The Yukon Quest veterinary team is responsible for the most important part of the race- the health of the 650 or so dogs that will start in 2017.
Dr. Nina Hansen: Head Veterinarian
Nina recently received her Ph.D. from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, studying infectious diseases. Her main interest is in wildlife diseases, and those transmitted from animals to people (zoonotic disease). This will be her eighth Yukon Quest and her third as Head Vet. She believes a solid training program, good nutrition, and knowing your dogs as individuals are the most important aspects of excellent sled dog care. A special race memory was at Pelly Crossing, talking to a musher for half an hour about foot ointments. He was tending his dogs and cold, hungry, and hadn’t slept in days. But in that moment, when dealing with a minor foot issue in a dog, it didn’t matter to him. He wanted to learn as much as he could to make the best decision for his dog.
Alan Taylor: Race Veterinarian
New South Wales, Australia
This is Alan’s second Yukon Quest, and he has been a trail vet for five Iditarod’s since 2008. Performance animals have become his favorite area of veterinary medicine, he believes knowledgeand close attention by the musher, with help from the trail vets, is the most important aspect of excellent sled dog care. A race memory that Alan believes shows excellence in canine care, was when a team was reduced to six dogs just over half way in the race and the musher gave his dogs such great care and attention, they went on to finish the 1,000 miles.
Andrew Haertel: Race Veterinarian
Andrew loves sled dog medicine because of the respect the dogs receive from their owners. The mushers understand their animals on a whole other level. Last year, he volunteered with the Copper Basin 300, and this is his fourth Yukon Quest. He believes the ability of mushers and veterinarians to adapt to changing conditions throughout a long race is the most important aspect of excellent sled dog care and is looking forward to a safe race for all.
Megan Hoffman: Veterinary Assistant
Megan has an MSc in biology and works for the UAF Dept of Veterinary Medicine. She’s helped the last few years at the pre-race vet checks in Alaska as well as being responsible for collecting samples from the dogs for testing. She claimed the title of ‘Urine Catcher Extraordinaire’ in 2016. She fondly remembers getting to see the communities really come together to support the mushers, handlers, and the vet team.
Thorsten Hahn: Race Veterinarian
Thorsten was a trail vet for the 2015 race and has volunteered for the Copper Basin 300. He believes the most important aspect of excellent sled dog care is to knowing the dogs as individuals, and observing the running team all the time. Watching the mushers take care of their dogs before themselves is very important as well. He’s looking forward to seeing the unique people that can only be found at this amazing event, the mushers, handlers, volunteers, fellow vets and, of course, the amazing dogs.
Lori-Jo Gamble: Race Veterinarian
A first year resident in Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, she also has a Certification in Canine Physical Rehabilitation (CCRP) from the University of Tennessee. Gait, mobility and pain control are her favorite areas of veterinary medicine. Her first race, she’s looking forward to expanding her experience with this very special group of performance athletes. She has previously worked with agility and police/army dogs and believes appropriate nutrition and physical conditioning, with plenty of loving care, are very important and she’s looking forward to seeing this on the trail.
Greta M. Krafsur: Race Veterinarian
Fort Collins, CO
Her third year on the trail, Greta believes a good physical exam and above all, listening to mushers and handlers is the most important aspect of excellent sled dog care. “I only see a snapshot of the dogs at checkpoints while mushers know these dogs as individuals. When we all work together as a team everyone wins.” A trained pathologist, she is happiest interacting with the cow-calf producers and feed yard managers as well as getting to work with sled dogs, mushers and handlers. In 2011, she was awarded the Doc Lombard Scholarship and did a study on sled dogs in the 2012 Iditarod.
Mercedes Pinto: Race Veterinarian
Initially asked to join the vet team by a friend, this is her sixth race and Mercedes believes that a caring and attentive musher is the most important aspect of excellent sled dog care. Many times she’s seen a musher turn around because the last checkpoint was closer, and they were worried about a dog. She’s excited to be a part of the incredible camaraderie again. When not volunteering for sled dog races around the Fairbanks area, Mercedes loves emergency medicine because it provides the biggest challenges and the most reward.
