Class of 2021: 6 questions with Dr. Lisa Gamsjaeger

The Veterinary Medicine PhD graduate shares how graduate school is like repairing a uterine prolapse in a cow, and whose office at the Spy Hill campus she’ll stop by when she visits from Zurich
Lisa Gamsjaeger
Lisa Gamsjaeger

This is part of series of articles where we asked the fall cohort of the class of 2021 to reflect on their time at the university and share what they learned and loved about their time here. For more student responses, visit Congratulations, Class of 2021.

Dr. Lisa Gamsjaeger graduated with a PhD in veterinary medicine in fall 2021. She took a few minutes to answer our questions about her time at the University of Calgary. 

What advice would you give yourself on your first day of university?   

I would tell myself that going through graduate school is like repairing a uterine prolapse in a cow. You will need a lot of patience and you must trust that the outcome will be good, even when it doesn't feel like it. It can be a big struggle. There will be sweat and there may be tears. But just when it really, really seems impossible and you want to give up, everything will fall into place, quite literally, and that feeling makes it all worthwhile.  

Is there a project, discovery or moment from your time at the university that you are most proud of? 

When I first started at the University of Calgary, I set a somewhat ambitious goal to complete my PhD program in three years. My dream was always to get a faculty position in a veterinary teaching hospital where I could use both my clinical and research skills as well as teach, but I was worried I would lose my clinical knowledge if I stayed out of clinics for too long. It took a while to convince my supervisor that my timeline was going to be possible, without sacrificing the quality of the research. In the end, I did it and I even published three of my four thesis chapters prior to my defence. I am proud of that. 

Tell us about one person who supported you through your studies and powered you along the way.    

I was always very inspired by Dr. Munashe Chigerwe, who supervised and mentored me during my large animal internal medicine residency at University of California Davis before I came to the University of Calgary. He is not only a great clinician and researcher, but also the best teacher and, overall, just a really great person. He was also the one who first got me interested in passive immunity in calves, as he had made a big impact in this field of study where he focused on dairy calves. He continued to support and motivate me throughout my PhD here in Calgary. He always believed in me, which I am incredibly grateful for. 

What was the most unexpected or surprising thing you learned in your studies at the University of Calgary?  

If someone would have told me five years ago I would say this, I would have not believed it, but: I started loving epidemiology. Being supervised by an epidemiologist with a lot of passion for the topic and living through a global pandemic completely changed my perspective, and really highlighted to me how important and also how challenging this area of study is. Kudos to all the epidemiologists out there! 

What is your favourite physical space on campus? When you come back to visit in years to come, where will you make sure to stop by?  

I made a lot of great memories in my supervisor Dr. Claire Windeyer's office at Spy Hill campus. I would certainly stop by there first and check out the newest developments on her always-exciting whiteboard and hopefully have coffee with her! Second, I would head over to the clinical skills/large animal handling lab space and say hello to everyone. Particularly the food animal faculty (whose) staff members felt like family to me during my time in Calgary and I will miss them dearly. 

Now what? What’s your next big move?   

I was very lucky and got a faculty position at the Vetsuisse University of Zurich, a place I always wanted to work at. I will mainly be teaching and supervising students and residents on the clinic floor, but there is also a research component. I am very excited for this new chapter of my life. 


Congratulations, Class of 2021

Read more Q-and-As from fall 2021 graduates.