For the Love of Animals
Throughout the month of December, in conjunction with the Military Health System's focus on veterinarian Service Members, the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity is proud to highlight the outstanding veterinarians who serve our organization. We conclude our two-part series with a spotlight on U.S. Army Lt. Col. Lisa Thomas Read.
Some of us may have a preconceived idea of the veterinary doctor, and most of these notions probably highlight a gentle soul caring for sick and injured animals of all shapes and sizes, perhaps abandoned in some fashion. In fact, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to think of the type of image typically portrayed in a Norman Rockwell painting. Either way, it's probably safe to assume that all of us, in one way or another, hold a place in our hearts for pets and wildlife that care for their young the same way we do for ours.
And this is certainly the case for U.S. Army Lt. Col. Lisa Thomas Read.
"I was always the kid who was dragging home the stray animal, and asking my parents if I could keep it," said Read.
Read, product manager in the Pharmaceutical Systems Project Management Office of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, parlayed her love of animals into a successful career as a veterinarian. She later employed her education and experience as a practicing vet when she entered the Army Veterinary Corps in 2002, which has led to the prosperous military life she enjoys today.
But it all started with a love of animals.
"I think many veterinarians start out with a love of nature, and of animals, and this helps lead us down the path for veterinary medicine, because we enjoy the interaction," explained Read. "I don't remember a time when I haven't had a pet.
"During high school, I knew I wanted to do something that was science-oriented, in a medicine field, so I briefly considered going to dental school," she continued. "I worked weekends in a dental clinic, but at the same time I was volunteering at a veterinary clinic as well, to see which one I preferred. It soon became apparent to me that I really enjoyed working with animals, and I wanted to be a vet."
Read started out with a desire to work in a zoo, because of the wide variety of animals that are housed there. She completed her undergraduate degree in zoology from Eastern Illinois University, and earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Illinois. Her attachment with the state of Illinois is not surprising, given this is where she grew up and spent most of her early life.
Although Read had wanted to begin her career caring for zoo inhabitants, she soon discovered that a post was difficult to obtain, as positions are typically few and far between due to a lack of turnover. So, with a doctorate in hand and some experience under her belt, she started in private practice in her home state, which kept her very busy for quite some time.
Said Read, "I was in practice for about three years when I began to look for other career options, using my DVM, because I just wanted to do something a little different.
"I thought about going back to school, looked at other industry jobs for veterinarians, and also public health-related positions – just something to branch out from clinical practice a bit. About this time, I attended a veterinary conference, and there was an Army recruiter from the Army Veterinary Corps. I spent a half day talking with him about various opportunities, and brought my spouse back to speak with him as well. About 3 months later, I joined the Army."
This venture opened up new avenues for Read to pursue, but all roads led back to clinical medicine, which she realized as her true calling during that time.
"I actually joined the Army [instead of another branch of Service] because its Vet Corps has a primary mission with clinical medicine for the military working dogs," she said. "So, I was happy that it still had the clinical focus, because I wasn't ready to completely give up the clinical side at that time."
Not only did the military provide interesting career options for Read, it also provided much travel. To date, she has lived in South Carolina, Germany, New Orleans – where she completed a doctorate in biomedical sciences from Tulane University – and Maryland, along with one deployment to Iraq.
And the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command has been her home for almost five years now, as she spent three years at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research before coming to USAMMDA a year and a half ago. At WRAIR, Read served on the Experimental Therapeutics team, which she credits as valuable experience.
"Moving to the Pharm Systems team here at USAMMDA was a very good transition for me, because my role at WRAIR was more benchtop, research-level drug discovery and drug development, and then I came here with the same type of drugs in advanced development," said Read. "It's also providing me with great experience in leading a team, which I will certainly use in my next assignment.
"I was recently offered a command position in San Diego, as part of a veterinary public health activity; my tour should start sometime next summer."
So, Read soon will add California to her list, and she remains hopeful that this new assignment will eventually lead to a promotion to Colonel (O6). If all goes well, she plans on remaining in the Army for at least 20 years, but she will not quickly dismiss staying with the military for longer than this.
As some might say, the military has been very good to her – and she continues to give back.
In her current role as PM for the IV Artesunate and Tafenoquine efforts, Read's experience at WRAIR often comes in handy, as she frequently communicates with WRAIR counterparts on matters involving the integrated product teams she oversees.
"From my perspective, it's been very helpful to see how this process works in advanced development, and share that with our tech-based counterparts, in order to communicate their value and importance in what we're doing here at USAMMDA," explains Read.
"I've been blessed to work with many amazing people and teams during my time in the Army, and I look forward to many more years of collaboration," she said. "I know I'll be able to take what I've learned here at USAMMDA and apply it to my command next year – this has been a fantastic experience."
And let's not forget, this all started with a love of animals.