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Surgery Spotlight
Meet the new CVMA President:
Diane Craig, DVM, DACVS
VSS Surgeon and Co-Founder
I grew up in a foster home in the sunset district of San Francisco during the sixties when political unrest was a regular part of life. I was part of the social experiment of busing elementary students from the Haight Ashbury district for forced integration; my foster brother served in the Vietnam War on a nuclear submarine; and back then, we could still rent riding horses in Golden Gate Park. My family moved to a mini farm in the San Fernando Valley for my high school years and I found my true calling in caring for the animals that I collected. My first horse was an unbroken yearling colt aptly named Diablo. I had goats, rabbits, and other livestock but my passion was rescuing and rehoming stray dogs and cats. Visiting the East Valley shelter with kennels full of dogs and cats that would never find homes left me feeling that we had to find a better solution. In high school, I worked in the first small animal emergency-only clinic and loved the excitement of emergency medicine. After high school, I groomed and trained harness horses at Hollywood Park to save money for veterinary school.

I spent a few years on the harness racing circuit in California rotating through Hollywood Park, Los Alamitos, Del Mar, Bay Meadows, and Golden Gate Fields. I loved the horses and I would have stayed at the racetrack forever, but my family encouraged me to continue my education. I started night school at Pierce College and LA City College, transferred to UC Davis, followed by admission to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. I focused on sports medicine and loved the diagnostic challenge of performance injuries in working athletes. I spent summers on the large animal treatment crew and the schoolyear working small animal ICU, anesthesia, and surgery, always planning to return to racetrack practice after graduation.

Following veterinary school, I exchanged sunny California for the frozen glacier ravines of upstate New York at Cornell University. I completed a large animal rotating internship and a three-year surgical residency. I met my husband Dr. Rich Pankowski at Cornell. He was a fellow surgical resident and we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary this year. We laugh about surviving the cross country move from Cornell in a rickety moving van with no air conditioning during the hottest August on record.

We settled in Hollister, CA on a Standardbred broodmare farm and worked in a mixed animal rural practice. I loved the racehorses and llama farms and even the ranch calls chasing range cattle, but I found my passion in the small animal surgery suite. We were well on our way to starting a family when we moved to Orange County almost 30 years ago. I took my surgery board exams when my son John was 18 months old and became the owner of the Veterinary Surgical Specialists in Garden Grove.

Rich continued with a performance horse and racetrack surgical practice in Los Alamitos, then at San Luis Rey Downs, and is now the hospital administrator for our specialty practice. We are currently partnered with nine independent specialty practices on a large campus in Tustin known as the Advanced Veterinary Specialty Group. We provide referral services and continuing education opportunities in southern California as well as provide a teaching site for fourth-year Western University Veterinary School Students. Our surgical practice has three boarded surgeons and 24 licensed technicians and we strive to achieve a team approach, delegating responsibilities to staff members to empower them to develop their best strengths and competencies. 

Our family grew, adding daughters Alison and Annie. All three are accomplished athletes, so vacations centered around sports competitions, usually ice hockey, in Canada, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, and all over the United States. Life was incredibly hectic with three busy, active children, two jobs, three dogs, and five cats. Those were the days before anyone talked about work/life balance and we struggled to fulfill all our commitments to work, school, family, and each other. Most days, we ran as fast as we could and cultivated a deep sense of humor and a lighthearted embrace of chaos.

I have had the privilege of working with some great people in organized veterinary medicine at the local, state, and national levels. As a trustee and later president of the Saddleback Chapter of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association, we implemented many new member services and became an online presence in southern California. At the national level, I serve on the AVMA Educational Commission for Veterinary Foreign Graduates, which oversees the testing of foreign veterinarians. I have been on committees and working groups for the American College of Veterinary Surgeons to establish standards for surgical residency programs and develop guidelines for dual species certification. As a CVMA District II delegate, governor, and president elect, I have learned a lot about the challenges of working with many stakeholders including the Veterinary Medical Board, the legislature, and the private interest groups. I look forward to the upcoming year when the CVMA will face tough challenges to the profession including the implementation of telemedicine; the high student debt to income ratio; the physical therapy bill; and a path forward in the investigation of cannabis use in animals. Important issues in the work place such as the Me Too movement will bring much needed discussion and change to our profession as well. In the current political climate, the challenge will be to show compassion and inclusion of all stakeholders in discussions involving policy and practice. As always, we will rely on the dedicated CVMA staff for oversight of legislative issues as well as direction and guidance in the drafting and implementation of new programs and member services. I look forward to a great year working with the Board of Governors, House of Delegates, committees, and supporters of the CVMA to address the issues facing veterinary professionals in California.
Veterinary Surgical Specialists - Operating with care.
2965 Edinger Avenue | Tustin, CA 92780 | 949.936.0055 | vssoc.com