Shannon Holmes, an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, uses advanced diagnostic imaging techniques, particularly magnetic resonance imaging, both as a clinician in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital to diagnose different health issues in clients’ pets and as a researcher in clinical and translational disease processes.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
My early academic years were spent at the University of Guelph, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and master’s of science degree in pharmacologic MRI. My doctor of veterinary medicine degree was received from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph. Following my internship, I received specialized training in diagnostic imaging as a resident in diagnostic imaging at Washington State University.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I came to UGA in 2009 for a unique career opportunity offered only at UGA. The position offered was/is unique among veterinary schools as it allowed me to focus on clinical and research applications of MRI to veterinary medicine. Additionally, I must admit the climate was a factor, as I am originally from Canada.
What are your favorite courses and why?
It is hard to pick one, as the courses I teach expose me to a wide array of future veterinarians. VBDI 5310 is a vet student’s introductory exposure to radiology, which can be exciting and challenging for them and me. I enjoy seeing them develop methods to take their gained vast knowledge of disease processes and apply them to a particular case so they can help that pet. It is rewarding to participate in the journey to becoming a doctor and assume the huge responsibility that goes along with this role. At the other end of the spectrum, the residents in the hospital (i.e. graduate level) experience intense and concentrated training to become specialized veterinarians. The reciprocity of training residents is critical to my own career development; they help faculty stay current and intrigued by different aspects of diagnostic imaging. While residency training is often the most challenging three years of one’s career, the experience as a mentor is probably an aspect of this job that one can take the most pride in.
What interests you about your field?
As a veterinarian, it is unquestionably the potential to significantly impact the life of a patient, and by extension its family. The majority of patients coming to UGA-VTH will have some form of diagnostic imaging, so by extension I get to be involved with a huge number of cases. The human-animal bond is so important, and our pets become family members. This connection and willingness to care for them is amazing. This feeds both my clinical and research life. There are numerous diseases that we did not know existed until MRI was used in veterinary patients; the best example being the fact that dogs have strokes just like people. It is an ever-evolving field. I never regret my choice of being a veterinarian over a physician because of the huge variety of experiences I have had so far.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
As a clinician, it was being the co-recipient of the Outstanding Hospital Service Award. Diagnostic imaging is a section that is hugely defined by its service to the entire hospital. It was great that our work was acknowledged and appreciated by the UGA-VTH. Since, we have continued to grow and develop our section, and now we are one of the few veterinary schools with a full complement of radiologists possessing a wide range of individual interests. As researcher, it has been the acceptance into different collaborating research groups where my expertise in MRI can influence their results. After completing my master’s, I did not think I would be as involved with basic research to the extent that I am now. This change in my career trajectory was made possible through these collaborations and has been extremely interesting and challenging.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
Since research inspired my scholarly pursuits, I do not see a way these can be mutually exclusive. I attempt to share this idea with the veterinary students, as I believe that they are the future researchers in our profession. By talking to them about current research developments and the impact those results have on clinical practice, I get to expose them to both and demonstrate the interchange between these two areas. Having developed research projects from a single clinical case or seeing a clinical research project change the practice of veterinary medicine, it is this constant exchange that contributes to the evolution of veterinary medicine.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
I mostly hope to impart my passion for being a veterinary doctor and the responsibility that comes with this career.
Describe your ideal student.
My ideal student is ambitious, realistic, independent, takes ownership of their education to becoming a doctor, and is intrigued by the lifelong learning experience of being a veterinarian.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
I like the energy of campus in the fall; it is infectious and invigorating. My favorite place (or perhaps guilty pleasure) is The Creamery on a hot summer day, as it allows me an opportunity to come out of the dark radiology areas.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
Be outside in the sun. I also enjoy interior decorating, traveling and playing with my two Chihuahuas.
Community/civic involvement includes….
As a relatively young member of the American College of Veterinary Radiology, I enjoy contributing to development of this profession as a member of the board certification exam committee.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
I read “When the Air Hits Your Brain” early in my career, love it and was introduced to complexity of life as a doctor. I also enjoy self-authored biographies; it is so interesting to me to consider the paths that peoples’ lives can lead them. My favorite choice in movies is far less intellectual. I like all comedies because laughing is therapeutic, but the movies I can never not watch if on TV are “Caddyshack,” “Spaceballs,” “Bridemaids” and “Office Space.”
Proudest moment at UGA?
Hopefully, this is still on the horizon. So far, I would have to say it was watching our radiology residents succeed and enter careers in both academic and private practice. More continuous moments of pride come from seeing students apply concepts I have taught.
(Originally published April 5, 2015)