Dr. Elizabeth J. Colleran and Baker
Along the way, Dr. Colleran fell in love with the uniqueness of feline medicine and surgery.
"I think that cat medicine is very, very different than other small animal disciplines," Dr. Colleran said. "I think the cat is, in a general way, underserved in terms of understanding how they think and how they behave."
Dr. Colleran joined the AAFP in 1996 because of its reputation for superior continuing education, to help hone her skills in feline medicine. She bought land in Chico, Calif., and built a hospital for cats. The Chico Hospital for Cats opened in 1998.
The hospital's design helps keep cats separate and includes an air filtration system to eliminate odors, among other features to reduce distractions and maintain calm.
"Everything is intended to be quiet," Dr. Colleran said. "All of our assistants and technicians are trained to understand how cats think, and so they handle the cats differently. Nobody talks in loud voices."
After opening her cat hospital in Chico, Dr. Colleran learned while bicycling in Oregon that Portland did not have a full-service feline practice. Soon she adapted a warehouse to create the Cat Hospital of Portland, which opened in 2004. She practices in Portland once a month.
Dr. Colleran noted that, while she wound up in a feline-only practice, she believes that all small animal practices can be cat-friendly practices and that any practitioner who treats cats should be an AAFP member. She said potential members can start by visiting the association's website.
When Dr. Colleran became an AAFP member, she started volunteering for committees almost immediately. She became a board member in 2001. She served as secretary-treasurer for three years before becoming president-elect and then president.
"Taking leadership of AAFP right now is so energizing because there's so much we're doing that is exciting," she said.
Dr. Colleran said she is a big proponent of the work of AAFP committees that are developing guidelines and other resources on feline health. She also noted the importance of AAFP partnerships with other organizations, such as the International Society of Feline Medicine, and the plan to offer more continuing education at veterinary conferences other than AAFP meetings.
"These collaborations are just crucial to making sure that we increase the influence of the information that we create," Dr. Colleran said.