WHEN A PET’S CANCER DIAGNOSIS INSPIRES A CAREER IN VETERINARY MEDICINEThere is a small group of dual-boarded medical and radiation veterinary oncologists in the world, and GCVS is fortunate to have one of them!
Dr. Lisa DiBernardi had aspirations of being an exotic veterinarian or veterinary surgeon during her studies at Louisiana State University. It wasn’t until her adopted and beloved golden retriever, Harely was diagnosed with cancer that she realized she wanted to specialize in oncology. By the time Dr. DiBernardi was a senior in veterinary school, Harley had been diagnosed with four different types of cancer. It was then that Dr. DiBernardi realized she wanted to spend her career guiding pet owners in a similar situation.
Like many veterinarians, Dr. DiBernardi grew up an animal lover. She bathed and groomed dogs in high school, volunteered at local animal shelters, and knew she wanted to work in animal health. She started her veterinary career as a licensed veterinary technician working at Plum Island Animal Disease Center. While obtaining her bachelor’s degree and working as a vet tech, a friend convinced her to apply to veterinary school.
After graduating from Louisiana State University in 1999, Dr. DiBernardi completed an internship at Veterinary Specialists of South Florida. She went on to complete the first of two oncology residencies, one at Purdue University in oncology, and a second at LSU in radiation oncology, with her love for Harley fueling her drive the entire time. Her dad often joked that he had two daughters—one he couldn’t get into school, and one he couldn’t get out of school.
Today, Dr. DiBernardi leads the radiation oncology department at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists (GCVS). Since 2014, she has built a strong and loyal oncology team at GCVS, and she believes she wouldn’t be where she is today without their support. She takes a team approach asking for their feedback and ideas, Dr. DiBernardi says her team is just as much a part of the patients’ treatment as she is. “My team is part luck and part blessing,” she said. “The people I work with are dedicated, loyal and customer service -driven. They truly care, and love what they do.”
Dr. DiBernardi loves to teach, and is always ensuring her team collaborates so they all feel engaged in patient care. “I love meeting pet owners who love and adore their animals,” said Dr. DiBernardi, when asked what aspect of her job impacts her the most. “I love seeing their unique bonds and interactions.”
In addition to seeing patients, Dr. DiBernardi volunteers her professional services at special event venues with canine detection teams. She has also treated several cancer patients at the Miami Metro Zoo, El Paso Zoo, and Shy Wolf Sanctuary.
Dr. DiBernardi’s professional interests include clinical pathology and pain management with a focus on improving the patient’s quality of life. Outside of work, Dr. DiBernardi loves spending time with her 14-year-old cat, Caliche, being outdoors, traveling, and exercising. She thinks about Harley, her inspiration for becoming a veterinary oncologist, often along with the beautiful patients and clients, she has met along the way.
Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists is committed to providing specialized patient care through interdepartmental collaboration, state-of-the-art equiptment, and the extensive experience of our board-certified specialists, like Dr. Lisa DiBernardi. It is this level of expertise that ensures every patient has the best chance at a successful outcome.