Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine
1988 - 1992

 In 1989 whilst completing her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry at Ohio’s Antioch College, Jennifer founded "The Animal Center" within the Student Center building, which promoted animal rights issues and a vegetarian lifestyle. In 1990 she was responsible for the implementation of an alternatives track at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. As a third year student, Jennifer conscientiously objected to the use of live, healthy nonhuman animals as "practice subjects" in the traditional terminal surgical laboratories. After nearly a year of requesting faculty and administrators to allow her to learn surgery via humane alternatives, she was told that she would be failed and expelled if she did not participate in the laboratories. Subsequently, Jennifer filed a lawsuit against the school with the help of Professor Gary Francione, Director of the Rutgers School of Law Animal Rights Law Clinic. Within five months, OSU developed a curriculum for Jennifer and any other student who now chooses not to harm and kill animals in the pursuit of a veterinary education.

 Excerpted from Anonymous, 1997, “After alternatives: An interview with a former alternatives student”, Alternatives in Veterinary Medical Education,

Issue 4, pp. 1, 6.

 Q. Dr. Kissinger, what were your reasons for pursuing an alternatives track?

 A. The reasons I pursued this track stem from my respect for animal life. Since the traditional courses ended in the euthanasia of healthy, innocent animals, it was hard for me to justify my participation in these courses. I had only to look as far as human medical schools to realize that the traditional methods in veterinary schools were outdated. Medical students learn through practice on cadavers, models, and by assisting in surgeries of true patients, under the direct supervision of surgeons, until they gain enough exposure and experience to handle more and more roles as primary surgeon. If this training is good enough for human surgeons, it should be good enough for veterinarians.

 Q. Tell us about your training and how it differed from the traditional track.

 A. The traditional track required ten surgical exercises, in which three students were assigned to each animal. The animal was killed after each exercise. Students rotated in the role of primary surgeon, assistant surgeon, and anesthetist, which means each student was primary surgeon only three or four times. With this arrangement, it was possible to actually graduate without doing many routine surgeries as primary surgeon.

 As an alternatives track student, I did almost 20 live animal surgeries as compared with traditional track students, who were primary surgeon or assistant for only six or seven live animal surgeries. Not only was I primary surgeon for every required surgery, but I repeated each surgery at least three times, first practicing on a cadaver, then assisting in the surgery of actual patients, mostly at local veterinary hospitals in the area, and finally performing each surgery on a patient with supervision. In the traditional course, there were two to three professors to every 15 or so students. I had one-on-one supervision throughout each procedure.

 I did perform two of the more difficult required procedures, a gastrotomy and a cystotomy, with the client's consent, on a terminally ill dog named Tiffany. Tiffany gave me invaluable experience, not at the cost of her life, but rather at the end of her natural life.

Q. Do you feel that pursuit of an alternatives track affected your ability to get a job?

A. That is one of the main concerns facing a veterinary student considering an alternative surgery course. How will future employers view this nontraditional training? In my case, because I felt that my surgical skills were comparable to those of any new graduate, how I obtained my training was not a big issue. I was offered a job by one of the first few practices that I interviewed with.

Q. How do you personally feel about your surgical abilities?

A. I feel I have succeeded well in my endeavors as a veterinarian. Recommendations from my employers have stated, "Dr. Kissinger has performed beyond expectations and we value her very much", and "I would highly recommend Dr. Kissinger be accepted to your surgical residency program."

Q. What long-term effects has your pursuit of alternative surgical training had on you?

A. Because of the adversity one experiences when being different from the norm, I developed an outstanding commitment and fervor not to fail in my goals. I had a unique passion to prove myself. I was going to be the best surgeon there was, just to prove it could be done without killing helpless animals. It is this kind of true passion that can lead to great things. It can be done. You just have to make it so. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to the animals we have devoted our lives to care for.


"I have worked with Dr. Kissinger for two years, and I can say she is one of the most competent surgeons I have seen. She knows her anatomy and has excellent technique. I am very pleased with the surgical training she received." - Dr. Jan McGough, Seattle, Washington.

"Dr. Kissinger has terrific tissue-handling skills. Her surgical technique is certainly up to par with any other veterinarian who has worked with me." - Dr. Cady Barns, Turner, Maine.