Mazzaferro-Elisa alum

Elisa Mazzaferro, DVM ’97, had not intended to specialize in emergency and critical care medicine (ECCM) when she began the DVM program at MSU, but her mind was set in the middle of her third year. Her first clinical rotation was in the emergency and critical care unit, and Mazzaferro quickly felt at home in the environment.

“I immediately found that emergency medicine suited my personality—you never know what is going to come through the door and you have to really think on your feet,” says Mazzaferro. She worked with Dr. Cynthia Ramsey, the hospital’s criticalist at the time, during her clinical rotations in the emergency ward.

After earning her DVM, Mazzaferro completed a one-year specialty internship at the Veterinary Institute of Trauma, Emergency, and Critical Care in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She went on to complete a residency in emergency and critical care and a PhD in small animal clinical sciences at Colorado State University. In 2002, she became board certified by the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.

She then joined a large multispecialty referral practice in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, where she served as director of emergency services. A teaching facility, Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital trained between four and eight interns annually during Mazzaferro’s tenure. She trained three residents during that time and worked with externs from around the country. “It was exciting to be part of their education,” says Mazzaferro.

The excitement of veterinary practice in Colorado extended beyond training— Mazzaferro treated dogs injured by mountain lions and coyotes.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” she says. One 80-year-old client had beaten back a coyote that was attacking her Shih Tzu, and an 82-pound dog came in after being attacked by a mountain lion. The mountain lion entered the house through a dog door, hauled the dog out and was carrying it away as the owner came to the rescue and shot at the mountain lion. Unfortunately, the dog took the shot, and had to be treated for a gunshot wound as well as trauma from the attack. The dog recovered.

“It’s an intense specialty and when we have the critical patients that do well it’s extraordinarily rewarding,” says Mazzaferro. “That’s why we do it.”

Another memorable success for Mazzaferro led to an early understanding that raisins are implicated in acute renal failure. Eli, a pug, came in after eating a pound of raisins and going into kidney failure.

“It was 1999 and at that time we didn’t know raisins were poisonous to dogs,” explains Mazzaferro. “We did dialysis, kidney biopsies—we didn’t know the cause.”

Eli responded to treatments, and was sent home on New Year’s Day. “Some days you really remember,” says Mazzaferro, who gets a Christmas card each year from Eli’s mother. “We brought together all the best care we had, and Eli turned the corner and had a wonderful, happy, long life.”

Mazzaferro-Elisab alum

Last year, Mazzaferro moved back to her home state of Connecticut to join Cornell University Veterinary Specialists (CUVS), an advanced care, 24-hour emergency hospital located in Stamford. CUVS is the largest university-affiliated veterinary referral center in the country. The model is for specialists at CUVS to collaborate with the College on clinical cases, student training, and continuing education.

“CUVS makes for great collaboration,” says Mazzaferro. “I have been here eight months and it’s growing by leaps and bounds. Typically, in private practice it’s hard to have opportunities to use everything a criticalist is trained to do. It’s a special place to work.”

The ever-surprising nature of the work remains one of the compelling parts of the job for Mazzaferro. “And it always gets busy at closing time,” she laughs. “Two weeks ago, on a Friday at 4:20 p.m. I was about to start exercise class when I was called in.” A dog came in with a liver mass that was bleeding. As she was leaving the surgery room, a dog was being brought into another operating room to have a pacemaker installed. She joined in with that surgery, and then another. “Four hours later the dog who had the liver surgery was standing up and barking,” she says. “It was great to see.”

“It’s funny—our idea of a girl’s night out is in the ER.”

As it was at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital, education continues to be a part of Mazzaferro’s career. She lectures nationally and internationally, traveling in recent years for lectures in Mexico, Argentina, Peru, and Chile, to groups of as many as 2,500 veterinarians. “I have great joy going to South America,” she says. She’ll be traveling to Brazil in June. “The veterinarians I meet are eager to learn more and continue their education,” Mazzaferro says.

She also is the scientific program coordinator for the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society, and sits on the Convention Management Program Committee for the AVMA national convention. She is the author of three textbooks and numerous manuscripts on topics related to emergency and critical care.

Service has been a part of Mazzaferro’s career since her days at MSU, where she was president of the Omega Tau Sigma Professional Veterinary Fraternity.

“I really worked to shift the focus of the organization to service,” she explains. “We reached out to the community and worked with people to help them care for their pets.” And the outreach didn’t just help the community, she says. “It was an outlet for us; a break from school.”

The CUVS conducts outreach to the community, too. “We hosted an information booth and were a major sponsor of the Adopt-A-Dog Puttin’ on the Dog Festival in Greenwich, Connecticut. It was so wonderful to see so many dogs out and playing.” The mission of CUVS includes education for local veterinarians and pet owners.

Service is one outlet from the intensity of ECCM work, and Mazzaferro also loves to hike and spend time outdoors. She has three pugs, which she says are like potato chips. “You can’t have just one.”

Posted: May 2013
Contact: Casey Williamson