By Ms. Michelle Thum (Regional Health Command Europe)October 21, 2019
LANDSTUHL, Germany -- Two Army veterinarians from the 64th Medical Detachment enjoyed a unique training opportunity involving veterinary pathology recently. The training opportunity was provided by Lt. Col. Jeremy Bearss, Chief of Public Health Command Europe Laboratory Sciences and board certified veterinary pathologist.
Bearss is one of a handful of Veterinary Pathologists in the U.S. Army. In his secondary role as a pathologist with Public Health Command Europe, he studies diagnostic tissue samples from military working dogs. He also performs analysis of animals belonging to service members and their families in order to diagnose diseases such as cancer, rabies, infections and trauma.
"We recently met at a joint training exercise," said Capt. Shawn Thomas, a veterinarian with the 64th Medical Detachment. "When I heard that he [Lt. Col. Jeremy Bearss] was a pathologist, I was immediately intrigued."
Thomas and fellow 64th veterinarian, Capt. Judith Kovach, both recently joined the Army Veterinary Corps and are currently gaining more hands-on experience in an operational veterinary detachment.
"Once you graduate veterinary school, you are a jack of all trades," stated Kovach. "You have gained basic experience in clinical veterinary care, public health and operational veterinary medicine, but you are not an expert in anything. Working hand-in-hand with a veterinary pathologist like Lt. Col. Bearss helps newer veterinarians like us narrow down our desired veterinary specialty."
Both Kovach and Thomas have a year to go until they need to select a specialized career field, but indicated they would like to attend the Department of Defense Veterinary Pathology Program at the Joint Pathology Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.
"Pathology sounds very interesting, but during my current tour I will not have the chance to gain any experience in the field," said Thomas. "The 64th MED DET (VSS) team has the capability to provide expeditionary veterinary support on the battlefield. This allows the team to set up and move forward with the warfighters, while maintaining the ability to provide Veterinary medicine and food protection. Since readiness is our main priority, we train each and every day. As a result, it doesn't allow us the time to explore various fields of veterinary services."
Bearss was happy to provide the captains a unique and hands-on training experience.
They performed an autopsy on a military working dog and then Bearss supervised the veterinarians in dissecting and evaluating the tissue samples and preparing samples for microscopic evaluations. The veterinarians were able to collect more than 50 tissue samples of two military dogs which recently passed away due to cancer.
"We need motivated young officers in the Veterinary Pathology field, and I really enjoy teaching," said Bearss. "With an increase in rank, the daily job gets more and more administrative. The actual time I get to practice my craft is limited. It was refreshing having two eager veterinarians who showed tremendous interest and potential in the field and hopefully I was able to share my passion with them."
"Certain types of cancer are preventable or treatable," said Bearss. "By examining tissue samples, the cause of the cancer can be determined and informs better treatment options. Veterinary pathology has a small, but critical, role in the overall care of military working dogs. As pathologists we are able to contribute our part for future recommendations and care."