Jen Scaccianoce

Constantly Learning

If Dr. Jen Scaccianoce didn’t know before she graduated from Iowa State that Ames has more veterinarians per square inch than any other community in the nation, she certainly did when it was time to search for a job.

The job market was tough in 2010, especially for veterinarians and especially for veterinarians living in Ames. Scaccianoce’s husband was finishing his PhD and the couple stayed in town.

Scaccianoce went into private practice, established a relief business, working at clinics all throughout Central Iowa, including the Animal Rescue League of Iowa clinic in Ankeny.

Then she received an email from an old teacher.

“Dr. (Bianca) Zaffarano told me the hospital was looking for a primary care clinician and wondered if I was interested,” Scaccianoce recalled. “She was my mentor and to be contacted by her for this job was really exciting.”

Making the transition back to the College of Veterinary Medicine was easier for Scaccianoce than she had anticipated.

Some of the hospital staff she had as a fourth-year student had departed, but other of her new colleagues remained from her student days including Dr. Bryce Kibbel who works with Scaccianoce in primary care at the Hixson-Lied Small Animal Hospital.

“Dr. Kibble was my anatomy instructor,” she said. “He was very approachable and at the time I was familiar with his teaching style. I thought it would be a great opportunity to work with him.”

She remains deferential to some of her colleagues who were former instructors.

“Dr. Jergens is always telling me, ‘call me Al, Jen.’ I still have a hard time doing that,” she said.

“Everybody has been super welcoming and supportive. My biggest transition to academia was understanding the policies of a large hospital.”

The transition to a faculty member came at the right time for Scaccianoce. After struggling to find a position she enjoyed, she was considering leaving the profession and striking out on a different career path.

“This was my last ditch effort to stay in veterinary medicine. I thought it might be time to try something new beyond clinical medicine,” she said. “Working in the hospital has been a refreshing experience.”

Most of her excitement stems from her interaction with veterinary students. 

“I love when I see something click in a student’s eyes,” Scaccianoce said. “When I see that, it excites me every time. I really enjoy feeding off of their positive energy and it gives me the drive to keep on learning.”

Still Scaccianoce is surprised she found her way to academia. 

“It is very surreal to be back at the college as a professor,” she said. “I had no intention of coming back to teach teaching students is what keeps me excited and engaged.

“I’m a much better veterinarian now than I was in general practice. I’m constantly learning from my students.”