A career of a lifetime becomes a fight of a lifetime

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Mark Goldstein, DVM, talks about his veterinary career, battling pancreatic cancer, and the patients and clients that changed him for the better.

According to Marty Becker, DVM, the speaker’s introduction is a commercial about them and their lives. When it was time to introduce the keynote speaker for the third day at the Fetch dvm360® San Diego Conference, Baker greeted the packed room by delivering an ad full of funny memories and stories and praise for his colleague and longtime friend Mark Goldstein, DVM.

“Mark is currently facing the battle of his life, and it’s something he says causes you to speed up and slow down your life at the same time but don’t stop laughing,” Becker said, reflecting on his friend and his battle with pancreatic cancer.

Goldstein has had an exceptional career, often referred to as a rhino by his peers because of his many proverbial hats: zoo director, president of the San Diego Humane Society, veterinarian, author, husband, father, grandfather, friend, and countless from others. Nicknames he held throughout his life. Goldstein now has a new hat to wear: a patient with pancreatic cancer. During his keynote address, Goldstein meditated on people and pets, from former patients to goldfish, what shaped him into the person he is today.

Passion for pets and people

“[I would like to] It conveys to you something that ignites the spark we all have. “We didn’t get into veterinary school or become veterinary technicians or animal welfare workers without having a passion for what we do, and the fact is it seems like we got started with time,” Goldstein said.

Throughout their careers, veterinary professionals intersect with all kinds of people. One of the most memorable moments that Goldstein noticed that helped shape his career was when she brought in a family of goldfish with a tumor.

“I was in [Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts] One day, a woman brought a fish tank with goldfish. At this point I’ve probably lost half of the audience I normally do because “Come on Mark, he had a tumor growing out of his nostrils”. It is a luxurious golden, and they live 10 to 15 years. I looked up and [noticed] This woman was crying, which I assumed because people thought she was crazy because I thought I could do anything for her golden,” he told the audience.

“…She told me she had an autistic child. He learned how to count by watching this goldfish go around the tank. He learned to feed himself by feeding the gold. He learned to clean himself [from the goldfish]. And the last thing he said to him [his mom] As she was taking her to the vet she was saying “Mom what did I do wrong”. At that point, I was in [Angell Memorial Animal Hospital] And I got not one but two surgeons.”

After two weeks, they put the goldfish under anesthesia, removed the tumor (which turned out to be benign), and the fish continued to lead a normal life. The moral of this story, according to Goldstein, is that they were treating not only a goldfish, but a small child.

With this example and others discussed by Goldstein, he reminded the audience that vets aren’t just for pets, they are for people. Clients should trust their veterinarians, and by going above and beyond for your patients, the professionals will be able to provide the best care for their pets while being empathetic people.


At the end of his speech, Goldstein made the audience laugh, cry, and applaud with a standing ovation and in support of his colleague. The veterinary professionals who attended the keynote were left thinking about Goldstein and the goldfish, and how the smallest patients can have the biggest impact on their careers.

Although Goldstein’s talk was titled “I wouldn’t change a thing,” he admitted he had one thing that would change him: not spending more time with his beloved dog Rin.

“Marty is right, I feel very fortunate to get to this point in my life and to be able to look back and say, ‘I wouldn’t change a thing.’ I mean, sure, I’ve had my fights and things I would have done differently but I don’t regret. Goldstein expressed to the audience how I feel. I’m very rich and I’m lucky and I’m so lucky.

Discussing his diagnosis in public for the first time, Goldstein said he didn’t want anyone to mourn him because he loved his life and his career.


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