While she was in veterinary school, Dr. Rizzo became fascinated by cancer. Several members of her family had suffered from cancer – some survived and some did not. Sadly, one of those family members was Simba who, at the age of 13, passed away due to metastatic pancreatic cancer.
So while, she knew of cancer her whole life, she had no idea, until veterinary school, that cancer is an umbrella term for a spectrum of diseases. Although they are all united by the commonality of cellular proliferation, they are also each characterized by unique behaviors, progressions and responses. She was hooked instantly in her first quarter she decided she was going to be an oncologist.
Four years later, Dr. Rizzo, Jim, Presley and their two canine additions, Molly and Teddy traveled to Tinton Falls, New Jersey so that Dr. Rizzo could complete a 1-year rotating internship in veterinary internal medicine and surgery at Garden State Veterinary Specialists. It was there that she developed a deep love and respect for the veterinary support team. Veterinary technicians and assistants work tirelessly to care for animals, animal caregivers AND the veterinarian. For Dr. Rizzo, they taught countless lessons. For example they taught her how to read an ECG (better than any professor), how to stay calm when a patient is actively suffering from seizures and the neurologist hasn’t arrived yet, and they offered a tremendous amount of emotional support on long overnight shifts that threatened to never end.
Veterinary technicians and assistants are the beating heart of any veterinary clinic and it is impossible to thank them too often for their selflessness, technical skill, devotion, compassion and all around support. The best veterinarians are only that with the support of the whole team and Dr. Rizzo is no exception.
Then it was on to Ithaca, NY where Dr. Rizzo completed a 3-year residency program in medical oncology at Cornell University and where she acquired, Digger the beagle. As you can imagine, it was at Cornell where Dr. Rizzo started to learn about the complexities of cancer. She conducted both bench side and bedside research and eventually used that research to complete three peer-reviewed articles. Maybe equally as important though, she learned the critical nature of teamwork.
Since then she has been working as a board certified veterinary medical oncologist in the Pacific Northwest where she has been honing her skills and knowledge and where she has truly come to understand the strength of the human animal bond.
Dr. Rizzo and Jim have since lost Molly to nasal cancer and Presley to renal failure. Simba, Molly and Presley will forever hold a place in their hearts. They still are honored to have Teddy and Digger as part of their family and have added a shih-tzu named Henry, a dachshund named Ella and a bunny named Guinevere.
Dr. Rizzo is honored and grateful to be serving the needs of pets with cancer, their families and the veterinary support staff on the beautiful Kitsap Peninsula.