Welcome to The People of Animal Health Podcast. The host of our podcast is Stacy Pursell. Stacy is the leading executive recruiter for the animal health industry and a veterinary profession. She’s the founder of Therio Partners and the Vet Recruiter. Stacy has placed more professionals in key positions within the animal health industry and the veterinary profession, than any executive search professional.
Along the way, Stacy has built relationships with some outstanding people, who are doing incredible things to make a difference. The People of Animal Health Podcast, features industry leaders and the trailblazers, who have made a significant impact, or are making an impact in the animal industry or the veterinary profession. Stacy chats with them to learn more about their lives, their careers, and the unique and interesting thing that they have done to contribute to the animal health industry or veterinary profession. She’s here to share their stories with you. Now here’s the host of our podcast, Stacy Pursell.
Hello everyone, and welcome to The People of Animal Health Podcast. On today’s show, we are talking with Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black. Judy is an experienced intellectual property attorney, whose experience includes both private and corporate practice. As head of intellectual property for Merial Limited, now Boehringer Ingelheim, she headed a global IT department, responsible for drafting and prosecuting patent applications.
While she led the litigation team for the enforcement of the Global Patent Portfolio, after 22 years with Merial, BI, Dr. Jarecki-Black joined Smith, Gambrell and Russell, to lead the biotech practice group. Her practice includes patent, prosecution, as well as providing patent strategy, preparing opinions, including for invalidity and infringement, and participating in due diligence activities for her clients. Welcome on to The People of Animal Health Podcast. And how are you today, Judy?
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
Thank you very much, Stacy. And I’m, I’m well. A little bit nervous, but well, and I very much appreciate, um, this opportunity to talk with you.
Well, I’m so excited to have you here, and you mentioned you were nervous, and I told you before the show started, I said, “You sued major pharmaceutical companies. That’s something I would be nervous about.” Uh, this is so easy compared to, to that Judy. And Judy, I know you have had an incredible and very successful career, and you’re involved in so many interesting things. I would love to start off right now at the bottom, in the very beginning of your career, what was your life like growing up, and where did you grow up?
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
So, I, I grew up, um, I was fortunate to have a, an exposure, um, to, to not only the US but also to Europe, so, um, in Ireland. Um, but I came to the US permanently and, um, grew up originally at the beginning in New Mexico, which was a big shock. Um, and I say a big shock because it’s a beautiful area, but the change from green, lots of rain, um, that sort of a climate to a very arid desert climate was a, was a shock, but the food more than made up for it.
And, um, shortly thereafter though, I went, um, I, I originally was planning to attend, uh, university in British Columbia, and went up there and found that it was a little bit too cold for me. So I ended up totally accidentally in Charleston, South Carolina, because a friend was there and, and said, “This has everything you want. It’s got rain, it’s got nice temperatures, they’ve got a college, they’ve got medical school, blah, blah, blah.” So I went to, to Charleston, and I stayed there many years. Most of my children were born in Charleston, and then gradually moved to, to Georgia again because of a career move. Um, so in some ways I’m still southern, but instead of being southern Irish, I’m southern US. Um, but it, but it’s been a, a really interesting, um, trajectory.
Well, I have always wanted to visit Charleston, South Carolina. I have not been there yet. It’s, it’s on my list, on my bucket list.
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
And I don’t blame you for wanting to go to warm weather. I don’t like the cold either, so I’d rather live in the, in the warm than the cold. Well, I am curious, when did you first figure out what you wanted to do professionally?
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
Well, some people would say, I never figured it out, Stacy, because originally, even as a young child, um, when I didn’t remember, uh, I’m told by, by people that I always said I wanted to be a physician. And that was originally my trajectory. I went, um, um, from college and, uh, um, was intending to stay… Um, I went to medical school, was intending to stay in clinical practice. But it’s amazing because so much of my life has been guided by totally random events, some good, some bad. While I was there, I worked with a fascinating man who was a parasitologist, which is not a very common thing, um, when you’re not in a tropical climate.
And unfortunately, um, Dr. Holbrook became ill with, with cancer and died fairly quickly. A young man, he, he was in his 40s. So that, however, the work that I did with him got me really interested in this idea that there, there are approaches to tropical diseases. We were working with leishmania donovani. Dr. Holbrook was also an expert in malaria. Um, there are approaches to tropical diseases that would be really exciting now, because in most cases, those are not things that you think of as vaccine targets because the, the, um, pathogens are so complex.
