An Interview with... Dr. Corinne R. Sweeney


Always be honest, says this large-animal internal medicine specialist who helped treat Barbaro. The first error in medicine is making a mistake. The second error is lying about it.

Corinne R. Sweeney, DVM, DACVIM (large animal internal medicine), is a professor of medicine, an associate dean for the New Bolton Center, and the chief operating officer and executive director of the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. She has received numerous awards, including the Norden Distinguished Teaching Award, the National Academies of Practice Distinguished Practitioner Award, the Veterinary Medical Student Government Commendation Award, and the University of Pennsylvania Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Dr. Sweeney

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

The recognition by the public that veterinarians are capable of doing almost anything for their patients that physicians are capable of doing.

What was the best professional advice you ever received?

Be honest—always, always, always. The first error in medicine is making a mistake. The second error is lying about it.

Who is your most memorable patient?

More memorable are the owners. There's Mr. X, who, knowing I had to work on Thanksgiving, came by with a big box of cannolis and cream puffs from a renowned South Philly Italian bakery. Mrs. Y, who on hearing about the birth of my children (now 21 and 19 years old), hand-delivered hand-knitted baby blankets. And the list goes on.

Who inspired you most in your career?

Drs. Mike Lynch and Bill Solomon. Dr. Lynch is a small-animal practitioner in my hometown who I worked for during high school, college, and veterinary school. He motivated me with his unbridled enthusiasm for both his veterinary school experience at my alma mater, the University of Georgia, and his practice. Dr. Solomon, an equine practitioner, strongly encouraged me to seek specialty training.

Dr. Sweeney with two horses from the New Bolton Center: 19-year-old Junk Bond (foreground) and 9-year-old Patrickwells.

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

Run a small coffee shop that would be the favorite place for everyone in town to gather.

What surprising lesson have you learned from your students?

The pathway to veterinary school is so different than it was 30 years ago. Back then, most followed a focused pre-veterinary, "get to vet school" road. Nowadays, the diversity of backgrounds as far as experience with animals, undergraduates studies, and world life experience is amazing.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

I'm definitely a dog person because dogs are more like me—extroverted and always trying to please.

What are your all-time favorite books?

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. Two recent favorites are The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki and Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child by Noel Riley Fitch.

What part of your work do you enjoy most?

The people.

Do you have a bad habit?

I don't know where to begin.

What has the experience with Barbaro taught you?

We've all known there is a huge community around the world that cares about animals. This experience with Barbaro has taught me that there is an even larger community that cares about the people who care for the animals.

If your patients could talk, what would you ask them?

How is our patient care? Are we managing your pain? Are we treating you with respect as we perform procedures? How would you rate our customer service?

Which animal health needs are currently unmet?

Large-animal oncology lags behind the tremendous advances made in small-animal oncology.

Who makes a good veterinarian?

Someone who cares. If you care enough about your patients and their owners, you will do right by them by knowing what to do or by knowing that you don't know and getting help.

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