Lillie Davis, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology) (she/her)
What inspired you to become a Board-certified veterinary specialist?
I knew I wanted to become a veterinary specialist from the beginning of my career. I fell in love with oncology during my two-week rotation in clinics as a senior. Being a veterinary specialist allows me to focus all my energy and passion into one area. In a funny way I always knew that being a general practitioner would be too much for my brain.
Are there any resources or pieces of advice that helped you along the way?
Working with a veterinary recruiter was how I found my first job out of residency, which I found to be very helpful. Nowadays there are more accessible resources like Linkedin that I believe to be more efficient. The advice I would give to job seekers, especially women, would be to know your worth and don’t ever settle for less than that.
Is there a story or experience that stands out in your mind that reaffirmed your decision to work in specialty veterinary medicine?
I have always been attracted to specialty veterinary medicine, even when I was a kennel assistant at a high-end General Practice in NYC. It was always something that felt right for me, so the major challenge was finding the specialty that was the right fit.
What is something you wish the general public knew about veterinary specialists?
That we have essentially dedicated our entire lives to this profession. The requirements to become a Board-certified veterinary specialist are rigorous to say the least. Friends and family are often surprised when I tell them that I essentially spent 12 years in school prior to becoming a veterinary oncologist (four years of undergraduate, four years of veterinary school, one year internship, and three year residency). So, we are passionate about animals and their wellbeing. We’re not looking to make a “quick buck”.
How is specialty veterinary medicine paving the way for advances in veterinary science?
There are so many exciting things being discovered and research being performed within the veterinary specialty space. Specifically in the cancer world, we are finding ways to diagnose cancer early in pets and new diagnostics tools that are minimally invasive but still very impactful. I love that as a veterinary oncologist I get to learn every day for the rest of my life.
When it comes to increasing diversity in veterinary specialty medicine, what kind of resources or changes would you like to see from the ACVIM and/or similar organizations? To phrase it another way, how can the ACVIM better support its diverse members?
Highlighting Diplomates of color (like right now), I think is a wonderful way to start. I also think that the ACVIM can be more transparent with how many minorities exist in this college (something I’ve been interested in knowing since I was a veterinary student). In addition, make becoming a veterinary specialist more accessible. As a Black woman who grew up in poverty, I had no financial assistance during residency, which was very stressful. The cost of board exams, dues, and travel expenses to take exams and go to conferences is severely limiting for a lot of people. I am thankful that I had mentors at Cornell who helped me as much as they could financially. However, the ACVIM should offer scholarships for disadvantaged members or aspiring members. It took me years to pay off the debt I accumulated to become a Diplomate.