Veterinarian, Gulf Coast Veterinary Emergency Hospital
Major: B.S. Biology, 1992
Hometown: Diamondhead, Mississippi
Jennifer Lewando Sutton sets broken bones, cares for accident victims and patients with all kinds of illnesses - and none of them say a word. She's a veterinarian and partner at Gulf Coast Veterinary Emergency Hospital in Biloxi.
Sutton, B.S. 1992, knew she wanted a career working in a medical field and a class that she took as a sophomore at Millsaps College to learn about techniques for using microscopes confirmed it would be with animals. Sutton went to a Jackson veterinary clinic to obtain tissue samples that she could look at using an electron microscope in a class taught by Dr. David Lentz, and that's when she got an inside view of a veterinarian's clinic. "I'd never been behind-the-scenes at an animal hospital," she said.
She worked at North State Animal Hospital her senior year at Millsaps and also worked with a wildlife rescue group. "Dr. Adrian Whittington and Dr. Michael Fromm were great mentors," she said.
After graduating with a degree in biology, she worked from May 1992 until December 1995 as a research associate in the biomedical polymer chemistry lab at Louisiana State University Eye Clinic in New Orleans. She assisted with research to determine which medium would best prevent rejection during corneal transplants, tested materials used in vascular grafts in humans and conducted research that concerned attaching a prosthetic eye to the actual muscles in the eye for a more realistic appearance.
Even at the eye clinic, she wasn't far from animals. "I knew I wanted to go to vet school, so I really took an interest in working with monkeys and rabbits," she said.
During the time she worked at the eye clinic, she also worked on weekends and on weeknights as a technician at an animal emergency clinic in Metarie, La.
Sutton said she felt well prepared by her Millsaps when she was accepted into veterinary school at LSU in1994. She graduated in1998, and she and her husband, Jeffrey Sutton, also a veterinarian, lived in Cincinnati, Ohio and practiced at a progressive, high-tech clinic from 1999 until 2003.
The Suttons returned to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and opened Gulf Coast Veterinary Emergency Hospital in July 2003. Their practice was the last to close before Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 25, 2005, she said.
Sutton, who was pregnant at the time with twins, evacuated and returned home to nothing but a concrete slab where her home in Long Beach had once stood. The Suttons' clinic withstood Katrina and the Suttons debated about returning to Ohio where veterinarians who were friends had offered them work. They found that Katrina had left behind work for them because many pets left behind needed treatment. "We removed nails from their paws and treated lacerations and upset stomach aches, using supplies donated from all over the country and drive to the coast by the vet school at Mississippi State University," she said.
Gulf Coast Veterinary Clinic is open 24/7 and sees thousands of pets a year, she said. "We take calls from Alabama to the Louisiana line and as far north as Hattiesburg," she said.