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Profile: Catherine Nunnery, DVM

By: Louisa Shepard Date: Feb 10, 2015

Dr. Catherine NunneryMeet Catherine Nunnery, DVM, New Bolton Center’s Large Animal Ophthalmologist. Dr. Nunnery came to New Bolton Center in September from a private practice in Maryland. “We were delighted to recruit Dr. Nunnery, an accomplished veterinary ophthalmologist with a strong equine background,” said Dr. Raymond Sweeney, New Bolton Center’s Chief of Internal Medicine and Ophthalmology.  “She is dedicated to providing great service to our equine ophthalmology patients and is a pleasure to have as a colleague.”  Nunnery joins Dr. Nicole Scherrer, Resident in Ophthalmology, and replaces her friend and colleague, Dr. Mary Utter, who moved to California after eight years at New Bolton Center.

Q: Why did you decide to become a veterinarian?

A: I attended Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ, where I completed my Equine Studies Degree. After college, I managed two hunter-jumper farms. The most exciting and challenging part of my week was when the veterinarian came out for lameness examinations and post-visit nursing care. I knew then that I wanted to be a veterinarian, and as my career path changed, I took prerequisite classes for veterinary school at the University of Maryland. 

Q: What is your veterinary education, and why did you specialize in ophthalmology?

A: I had every intention of becoming a large animal veterinary surgeon while attending Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. It was in my third year of veterinary school that I was introduced to ophthalmology. I was interested in ophthalmology because you work both in medicine and surgery, and with all different types of animals. I find the differences and similarities in the species fascinating. But I wanted to focus on horses. At the time, only two equine internships offered exposure to an ophthalmologist. I was lucky enough to be accepted for an internship where I could see the ophthalmologist at work daily, at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY. It was a privilege to work with Dr. Claire Latimer, the only ophthalmologist solely working with horses at that time.

Q: How did you choose your residency?

Dr. Nunnery gives an eye examMy goal was to get an ophthalmology residency, a very difficult residency to get, but even more challenging considering I wanted to focus on horses. Only one veterinarian at that time that had continued directly from an equine internship to an ophthalmology residency – Dr. Mary Utter. So I followed Mary’s path from Rood and Riddle to University of Florida, where I was a resident in comparative ophthalmology. We had a high equine ophthalmology caseload, which was great, but I also learned all about small animal and exotic animal ophthalmology. My mentor at University of Florida was Dr. Dennis Brooks, a pioneer in the field of equine ophthalmology. I also had the honor of being able to work with elephants in Florida. Elephants get many of the same eye disease as horses. I was able to complete a research project preforming ocular ultrasound in standing elephants.

Q: Why did you decide to focus on the equine eye?

My passion for the equine eye is due to intricate details that allow us to see the devastating diseases that threaten vision in the horse. I think we would all agree that there is something majestic about the horse; I believe the essence of that is observed in their eyes. Equine ophthalmology is a rare specialty. There are about 400 veterinary ophthalmologists in the U.S., and maybe about 40 of them have an interest in the equine eye, and only three of them practice solely on the horse. I took this challenging path because I knew one day my dream would come true to practice equine ophthalmology. 

Q: What did your work entail in your most recent position?

Before coming to New Bolton Center, I was the staff ophthalmologist at VCA Veterinary Referral Associates in Gaithersburg, MD, for nearly four years. At this practice, I was the small animal ophthalmologist, focusing on dogs and cats, with the occasional exotic animal. I also started my own company, Equine Veterinary Vision, Inc., an ambulatory equine ophthalmology practice that serves Virginia and Maryland. I manage this ambulatory practice on a part-time basis now that I am working at New Bolton Center full-time. 

Q: Why did you choose to come to New Bolton Center?

Dr. Nunnery in surgeryA: I am from the Mid-Atlantic region and have been determined to make the equine eye my sole focus, so when Dr. Mary Utter asked me to come to New Bolton Center, it seemed like a great fit and a great opportunity. I enjoy teaching the students, working with amazing equine specialists, and working with horses every day. Mary and I had worked together on research, specifically treatment of non-healing corneal ulcers in horses. We have a bond due to our love of the equine eye. I think of Mary as my big sister, and Drs. Latimer and Brooks as our parents, in our equine ophthalmology family. 

Q: What is your job here at New Bolton Center, and what are your goals?

A: My job as the ophthalmologist at New Bolton Center is to treat patients with ocular disease; teach the students, interns, and residents; and advance our understanding of the equine eye through research. My goals for the New Bolton Center Ophthalmology Service are to provide excellent ophthalmic care to each patient while training students, interns, and residents to do the same. My goals for the students are for each graduate to be competent performing an ocular examination, and to be able to diagnose and treat the most common diseases of the eye. My goals for research are to develop new ways to treat fungal keratitis, ocular neoplasia, equine recurrent uveitis, and glaucoma. In the future, I would like to develop an ophthalmology ambulatory service at New Bolton Center.

Q: What is the focus of your ongoing research?

A: The New Bolton Center Ophthalmology Service currently has many exciting projects underway, led by our Ophthalmology Resident, Dr. Nicole Scherrer. We are looking at the effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) on equine uveitis, the diffusion of antibodies across the blood ocular barrier, and new treatments for equine recurrent uveitis.

Q: Why are you interested in horses?

cake for Dr. NunneryA: Growing up in Maryland I leased and owned horses, riding and showing in the hunter and equitation rings, but I had to give up the expense of owning a horse to go to veterinary school. My show horse was a dapple grey Hanoverian-Thoroughbred cross gelding named Great Gatsby that I was lucky enough to take with me during my undergraduate education. I grew up in a suburban home with dogs, cats, birds, fish, and pocket pets. Currently I have a blue merle miniature aussiedoodle puppy named Rain, and a tank of tropical fish. Now that I live in Pennsylvania horse country, I am looking forward to having my own horse again soon.