Dr. Natalie Marks, America's Favorite Veterinarian


America’s Favorite Veterinarian could certainly be awarded to a brilliant academic who is working on cancer drugs for pets, who makes headlines….or to veterinarians who campaign for the title. But then there are the everyday heroes, like Dr. Natalie Marks at Blum Animal Hospital, Chicago,

She is one of twenty finalists in a contest sponsored by the non-profit American Veterinary Medical Foundation to determine America’s Favorite Veterinarian.

Dr. Marks’ daily life saving efforts may not receive the headline accolades of a new medical discovery, but ask her clients about what getting another four or five years of quality life from a pet means to them; or how being there for them at end of life matters.

She, and colleagues at her clinic, sometimes dealt with upwards of 100 very sick coughing dogs during the height of this summer’s canine influenza epidemic. The epidemic wasn’t predicted and no protocols could have possibly been in place, so Marks and others made it up as they went along, creating protocols which no doubt have saved dog lives in Chicago and elsewhere (as the dog flu has hit other cities too).

Not only did she treat those dogs at her clinic, she also reached out to dog owners across the city, and across the nation through the media and Blum’s social media platforms. “I never thought I’d become an expert on the dog flu,” she says. She will be presenting about the dog flu at two major veterinary conferences next year.

Want a dramatic headline, Dr. Marks has saved human lives too.

After diagnosing Lyme disease in family dogs, she’s asked those pet owning clients to see their own doctors. After all, if your dog has been to places where ticks are transmitting Lyme, human family members sharing the same environments are also at risk.

The logic played out, and several human clients were diagnosed with Lyme after seeing their family physicians. Early diagnosis of Lyme in people is typically associated with a better outcome.

Dr. Marks is also a national advocate for pet owners proactively vaccinating against leptospirosis, a bacterial infection spread by rodents and other critters (including unvaccinated dogs), which can cause serious illness in pets, and potentially be transmitted to people.

As excited as she is to see a new puppy or kitten, helping pet owners decide when it’s time to let go is equally as important.

Dr. Marks helped me to decide that it was time for our dog Lucy to crossover to the rainbow bridge. Compassion with a capital C! I still tear up when I talk about our beloved little ex-therapy dog, but also how Dr. Marks comforted us in our time of need, and comforted Lucy.

I’ve attended many conferences where “experts” advise against veterinarians expressing heartfelt compassion. I never understood this. After all, being compassionate is something all veterinarians are.

I’ve watched Dr. Marks in action more times than I count. She’s the real deal. And she’s honest, sometimes not telling clients what they want to hear – but instead articulating what’s best for the pets. She is the pets’ advocate.

Veterinary medicine is a challenging profession for many reasons. The best aren’t only in touch with four-legged, feathered or scaly clients, at the end of the day it’s people who drive them there and make the appointments in the first place. She knows how to connect with people, as well as the animals.

Another challenge in veterinary medicine is merely keeping up. There’s so much to know, dealing with various species, and differences in breeds not to mention medical protocols that change by the minute. Veterinarians are also your pet’s dentist, ophthalmologist, nutritionist and even – at times – psychologist…. and some even have pretty nifty surgical skills.

Dr. Marks is one darn smart lady and excels at all the above. And in particular as an advocate for the crossover between human and animal health as a public health advocate.

No surprise, when you learn from the best – as her mentor was (now retired) legendary veterinarian Dr. Sheldon Rubin. This award wasn’t around in his day – if it was – he’d would have walked away with it…and Dr. Marks has all those same qualities.

Her skill-set matches or exceeds her compassion. She’s quite simply one of the best.

True, her name will never make the front page of the New York Times for efforts to train dogs to detect human cancers or discover a new cure for a cat disease. However, in her client’s homes – Dr. Marks is a front-page story.  In fact, for many of her clients – me included – Dr. Marks is considered a member of the family. She is everything a veterinarian should be, and can be.

Dr. Marks was nominated last year as well, and placed second in a close race.