Arathi Vinayak, Veterinary Specialist

DVM, DACVS-SA ACVS (Fellow, Surgical Oncology)

Oncology, Surgery

Undergrad school: University of Georgia
Veterinary school: University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine
Internship: University of Tennessee    
Residency: Texas A&M University
Surgical Oncology Fellowship: Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center: 
Board Certifications: Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (Dip ACVS) and ACVS Fellow, Surgical Oncology
Why did you choose to become a Veterinary Surgeon and Surgical Oncologist? 
I knew from the age of four that I wanted to be an “animal doctor.” With a single minded focus, I received my Bachelors in Biology from the University of Georgia at the age of 19 and started my first year of veterinary school 2 weeks after my undergrad graduation. As I progressed through the veterinary curriculum, surgery appealed immensely to me. I was fascinated by my surgical mentors working so skillfully with their hands. During my internship, I realized that surgery was so much more than that. Applying for a surgical residency was a no-brainer for me. The ability to ease pain and suffering either almost immediately or put an animal on the path to feeling better was everything I had wanted for my patients. I completed a wonderful 3 year surgical residency at Texas A&M University and stayed on for a year as a clinical instructor in surgery at Texas A&M following my residency during which time I became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (DACVS). I spent the following 7 years as a private practice specialty general surgeon in the Chicago area gaining experience and honing my skills as a surgeon. 

The next phase in my career came as I saw patients with cancer for consultation and surgery. When a person gets cancer, they often have a team of oncologists (medical, radiation, and surgical) and their primary care physician working to not only provide the best care but the best support for the patient. I felt our veterinary patients deserved the same with dedicated cancer centers. During a three year residency, the focus was on all aspects of surgery (orthopedic, neurologic, and soft tissue) without deep focus in any one field. I elected to pursue an American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) credentialed Fellowship in Surgical Oncology to this end. A fellowship is much like a second residency with the sole focus on all aspects of Oncology. The requirements are modeled after those required by the human counterpart organization, the American College of Surgeons, for human Surgical Oncologists. The rigorous curriculum entails maintaining a case log of advanced cancer surgeries, courses on oncologic pathology, medical and radiation biology, chemotherapeutics, clinical trials, and research. With only 2 institutions in the world training veterinary surgical oncologists, I was thrilled to have been accepted to the Colorado State University’s Cancer Center and join the ranks of less than 50 veterinary surgical oncologists in the world. The Fellowship has revolutionized the way I now look at my cancer patients.  I have been trained to evaluate my patients as a whole for a variety of factors including the goals of my clients for their pet, patient tolerance, whether cure is possible, whether surgery is the best option vs. a combination of surgery with other modalities such as chemotherapy or radiation, whether other modalities over surgery are better for the patient, what kind of tumor is it and behavior of the tumor, whether a tumor is truly not operable, to name a few things. Client education is key. 

Research is important in the field of surgical oncology. Without the necessary treatment and outcome information, it is tough to make recommendations. The information is important not only to our veterinary patients but also to humans with a similar cancer process. This field of translation medicine for natural occurring diseases in our veterinary patients has allowed our veterinary patients with naturally occurring tumors to participate in clinical trials that is advancing the field of oncology and improving survival times in both veterinary patients and humans alike. I am avidly involved in research and publications. My recent 5 publications/research interests in the last year have been on malignant melanoma (submitted to JSAP), dedifferentiated chondrosarcoma (submitted to JAAHA), radiation limbspare with prophylactic surgical stabilization (submitted to Vet Surg), liver lobectomy (in the process of completion), and osteosarcoma in juvenile patients (in the process of completion).

Why do you choose to practice at VCA West Coast?
I have joined VCA West Coast to practice Surgical Oncology the way I have long desired. I am joining ranks with Dr. Mary Kay Blake (medical oncology), and Dr. Beatrix Jenei (radiation oncology) also trained at the Colorado State University in their fields to treat patients using a combined oncology approach.  I believe that this new facility can provide state of the art veterinary cancer care not often found in private practice. I am looking forward to providing the SoCal community specialized oncologic surgeries such as surgical limb spares for bone cancer, thoracic and abdominal wall resection and reconstructions, complex intrathoracic and abdominal tumors, minimally invasive urethral, tracheal, colonic and esophageal stenting, surgery for complex maxillofacial tumors, thyroid/hyoid tumors, etc.

What do you enjoy doing outside of practicing medicine?
I am very blessed to have a wonderful husband, 2 boys, and my siberian “Kitten.” My time away from work often involves chasing my 2 boys around (kumon, martial arts classes, going to the beach and movies).  

Arathi V

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