It’s Women’s History Month, and as we continue to celebrate Germinder + Associates’ 25th anniversary, I visited with a longtime veterinary friend, Dr. Joyce Login, a woman veterinarian who has a venerable history in veterinary medicine of educating her colleagues. It’s her love of science that led her to the profession, and it’s that same love that keeps her going with her latest Zoetis product launch. Bravo, Joyce! – Lea-Ann Germinder, Editor
Every veterinarian I’ve talked with has a story about how they decided to become a veterinarian. What’s your story? Did you want to become a companion animal veterinarian?
As a kid, I always loved science. I loved learning about bugs and how they worked. In fact, biology was my favorite subject in school. I knew I wanted to do something in science, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to go for. I’m quite sure my mother is very sorry that she ever gave me a James Herriot book. Up until I read that book, I was planning to be a medical doctor. I hadn’t even thought about a career as a veterinarian. But then I saw that was a job that combined animals and biology in a much bigger way but kept me in science, which is my true love. After that, I always wanted to become a companion animal veterinarian.
Where did you go to veterinary school, and what was your first job after veterinary school?
I grew up in New Jersey, but I went to the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine as an out-of-state student. When I graduated, I interviewed at lots of different places, but I ended up going back to the veterinary hospital where I worked before as a veterinary technician and receptionist. It was a small animal practice in Rockaway, New Jersey. My boss was wonderful – a really nice man.
What made you decide to go from private practice to industry? Was it hard to make the transition?
I was in practice, and I enjoyed it, but I was looking for something more. The idea of specializing in dentistry or pain management was not available at that time. I knew I didn’t want to own a practice, but I didn’t know what being an industry veterinarian was all about. I picked up the phone and called Hill’s Pet Nutrition at the time and said, “Hey, can you connect me to a veterinarian?” and said, “What exactly do you do?” I ended up being very interested, I did it, and I loved it.
This is a teaching job, teaching science, and I loved it. I learned I could educate the practices, I could educate their healthcare teams, and I could educate their clients in a bigger way. It was very exciting to be in an area where there was always new science, new information, and just constant learning.
The transition wasn’t an easy one at first. It was very wrenching because people asked me, “Why did you stop being a vet?” I had to have the confidence and the ability to say, “I’m still a vet; I still have my degree; I just apply my knowledge in a different way. Instead of one-on-one teaching pet owners about how to care for one animal, I now can educate the educators.”
You went on from Hill’s Pet Nutrition to several other great industry positions. You were with Pfizer Animal Health for three years before it was spun off to create Zoetis. Zoetis just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. What do you like best about working for Zoetis?
With any job, it’s the people that really make it. Everyone at Zoetis is so passionate about what they do here. As Zoetis and as advisors, we like to make sure that we’re not just talking about a product; we’re talking about an area of medicine and how the product fits in, and how it can advance the profession and help animals live better quality lives.
I never stop learning about brand-new things, brand-new technologies, and new therapeutic areas that I really didn’t learn as deeply in school and have changed and evolved. Because of what I do to educate other veterinarians, I need to be at least at the front end of trying to tell them what’s coming rather than trying to play catch up with things that they already know about and say, “This is what the level is now.”
Zoetis has introduced Solensia, the first and only F.D.A.-approved treatment to control pain in cats. Do you want to explain what that product does and how it is administered?
Solensia is a monoclonal antibody for the control of osteoarthritis pain in cats. What we’ve learned about arthritis and pain in general and chronic pain has evolved tremendously. The non-steroidals are an amazing class of drugs and have helped so many animals live better lives. But as we have learned more, there is a deeper path in terms of osteoarthritis and chronic pain.
Chronic pain, like in people, is maladaptive, it’s excruciating, it’s non-ending, it is progressive, and we can’t fix osteoarthritis. But we can manage that pain and make life livable. What we’ve learned is prostaglandins are a key driver of osteoarthritis pain, but even more important, there is a substance called nerve growth factor or NGF.
NGF’s function in a very young growing animal is to develop the nervous system. Once the nervous system has been developed, the primary function of NGF changes. Instead of growing the nervous system, in osteoarthritis pain, NGF becomes elevated. It becomes its own disease state. Solensia works by lowering the amount of NGF by grabbing onto the NGF protein molecules and taking them out of circulation.
You have called this the most significant project you have worked on. Why is that, and what is the biggest benefit to cats (and cat parents) with the launch of Solensia?
We now have something made for cats to be able to give them relief and control the pain of their osteoarthritis. The mechanism of giving it is a monthly subcutaneous injection, not a daily pill. You don’t have to figure out and try to get a pill down your cat’s throat every single day or twice a day, or three times a day, which we sometimes recommend. It’s once a month.
The response from the veterinary community has been incredibly positive. This is why this is such a fulfilling project for me. I get phone calls and letters and emails and people stopping me at meetings and just thanking us, thanking me, thanking the company, and telling me these stories that just make me cry.
My favorite one ever was a letter that was sent where the pet owner said, “I didn’t realize my cat was no longer purring until I gave this drug, and I heard her purring again. That was just beautiful.”
In my lifetime, in my career, personal career, this is the most impactful drug that I’ve been a part of because I hear the stories, the ability to take away pain in these cats who have had really nothing because there hasn’t been anything that’s been approved by the FDA as a drug for chronic pain in cats in the disease state.
Is it available in veterinary clinics, and where can cat owners get more information?
Solensia is available at veterinary clinics. It is a drug that needs to be given at the clinic because it’s an injectable that should not be given by the pet owner. You come in once a month. In fact, my cat goes in tomorrow for her monthly injection, I just realized that.
There is a website, www.solensia.com, that has a lot of information for pet owners. There’s a professional site for veterinarians and veterinary health care teams that have resources to share with pet owners and help get that message out there, www.solensiavetteam.com. Both of those websites have lots of information about the drug, also about the disease itself, and how to diagnose it.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I will wrap up and say cats are hurting, and we’re just not seeing it. Now if we can start to look for it behaviorally and start to educate pet owners to start to look for it, we can do something to help these cats control the pain that they’re feeling from osteoarthritis. Pet owners don’t want their animals to hurt, and if they understand that they’re in pain, they really want to do something about it, and now they can.
Thank you, Dr. Login, for all you have done over the years and continue to do to educate vets, their healthcare teams, and pet owners for the pets they love. Your love of science certainly continues to shine through!
Disclaimer: This interview is for informational purposes only. As always, see your veterinarian for specific medical advice and the health needs of your cat.