College of Veterinary Medicine alumna
Dr. Juli D. Goldstein has been actively involved in the marine mammal field since she came to Auburn to study zoology in 1995. She obtained her degree in zoology in 1999 and later graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. Since then, Goldstein has completed extensive training courses and veterinary externships that focused exclusively on the husbandry, care, assessment and medical treatment of stranded and captive marine mammals. She also has trained at many marine facilities including the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Cali., Dolphin Quest Hawaii and Oahu, as well as the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Goldstein now serves as an instructor for the MARVET veterinary training program at Florida Atlantic University. In addition, she currently serves as the on-site clinical veterinarian for FAU, assistant research professor and attending clinical veterinarian for the FAU Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Goldstein is also the president and founder of the Stryder Cancer Foundation.
1. What is something unusual you've been involved with as a veterinarian?
I served on the research committee that helped develop a prosthetic tail for Winter, a bottlenose dolphin that suffered a traumatic injury when she was caught in a crab trap. Her story was featured in the 2011 film "Dolphin Tale". Her tail was donated by Hanger Clinic, the same company that developed the prosthetic limb for Emma, the miniature donkey foal. It was like six degrees of separation. When I saw the Auburn Veterinarian magazine feature, I emailed the staff at Hanger with whom I worked on Winter's tail and I said, "Your company was just at my alma mater!"
Because of my involvement with Winter, I was allowed to use one of her tail prototypes during my speaking engagements and was able to walk the blue carpet at the film's premiere in Los Angeles. Winter had five veterinarians and what's funny is most of them were women, but in the movie the veterinarian was played by Harry Connick Jr., so that's okay!
One of the greatest things to come from Winter's story was the gel developed to attach the tail. It is now used for amputees coming back from war to make their prosthetics more comfortable. You hear so many stories of children who feel defeated and have gone to see her and then they have a new lease on life. It was an honor to be part of all that.
2. What led you to create the Stryder Cancer Foundation?
Stryder was my golden retriever that I had when I attended Auburn. I say that he "went to vet school with me," as a joke, but he did come to class occasionally. I remember sitting in class learning about cancers and how goldens are very predisposed and I thought, "Well, my dog will never get cancer, but if he ever did, this is where I would come." One day, Stryder was just off. I immediately took him in to a clinic, ran tests and discovered he had a mass in his spleen. In two days we were at Auburn's veterinary college. We went through a whole process; every three weeks we drove up from Vero Beach, Fla., for his chemo and about three months later I lost him. It was the worst day of my life. Being a veterinarian and not being able to fix your own dog is hard. This was my first experience with that and it was such a learning experience, but it was horrible. I went through all the stages of grief that I never experienced as a veterinarian and clinician. I felt a little bit hopeless and I wanted to turn a negative situation into a positive, which is why I founded the Stryder Cancer Foundation to provide emotional and financial support to people whose animals have been diagnosed with canine cancer. There's Care Credit and other resources, but I wanted it to be something people didn't have to worry about paying back.
I'm working right now to raise a lot of money to get the foundation off the ground. Our first event is called the "Wag Strong-Wag Along." It's a one-mile run for participants and their dogs in Melbourne Beach, Fla., on Feb. 2. This will be our kick-off event and all proceeds will go to the foundation. Our longterm goal is to have a nationwide, free grief counseling hotline.
3. What made you choose a run as your foundation's kick-off event?
I love being active. I trained to compete in the 2009 Boston Marathon and the 2011 Jungle Run in Brazil, and I continue to participate in marathons and ultramarathons across the country. I recently completed two 50-mile ultramarathons and one 100-mile.
My other vision for the Stryder Cancer Foundation is to be the "Livestrong for animals" and have running events all over the country to raise money and awareness for canine cancer and grief counseling. So, we're starting on a local level. In Vero Beach, Fla., we're starting a pet loss bereavement group, not just for people who have lost their animals to cancer, but to anything. I need it just as much as anyone else.
4. How do you raise awareness for your veterinary passions?
I have been involved in pageants since I was a teenager and in May 2012, I was crowned Ms. Florida US Continental. This August I will participate for the national Ms. US Continental title. I use pageantry as a platform to raise awareness of the Stryder Cancer Foundation and my other philanthropic efforts. What I've found is people are very used to hearing a veterinarian talk about medical aspects and cancer, but then they see someone with a crown on her head who happens to be a veterinarian and it's such an unusual combination that it makes them take a second look. That's why I do it; it's a great megaphone. When I was crowned Ms. Florida 2009, I used my title to raise awareness for my marine conservation work, but now I use my platform more for the Stryder Cancer Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs. I'm so happy I'm able to use pageantry as a tool to impress upon young women that as a beauty queen you don't just walk around and look pretty, but you actually make a difference in your community. You can be the doctor, you can be the philanthropist and you can still enjoy putting on the sparkly clothes and crown.
5. How did your Auburn education help you succeed?
I've had kind of an interesting life so far. It's tough because there are so many different directions I go in, but it just goes to show with a degree and support like I've received at Auburn, you can do anything. I want people to see that, especially the kids who come to me and say, "I want to be a dolphin vet." Well, you can do that, but you can do so many other things, too. Still to this day, Auburn is my family and my support system and it will always be. There is simply no better university and nobody I trust like the friends and faculty at Auburn.