Understand budgets-You're keenly aware of trying to keep the practice in the black.

What you'll love

A lot of these positions are at institutions of higher learning or large companies, so you'll likely get a set Monday-to-Friday, 8-to-5 schedule with full benefits, vacation and sick time. And if you're not in a clinical position, the work is less physical.

“I like research because in the end it's for the greater good of health and medicine,” says Pritt. “I have been directly involved in research leading to the development of new medical devices and treatments that are in use today by thousands of patients.”

Where to go from here

Interested in a job in biomedical research?

“Network, go to research conferences and learn more about the field,” says Pritt. She says you can look for positions at, and, for government jobs,

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