COMMUNITY LEADER PROFILE: MEET OUR OWN DR. LEE PICKETT!

  We asked our Medical Director, Dr. Lee Pickett, a few questions so that we could all get a better idea about the amazing things that she does in our coummunity! Where are you originally from? I was born in Ohio, but when I was in second grade, my family moved to Chester County, PA. How long have you been in the area? I started working in Berks County in 1995, and I moved to Bernville in 1997. How long have you been at Bernville Vet? I worked here as a part-time relief veterinarian for a number of years and then joined the staff full-time in January 2012. Where did you go to school? I graduated from Hartwick College (www.hartwick.edu) as a biology major and then worked in the pharmaceutical industry and with my own medical-legal consulting firm. In my 30’s, I went to the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (www.vet.upenn.edu) where I focused on companion animal medicine. At graduation, I was honored to receive the Mikus Prize for proficiency in veterinary medicine and for upholding veterinary medical ethics. Describe your role in the area’s pet community. I play three roles, which suits me just fine because I like variety. First, I am the medical director at Bernville Vet, which is meaningful to me because animals are my passion and I am fascinated by how the body works, its ability to heal itself and how I can “tweak” things to improve the healing process. Also, for the past ten years I have been writing a weekly newspaper column called “Ask the Vet’s Pets” (www.askthevetspets.com) that appears Fridays in the Reading Eagle (www.readingeagle.com). Well, to be honest, I don’t write it — my pets, Daisy Dog and Christopher Cat, do. I enjoy my part in producing the column because client education is very important to me. Finally, I have always volunteered for local animal shelters and rescue organizations, having done everything from feral cat spay-neuter surgery to serving as president of the Humane Society of Berks County (www.berkshumane.org) and board member of Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue (www.dvgrr.org). What would you say is the most important impact your organization has? I am proud that Bernville Veterinary Clinic is improving the health of companion animals in our area. We serve clients in Berks, Schuylkill and Lebanon Counties, providing compassionate care, friendly client education and convenient service. Our goal is to help our patients live long, healthy lives in the homes of the people who love them. What would you say was the one greatest pet-related community accomplishment you have had? About 12 years ago, I read in my veterinary journals that domestic violence affects not only humans but also family pets. I hadn’t realized that pets are abused too, and that abused women often won’t leave the home because they know their pets will be tortured or killed if they do. Domestic violence shelters accept the women and their children, but usually not the family pets. So I approached Berks Women in Crisis and the Humane Society of Berks County, and together we established PetNet to care for these pets until they could be reunited with their people in a safe environment. The program (http://www.berkshumane.net/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=67&Itemid=107) has been recognized by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government for its innovation. Since then, PetNet has expanded to provide temporary foster care for pets impacted by other personal catastrophes, including house fire, flooding and human medical problems. At what point in your life did you realize that you had such a deep connection with pets? My connection to animals has been a part of my being since I was born. I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian for almost that long. In late elementary school, I announced to my parents that I loved my friend Pam’s pony, and I wanted one too. They responded, “If you want a pony, go figure out how to get one.” So every day after school, I rode my bike to the farms near my rural home, asking if the staff would let me clean stalls in exchange for riding lessons. Finally I found someone, Sally Graburn, who agreed to take me on as a working student. Only later did I learn that she was one of the nation’s top dressage and eventing trainers. An extraordinary horsewoman and role model for any girl lucky enough to know her, Sally taught me about horses and life. I worked for her every day of every week, for years. One of my jobs was to assist the veterinarian and to carry out the medical recommendations he made — and it was always a “he” in those days. Despite the gender problem, I’d insist to my mom when she picked me up after I’d cleaned horse stalls all afternoon that I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. She’d scoff, knowing it was man’s work, and tell me, “You can’t do that, or you’ll always smell as bad as you do now.” List your pets and their names throughout the years (including childhood ones). As a toddler, my first “pet” was Orangy-Reddy, an orange-red caterpillar. Each day, I’d take him outside in the grass for an “airing,” until one day I was crestfallen to discover he was missing and a cocoon took his place. That was my first lesson in the phases of life. From there, my family pets became more typical: hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, budgies — and a dog and a cat. In sixth grade, I adopted two of our classroom mice, Missy, a white female, and Ringo Starr, a sable male with a white star on his forehead. I started breeding experiments, carefully recording the coat colors that resulted from various breeding combinations. Finally, when Missy grew very old, she developed cancer. Our collie, Lad, died of cancer, too — and I learned about grieving the loss of loved ones. Our pets do teach us life’s most important lessons, don’t they? Through the years, I’ve had too many pets to tell you about, most of them dogs and cats. Almost all were adopted from shelters or rescue organizations. At present, I live with two dogs, two cats and one husband. The cats, Carlie and Claire, maintain control over the dogs, an Irish wolfhound named Ollie and a black standard poodle called Lincoln. Please share one other personal fact. My favorite color is blue.