Friday, April 15, 2022
Media Contact: Kaylie Wehr | College of Veterinary Medicine | 405-744-6740 | [email protected]
Dr. John Otto, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, knew he wanted to be a veterinarian since he was 8 years old.
“I once asked my mom, ‘Do animals have doctors?'” Otto said. “She said, ‘Yeah, they’re called vets,’ and I said, ‘Well, that’s it, I want to be a vet.
Otto was named Oklahoma’s 2022 Veterinarian of the Year by the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association.
“It’s a great honor because it’s your peers who vote and when your colleagues say you’re doing a good job, it’s always nice,” Otto said. “It validates a lot of the work I’ve done.”
The transformational relationship between humans and animals is what drew Otto to veterinary medicine. Frequently moving as a child, he always found solace in his animal relationships.
“The human-animal bond is something that really intrigues me because it helped me a lot with all the moves and the tough times,” Otto said. “This relationship is very powerful.”
Although he applied to veterinary schools all over the country, it was at Oklahoma State University that Otto decided he belonged. He graduated from DVM in 1990.
Little did he know that Oklahoma would give him much more than an education. It was here that Otto met his wife and settled down.
“When I was entering my senior year, Patty was on a tour of University Hospital with a classmate friend, I saw her and the rest is history,” he said. “She’s from Norman, so that was the main reason for moving here. I love Oklahoma – it’s my home now.
After settling in Norman, Otto established the University Veterinary Hospital in 1995. In addition to owning his own practice, Otto also volunteers with numerous organizations and mentoring programs, including the Animal Welfare Committee, Friends for Folks and the Moore-Norman Technology career shadowing program.
“I was chairman of the Animal Welfare Committee for 10 years and we pushed through the Neutering and Neutering of the Indigent Legislation to help people on low incomes get their animals spayed or spayed,” he said. -he declares. “Our committee also pushed through current animal abuse legislation and worked on puppy mill legislation. These kinds of things that I find really important in our profession, I have been able to work on them, so it’s really neat.
Friends for Folks matches “non-adoptable” dogs from shelters and humanitarian organizations with inmates trained as dog trainers. The dogs are then placed with people who need companionship, such as the elderly and veterans.
“I started volunteering at the Lexington Correctional Facility in 1996 and watching the transformation that happens with an animal and an inmate when they meet is a very beautiful thing,” Otto said. “I also work a lot with children whose parents are incarcerated.
Otto has also co-authored three children’s books with his son, Payton, based on his experiences volunteering within the prison system: ‘Sarge: The Veteran’s Best Friend’, ‘Marvin’s Rising Star’ and ‘Marvin’s Gift’.
Student mentoring is also close to Otto’s heart.
“There was a vet I met in Virginia who was very nice and supportive,” Otto said. “I asked a lot of questions and he took the time to answer them for me and that’s what I always tried to do, take the time to encourage the students and help them. I always say I have an open door for them. They can still come in and observe.
Otto encourages those considering a career in veterinary medicine to get started.
“It’s the greatest profession there is because you work with animals that you absolutely love and you work with people,” he said. “This relationship between animal and person is so strong and powerful and it’s a privilege to be a part of it and to facilitate it, because when you help the animal, you help the person.”
He also gave some practical advice.
“The main thing is that you want to be sure this is the profession you want,” Otto said. “I tell people to try and get a job in a veterinary hospital, get some experience and be sure that’s what you want to do. And most importantly, improve your grades and hone those study skills.
From seeing clients in his practice to volunteering, Otto has dedicated his career to fostering human-animal relationships and bringing about positive change for humans and animals.
“I’m so grateful to be a veterinarian,” he said. “It’s been a dream since I was 8 and I really thank God every day that I had the opportunity to do it. I hope I gave back as much as he gave me.