Michelle Barton loves her clinical work as a large animal internal medicine specialist in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Through her challenging medical cases, she helps students make the transition from classroom to real-world experience.
Where did you earn your degrees, and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I was pre-vet for two years at Creighton University and then was accepted early into the vet school at the University of Illinois. After two years there, I received a B.S. in 1983 and then the DVM in 1985.
I am a board-certified large animal internal medicine specialist and receive patients with students, interns and residents in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. I also have a Ph.D. in physiology from UGA, earned in 1990, that facilitates my role as a clinician scientist studying the diseases of my patients.
I hold the Fuller E. Callaway Endowed Chair and am a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor.
What are your favorite courses, and why?
I sincerely enjoy all of the courses I teach, but my biggest thrill is to teach students in the clinic and to experience their education coming full circle. Being involved in didactic lecture courses is just the beginning of preparing our students for the real world. What we teach them there we get to see in action in the clinical setting. Likewise, they get to see me practice what I teach. I will never tire of experiencing the eureka moments of students when they get excited about seeing something firsthand and for the first time. Lecturing in a classroom sets the stage for transfer of knowledge, but to be in charge of supervising students as they use that knowledge for important decision-making actions in the clinical arena is an enormous responsibility and an experience that is priceless.
When did you come to UGA, and what brought you here?
In 1985, I was an intern in large animal medicine and surgery at North Carolina State University. I was interested in pursuing large animal internal medicine board certification and a PhD. At that time, the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia was one of only three institutions in the United States that offered both degrees in a combined training program. When I came to campus to interview for the position, I met with two key faculty members who impressed me so profoundly that I left the campus wondering that if I camped out at the doors of the vet school, would they get the idea that my intent was to come there? Fortunately, I was accepted into the program, and I was even more blessed with then having Dr. Jim Moore (a future Distinguished Research Professor) as my major professor and Dr. Suzi White (a future Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor) as my internal medicine mentor. It really can’t get any better than that as far as mentorship is concerned.
What interests you about your field?
I think I have the best job in the entire world. I get to teach, practice my learned specialty of internal medicine, serve the public, do research and interact daily with an incredible group of colleagues and a motivated and talented student body. No two days are the same, and boredom simply is never a part of the picture.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching?
The simultaneous training that I received in large animal internal medicine with a graduate degree in physiology prepared me well for an academic teaching appointment. I was trained in an environment doing the same things that I would someday be expected to do as a faculty member. The specialty training in internal medicine complements my research interests as I am most intrigued by the diseases I see in my clinical patients. When seeing patients, my research training complements problem-solving skills, integration of facts and findings and mapping out a plan to solve the mystery behind the challenging cases that get referred to UGA.
Describe your ideal student.
I have to be truthful here. We are working with already proven top-notch scholars before we start educating our students for their desired profession. It is very competitive to be accepted into the College of Veterinary Medicine. So I know that our students are highly intelligent. It actually makes my job pretty easy. In the clinical setting, I look for the added qualities of professionalism, compassion, honesty, a solid work ethic and a sincere effort to move down a pathway of independence. Our students are literally stuffed with information during the first three years of their time here. In their last clinical year, they make an important transition from learner to doer. I like to see a student actively engaged in a case to the point of taking charge. We are right by their sides the entire way, so if they get a little off course, we can steer them back to the right path. I smile internally when a student displays genuine disappointment if they erroneously venture down the wrong path when making a decision. I then know that their sincere concern about their education will protect them from going down the wrong path in the future. One of my favorite lines in the clinic is, “Well if you knew it all now, there would be no purpose to my being here!”
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
…to have rounds with the students at the creamery on a hot summer day.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
…try to keep up with my husband John, our daughters Amanda (17), Julie (16), Samantha (15) and Kaitlin (11), and their six horses, three cats and three dogs. With soccer, basketball, horseback riding competitions, volleyball, cross country, band, farm chores, etc., there is never a dull moment in our household!
Proudest moment at UGA?
I have had many proud moments at the University of Georgia; but, quite honestly, the most humbling and rewarding experience is recognition that comes directly from the students.