Jeanne M. Wallace, DVM, DACLAM
Attending Veterinarian and Vice President for Animal Care
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
What to do when torn between pursuing a career in human or veterinary medicine? For Jeanne M. Wallace, DVM, the answer was simple ... do both.
"I assumed it was an either/or decision," she said of choosing a path as an undergrad at Kansas State University. "Little did I know, I would find a perfect fit in the specialty of laboratory animal medicine - a profession that allows me to pursue my interest in science and provides opportunities to improve the health and well-being of both humans and animals."
After earning a degree in animal science, Wallace continued her veterinary studies at Kansas State, located in her hometown of Manhattan, Kan. "I grew up in the 'Little Apple.' My daughter rolls her eyes every time I say that ... and rightfully so," Wallace said with a laugh.
She loved growing up in the vibrant college town, where her father was a department chair in engineering at the university. She said he and her mother, who went back to college after having five children, encouraged a natural curiosity. "They taught me to be the best I could be, while encouraging and supporting me when I wasn't," said Wallace. "They taught me to see beyond myself and recognize I was part of a bigger community. They taught me tolerance, empathy and compassion. These lessons apply to all aspects of life, but they have been particularly helpful to my career in healthcare."
Wallace, who is a diplomate of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, completed residency and research fellowship training at Wake Forest University School of Medicine before joining the faculty. She and husband Mark Wallace, PhD, a neuroscientist, made the move from North Carolina to Tennessee in January 2006 when each accepted faculty appointments at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
"Working at VUMC, I see first-hand the dedication of physicians, basic scientists and veterinarians who, together, search for cures. I am always surrounded by young minds and new ideas that push me to grow personally and professionally," she noted, adding that it's exciting to be at the forefront of health discovery.
In her leadership role, Wallace is focused on ensuring the infrastructure is in place to support a complex research portfolio. Although much of her day is spent administering the research program, Wallace is known for her work studying the relationships between dietary fat, obesity and atherosclerosis in animal models of cardiovascular disease.
"I think it always comes as a surprise to people that I'm one of 10 veterinarians we have here, now," she said of her work at Vanderbilt. "Laboratory animal medicine is one of a handful of veterinary subspecialties that allows veterinarians to make significant contributions to both human and animal health and welfare."
She continued, "One of countless examples relates to diabetes, a disease that impacts millions of adults and children in the United States. The disease is also common in cats and dogs." Through research at VUMC and other academic medical centers, Wallace noted there have been invaluable discoveries and advancements to inform diabetes care and maintenance for patients. "The patients include adults, children and their pets," she said.
"Neuroscience and infectious disease, immunity, inflammation ... those systems are all related. What we can learn in one area can help and be translated to another area," Wallace explained. And, she continued, just as different disease states are related so is research across species. "It's not just veterinary health or human health, or even environmental health - we've started to use the phrase 'one health,'" she noted of the push by the World Health Organization, CDC, and numerous academic medical centers to work, think and discover in an inclusive, collaborative manner.
She loves the excitement and mental stimulation of working in an environment that is constantly moving, but she readily admits it's also challenging to keep up with advancements. Wallace said working in an academic medical center ... and working with young minds ... keeps her on her toes. "Our scientific community is built on the ideas of exploration, inquiry and innate curiosity. I really enjoy being in the environment where you have young people asking questions and pushing those of us in the middle of our careers not just to stick with the status quo but to ask new questions, too."
When she isn't busy supporting new exploration at work, Wallace is content to explore the 10 acres of land that she and Mark share with two dogs and two horses. Wallace loves hanging out with family and is excited that after living in New York for several years, daughter Alicia Jayo's career has now brought her to Nashville, as well.