Profiles in Leadership is a Better Care Weekly feature that provides insight into the bright minds of leaders in the global veterinary healthcare community.
Dr. Karen Kline joined the team at VCA Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle in August of 2008. She is an Associate Veterinary Neurologist and Medical Director.
Dr. Kline received her DVM degree from the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1989 and completed a rotating internship at the Animal Medical Center (AMC) in New York City in 1990. She stayed at AMC and completed her neurology residency in 1993 and stayed on a year as staff neurologist until 1994. In 1994 she became board certified in veterinary neurology through the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine that same year. From 1995 through 2008, Dr. Kline was an associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Kline is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS), and the National Association of Women.
NAVC: We’re delighted you will be joining our NAVC board of directors in September. What strengths will you bring to our table? What are your expectations about board service?
Dr. Kline: I am delighted as well! I will bring dedication, hard work and a sense of humor to the board. I enjoy collaboration and problem solving and I hope that I can be a positive and uplifting member of the team. My expectations of board service is that we will collaborate and share ideas and be a positive force for good. I know that there is a lot of hard work, but when you are working shoulder to shoulder to others who have the same drive and commitment, then it is a great experience.
NAVC: In addition to serving as one of two full time neurologists, you are the Medical Director at VCA, overseeing more than 25 doctors and 85+ technical staff. We’re impressed! Tell us about your time management process and philosophy.
Dr. Kline: The key to success as a leader of a large hospital is to have great support from your management team and from your colleagues. It also helps to have a great partner at home who is a retired food animal veterinarian. He takes care of the daily household chores and our lovely pit bull mix and that in itself is a full time job. I try to meditate for a short time each day and also work out (either lifting or other activities) 3 to 4 days a week if I can. Checklists are always good and I try to take some time out of my day to reflect on all the good that I have in my life. I try to prioritize and stay focused on the most pressing tasks at hand and stay focused.
NAVC: What are the takeaway benefits you’ve personally experienced through practicing veterinary medicine?
Dr. Kline: The takeaway benefits are that I can use my skills both medically and surgically to make a difference in my patients and clients lives. I also enjoy my team and the interns who I can teach and make an impact in there lives. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have cute patients that love you unconditionally.
NAVC: Mentors have greatly influenced your career. Who were yours? What did you learn from them that you utilize as a mentor to students, interns and residents now?
Dr. Kline: That is a great question. Two people come to mind. One is our own Sally Haddock Birchard who introduced me to the Animal Medical Center and NYC. I was her first preceptor and without her generosity and kindness, I may not have done what I have done. The other is Dr. Bill Fenner who was my neurology professor at the Ohio State University. He was a great influence and a great inspiration both my professional life but also taught me to be kind and worldly.
NAVC: What attracted you to neurology as a specialty?
Dr. Kline: I was attracted to neurology because there is a lot about the specialty that is still a mystery. It always intrigued me that my patients can tell me what is wrong with them without the benefit of bloodwork in some cases and just based on their neurologic exam. Also, this specialty allows me to use medical and surgical resources for diagnosis and treatment. The specialty is challenging and never without a dull moment.
NAVC: The path to where you are now had twists and turns from your original plan. Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?
Dr. Kline: The key that I tell my interns and other younger doctors is that saying “never say never” always applies because fate has a way of guiding you and things always happen for a reason. I would not change a thing or have wished for another path because I have gained strength and perspective from the experience, have met some wonderful people along the way and am very fortunate for my journey.
NAVC: You’ve won many significant awards for being an outstanding teacher. What are some tips you can share about how to connect with students in an especially meaningful way?
Dr. Kline: The key to teaching and understanding your students is a sense of humor, being open to questions and being enthusiastic about your subject. Treating them with kindness and respect is also important. In essence, if love what you do and you are humble, it shines through.
NAVC: You earned an American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) board certification in neurology. You serve on the ACVIM’s General Examination Committee and you are a member of the ACVIM Residency Training Committee. It’s not like you aren’t already really busy. What is it about ACVIM that makes the extra work important enough?
Dr. Kline: It is paying it forward and giving back so you can positively impact the lives of those veterinarians that are coming in after me. It’s the least I can do.
NAVC: Tell us about your family. And what do you do for fun?
Dr. Kline: I have a husband named Karl and a Pitbull named Voodie who we rescued form the shelter. We enjoy hiking, each other’s company, discussing world events. We have quite a CD collection and our musical tastes are quite eclectic.
NAVC: We’re always interested in people and their pets. Do you have any pets? (If you don’t have any now, tell us about some of your favorites.)
Dr. Kline: Our current pet is a now 5 year old Pitbull named Voodie. His original name was Groovy at the shelter and he had been living there for a year and was returned twice. My husband wanted to name him Voodoo but we settled on the combination of Groovy and Voodoo, thus Voodie. Our previous dogs were Katie who lived to be 18 years old, Odessa who lived to be 16 years old, a bird named Pickles and, of course, my wonderful first dog Chip, a Golden Retriever who lived with me in NYC during my internship and residency at AMC.
NAVC: Is there something you’d like for our readers to know that we didn’t ask you?
Dr. Kline: If I wasn’t a veterinarian I would be a teacher or a singer in a rock band.