The Village Journal

Page 35

Dr. Amara Estrada

Mending hearts and forging discoveries in animal health By Sarah Carey | Art of Affection Photography

Dr. Amara Estrada specializes in veterinary cardiology – mending the broken or damaged hearts of countless dogs, cats and other species at the UF Veterinary Hospitals – but also in building and strengthening relationships to further the human-animal bond. Whether she’s helping pet owners understand treatment options, teaching students, brainstorming with colleagues or seeking scientific breakthroughs, Dr. Estrada adds a personal touch to her professional commitments. She moves from clinic to classroom to laboratory with ease in Gainesville and beyond, and speaks regularly at national and international meetings.

Several years ago, Dr. Estrada started a tradition of sharing in Grand Rounds with UF&Shands pediatric cardiologists. The relationships she formed led to UF’s first open heart surgery on a 7-yearold Labrador retriever in 2006. The dog swallowed a barbecue skewer that migrated to its heart. The case drew national press coverage – including a mention in bestseller “Marley and Me” author John Grogan’s blog. Dr. Mark Bleiweis, an associate professor in the department of surgery and pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine, performed the life-saving procedure with assistance from UF veterinarians.

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In recognition of her dedication, Dr. Estrada, an associate professor at UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine, was named the 2010 Southeast Regional winner of the nationwide “Thank Your Vet for a Healthy Pet” contest, sponsored by Morris Animal Foundation, Hills Pet Nutrition and BowTie, Inc. A UF hospital client from Utah nominated her after she saved their dog by including it in a pacemaker study she led at the time. She also has a soft heart for service dogs. Dr. Estrada’s family also includes a four-legged member, Jasmine, a golden retriever and service dog for her two boys, Caleb and Aiden, who were each born with a disability. The UF Small Animal Hospital now offers free heart screening exams for service dogs once a year, thanks to Dr. Estrada’s efforts.

“I asked them for help,” Dr. Estrada said. “They readily accepted and offered to assist us with the case.” Dr. Estrada’s current research involves the use of stem cells to repair heart function in Doberman Pinchers with dilated cardiomyopathy, and could lead to more studies of the disease in people. “If this technique works, it would provide an affordable treatment option and one which never existed before,” she said. “People wouldn’t have to watch their dogs suffer.” It’s to that end, working to stop the suffering caused by disease, that Dr. Estrada has dedicated her life.

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