We are very excited to present our interview with Dr. James Morrisey as the third interview in our on-going series.
Dr. Morrisey could you please introduce yourself?
I am currently a Senior Lecturer at Cornell University and the head of the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine Service. I teach about exotic pets and zoological species in the clinics, the class room and in the field. I also teach communication skills here at Cornell. In my free time I sing, dance and act as well as teach aerobics, cycle and eat out.
|Dr. Morrisey with a young Howler monkey in Honduras|
Hi Dr. Morrisey! Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Please introduce yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?
I grew up in Maryland outside of DC and Southern California, so consider myself bi-coastal! We moved to southern California when I was 11 so spent my formative teenage years in a nice, laid back beach community. I went to undergrad at the University of Maryland and majored in Zoology and Dance. I went to vet school at Cornell University.
Yes, I grew up going to zoos and loving wildlife and exotic animals so I always wanted to work with them in some form. I found I liked science and medicine so becoming a zoo vet became my goal. During my internship at Kansas State I found I really enjoyed the client contact and working with exotic pets, so now work mostly with those species and only do zoo/wildlife work when I’m travelling in Central and South America.
What is your most memorable experience in your career this far?
I have had a lot of great experiences in my job and feel very lucky to do what I do. I get to travel around the world, teaching and working in a variety of places. I’ve had some great experiences working in Central and South America lately. We take students on trips to Honduras and I’ve worked with a wildlife refuge in Bolivia that’s been very exciting.
I have been fairly blessed in my life and rarely have had negative experiences relating my sexuality. I am a positive person by nature and try to approach any situation with a positive attitude and find that works very well for me. I’ve found the field of veterinary medicine to be very accepting of the LGBTQ population, which isn’t surprising since it tends to attract smart, kind and caring people.
Do you have any advice for negotiating your first job, especially with issues like partner benefits?
My advice is to remain positive and accept yourself for who you are. If you act like being gay or asking for partner benefits is an ‘unusual’ request then it may be construed that way, but if you act like that’s the most natural thing in the world, it tends to be less of an issue. It’s no different than asking about benefits for your spouse if you’re a heterosexual couple.
Again, I think accepting yourself for who you are and realizing that it is simply one, very natural, part of what makes you the unique person you are will go a long way towards making it a non-issue. I think we get so stressed out and worked up in our minds about how to tell people but it’s really no different than telling people you’re ethnicity or the color of your hair. It’s simply a part of the whole package that is you.
Did you have any memorable LGBTQ mentors?
When I was in vet school, there were a few other students and faculty that were very helpful in getting me to accept my sexuality as another piece of the puzzle that makes me unique. Tom Graves and Larry Carbone were so easy going and accepting and just said “oh hi, you’re gay, cool, now let’s talk about this other cool thing..” it was really great to just be accepted and then treated like a friend.
What are your thoughts on the current climate for the LGBTQ community (e.g. with upcoming presidential elections, our current struggles for marriage equality, etc.)?
I think we are making progress slowly and steadily, which is the best way to go. Not forcing issues but not dropping them either. The best thing that each of us can do is just be a good person and open about our sexuality. It’s much harder for people to oppose and dislike that which they don’t know, so make friends in all areas of life especially those people that are very different from you. Treat them with the respect and openness with which you would like to be treated. I think that sends a powerful message.
What is your favorite non-veterinary pastime?
I’m an avid biker. I love to do multiple day, long distance rides for charities, it’s a great feeling to be working with people towards a common goal. I also love watching cheesy sci-fi and horror movies
Anything else you’d like to say?
Stay positive, stay fit and love what you do!
Thank you so much!