So after, because I continued with the work that Dr. Holbrook started, I became more and more interested in looking at a research, uh, career, at least part of my career. And so then I obtained a PhD in molecular biology and began to look very seriously using molecular tools to develop a vaccine, not only for leishmania, but for some of the other, um, infectious organisms. And that’s what began, you know, the, the whole, uh, the whole quest for a vaccine against other organisms that had not successfully been targeted previously.
Well, and that is so interesting. And I, you know, I was wondering about that, about how, how you got into the animal health industry. And I also know that you developed the first recombinant vaccine in the animal health industry. So I’d love to hear about your early days in the animal health industry and how you came to develop the first recombinant vaccine.
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
Well, that’s also what brought me to Georgia. While I was at, uh, um, the medical university, and I was approached and I was fortunate enough to be granted a, a National Institutes of Health postdoc fellowship, and, um, specifically in the field of, of, um, parasitology, tropical medicine. And so I had a position offered to me in Georgia, and I went down and, and it was kind of a, a labor of love. And I say that because Dr. Holbrook actually attained his PhD at the University of Georgia. And one of the people who offered me the position, Dr. Ray Damien, was, uh, knew Tom and, and, um, was very impressed by him.
So I sort of felt that this was a, a push that this is where I should go. So I, I was able to work with several different people at UGA. And in doing so, totally by accident, I came into contact with someone at the predecessor company to, to Merial, which was called Rhone-Merieux. And Rhone-Merieux is a French company, but, um, Don Hildebrand established the US company in Athens, Georgia. And, um, again, this was totally accidentally, my oldest son was working for the summer at Rhone-Merieux and played, um, soccer with the head of R&D, Dr. Mark Mackowiak. And they began to be, were talking about vaccines and particularly, uh, Lyme disease.
And the interest in a recombinant approach to Lyme disease was actually because of a patent. There was a very, uh, uh, broad patent on Borrelia burgdorferi antigens and, and what you could do with vaccines. And, um, they had received an official opinion from a, a well regarded law firm that said, “You know, about the only thing you can do is take a molecular approach. Everything else is tied up under this patent.” So, uh, Mark Mackowiak asked me, “You know, is that something you could actually do?” Because my son told him, “Well, that’s what my mother does. She’s always joking that she’s a gene jockey.” That’s what they used to call us, uh, with some love, some laughter.
Um, so that’s, that’s absolutely how I ended up. I thought this would be a fabulous opportunity because I thought that the Borrelia organism was especially suited to a purified antigen, um, that is produced recombinantly to that sort of approach. And so that’s how I originally started at Rhone-Merieux never intending to stay in animal health (laughs). I was still planning to go back into clinical medicine, um, actually in return to MUSC.
And as it turned out, the people at, at Rhone-Merieux were a fantastic, it was a very exciting time in animal health. Don Hildebrand and, and Mark Mackowiak were instrumental at doing some really unique things. The recombinant platform took off, um, with the result that we had, uh, several different vaccines that were developed, uh, using recombinant technology. And before I know it, that’s, you know, all of a sudden I thought, “This is really where I wanna stay.”
Well, and then you told me that the company actually paid for you to go to law school. So I’d love for you to share that story with our audience today.
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
Well, I, I have, it would be lovely if anybody there in the audience has ever met Don Hildebrand, because he’s an amazing person. And one thing I’ve said to Don, and he laughs at this, he actually loves this, is that there is, this is a man who knows the worth of a dollar. So what he did was he, he suggested, “But we might need a patent attorney.” Because in those days, in animal health, a lot of things were not patentable because they were, they didn’t meet the criteria specifically, uh, novelty. And, um, however, the recombinant line vaccine was patentable.
So he started becoming very interested in, in patents and what they can do to protect the commercial interests and all the commercial, um, expenses that are, that are made. You know, you make this great market for a product, and if it’s a wonderful product without patent protection, someone else comes and basically just takes what you’ve done. So Don said, “Well, you know, while you’re head of bacteriology…” and I had started, um, helping them look at patents and, and, and do things like that, he said, “Why don’t you go to law school at the same time and I’ll pay for it, but that way you can do everything” (laughs). So that’s basically what I did.
