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Jacob Thiel

Stars of Stanford Medicine: Caring for the animals that advance human health

Jacob Theil, a resident in laboratory animal medicine, is featured in this Stars of Stanford Medicine installment. A clinician and a researcher, Theil spends time with his wife and son, playing video games and visiting breweries on his days off.

Los Angeles-native Jacob Theil, DVM, talks quickly and enthusiastically about his work. He came to Stanford two years ago, drawn by its well-regarded, and small, residency in laboratory animal medicine. Now, he's one of only three residents in the program.

I met with him recently to learn more.

How did you get interested in laboratory animal medicine?

From as far back as I can remember I loved animals. I went to vet school because I wanted to become a lab animal veterinarian. I like the idea of advocating for the animals being used in research to help with human health. I get to work with animals I love, support animal welfare and I'm able to do my own research too.

What are you working on today?

I’m studying aggression in mice, infections in non-human primates and anti-parasitics in frogs.

I also review protocols for rodent welfare.

What is the biggest challenge in your field?

I think it’s getting people to understand what we do. When you say you are a veterinarian everyone thinks about dogs and cats. People don't realize how many animals are used in biomedical research and that these animals are treated well. There’s a long process to review the use of animals. The researchers and care staff and veterinary staff respect and really care for these animals and don't just take them for granted.

What is your ultimate career goal?

My ultimate career goal to be either a staff or faculty veterinarian at a research institution.

I love working with primates so a primate center would be a great place to work — in general just to continue clinical and research work for the rest of my career.

How do you unwind?

I have a wife and baby son, Ari; he's a great little kid. They live in Davis and I see them on the weekend.

I am a video game nerd — I particularly like role-playing games. I love movies, and I'm a beer aficionado and a big fan of India pale ale.

Do you have a scientist or veterinarian you look up to?

I've always admired the work of Kathryn Bayne, PhD, DVM. She's a laboratory animal veterinarian and an animal welfare specialist.

What are you reading now?

I'm reading The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett — it's a fantasy.

What do you like to listen to?

I like hip-hop, jazz, rock. My dad was a music librarian at the University of California, Los Angeles, when I was growing up, so I've learned to like a lot of different things.

What is most fulfilling about your job?

I think the most fulfilling part is knowing the animals I’m working with are being used for the betterment of society. I love my job.

Photo by Becky Bach

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