A return to her shelter medicine roots

Jenn Hergert in the midst of a procedure.

Jenn Hergert’s work as a full-time veterinarian at Seattle Humane hits close to home, and her mission is two-fold.

While she’s always enjoyed giving back to animals that can’t help themselves, Dr. Hergert is also leaving her own mark on the next wave of Washington State University veterinarians who find themselves in the same position she once was.

For nearly a decade, thanks to a partnership between Seattle Humane and WSU, fourth-year veterinary students have been coming to Seattle Humane’s Schuler Family Medical Center to train. Outside of WSU’s junior surgery class, it’s often where WSU students complete their first surgery. 

“I try to remember when I was in their shoes. I know it is scary to do surgery for the first or second time,” said Hergert, a 2019 WSU College of Veterinary Medicine alumnae.

After receiving her veterinary degree from WSU in 2019, Hergert completed a small animal rotating internship at Tufts University. “I enjoyed the experience and my time there, but found that many pet owners are unable to access specialty veterinary care, largely due to financial barriers. I just felt there were more animals that I could be serving,” Hergert said.

So, she packed her bags and boarded a flight for an opportunity to intern where she received her first hands-on surgical experience – Seattle Humane.

Now, it’s not uncommon for Hergert to treat upward of 60 animals at the shelter in a week.

Hergert spends her mornings spaying and neutering shelter animals, as well as owned animals for low-cost. She also performs critical surgeries, like amputations or closing open wounds, for animals without homes. In the afternoons, she usually assesses medicine cases, like skin conditions, kennel cough and urinary tract infections.

“It makes you feel like you are giving back to the community,” Hergert said. “That stuck with me as a student, and it is why I ultimately reached back into shelter medicine; I wanted to provide services to people and animals who might not otherwise have access to them.”

On Fridays, to help train the students, Hergert works with veterinarian Dr. Katie Kuehl, professor in WSU’s Veterinary Clinical Science Department who leads WSU’s shelter medicine rotation at Seattle Humane.

“They come in and they are nervous, and they crush it, and they are so excited. You can see in two weeks how confident they get and how fast they get – it’s incredible,” she said.

The experience is energizing.

Hergert said teaching the students is especially important knowing how Kuehl was such an exceptional mentor to her. Veterinarians Jillian Haines and Patricia Talcott were among others.

“I really miss the community of mentors at the veterinary school,” Hergert said. “I had some really wonderful people coach me who I think about often, and I ask myself, ‘what would they do in certain situations.’”

Now, at least one of those mentors is learning from her.

“Dr. Hergert is a wealth of knowledge, and she is deeply considerate and compassionate as a clinician and a colleague,’ Kuehl said. “It is deeply gratifying to see someone you have mentored step into the role of an educator and pass along what they’ve learned in their own unique approach and personality.”

Hergert has been on staff full time at Seattle Humane since July 2020.