Dr. Colleen Currigan started veterinary college knowing that she wanted to become a feline-only practitioner when such a thing was a rarity. After three decades in her chosen field, she is giving back by serving as 2016 president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.
Like many veterinarians, Dr. Currigan had wanted to be a veterinarian since childhood. She and her father shared a special fondness for cats, and when she was a young child, one of the family cats survived feline distemper. Dr. Currigan went on to earn her veterinary degree from The Ohio State University in 1985.
“There was something about feline medicine that just attracted me,” she said. “When I was in veterinary school, a lot of the veterinary medical education focus was on dogs. You’ve heard the old adage, cats are not small dogs, but back in that time, they were treated as small dogs. So I felt that they got the short end of the stick.”
After graduation, Dr. Currigan moved to Chicago to work for Dr. Barbara Stein at one of the few feline-only practices at the time. Dr. Stein was one of the founders of the AAFP, leading Dr. Currigan to realize the value of the association early on.
After eight years with Dr. Stein, Dr. Currigan started a feline house call practice in Chicago. In 1998, she opened the Cat Hospital of Chicago, which has grown into a four-veterinarian practice.
Dr. Currigan has been an AAFP member for as long as she has been a veterinarian. She has been involved at the board level for a number of years, and she is a member of the committee that oversees the Cat Friendly Practice program.
“I was at a point in my career where I wanted to continue practicing—and I still am passionate about veterinary medicine and practicing, and I still practice—but I also just wanted to get involved at a different level in the association that had done so much for feline medicine over so many years of my career,” she said.
Dr. Currigan also serves as the AAFP representative to the AVMA Clinical Practitioners Advisory Committee, which advises the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents, and is a member of the AVMA Task Force on Veterinary Compounding Legislation.
As AAFP president in 2016, Dr. Currigan plans to continue pursuing the association’s initiatives. The CFP program is a major area of focus. A new focus area is to advocate for veterinary colleges and technology programs to provide more instruction about feline medicine, behavior, and handling.
Dr. Currigan attributes AAFP membership growth to small animal practitioners seeing a need to learn more about feline medicine. Now that so many small animal practitioners have joined, only 14 percent of members are in feline-only practice.
“But that brings the challenge of ensuring that all of our members continue to appreciate the value of AAFP membership,” Dr. Currigan said. “Most of our benefits focus on improving feline standards of practice, continuing education, scientific investigation, and we will continue to evaluate the offerings to our members in order to improve the health and welfare of cats. And we’ve also as an association worked hard to position ourselves as a leader when it comes to feline medicine, and we’ll continue to work hard to ensure that veterinarians and the media look to the AAFP for all things cat.”
Joining Dr. Currigan as AAFP officers for 2016 are Drs. Lauren Demos, Waterford, Michigan, president-elect; Susan Little, Ottawa, Ontario, immediate past president; and Roy B. Smith, Round Rock, Texas, treasurer.