For the third year, dvm360 is recognizing industry professionals who are advancing the field and improving the lives of patients, clients, and staff with our Internal Medicine winner, Cara Steele, DVM, DACVIM (SAIM)
dvm360 is pleased to present the 2023 class of Veterinary Heroes. Nominated by their peers and selected for the recognition by a committee of esteemed veterinary professionals, 15 award recipients were chosen in various veterinary industry roles and specialties in this third annual program.
The Veterinary Heroes recognition program—sponsored by PetSmart Veterinary Services (corporate sponsor) as well as Blue Buffalo Natural, Nocita, TruCan and Trufel, Think Anesthesia, MedVet, Mount Laurel Animal Hospital, Nextmune, and Thrive Pet Healthcare (category sponsors)—celebrates the achievements of outstanding veterinary professionals who are advancing the field and making a difference in animal care. These winners will be honored on Thursday, August 24, 2023, in conjunction with a Fetch dvm360 conference in Kansas City, Missouri.
Make sure to register for Fetch Kansas City if you have not already!
Cara Steele, DVM, DACVIM (SAIM), knew from a young age that she was interested in veterinary medicine. “I had a really good friend who lived across the street from me. We went to school together. Both she and I decided when we were pretty small—she was [in] first grade, I was [in] second grade—that we wanted to be veterinarians,” Steele told dvm360 in an interview. “We used to play veterinarian with our stuffed animals and steal all the supplies out of our parents’ medicine cabinets. And fast-forward, obviously, I’m doing this and she’s an equine vet in upstate New York.”
Steele, now a board-certified internal medicine specialist, started working as a veterinary assistant during her last year of undergraduate education. She earned her doctorate in veterinary medicine in 2015 from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. She completed a 1-year rotating internship at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, followed by a residency in small animal internal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Steele has since been in private practice in the Maryland area, working in internal medicine.
“I think one of the things I love the most [about internal medicine] is the diagnostician aspect,” she said. “I really like putting together pieces of the puzzle….I really do like picking through and figuring things out [and] finding things other people may have missed—figuring out things that other people couldn’t figure out. It’s something that really drives me, I think, to get to the answers.
“Most of the time the clients [who] come to me, a lot of them have been dealing with illnesses in their pets for weeks, and sometimes months, and sometimes even years. They’re stressed and they’re scared, and their animals haven’t been doing well. In a lot of cases, I get to provide those good quality months or years that they didn’t expect to have. And that’s a rewarding feeling to take an animal that was not in good shape, maybe the owner was considering euthanasia, and now we have a good future in front of us.”
Steele credits the first veterinarian she ever worked for, Jeff Rhody, DVM, as one of her biggest role models in the field. “The thing that I remember most about him is how incredible he was with his clients. He was a really a great communicator, and he was super compassionate and really empathetic. His clients loved him, like, absolutely loved him,” she said.
Steele is also inspired by her internal medicine team and the technicians she works with. “We’ve been working together for over 4 years now, and we get along really well,” she said. “We’re a tight group in internal medicine.”
Steele’s nominator described her as “an incredible mentor” who provides exceptional care for patients and clients (eg, using efficiencies to reduce the amount of time a patient is under anesthesia). “She goes above and beyond to ensure that her patients receive the care that you would expect any member of your family to receive,” her nominator wrote. “She is always willing to teach and knows exactly how to relay information to anyone, no matter their level of medical knowledge. She is constantly seeking to improve her knowledge…to practice the best medicine and provide the utmost care for her patients.”
When not practicing internal medicine, Steele often finds herself crocheting, embroidering, cooking, baking, hiking, and playing video games. “I try to make sure that I keep a healthy boundary between my work life and my home life and that I give myself the time to have hobbies because I think it’s super important,” she said, adding that she didn’t always prioritize her hobbies because veterinary school took up all her time but that she’s glad to get back to doing the things she loves besides treating patients.