Veterinarian Q&AVeterinary Medicine

20 Questions: Jennifer Luna-Repose, DVM

Dr. Jennifer Luna-Repose, DVM, is currently practicing at Alternatives For Animals in Lafayette, Calif., where she is an associate DVM. Dr. Luna-Repose received a bachelor’s degree in biology from University of California, Santa Cruz (1999), where she graduated with highest honors. Continuing her education, she received her Doctor of Veterinary medicine from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York (2006). She has received a certification first degree in Reiki healing from Usui Shiki Ryoho in Tucson, and an International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS)-College of Integrative Veterinary Therapies certification in Chinese Veterinary Herbal Medicine. Dr. Luna-Repose has studied both nutrition response testing and morphogenic field technique foundation at Standard Process in Alameda, Calif., and IVAS Veterinary Acupuncture in Portland, Oregon.
Dr. Luna-Repose’s previous work experience includes working as an associate DVM at California veterinary clinics, including Integrative Veterinary Center in Sacramento, Blackhawk Veterinary in Danville, and Muir Oaks Veterinary Hospital in Martinez. She was also a supervising veterinarian at Waggin Smiles in Santa Rosa, Calif. Her internships included alternative veterinary medicine at her current employer, Alternatives For Animals, and small animal and small animal oncology at Bay Area Veterinary Specialists in San Leandro. She has conducted orangutan research with Earth Watch Expeditions, black howler monkey research with Oceanic Society Expeditions, and Huemul deer research with Sierra Institute. Dr. Luna-Repose is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture, American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association, and Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association. Dr. Luna-Repose has been published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

When did you first decide to become a veterinarian? Why?
I first decided to become a veterinarian after working as a registered veterinary technician for about two years. I always loved animals but didn’t want to be stuck in an office every day, and so I thought I would do field research on primates. After doing several volunteer vacations, where you pay to volunteer on someone’s research project, I realized living in a jungle wasn’t all that I had romanticized it to be after reading books by Jane Goodall and Birute Galdikas. After those experiences, I started volunteering at the Oakland Zoo and worked with a zookeeper who was also a registered technician. She introduced me to all the cool things you could do with that degree, like placing intravenous catheters, monitoring anesthesia, assisting with surgeries, etc. After working as a veterinary technician, I realized that I could do the job of the veterinarian as well so I went back to school.
How/why did you choose the veterinary school you attended?
I chose Cornell because it is one of the best schools in the country, and I felt like I needed to get out of California and experience seasons for the first time in my life.
What surprised you the most about your veterinary studies?
How quickly I made friends for life in my class. You meet people that have the same desires and aspirations in their life and also follow a similar moral code.
Why did you decide to specialize in integrative veterinary medicine?
I decided to specialize in integrative veterinary medicine in 2011 after becoming frustrated with the lack of treatment options I had for geriatric animals and animals with chronic illness.
If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a veterinarian? Why or why not?
That is a tricky question. I love what I do but don’t love the amount of debt that I accumulated during my schooling. I left veterinary school $160,000 in debt. People try to counsel you on debt before you start veterinary school, but the strong desire to help animals and follow your dream clouds your judgment a little. With that said, I don’t think I would do it differently, except maybe waiting for acceptance to my state school where I would have only paid in-state tuition.
Has being a veterinarian met your expectations? Please explain.
After adding acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to my tool box, only then did being a veterinarian meet my expectations. I initially thought coming out of veterinary school that I would be able to help any animal that was brought to me. That idea was quickly shattered when I would be presented with a geriatric dog with chronic arthritis and kidney disease and only could offer certain pain medications for relief, which often made little difference. Now that I [can administer] acupuncture and herbal medicine, I can help these patients be more comfortable without risking kidney or liver damage, which is a side effect with a lot of pain meds.
What do you like most about being a veterinarian?
Helping an animal feel better.
What do you like least about being a veterinarian?
Certain owners can be very challenging to work with. Some days I feel more like a therapist than a veterinarian.
Describe a typical day at work—walk me through a day in your shoes.
I arrive to work about 8:30 a.m. and check emails from clients and respond to their concerns. I see appointments from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. including: acupuncture treatments, determine what Chinese herbal formulas patients should have, muscle testing to check certain patients for stressed organs and determine why they are stressed, and BICOM bioresonance appointments for cancer and chronic diseases. I take lunch from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., when I quickly eat something while returning phone calls and emails. In the afternoon I see appointments from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Then I finish writing charts, making phone calls, returning more emails and leave work around 6:30 p.m.
On average, how many hours a week do you work? How many hours of sleep do you get per night? How many weeks of vacation do you take annually?
I work 50 to 60 hours a week including research on new treatment modalities. I get seven to eight hours of sleep a night and get two weeks of vacation annually.
If you have family, do you feel you have enough time to spend with them? Why or why not?
My current job allows for a great work/life balance. I don’t have to work emergency hours and no longer have a long commute.
How do you balance work and your life outside of work?
My schedule right now allows ample time for both. It really helps that I now have a three-day weekend every other week and am only commuting 10 minutes.
Do you feel you are adequately compensated in your field? Why/why not?
No. The amount of study and time that goes into becoming a veterinarian and staying on top of new advances does not get compensated for in your salary. Being a holistic veterinarian is also a lower paying field because we don’t do high-production-based procedures like surgery. Since veterinary care is not subsidized as much by private health insurance like human medical care, veterinarians as a whole are not compensated like they should be.
If you took out educational loans, is/was paying them back a strain? Please explain.
Yes it is a strain. It is like having an additional car payment or mortgage.
In your position now, knowing what you do, what would you say to yourself back when you started your veterinary career?
This is going to be a lifelong learning experience. At no time will you be able to sit back and think you know it all and that practicing veterinary medicine is a piece of cake. Be prepared to continually search for new ways to help your patients live longer and healthier lives.
What information/advice do you wish you had known prior to veterinary school?
I wish I would have known to start training in holistic modalities right after veterinary school so that I could have helped more patients than I did in my early years.
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in veterinary medicine today? Please explain.
The misinformation on pet nutrition that pet food companies give to the general public and veterinary students in veterinary school. I strongly believe that the key to a healthy life starts with good nutrition. Animals as well as people require whole foods in their diet to maintain health. As with humans, processed pet foods are the main contributor to chronic inflammation and obesity. Dry kibble diets and canned foods are processed foods. The only education we get as veterinarians in vet school on nutrition is given to us in optional evening lectures put on by pet food companies to promote their brands of food (in the meantime feeding us a free meal of pizza). Commercial dog food was first manufactured in the 1850s in England and soon caught on in the U.S. in 1885 as a way to make profit off mill scraps. At this point, dog food was composed of milling by-products, floor-sweepings, plus meat-meal. As you can see, the health of the dog was never a concern when commercial dog food was first produced.
Where do you see integrative veterinary medicine in five years?
In five years I see integrative veterinary medicine as relying on more energy-based medicines like muscle testing and bioresonance machines to help diagnose and treat animals, as well as reaching out to the general public about how important it is to start with your animal as a puppy with these modalities to help prevent serious illness in the future.
What types of outreach/volunteer work do you do, if any?
I give talks to local breed organizations and volunteer at fundraising events for shelters.
What’s your final piece of advice for students interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine?
The possibilities are endless on what you can accomplish during your career. Don’t let the status quo of conventional veterinary medicine discourage you or blind you to vast amount of knowledge out there to help you help your patients.

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