And so for two years I stayed at Rhone-Merieux, uh, was in law school at Georgia State University, and, um, began gradually to move out of the la- uh, laboratory and more into the, the legal arena, so to speak. And, um, that again, was something I never envisioned in my life. But it is a unique, patent law is a very unique combination for anyone with a technical knowledge or a technical degree because, um, for biotech patent law, you really need to be familiar with the science. It’s, it’s just, it’s, it’s required. It’s more scientifically driven than it is legally driven, to be honest with you.
So that’s how I started law school. And then I ended up having a couple of years in private practice. And in the meantime, Rhone-Merieux had joined with Merck Animal Health and became a, a joint venture, and the new company was named Merial. So the, uh, at that time, the general counsel of Merial, who had actually come from Merck Animal Health, uh, [inaudible 00:12:46] called me and asked me to return as the, uh, head, uh, the global head of intellectual property from Merial.
That’s so impressive, Judy. And you ha- you had some big wins. I don’t know if you can talk about that, but I know you, you had some pretty impressive wins. Are you able to share anything about it?
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
Oh, yes, absolutely. Because most of those are public. So, uh, I think, you know, I, I think that over the 22 years, you never realize where your career is going. And it was just amazing because when I, when I was fortunate enough to join Merial, they really didn’t have an inte- intellectual property department. And, uh, so I was able over the years to, to do, you know, not only to hire some amazing people, including Dr. John [inaudible 00:13:32], who’s still there, and my right-hand person, um, Stacy, I think you actually met her at Tiki Cantrell, who was the greatest senior paralegal we’ve ever had who kept the whole department going, and there’s so many others.
So, but it isn’t just, uh, being able to, to formulate the group the way you want it, it was to, gave me the experience to formulate the strategy. And one of the things at that time is that Merial had had possibly the, one of the most important, at least commercially products ever in animal health at that time, and that was Frontline Plus. So the issue always is when you have a really great product, then there is always infringement. I used to joke when I was teaching and say that, that that old, uh, standard about flattery, um, does not apply when you’re talking about infringement, because having someone like you enough to imitate you is not a good thing in, in patent law.
So I spent a great deal of my time globally, uh, dealing with, with Fipronil infringement, Frontline Plus infringement. And one of the big wins that we, that we had was in the US actually, was actually in Georgia. It’s one of the only cases I ever had in Georgia, in the Northern district, where we were able to get an injunction and, uh, shut down an infringing, um, product. So, but, but there were many others. I mean, we also protected, uh, we had, um, some of the, uh, VAX attack, which is a recombinant vaccine, um, using HVT and poultry. We did litigation at South America there. I did a lot of litigation in Europe.
So that there are a lot of different things. And to be clear, most of what we did, we would, our strategy was to license things if it was not a core product. But if it was a crown jewel, so to speak, then we did not license. And we put our litigation money towards protecting the integrity of those patents. And, um, we were, we were very successful. The last case I had that I think was successful was a Nexgard case. Nexgard is the new product, uh, new relatively that, uh, is, is an [inaudible 00:15:45] and is also used to kill fleas.
Wow. Well, you’ve been in the animal health industry for a long time. What has been the most surprising thing to you that you’ve seen during your career in the animal health industry?
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
Well, there are a couple of things. One, I have to say came to me from Don. Uh, Don Hildebrand always said, “Animal health is unique.” When, when I was originally thinking about maybe if I went, stayed into a company, didn’t go back to, to, uh, be an instructor and so forth, he said, “You really don’t wanna go to a human pharma, because animal health is unique. Commercially, they are able to… they don’t, they don’t see the, the ups and downs commercially that some of the, the, uh, human companies see.” And he said, he used to say, “They’re recession proof.” And so that is one thing. I’m not a business person, I always respected the people that work, but that is one thing that I have learned over the years, is that he was right about that. So that’s one thing that’s really unique.
But then the other thing that, the change that I have seen is how many women are now welcomed in animal health with open arms. When I first started, it was very much a male dominated field, and that’s no longer the case. And, and I’m proud that I’ve helped maybe in a small part, um, provide mentorship as well as an opportunity for women. Um, that, that has really been probably the change that I find, not only is the most drastic change, but is that, the most beneficial change to animal health. Because anytime you are more inclusive for, on any metric that you want to name. The organization has the benefit of looking at things in a different way through that inclusion and it always benefits us.
