By Christie Elwin (’12)
A tiny bat named Jorge has recovered from a successful eye surgery, thanks to veterinary ophthalmologist and UT alumna Elizabeth Adkins.
During the fifteen-minute surgery at the Hope Center in Vienna, Virginia, Adkins used an “operating microscope” to remove one of Jorge’s eyes that had become dangerously infected. Earlier attempts to cure the infection with antibiotics proved unsuccessful.
“Jorge’s job is to visit school groups and teach people why bats are not bad. So I wanted to do the surgery to help him continue his job,” Adkins says. “The children he visits love him, so there was some pressure for me that I can’t let Jorge die!”
Jorge was a model outpatient. He quickly recovered from the eye surgery, which is thought to be the first of its kind performed on a bat in the U.S.
Jorge, an adult hoary bat, is now back at work at Bat World NOVA, an organization in Annandale, Virginia, that promotes the conservation and protection of the region’s bats.
“At his last recheck he was doing great, and from my perspective, it was really a privilege to do the surgery,” says Adkins.
A classically trained pianist, Adkins originally pursued a career in music. But a lack of job opportunities and developing arthritis opened the door for a new career path.
“My husband convinced me to try vet medicine,” says Adkins, who always had a passion for animals. She began taking classes at UT’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1993.
“Dan Ward and Diane Hendricks were two amazing professors and great teachers that I had at UT,” she says. “They really made me love the topic of ophthalmology, so that led me to specializing.”
After graduating with a doctorate in veterinary medicine, Adkins completed a master’s in pharmacology at North Carolina State University before returning to UT in 2001 to conduct her residency.
Now a board-certified ophthalmologist, Adkins accepted a position in 2009 with the Hope Center for Advanced Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Virginia.
“Everything fell into place beautifully with this job,” says Adkins. “I went into veterinary medicine to help pets and help people, and I want to stay here.”
As the staff ophthalmologist at the Hope Center, Adkins has performed eye surgery on monkeys, horses, cows, goats, a camel, and, now, Jorge the bat.
Adkins lives with her husband in Virginia, where they enjoy taking their three dogs for walks and trying tasty new foods and delicious wine.