Our Vets: From Aspiring Journalist to Veterinary Specialist
You may be a cat person or a dog person. You could prefer Holsteins over Jersey cattle. You might consider your pet a best friend or a member of the family. Regardless of how we may differ, there is one thing all animal lovers can agree on and that is the great work carried out by veterinarians.
Follow Bayer4Animals on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to learn what inspired some of our veterinarians to dedicate their lives to making a difference in the lives of animals and the people who love them.
Dr. Lea Heuer is a veterinary specialist at the Bayer. She grew up near Bielefeld, Germany and studied veterinary science and parasitology at the University of Veterinary medicine in Hannover. Like many veterinarians, she has pets. Lea considers her home to be a miniature zoo with four pets. Her two European shorthair cats- Dr. Niels Bohr and Dr. Erwin Schrödinger – are former animals she adopted from a university. She also has two horses named Nano Macchiato and Donna that are very cuddly and great companions.
Lea, why did you grow up wanting to be a veterinarian?
I actually didn’t! Initially, I wanted to become a scientific journalist. I was told to be successful in that area you should start off with an academic background in the natural sciences. I had considered veterinary medicine before and it seemed like the perfect choice; a broad education in natural sciences, infectious diseases, food production and processing and so many other fields. Generally, I feel that the veterinary education is often underrated as vets are only observed in one role they fulfil- that is treating animals and improving animal health. I cannot deny that that was part of my initial motivation, too. However, vets have responsibilities for human and environmental health which are closely related to animal health that often go unnoticed. These aspects, on the interface between human and animal health attracted me the most.
So from an aspiring journalist to a veterinarian. That is quite a career stretch. How has your background prepared you for the work you do today for Bayer?
After my postgraduate education in parasitology within a PhD program on infectious and zoonotic diseases, I worked as a practicing veterinarian for about two years. It was a great time with many uplifting moments when you manage to help animals, but as many throwbacks, when despite all the effort the animal dies. As a vet in small and large animal practice, I learned to make quick, complex decisions, because in an emergency you often need to act immediately to have a chance of saving the animal’s life. On the other hand, being a veterinarian equipped me with patience and empathy, for example when pet owners called in the middle of the night to inquire about flea treatments or a kitten’s loose baby tooth. Flexibility and courage are also required in my current role as a veterinary specialist, as I provide veterinary care for our animals, in particular large animals.
Patience and perseverance is especially needed in early clinical development as many compounds are tested but only very few make it to the next stage and finally to market.
Whew. Sounds like you have had to juggle quite a bit in your career. What advice would you give to aspiring vets?
My advice to young vets is to take a stand for our profession in a “One Health” context and to be aware of the responsibilities you take on for animals and people. In my opinion, it is important for aspiring vets to be aware of the roles and responsibilities of veterinarians in the food-production sector and to be open for a career in this field within or outside of practice.
If you were to explain how your job impacts vets today, what would you say?
My job impacts the vets of tomorrow. The development of new medication gives vets better treatment options for their patients. It increases animal well-being when new medicines not only cure a disease but do not have to be administered as often or in a less invasive manner (e.g. pour-on instead of injection). Furthermore, my job is part of the process of making sure that tomorrow’s veterinary medicines are safe for the animals that will be treated with them, for the people administering them, as well as for the people that consume animal products like eggs, milk or meat.
What makes you proud to work for Bayer?
I am proud to work for a global life science company with an active innovation culture. At Bayer, research into human, animal and plant health is conducted under one roof which allows for synergistic effects. This cross-divisional work is remarkable and unique to Bayer. I enjoy working for a company that lives an integrated “One Health” concept day-by-day with the aim of improving the health of people, animals and plants.
Good to have you in our team, Lea! Thank you for the insights into your job!
We raise a hand, a paw, a hoof, and a fin to the amazing vets in our lives that passionately care for the health and well-being of animals.