My Vet’s the Best Contest Finalist: Dr. Charlotte Milazzo

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My Vet's the Best finalist, Dr. Charlotte Milazzo.

How much do you love your vet? In 2010, Pets Best developed the My Vet’s the Best Contest—the first of its kind—to allow pet owners to acknowledge veterinarians around the nation for outstanding service and compassionate care. We’ve again received hundreds of submissions for our second contest of 2016, and are pleased to announce our latest finalists. Once more, we’re pleased to see the tremendous impact veterinarians are making in their local communities. Meet Dr. Charlotte Milazzo, who is one such individual.

Originally from New Orleans, Dr. Milazzo attended veterinary school at Tuskegee University in Alabama. At 12 years old, she was accepted into a program at The Audubon Zoo as a Junior Keeper, and volunteered in its endangered species preservation research facility well into college. During vet school, she worked weekends and summers treating raptors (hawks, owls, eagles, etc.) at Auburn University’s Raptor Rehabilitation Center Hospital, and later spent two summers as an extern at two bird-only hospitals. Milazzo performed her preceptorship in two cities in Australia and later joined World Vets for a service trip to Romania to help serve rural communities there with a spay-neuter project. A few years ago, she visited Cuba on a friendship mission of cultural exchange and to make professional connections with veterinarians in Havana.

Today, Dr. Milazzo works at Frenchman Creek Vet Clinic in Metairie, Louisiana, as well as at several clinics in the New Orleans metro area, and performs house and barn calls on her own. She sees all species of animals from horses to wildlife, but birds (avian medicine and surgery) are Dr. Millazo’s special area of interest. Following in the footsteps of her family veterinarian, Dr. Jim Heintz, she enjoys teaching and mentoring younger vets and students, particularly at Xavier University’s pre-vet club. “I aspire to be like him and try to take some time to show children with an interest in the profession something that they will remember and something that will inspire that spark.”

In her spare time, Dr. Milazzo enjoys horseback riding, traveling, listening to live music, and artistic pursuits like costuming for parades in and around New Orleans. She also dispenses relationship advice (between couples of all types as well as humans and their pets) via her talk radio show, The Rev and The Vet. “Right now, my free time is spent working on the radio talk show and working on plans for my dream project hospital and community center.” Read on for our Q&A with Dr. Milazzo.

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Why did you decide to become a veterinarian?

When I was about four years old, I got my very first dog, a dachshund, and learned about veterinarians and what they did at her first puppy appointment. I decided then and there that I wanted to be a vet. I knew this was what I was going to do with my life but it sure helped that our family vet was instrumental in encouraging me from that point through the especially stressful times of applying to veterinary school. As a child, I also helped to hatch many abandoned duck eggs near the pond where I grew up with the help of my grandfather. This further supported my interest in wildlife, animals, biology, and helping animals in many aspects. The zoo was instrumental in teaching me skills a vet might need like public speaking, decision-making, [education], all types of animal husbandry, and a larger picture of animals and how they fit into our lives on the planet we share with them.

What do you enjoy most about being a veterinarian?

Everything! It’s my calling in life and I can’t imagine doing anything else—except the money part. There is nothing more painful than meeting a client who, because of an unavoidable situation… can’t afford treatment for even a simple problem causing discomfort to their pet. I usually end up finding a way to help them, and have found myself exhausted emotionally and financially at times, but I bounce back. Each pet and its owner share a bond which must be honored. If you are a veterinarian who has lost empathy and views a patient mostly as profit, it’s time to hang up the stethoscope.

What makes you unique in your field?

I’m definitely not a typical veterinarian and I pride myself on it, [and] in my ability to analyze a problem and come up with a creative solution. I am surprised every day that I do, in fact, get to use my own creative ideas to make a treatment plan better… I keep my mind open and my demeanor relaxed and light for the best energy exchanged not only between mentor and student but between client, patient, tech, and myself. When it comes to being a healer, I take that part very seriously. A lot of subjective or currently immeasurable healing can take place with just the power of intent, love and compassion. Checking your ego at the door and collaborating with others or just listening can solve many problems in life, I find. Speaking and working from the heart rarely leads to the wrong path, in my experience.

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Do you talk to your clients about pet insurance?

I do not because I do not have much information on which companies will benefit the pets most and will be fair to the clients. I am open to learning more about it and learning how I can educate my clients. I do not get many requests for it and do not see many clients that have pet insurance. I think that insurance may help more pets to get care they need so I’m definitely in favor of it.

What does it mean to you to be nominated for this award?

Gosh, I’m flattered! Just to be nominated makes my heart swell and also humbles me. It means my clients and community have been actively watching, see and appreciate my blood sweat and tears. That makes it even more worthwhile to continue to work toward my professional life goals. It means they listen to me, not to mention it also helps anyone to have a cheerleader in their corner at a pivotal time in their life!

What would you like to say to your clients and community who nominated and voted for you?

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It reminds me that my work does not go unnoticed by humans. It affirms that my being an “outside-the-box” vet is bringing positive things and the healing that I intend in a lot of aspects, both concrete and abstract. My deep feeling of gratitude for the nomination is just what I needed to send me off into my next plan of action!

If you win the contest with the most votes, how do you plan to use your $1,000 prize?

I want to make sure my passion for my profession, for animals, and for the human-animal bond lives on through my legacy in my community and beyond. [So] I would use the money as seed money for my dream project (that is currently in its initial phases). My goal is to create my own unique and very outside-the-box hospital, wellness, and education center for the people and animals of the New Orleans community (which could be replicated elsewhere), that will turn the face of veterinary medicine around and bring it back to the simpler times of direct and special vet to client/patient bonding, healing, and compassion—but with all the best and practical technology. The hospital’s goal [will be] to provide affordable services and harbor a community education center where all animal health workers and professionals—including rescue groups and foster volunteers—could collaborate and provide support for people and their pets. In the event my project did not materialize or I saw someone in need, it would go to helping the many struggling clients I currently see, into an emergency fund for something like an unexpected surgery for which they may need a specialist’s services (i.e. back surgery to prevent paralysis, etc.) that I cannot provide.

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Fun Pet Facts:

Dr. Milazzo has what she calls a “menagerie” of animals, which includes various fosters, thanks to her shelter work. Permanent animal residents include two Tennessee Walker mares, a rescued Nigerian Dwarf goat, and a rescued blue Doberman—named “Lafitte” after the gentleman pirate of New Orleans. “He almost died of anemia and pneumonia due to parasites and was turned over to me at the clinic because [the owner] wouldn’t bring in money if he died,” explains Milazzo. “I took one look at his little face and I had to do everything I could to save him. One blood transfusion and many drugs and de-wormers later, he became the love of my life.” Add to the mix two bottle-fed rescue cats; a baby mallard duck; two rescued macaws; and Benson, the Umbrella Cockatoo. “[Benson’s] owner passed away and his foster couldn’t keep him. I was supposed to find a home for him but the first night he stayed at my house, he escaped from his cage, walked into my bedroom and whispered “I love you” to me, which scared the heck out of me,” she says. “He [just] laughed. He has not left since and keeps the entire house entertained with his crazy antics.”

If you enjoyed reading about Dr. Milazzo, stay tuned to our blog, where we will share in-depth Q&A sessions we held with the remaining finalists. Learn more about the My Vet’s the Best Contest by clicking here. You may vote for Dr. Milazzo or any of the other finalists once a day through Thursday, July 28th, 2016 on the Pets Best Facebook page.

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