Donna Russell-Swope “DRS”: Veterinary Assistant
Paxson Lake, AK
The Vet Check Coordinator in Alaska for several years, this will be DRS’s eighth year as a vet Assistant on the Yukon Quest trail and the Copper Basin 300. Some of her favorite memories include when rookie mushers, who she’s worked with on shorter, qualifying races, come across the line and complete the first Yukon Quest. She looks forward every year to seeing old friends along the trail in the communities and helping the mushers and Vet Team in the many ways she can.
Wendy Kane: Veterinary Technician
Wendy enjoys working in emergency and critical care for the fast pace, intensity of the work and the variety of cases. Her favorite memory from last year was Laura Neese crossing the finish line to everyone singing “You Are My Sunshine” - the song Laura was always whistling to her dogs as she got them ready. She was very impressed with the care that the dogs received on the trail last year saying, “The mushers are so in tune with their dogs and take such excellent care of their dogs. It makes the Veterinary Team’s job so much easier.”
Noel Kubat: Race Veterinarian
Noel was a vet on the 2015 Copper Basin, and worked at pre-race vet checks to prepare for her first Yukon Quest. She is a Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Medicine and believes the most important aspect of excellent sled dog care is the physical conditioning of the dogs to include endurance, nutrition, and preventative medical care. Noel’s looking forward to supporting the dedicated mushers and their teams, she’s seen more than one instance when a musher scratches a dog from a run before a vet recommended it. The mushers know their dogs!
Stephanie Crawford: Veterinary Technician
Her second year on the trail, Stephanie’s looking forward to helping ensure as many paws as possible cross the finish line in Fairbanks. Her favorite areas of veterinary medicine are nutrition and physical therapy. She’s so impressed when she asks a musher how their team is doing and gets a detailed observation of how each dog, in each position, performed on the last run. The attention to detail and note of subtle changes tells her the musher will know quickly if any of their team needs veterinary attention.
John Overell: Race Veterinarian
Dawson City, YT
John has been volunteering since 1999 and still helps every year. He believes that knowing and understanding your dogs is the most important aspect of excellent canine care. The first time John drove a dog team, it was through overflow. He fell over, did not let go, and was told he was a “natural” musher because he did not let go! John loves to watch healthy teams arrive at the checkpoints and is looking forward to gaining more experiences with his fellow vets.
Hayden Nevill: Race Veterinarian
Hayden has been a vet for mid-distance races including the Gin Gin, the Copper Basin 300, and the Top of the World. He was a rookie last year and he thought being weathered in at Slavens was fantastic. Favorite memories of races are when mushers tell him about something they have seen in a dog on their team and it turns out to be something small but significant. Every race he has mushers give him bits of information that help make adjustments that prevent significant problems. It’s great to be able to treat problems, but even better to prevent them entirely!
Molly Yazwinski: Race Veterinarian
Molly enjoys general practice as her favorite area of veterinary medicine giving her the opportunity to see a variety of cases. Her major areas of interest are sports medicine, nutrition and oncology. This will be her third Yukon Quest and she is looking forward to working with sled dogs, seeing old friends and experiencing the atmosphere of the trail. Molly believes training is the most important aspect of sled dog care.
Hector Gutierrez: Race Veterinarian
Hector is an army veterinarian, currently studying to be an epidemiologist. . His favorite areas of veterinary medicine are small animal and population medicine. He believes the most important aspect of excellent sled dog care is the mushers love for their dogs. He’s watched many of them make decisions based on the best interests of the dogs, not the finish. Hector’s had huskies for 25 years and loves the cold and snow. He’ll never forget the predawn quiet as teams rested and prepped at the Copper Basin 300 in 2015. He’s looking forward to making new friends on the trail.
Liz Graves: Veterinary Technician
Liz is a CVT and would like to specialize in anesthesia, dentistry, or rehabilitative sports medicine. She considers it a privilege and honor to be part of the team that makes sure these amazing canine athletes stay healthy and strong. She believes there are many important aspects to good dog care; food/nutrition, preventive care/vet care, training, hydration, the list is endless. She believes a big part of it comes down to knowing your dogs. For example, knowing when the gait of the dog is different and appropriately addressing the problem if there is one.