Conversation with an Extraordinary Person, a Veterinary Academy Alumna, Veterinarian Joana Griciūtė
The last time we met at the Veterinary Academy Museum with the alumna of the Academy Joana Griciūtė, it was seven years ago, in 2014, when I proposed to hold a meeting with the University community.
The Museum hall could barely accommodate everyone who wanted to hear about the experience of a young doctor volunteering in Costa Rica, South Africa, as well as in Indonesia with the world’s most famous orangutan researcher, Professor Birutė Galdikas. We organized several Joana’s photography exhibitions: at the Academy, Aleksandras Stulginskis Agricultural and Vilnius Universities, Family Medicine Clinic. A total of five years of volunteering, spent in wild monkey sanctuaries, in difficult conditions, providing assistance to primates, participating in research expeditions in the jungle, as well as working in zoos. “I wanted to help wild animals not with words, but with deeds,” says Joana. “I am also bound by the Veterinarian’s Oath that I took.”
As a child, Joana felt attracted to nature and animals; thus she did not hesitate when it came to the choice of her profession as a veterinarian. After volunteering, another phase of life began, with ambitious plans to work as a veterinarian in the United States. In August, Joana visited the Academy Museum. We talked. After volunteering, Joana got a job at a large Small Animal Clinic in South Florida. The Clinic, founded in 1979, has many departments: neurology, internal medicine, ophthalmology, animal behavior, cardiology, dental care, rehabilitation, and last year, a specialist in exotic animals started working there. A few years ago, the Clinic began providing emergency assistance to wildlife in collaboration with reserves. Animals that transmit infectious diseases are cared for by the Wildlife Center, so Joana does not get to meet them.
For three years, Joana worked as a nurse in internal medicine and later in emergency departments. This job taught her how to communicate with pet owners, because in the US, a lot of attention is given to that: there are trainings on how to recognize emotions in communication, what the posture or look should be... People come to the Clinic at night, barefoot, stressed, so not only animals need help, but their owners need reassurance as well.
The diploma obtained in Lithuania did not entitle the holder to work as a veterinarian in the United States; it was necessary to obtain a doctor’s license. Joana spent all her free time preparing for a pre-licensing program for citizens with a veterinary degree from abroad. The program consisted of several stages: submission of documents, English language test, knowledge test and internships in various clinics, farms, stables. The last and the most difficult stage was a three-day exam in Las Vegas under the supervision of rigorous evaluators. The tasks were to diagnose diseases in five different species of animals, to perform X-ray examinations, autopsy of the animal carcass, neutering of a dog, anesthesia during the operation, various laboratory tests, and other daily tasks. Few risk taking the exam, as the requirements are very high. “I had to prove that I had the aptitude and skills.” By the way, it is also a financial challenge; the entire preparation for the program cost about $20,000.
After obtaining a veterinarian’s license, Joana, who loves challenges, started looking for a job as an emergency veterinarian, but there was no such position at the Clinic. When colleagues learned that she was about to leave, they approached the administration with requests to find a way to keep an excellent employee who had earned the respect of co-workers: a position was created based on Joana’s preferred conditions; a three-year employment contract as an emergency veterinarian has been signed, and a mentor has been appointed for her. “The best thing was that I received a lot of support from everyone around me, especially when it was difficult,” rejoiced Joana.
Joana Griciūtė is a versatile personality, she feels that she is a global citizen, for whom the place of residence is not what matters, but rather her feeling and self-expression. She leads a vegan lifestyle for ten years now, is interested in different cultures and photography. In 2014, Joana participated in a competition announced by the Miami International Book Fair; the task of the fair was to describe Florida in six words. Out of 7,000 stories, Joana’s sentence was voted in the top six. On the occasion, a set of postcards with texts of the winners and photographs by a Miami photographer was issued. Joanna’s last name was on one of them as well.
Joana’s pets are also quite unconventional; she once sheltered a sick rooster and is currently taking care for a hen named Gretchen. Joana claims that chickens are tidy animals, responsive to name, people, other animals, very expressive, both loving and also predatory, but they do not attack their owner.Joana is grateful to her former teachers for the knowledge, she is happy for the Academy which is getting more and more beautiful, and Joana believes that in the future, she will be happy to cooperate with her Alma Mater… Here is such a colorful, strong personality that started changing the world and striving for harmony with nature from herself...
By Lina Baršauskienė, Head of the Veterinary Academy Museum