Over the first 18 weeks of the new year, we will be conducting one on one interviews with each of our veterinarians in an effort to help you get to know all of them better! In addition to the interview, they will be posting pictures on our facebook account during their week to share some behind the scenes images of their day to day. We hope you enjoy following along!
Up this week is Rachel Gardner, DVM, DACVIM. Dr. Gardner has been with the practice since 2005, and has consistently grown the hospital in the diversity & variety of caseload. She can often be found treating sick patients, teaching interns, and explaining to clients what she is seeing – all at the same time! In addition to all of the other things she does in her limited spare time (keep reading!), she also serves on the Executive Board of the New Jersey Association of Equine Practitioners and has previously served on the NJ Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. Her recent work has been published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the Journal of Veterinary Medical Association, and the Australian Veterinary Journal.
Q: Do you remember a specific moment when you decided you wanted to be an equine vet?
A: I don’t remember a specific moment when I decided I wanted to be an equine vet, rather, I don’t really remember ever NOT wanting to be an equine vet! The only other career path I ever considered was, during a short stint, when I really wanted to be the ice cream man…
Q: What colleges/universities did you attend? When someone asks “where did you go to school?” what do you tell them?
A: Well the only real answer I have to this question is “Go Big Red!!” Although the source of my education may not be diverse, it is at least consistent! I spent my undergraduate years at Cornell University, which was an amazing time in my life. I met so many brilliant, fun, talented and kind people there, and fell in love with the university and the community. I wasn’t ready to leave, so my undergraduate years were followed up by spending another four years at Cornell University earning my veterinary degree. I then did a wonderful one year internship at Blue Ridge Equine Clinic near Charlottesville, VA before returning to Cornell for a three year residency to specialize in Large Animal Internal Medicine. After spending eleven amazing years there, meeting my husband, Jason, and getting married there, part of my heart remains in Ithaca, NY!
Q: Tell me about the animals you own now.
A: How much time do you have?? I would have to start with Stella, the world’s most wonderful pit bull terrier. At the age of 9, she has trained for 9 marathons with me (10 if I make it through next weekend!) and shows no sign of slowing down. Her other job is accompanying me to work on a daily basis and protecting (i.e. sleeping) in the truck. We also have an adorable 3 year old cat, Alonso, who came into Jason’s hospital as a very sick and emaciated rescue. He treated him and sent me a picture of him, and we immediately knew we needed to adopt him. He is named after our favorite Formula One driver, Fernando Alonso. Stetson is my imported (ok, just kidding… he’s imported from Illinois) perfectly adorable 5 yr old QH. We do a little bit of everything but hope someday we will be competent enough to do some low level eventing. We also have two retired old ladies who live at home with us, Bunny (28 years), and Solita (30 years), who were Cornell Polo Ponies and came to New Jersey from Ithaca when we moved here 13 years ago. I first played polo on Bunny 23 years ago! A couple of orange, previously feral cats, Bert and Bubba, adopted us over the years while living outside with Bunny and Solita. Last but not least, we have a bunch of chickens! We have seven adults of varying ages, and just got six new chicks!
Q: What do you do for fun, outside of work and spend time with your animals?
A: I am an expert at making the most of my free time. I have fallen in love with distance running, and much of the time I am in training for a marathon. I typically run 6 days a week- before work and on the weekends. I also try to ride Stetson at least 5 days a week, and when I’m not doing either of those things, I also love spending time working hard on our tiny little farm, doing yard work, fixing things up, and being outside. My version of a great day is when I feel that I have been busy, useful and have exhausted myself!
Q: If you weren’t a vet, what would you do for a living?
A: Although I love being a veterinarian, one of the things I have grown to love most about the work I do is feeling connected with my clients, helping and supporting them in their time of need, and using my medical knowledge to work through the concerns or problems with their horses. Given my love of helping and communicating with my clients during difficult times with their horses, and my passion for science and medicine, I think if I weren’t a veterinarian I would have become a human oncologist.
Q: Favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?
A: I was very fortunate to spend a few months in Nairobi, Kenya during my first summer of veterinary school. I spent three months volunteering for the Kenya SPCA, with most time being spent evaluating donkeys and teaching villagers best practices for donkey care and harnessing. I also did numerous safaris on a shoestring budget, met so many wonderful, adventuresome people and observed the most unbelievable wildlife. I could have done without the food poisoning and near death illness, though.
Q: Dream vacation?
A: Nothing fancy. I dream of taking two months to rent an RV, travel across our magnificent country with Jason and Stella, camp under the stars, and hike as many national parks as we can fit in!
Q: Favorite food?
A: Picking a single favorite food is not easy for me, as I see food as one of the greatest things in life and I am an expert at eating. I do, however, have a soft spot for Jason’s homemade pizza and Berger Cookies (anyone from Maryland??)
Q: Favorite adult beverage?
A: I have diverse interests in this department, but I am a true lover of red wine. Jason and I have traveled to Napa and Sonoma with our close friends a few times. Seeing the land, meeting the farmers and winemakers, and learning about the process has made me appreciate what goes into a great bottle of wine. My dad, a little bit of a wine connoisseur, always told me that it didn’t matter the price tag or the type of wine, a good wine is the one you like. I appreciate that very much…unfortunately I like the expensive ones!
Q: What are you currently watching on Netflix?
A: What’s Netflix? Just kidding, but I can’t stay awake long enough to watch anything!
Q: Something most people don’t know about me…
A: I’m sure some people know this, but I played polo for Cornell University when I was in college. I loved the idea of a fast, aggressive, true team sport with horses.