Member Spotlight: Stephanie Correa, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology)

Apr 14, 2023, 10:58 AM by The ACVIM

Stephanie Correa, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology) | and Founder, Animal Cancer Care Clinic

Dr. Stephanie Correa is President and Founder of Animal Cancer Care Clinic (ACCC), an oncology-focused practice with eight locations throughout South Florida. Dr. Correa earned her DVM from the University of Florida and went on to complete an internship at The Animal Medical Center in New York and a residency at Louisiana State University. She achieved ACVIM Board-certification in oncology in 2001 and worked as an oncologist at Veterinary Specialists of South Florida before going on to found ACCC in 2004. In addition to her role at ACCC, Dr. Correa serves as the Executive Committee Chair of the Veterinary Management Group, a professional membership organization for veterinary hospital owners . In her free time, she enjoys camping, attending monthly book club, snorkeling in the Florida Keys, yoga and watching baseball.

What inspired you to become a Board-certified veterinary specialist? 
As a rotating intern at the Animal Medical Center, I was fascinated by the oncologists. Other doctors would go to the oncologists with histopathology reports and ask them what to do next for their patient–and the oncologists knew! They had the answers and I wanted to have the answers, too. I did not want to be in a position of staring at a report and feeling frustrated and scared because I did not know what to do for a patient. Those oncologists were superheroes and I wanted to be one, too. 

Is there a story or experience that stands out in your mind that reaffirmed your decision to work in specialty veterinary medicine?
Interestingly, my roots are in general practice. My dad is a retired veterinarian and he owned a small animal practice in Fort Lauderdale. I remember when there would be a challenging case in ophthalmology or endocrinology, the GP’s in the practice would reach out to the specialists at a university for help. It was a collaborative and also a personal relationship between the GP’s and the specialists. They all knew each other and supported one another. That bond and that network of veterinarians in all facets of practice made me realize how truly connected we are, whether we are specialists or generalists. I wanted to be a part of that network of veterinarians and am so pleased to carry on the tradition of my father in enjoying and valuing the personal and professional relationships we share.

What is something you wish the general public knew about veterinary specialists?
I wish the general public knew that with very little investment (typically a single consultation) we can provide the one thing they need more than anything else at this stressful time – peace of mind in knowing they are responsibly making informed decisions. We talk a lot about the emotional value of helping clients make informed decisions in pursuit of optimal outcomes for them (considering their own unique circumstances). The psychological burden of making, and living with, decisions for a beloved animal family member without professional insight can be very heavy. Whatever they decide, our clients feel so much better discussing their situations with us and understanding their realistic options. 

How is specialty veterinary medicine paving the way for advances in veterinary science?
As specialists, we are in a unique position to be able to help our colleagues. All of the specialists I employ understand that it is a privilege to have the knowledge to treat cancer patients, and it is our responsibility and duty to share that knowledge with our community of veterinarians throughout Florida. Twenty years ago, I felt so strongly about the importance of advancing veterinary oncology that I started my own company focused on cancer only.

What do you consider one of your career successes? How did you achieve it?
I always knew that to provide the best care for patients, you needed to care for the people too – our clients and employees both. I would say that guiding the internal culture of ACCC while watching our employees develop and grow over the years has been a very satisfying career success for me. I’m not talking about it in the past tense, though, because our culture is very present and continuously evolving and adapting to our growth. Though a description of our culture is best left to employees, suffice it to say that it feels to me like a warm, caring, and comfortable context for a busy practice focused on excellence. It’s difficult to control and pursue a specific culture as a defined strategic goal. Instead it sneaks up on you in organic ways, with the small decisions that you and all those in the organization make every day. I think it has been achieved mainly through good hiring decisions, listening and positive reinforcement. 

What do you consider a challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
As an entrepreneur and business owner, I’ve faced a number of challenges. For example, I remember when I decided to invest in a linear accelerator. There were nights I didn’t sleep worrying about the investment and the qualified staff required to run and maintain it. Yet, looking back it was one of the best decision I made, as radiation is helping so many of our animal patients live longer, higher quality lives. Today, finding enough qualified oncology specialists is always a challenge. To overcome it, we are increasing our national visibility - web site, social media, online job postings, industry partnerships, and word-of-mouth efforts, to name a few. We mainly need to fight through the clutter of large corporate recruiting so that people can know about us and what we are doing here in Florida.

What impact has the ACVIM had in shaping your career?
The ACVIM provided the groundwork to allow me to access the training through a residency program and board certification examinations to become board certified. As I am becoming more “seasoned” in my profession, I am looking forward to the opportunity to be able to give back to the organization. In addition to the personal involvement of myself and my ACCC oncologists, we’ve appreciated the opportunity to get more involved as a company in the Forum and support programs like VetSpecialists. Attending ACVIM-led events always helps me stay current on scientific advancements and have the chance to discuss common stories and issues with colleagues around the country.

Finally, what is something unique about your career, or career path?
In some ways it is probably unique to love your job as much as I do, for as long as I have.  When I started out 20 years ago, I knew I wanted to provide veterinary cancer care, but I did not know how much I would enjoy the business management side of things. Our growth has allowed me to work with a fabulous and expanding group of people and it has presented challenges requiring surprising levels of creativity and teamwork. I love the contrast between understanding and caring for our animal patients and doing the same with our human staff. I love learning and managing our continuous improvement efforts on both fronts – all to achieve what we call “Optimal OUTCOMES”. It truly has been a unique and gratifying career, and I am deeply appreciative of the opportunities I continue to have in this industry.

Photos courtesy of Dr. Correa and ACCC.


Read Dr. Correa's Career Spotlight here >>

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