Winter 2016

Hong Kong Vet

Alumna Alane Kosanovich Cahalane talks about setting up a practice overseas and a lame moon bear named Claudia

Name: Alane Kosanovich Cahalane, V03

What she does: Veterinary surgeon and co-founder of the Veterinary Specialty Hospital of Hong Kong, the first veterinary specialty referral hospital in Asia

Her animal companion: Patrick, a Border terrier

Why Hong Kong: “It’s a vibrant, fun, safe, clean city with amazing travel opportunities and great food. I moved here with my husband, a Boston-raised entrepreneur with an MBA, in early 2011 with our then-2-year-old daughter and 12-week-old son.”

300WhongkongvetVeterinary care in her part of the world: “People here adore their pets, and many choose to have pet families rather than children. There’s an established community of great family veterinarians in Hong Kong. But surprisingly, given a population of 7 million people and more than 600 veterinarians, there were no specialty hospitals. It is a very new concept in this part of the world. So far I’ve had nothing but terrific support.”

Best thing about the job: Doing exactly what she loves and the opportunity for ongoing personal and professional growth. “I can remember years ago, when I first started doing surgery, that feeling of being uncertain or nervous about getting it right. Now the OR is my comfort zone. But starting a business—in a foreign country no less—is totally new to me. I’m lucky to have a great team around me.”

Most humbling career moment: “Easy, my surgery rotation with Rob McCarthy [V83], a veterinary orthopedic surgeon at Cummings School. Rob is truly great at academic collaboration—working with other services, students and teams of nurses within the university hospital—but then he could turn around the next day and walk into a general practice and operate on his own. He put just enough pressure on me as a student to push me to learn more and maybe start to see some of my potential. I have no doubt that my orthopedic rotations as a Cummings School student were what led me to becoming a surgeon.”

Most memorable patient: Claudia, a lame moon bear that Animals Asia rescued from the tiny cage where she was kept so that her bile could be harvested for use in traditional Eastern medicine. The bear had a congenital disease in which the elbow bones never fully solidify, leading to fractures later in life. It’s a condition seen in dogs, particularly spaniel breeds, but never reported in a bear. “I performed surgery not only on the broken bone, but also to bridge a crack on the other elbow and prevent a fracture from occurring there later. Her bones were much denser than I could have imagined. It felt like drilling into a fire hydrant, and I broke several instruments. Now Claudia walks with no lameness. Watching her forage and play without pain alongside other rescued bile bears is pretty awesome.”

Common misconception about surgeons: That they’re egocentric and insensitive. “I prefer to say we’re confident and practical.”

How she relaxes: Hanging out with her kids on her days off and traveling all over Southeast Asia. “My children are now 4 and 6, and they’ll be needing more pages in their passports soon!”

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