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An Interview with... Dr. Carl A. Osborne


Renowned for his important contributions to our understanding of renal and urinary tract disorders in veterinary medicine, Dr. Osborne is also revered as an inspiring teacher-whether through the classes he teaches at the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine or through his lectures and journal articles worldwide.

What is the most exciting change you've seen in veterinary medicine?

Increased application of evidence-based medicine in diagnosing and treating disease. This has set in motion a paradigm shift in the philosophy of veterinary medical practice from an art to a science.

Who was your most memorable patient?

Jake, a 10-year-old 90-lb male Dalmatian with recurrent urate urolithiasis. His family decided to euthanize him because of alleged aggression. My wife and I adopted him. During the next three years, Jake elevated the meaning of being a faithful friend to a level beyond our ability to describe. If, during his final hours of life, he were able to put his thoughts to the pen, I sense his message would be

"I was abandoned and sent to die all alone, then you reached out and gave me a home.

As one of the family, you treated me as treasure; in return, my life's goal was to bring you pleasure.

In response to my love, I could readily tell you valued my life and my welfare as well.

Through times happy and sad, I was faithful to you; to me, you were loyal and trustworthy, too.

Let me live on, now that we must part, in your mind and especially your heart.

I love you."


Who inspired you most in your career?

My mother and father. In word and deed, they taught me that the lives of all living beings are precious.

What was the best professional advice you ever received?

When uncertainty exists as to whether a therapeutic plan is in the best interest of the patient, try to answer the following questions: Based on all information available, would I choose this course of action if I were this patient? Based on my knowledge of my skills and experience and the availability of support staff and equipment, would I consent to the proposed plan of diagnostic and therapeutic action if I were in this patient's exact situation? What diagnostic and therapeutic goals are likely to be achieved? If the therapeutic plan is performed, in all probability will the overall benefits justify the associated risks and costs?

What would you advise a new graduate?

We need to constantly remind each other that there are some patients we cannot help but there are none we cannot harm. No patient should be worse for having seen the doctor. Thus, an excellent bedside manner is not a substitute for professional competency. Our ethical code of practice demands that we not let ill-conceived diagnostic and therapeutic plans jeopardize the welfare of our patients.

What would you have liked to do if you hadn't become a veterinarian?

To be a part of an organization that would allow me to devote my God-given energies, talents, and resources toward caring for others. ?

What book would you recommend?

The Bible. It is filled with practical knowledge and wisdom; thus, we can rely on it as a guide to our thoughts, words, and deeds.

What book are you reading now?

The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others

by Allan Luks and Peggy Payne. The authors describe the positive feelings we experience as a result of altruistically helping others as the

helper's high

. The sense of well-being associated with the helper's high has been compared to the euphoria associated with the release of endorphins during vigorous exercise, such as the runner's high described by marathon runners.

What part of your work do you enjoy most?

The opportunity to contribute to the welfare of animals and their human companions in my role as a veterinarian has been a richly rewarding experience. In fact, I have learned that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.

What do you consider the greatest threat to the profession?

When others try to convince us to think of our worth as veterinarians primarily in terms of the size of our financial bottom line, we must be on guard to not lose sight of our role as advocates for patients. Our conscience, guided by the golden rule, should prevent us from taking unfair financial advantage of those who trust our integrity when they turn to us for help. We should be on guard to maintain our ethical balance so as not to tip the scales toward caring more about our profits than about our patients.

Which animal health needs are currently unmet?

The unmet needs of countless numbers of abandoned animals in pounds and shelters. Although many members of the veterinary profession have generously contributed their time and resources to improve the welfare of abandoned animals, it is obvious that more help is required. To this end, more will be accomplished if each of us adopts the perspective of "I must do something" rather than "Something must be done."

What changes in veterinary medicine do you hope will occur in the next 100 years?

I hope that changes in technology resulting in improvements in the quality and quantity of life will be shared with all patients, including those whose owners have limited resources.

What is your sci-fi prediction for veterinary medicine?

As a result of advances in nutrition, pharmacology, and gene therapy, invasive surgery to remove urinary stones will be eliminated and, thus, become an item of historic interest.

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