In the early 1990s, Michael Kent wanted to become a photojournalist, and this was one of several odd jobs he held in Los Angeles after graduating from Boston University with a political science degree. One time, as he photographed wild horses, he thought how fun it’d be to work with animals. He had the same thought when taking his dog to the vet.
Before long, Kent -- a native New Yorker -- was participating in the keeper-training program at the Los Angeles Zoo and taking biology classes on the side. He realized he wanted to become a veterinarian. He earned his DVM from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1997. He received a master’s of advanced study (MAS) degree in clinical research from UC Davis in 2006. During an internship at the University of Pennsylvania, he fell in love with oncology. “I really liked these veterinarians’ passion, dedication and long-term relationships with patients,” Kent says. Veterinary oncologists tend to work with patients over a long period of time and develop close relationships with the animal and their human companions.
Today, Kent serves as director of the CCAH. He considers his appointment, following Dr. Niels Pedersen (founding director), a huge honor. Kent is responsible for directing the school’s companion animal research programs through CCAH intramural funding and program development. He is also co-director of the Comparative Cancer Center, co-program leader for the UCDMC Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Comparative Oncology Program and a professor in the school’s Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences. He enjoys the balance of clinical work, teaching, research and service, which includes running the center. “Every day is different and challenging, and seeing the impact that the center has in the school and on animal health worldwide has been an amazing experience.”
Additionally, Kent serves as chair of the data safety monitoring board of the National Cancer Institute’s Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium. He has been involved in numerous studies of dogs and cats with cancer and has published more than 50 research papers. Sometimes research can be frustrating, until he remembers that the work he and his colleagues undertake has the potential to significantly benefit pets with cancer. “I get asked often, how can I do oncology?” Kent says. “Even on tough days, I can usually help so animals aren’t suffering.”
His best days on the job involve clients bringing their pets in for five-year rechecks, and the test results are clear. The toughest days involve a patient whose cancer suddenly metastasized and there’s nothing the veterinarians can do.
Kent’s love of animals extends to his own household, as well. He lives with his two cats, Zumi and Roo, along with a reef fish tank and captive-bred seahorses.