Fingerprints: Dr. Tom Catanzaro


What youd ask and what youd never think to ask a leading voice of veterinary medicine.

Shouldn't somebody who's always been nicknamed "Tom Cat" be predestined to become a veterinarian? Lucky for us, he did.

Dr. Tom Catanzaro, MHA, LFACHE, DACHE, has been involved with many aspects of veterinary medicine from the military, organizations and education to leadership, writing and consulting. What has fueled his long career is a deep appreciation, understanding and celebration of the human-animal bond.

Seemingly having penned more books than James Patterson, "Tom Cat" has never been at a loss for words. Love him or hate him, Tom's made a dramatic and positive impact in our profession the results of which will last forever.

Where were you born and raised?

Born at Scott Field Air Base. I wanted to be close to my mom who wanted to be close to my dad who was in the Army Air Force circa WWII.

Your first job was?

Five at at once before age 16: Mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, delivering newspapers and mopping a deli in the evenings. After turning 16 it was stocking shelves at National Tea and working in the steel mills of Chicago.

When did you first know you wanted to be a veterinarian?

Spring quarter during my senior year at Montana State University.

Catanzaro in Australia.

What is your greatest joy regarding this profession?

Puppy breath.

What's the worst mistake you ever made as a veterinarian and what did you learn from it?

Declaring an egg-blocked iguana dead post-surgery and telling the owner. Then I went to lunch and returned to see it up and looking at me (fast re-closure of suture line was indicated). I learned about stasis in iguanas and waiting for recovery of reptiles.

The best part about being a veterinarian is?

I have done so many things, have never gotten bored and am always excited about the new adventure on the horizon.

Tell us about a patient that shouldn't have lived but did.

A horse that fell in a Punji stake pit and ripped its shoulder. The tribal chief wouldn't let me flush the fecal matter from the wound (at threat of crossbow) but had me return in seven days. Maggots had given the shoulder a 99 percent debridement; the chief then allowed me to flush and treat, and healing was amazing!

Medicine or surgery?

Medicine. Surgery is too boring.

Practice or management?

Management (leadership) for sure!

What is your perfect idea of happiness?

A slow walk in the woods with my kids.

What is your greatest strength?

Leadership tenacity.

What living person do you most admire? 

An active Scoutmaster.

Catanzano, front-right, at a Cub Scout meeting in 1953.

What is your motto?

Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you will make it come true!

What do you collect? 

Beaver and veterinarian figurines.

What is your greatest professional regret?

Being unable to change our profession fast enough.

Tell us about your first pet?

Smokey, a long-haired black cat who was scared of most people but slept on my bed.

Catanzano and Smokey.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

Ms. Gurst in 7th and 8th grades. She saw a glimmer of hope in my math abilities and got me into experimental math in high school.

What do you know now, that you wished you'd have known before you entered veterinary school that would have caused you to live your life differently?

The importance of a balanced family life

If you could spend a day with one veterinarian (living or deceased), who would it be and why?

James Herriott. He made such a major impact on the image of veterinary medicine, back when people read books instead of surfing the Internet.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about veterinary medicine that would help pets, people and the profession, you would ...

Instill an appreciation for team-based veterinary healthcare delivery, especially in well care.

When and where are you the happiest?

The trails of Philmont Scout Ranch.

Catanzaro at Philmont Scout Ranch during a Leadership Course for a Walking Wood Badge.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

The AVMA 2012 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award.

What is your most treasured possession?

Memories of my Seminars at Sea faculty from the past 20 years.

What's your favorite hobby?


Tell us about a view or vista that took your breath away and left an indelible imprint in your mind?

The canals of Venice, Italy.

Would you encourage your child to become a veterinarian and why or why not?

Yes, I would. I think veterinary medicine is a great education with many avenues/potential careers.

Describe a perfect day as a veterinarian?

Achieving satisfaction at a job well done with a team proud of what we did.

Describe a perfect day away from work?

Boy Scouts of America Jamboree.

What is the most unusual pet name you've ever heard?

Pek'an (Algonquin for black spirit cat of the forest).

Catanzaro in Venice, Italy.

For the profession to thrive and not just survive, we must return to ...

Being interactive colleagues to share expensive resources, ideas and community outreach efforts.

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