by Eun Ji Chung, Ph.D.
Tracy Gluckman has been a Clinical Veterinarian and Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology at Northwestern University since 2008. In high school, Tracy knew she was interested in science and took seminar-based courses in science for 2-3 years in which the goal was to develop scientific thinking and present scientific posters at local or state level competitions. Although she found studying science interesting, she had always gravitated more towards animals. She frequently visited the zoo, loved watching nature specials, and often read National Geographic articles on animals; however, Tracy had never considered pursuing this passion as a profession, nor that her interests in science and animals could merge as a veterinarian.
When considering colleges, Tracy decided to pursue a major in marine biology, and chose to attend Occidental College, a liberal arts college in Southern California with a strong departmental program. She took courses such as oceanography and ichthyology (study of fish), and conducted field work throughout college. In particular, she recalls her time on the college-owned marine research vessel, the R/V Vantuna, to be particularly fulfilling. The courses taken on this vessel were designed to utilize the live research laboratory was onboard. Students were able to participate in a “hands-on” study of marine biology and oceanology through water sampling and marine biota collections. Tracy was actively involved as a student in the marine biology courses but was also employed as a student instructor for visiting grade school, high school, and undergraduate students.
Although Tracy loved teaching others about marine biology, by her junior year she realized that a career in marine biology may not be the path for her. By examing what had drawn her to study marine biology, Tracy realized that her passion was for working with animals. Since Occidental did not have a pre-veterinary track, she completed all the pre-med courses as a biology major and started actively volunteering in veterinary clinics and at the Los Angeles Zoo with the veterinary staff. In order to gain more animal experience, after college, Tracy worked as a laboratory technician in an independent research group in Pasadena, CA and studied cardiac ischemia in a rabbit model. This was Tracy’s first interaction with mammals and she considers this experience as influential in her career path as she was able to work closely with the veterinary consultant. This consulting veterinarian was also the attending veterinarian at The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and made Tracy aware of the role of veterinarians in providing care for research animals. Tracy decided to explore this path by taking courses in animal handling and care offered at Caltech. She soon realized this was an amazing opportunity to merge her passion for animals and her interest in science, while also serving as an advocate for animal welfare and an educator to researchers who had little experience with animals. Tracy recalls how valuable the mentorship of this veterinarian was to her.
Tracy received a Master’s degree in Veterinary Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before starting veterinary school at the UW-Madison, School of Veterinary Medicine. She finished her internship in Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at Kansas State University, College of Veterinarian Medicine before heading to The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine for a residency program in Laboratory Animal Medicine. After completing the board certification examination in Laboratory Animal Medicine, Tracy relocated to Chicago to accept her first position as a clinical veterinarian at Northwestern University
“Every day is different and there are a lot of opportunities to teach, learn, and provide the highest quality of care for our animals,” Tracy says when explaining why her career fits her so perfectly. She also emphasizes that utilizing her knowledge in comparative anatomy and physiology in order to help researchers work efficiently and effectively to answer their scientific questions, while minimizing animal use and promoting strong animal welfare is extremely rewarding and are the reasons why she gravitated towards laboratory animal medicine over private practice. In addition to preparing researchers to work with animal models of human disease or disabilities, Tracy also provides the most recent advances in anesthesia, analgesia, surgical techniques, and medical care for those animals. Another important aspect of Tracy’s position is the review of study protocols that are required for investigators proposing to work with animals. “Most people don’t realize the intense scrutiny study protocols go under when researchers propose to work with animals.” All protocols are carefully reviewed by a committee composed of veterinarians, scientists, and even members of the Chicago community to ensure that procedures are performed properly, animal health is being closely monitored, and federal regulations of animal care are being followed. As a veterinarian, Tracy works closely with researchers to help write the study protocols to ensure the the researchers maintain the health and welfare of the animals and properly work with the animals under their care.
Tracy feels that there are occasionally challenges working with animals in a research environment, but understands that valuable knowledge has been and continues to be gained from such work. She believes that researchers that work with animals, herself included, should always be aware of the privilege they are afforded by conducting such work.. Tracy realizes that her passion to provide the optimal care and oversight for animals in the research environment and being able to provide a bridge between scientific research and animal health and welfare makes her job meaningful and constantly fulfilling.
Despite her dedication to her career as a veterinarian, Tracy also appreciates and strives for a good work-life balance. She admits that while pursuing her education, she didn’t recognize what her hobbies actually were because her time was mostly spent either in classes or studying in the library. Now out of school, she has a dog, strong personal relationships, and has finally discovered some hobbies, such as rock climbing, wheel throwing, yoga, and knitting. She emphasizes the importance of making time for herself and separating her work from her personal life. Tracy is looking forward to having a family, now that her formal educational training is completed.
From her experience, Tracy sees no gender-specific limitations in the veterinarian field, and has seen a rise in women veterinarians in the current generations. She continues to see herself in clinical care for animals while educating scientists, and hopes to be involved in creating a veterinarian residency program in Laboratory Animal Medicine at Northwestern University, training the next generation of laboratory animal veterinarians.
I’ve known Tracy since 2008 and have continued to work with her for various research projects. Tracy always expected excellence, preparation, thoughtfulness, and integrity when working with animals, and my research, as well as I, have benefited from it. She was also opened to mentoring and working with an undergraduate student I TA’ed who also wanted to find out more about clinical veterinary science. I have witnessed firsthand her passions to advocate for animal welfare and to educate scientists, the fruits of a dedicated clinical veterinarian.
Article and nomination by Eunji Chung-Yoo
Know a scientist you think should be featured in an upcoming “Scientist of the Month” article? Send nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your nominee does not need to be an AWIS member or a woman, but should promote the advancement of women in science, technology, mathematics and engineering.