By Karin Krisher
Our Clinic of the Month feature is back again. But this time, we’re doing things a little differently. That’s because one of our clinics has a special honor: the honor of working with Amber Labelle, DVM, MS, DACVO, who was recently named to Veterinary Practice News’ Top 25 Veterinarians to Watch in the (mag’s) 25th Year!
There are a few really good reasons Dr. Labelle made VPN’s list. Said Dr. Labelle in an e-mail, “I spend half my time performing scientific research, teaching classes, educating veterinarians, (doing) administrative work and volunteering my time with veterinary organizations such as the International Equine Ophthalmology Consortium or the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists.”
The other half is spent doing something Dr. Labelle appears to truly love: teaching, as an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Specifically, she focuses her efforts in the College’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine on the Comparative Ophthalmology Service.
“I love teaching,” said Dr. Labelle, who believes that “everyone learns better when they’re laughing” and is the recipient of the prestigious Pfizer Distinguished Teacher Award.
“One of the best parts of teaching is that I am always learning! Students are always asking new and interesting questions; I learn as much from them as they learn from me.”
While Dr. Labelle completed her ophthalmology residency and MS at the University, she didn’t become a faculty member until 2011. Today, she teaches groups of 120 (120 students/class) in a four-year program. Her preferred subject to teach is ophthalmology, and she has special interest in equine ophthalmology (which she calls her “first love”) and the cornea.
When asked what led her here, Dr. Labelle sang the midwest’s praises.
“I couldn’t be happier to be at the University of Illinois. I love the people, the town, the midwest and the weather! Yes, even the snow in the winter and the heat in the summer. Having grown up in the desert, I find seasons to be one of the most enjoyable parts of living in the midwest!”
On top of the location, there’s a lot to love about the University of Illinois. Dr. Labelle thrives on her career and all it offers—to herself and others. Her favorite part of the position is the variability.
“I love that my job is very diverse, and that I am constantly changing my routine. One day I may be writing a scientific paper about dog eyes, the next I may be teaching a resident about surgery on a horse eye, the next I may be talking with veterinarians about the best way to treat eye infections in cats.”
For those of us who aren’t familiar with the ophthalmology world, Dr. Labelle did a great job of explaining its main procedures:
“As a veterinary ophthalmologist, I used specialized equipment to carefully examine the front and back of the eye. One of the good things about the eye is that what you see is what you get,” she said.
“Most of making an accurate diagnosis is based on observing the patient. Sometimes we need other tools, such as ultrasound or tissue samples to make a correct diagnosis. Many eye conditions are treated with eye drops, although some may require pills or surgery.”
A typical eye appointment involves a thorough examination. “In our hospital, it means getting greeted by veterinary students who ask important questions about the pet, a preliminary exam by our students and then a more detailed exam by our residents and faculty,” said Dr. Labelle.
“A first appointment takes 1-1.5 hours. We really want to make sure we can sit down with owners and answer all their questions,” she explained.
Dr. Labelle, an incredibly busy, thoughtful and committed member of the animal care community, currently does not own horses of her own (despite being a previous three-day eventer) because of her extreme work schedule. However, she said, “caring for my equine patients is really satisfying, so I tend to live vicariously through their owners.”
And she’s not missing out on animals at home all together:
“I am owned by two pugs: Dexter and Sheldon,” she said. “To say that I’m obsessed with my pugs is an understatement.”
We’re willing to bet on why Amber Labelle caught Veterinary Practice News’ attention. Dr. Labelle represents all that is good in the veterinary profession: knowledge, commitment, and passion. She shows not merely a willingness, but a desire, a calling, to share these values with others, thereby paving a path to the future of good veterinary practice. And that makes us proud to call her our Veterinarian of the Month!