Visiting Veterinarian

Welcome the mobile vet

By Michele Gerhard Jasny V.M.D. - February 2, 2006

"What's my favorite part of veterinary practice?" Dr. Tuminaro pondered thoughtfully. "Seeing the animal happy. You just get that feeling when they come up to you after and they have that happy look." Dr. David Tuminaro has recently opened his new practice, Caring For Animals (CFA), here on the Island, offering house and farm calls for large and small animals. He is awaiting the imminent arrival of a Mobile Veterinary Unit that will serve as his office. When Caring For Animals arrives in your driveway, the Mobile Unit provides a unique set of options. Dr. T can carry his little black bag into your house and see your pet right in your living room, or he can welcome you into the Mobile Veterinary Unit. Inside, there is an exam room, complete with table and sink, a surgery suite, and X-ray machine and developer. This is the first time a complete mobile veterinary facility of this type will be offered on the Vineyard.

Raised in a smallish town in New York State, Dr. Tuminaro decided he wanted to be a veterinarian in the fourth grade. By the time he got to Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, he thought he would consider other professions, and explored such fields as marine biology. But after graduating with a B.S. in Biology, David went to work for a veterinarian and immediately recognized that this was his love, this is what he wanted to do. He had met his other love, Eve Heyman, while in college. Eve and David stayed in touch as they pursued their careers. Eve became a teacher and moved to Martha's Vineyard, where she works as a math teacher at the Oak Bluffs School. David went off to England to attend The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) at the University of London.

"It was a unique experience, living abroad," Dr. Tuminaro says. "I thought it would be easy since they speak English but the language is really different. It was like, "Okay, I understand every word but I don't know what you are saying." Dr. Tuminaro's degree is a BvetMed, MRCVS. That stands for Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine, Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. This doesn't mean that he specialized in surgery. The word "surgeon" in this context in Great Britain means "doctor"...only they don't use the title "doctor" for veterinarians. In England, he would still be called Mister Tuminaro. In the United States, students go to four years of undergraduate school, then a four-year veterinary graduate program. In Great Britain, young people start their veterinary tracking in high school, and then go directly to veterinary school for five years. For some Americans who go to veterinary school abroad, additional training is required in order to be licensed in the United States. The RVC, however, is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Once Dr. Tuminaro graduated, he simply had to take the same licensing tests required of veterinarians trained here at home, the National and State Boards.

"There is more basic animal husbandry in the curriculum in Great Britain," Dr. Tuminaro reports. "We spend more time hanging out with the farmers, milking the cows, learning about the day-to-day care. Otherwise, it's very similar to the U.S. schools. No matter where you practice, you're going to have to learn the local diseases."

Vineyard vetting
Although Caring For Animals is new to the Island, Dr. Tuminaro is not. Over the years he spent his vacations here, visiting Eve, and working for veterinarians. When he graduated from RVC, he moved to the Vineyard, and Eve and he got married with a classic Island wedding at the Ag Hall. He then spent one year working part-time for Animal Health Care Associates and part-time for Dr. Jasny, followed by a second year full-time at Animal Health Care. He then had the opportunity to work at a well-respected practice on the Cape. Buzzards Bay Veterinary Associates is a general practice that is affiliated with Cape Cod Veterinary Specialists, a referral practice staffed with board-certified specialists as well as other veterinarians. The two practices currently share a facility. Dr. Tuminaro split his time between the two, doing half general practice and half emergency work. "I enjoyed the exposure," he says of his year on the Cape. "I'm glad I was able to have that but it's not what I want to be doing full-time. I like general practice. I like having time to talk to the clients and get to know the people and the pets, not just seeing them when they are sick or injured, or patching them up when they have an emergency."

Dr. Tuminaro is happy to establish his own practice here. He likes living on the Vineyard. "I have always wanted to be in a small town, but like some things about city living. Here on the Vineyard, three months out of the year you get the traffic, the congestion. You get the city living," he says with a smile. "There have been other 'mobile practices' on the Vineyard but this is the first time there will be an actual mobile unit complete with its own exam room and surgery to go to the house. It's convenient. You don't have to wait in the vet's office," Dr. Tuminaro continues. "You may have to wait for me to come, but you can do things around the house." When asked if he has any special interests, Dr. Tuminaro says he enjoys working with exotics and welcomes calls from clients with everything from lizards to cockatoos. In veterinary school, he spent time at The London Zoo and Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island. "The vets in a zoo tend to move around in a pack," he says, telling the story of a polar bear with an injured ear. The bear apparently remembered the veterinarians, not too fondly. "You always know they're big animals, but when they growl, it puts the hair up on the back of your neck. The steel bars do not seem thick enough." Another time Dr. Tuminaro helped sedate a monkey and remove a porcupine quill from its hand, but one of his fondest memories is from before vet school when he was still living with his parents. The family was about to set off on a long car trip when they spotted a skunk with a yogurt container stuck on its head. In spite of his father's warnings that he was going to get sprayed (and make that long car trip exceeding unpleasant), Dave wanted to help. Carefully approaching the skunk, he removed the yogurt container without a problem, and then hopped in the car, unsullied.

Dr. Tuminaro's father is a pharmacist, still running his own business in New York State. When Dave grew a long ponytail, like many of his English classmates, his father told him clients might not care to see a "long-haired hippie." All of his classmates cut their locks right before graduation, except Dave, who has kept his signature ponytail and beard. As with the skunk, his father's fears were unfounded. "It doesn't seem to be a problem," Dr. Tuminaro remarks about his hair. "What is hard is when the vet and the client have different expectations, or have trouble communicating well."

Although he misses his friends in England and the fried food at the pubs, which he says he loves more than chocolate, Dr. Tuminaro is excited about his new practice and glad to be settled in with Eve and their cats, Three, Spitfire, and Charm. Caring For Animals can be reached for appointments at 508-696-5897.