Romanian veterinarian escapes hardship and finds solace in veterinary research
Seeking an escape from the Orwellian communist regime that ruled Romania from 1944 until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, Dr. Alexandru Popescu entered the veterinary profession in 1983, finding work on a large pig farm in the Romanian countryside.
"In that time, nobody had trust in anybody. There were spies everywhere," Dr. Popescu said in a statement. "To work with animals in the countryside was like an escape. The long arm of the (Communist) party had difficulties reaching you."
By day, Dr. Popescu worked as the farm manager, producing pork for "the comrades," but by night, he operated a clandestine mixed animal practice serving poor gypsy villages, and from time to time venturing to Bucharest to treat pets—an activity strictly forbidden by the communist party.
"It was a strange era: the communist party said that only the meat animals are good to look after—no pets," Dr. Popescu said. "So there was a big, empty space in this area. In these conditions, I slowly got a name in town."
Dr. Popescu was reassigned from the farm to a laboratory position associated with the farm after he broke his knee.
"There I discovered real science," he said.
This discovery led Dr. Popescu to become a respected researcher and professor and the 1999 recipient of the Romanian Academy of Sciences award for his book "Normal and Pathological Histology of Bone Development in Birds. New Revealed Microstructures." He also received the Romanian Veterinary Medical Association's medal for progress in veterinary medicine in 1997.
Dr. Popescu, who is now a professor of gross and microscopic anatomy at the University of Agronomical Sciences and Veterinary Medicine-Bucharest, will present several educational sessions, including a discussion about the practice of veterinary medicine in Romania, at the AVMA Annual Convention in Denver, July 20 and 21. He will also participate in a panel discussion about international veterinary medicine, and in the Exhibit Hall he will display photos of his work depicting anatomic structure.
The intricate structures Dr. Popescu depicts in his pictures are a remarkable feat, even more remarkable given the continued struggles faced by scientists in Romania, a country still recovering from an oppressive regime and adjusting to capitalism.
"This was my destiny: to search," he said.