And I’m gonna ask you more about that too in a minute, because I know you’re doing some work for, for women and also for children. Um, but first I’m curious, what does your crystal ball say about the future of the animal health industry?
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
Well, (laughs), I’m not good at this kind of thing, but I’m going to, I’ll just lay those things out there so everybody can laugh. Um, so first of all, it seems like we’re in another cycle of, of some, um, integration. Uh, in other words, companies buying other smaller companies. Uh, you see that, you saw that with, uh, BI and Merial, and, um, you see that with some other, other companies, the way this pops right up into mind. Um, so, so that’s one thing. This isn’t the first time this has happened.
Um, and unlike some people who say, “Oh, this is very bad. If we have, you know, giant companies, it’s going to slow things down. It’s, you know, et cetera, et cetera.” I actually find it to be a positive because when you have larger companies that are controlling certain parts of the animal health arena, there’s more room for smaller companies, companies that are specifically designed around a technology or, or a field like poultry. Um, you can, you can divide it up any way you want, and there’s always those new opportunities. And those two are very, very exciting opportunities.
So that’s the second change that I’m predicting is coming, is that even as some of the large companies integrate, they begin to look outside to some of these smaller companies who may only have one technology or two technologies, but that allows them to use their, their resources wisely. Because this whole idea that one company can invent everything and develop everything in-house, I don’t think that’s a workable solution. So I actually find this encouraging because it allows a lot of, um, smaller companies to, to get their foot in. They can move fast, they can do some amazing things. And, and if they’re successful, those larger companies will come knocking, whether it’s a license deal, whether it’s an acquisition, whatever, they will come knocking.
So that’s the other prediction I have, is that yes, we may integrate more, but there will will be room for more of the, um, smaller companies. And then my third one is that animal health isn’t going anywhere. It’s, it’s an amazing world, and if you divide it into companion animals and production animals, um, production animals feed the world, period. And so that’s not gonna go away. And more and more people, especially when you, when you look outside the US, more and more people are concerned about, uh, things like animal husbandry and how you treat the animals, and whether you use, what things you use to, to prevent disease and prevent infestation. So those are all opportunities for all of us to improve.
But then the, the second thing is companion animals, the US is a leader in this area, but you’ll, you can look across the world and see where it’s happening in other countries too. In the US, companion animals are not just a yard animal. You know, what I, what I’ve learned by talking to people and, and people who know much better than me, is that, for instance, dogs used to be a working animal for many, many ranches and farms. That’s not true anymore. People treat their dogs, their cats, their companion animals as a member of the family.
And that means they want to look at things that originally we didn’t look at because we were like, “Oh, this is too expensive. You know, uh, we’re not gonna be able to, to look at, say, cancer treatment or a cancer vaccine,” which Merial had one of the first cancer vaccines ever registered, uh, because it’s too expensive. But in fact, we found that isn’t true. There are people who will, will spend the money. Um, you know, it has to be reasonable, of course, but there are people who will spend that money, um, because they love their animals, and they, and just as their children, they want to give them quality of life.
So that’s, to me, that’s never going to go away. And I, I was fortunate enough to see a change in countries like Japan. Japan has become very much a wonderful market in companion animals and other countries too, all through Europe. So the companion animal market is not going away either.
Well, all of that is very encouraging. I’d love for you to share with our listeners about the kind of projects that you’re up to, uh, professionally and the work that you’re currently doing in the animal health industry.
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
Okay. So part of what I do is I work with, uh, Edge Animal Health, uh, which is a biotech startup that uses gene editing, um, p- particularly, but, but different, um, approaches to make, uh, to, to look for solutions for animal problems. And, uh, Edge is a fascinating company. And the reason that, that I, uh, joined them to do their legal work as well as their IP strategy is because this is a company that has a lot of experience in animal health. The CEO, Michelle Haven, Dr. Michelle Haven was for years the head of, uh, business development at what is now Zoetis. Um, Kristi Moore, Dr. Kristi Moore, who is in charge of their poultry program, was with CEVA and before that [inaudible 00:23:10].
So they have some, some very, uh, strong and, and their depth in animal health. And, and I should also mention Nancy, um, uh, Bathhurst because she, uh, Dr. Nancy Bathhurst was, is also a veterinarian, and she is, uh, she was for years with Dechra. So, um, there are other people involved, and I always, I shouldn’t give names because then you always realize, “Wait a minute, I forgot some other people.” But my point is that it, it, it has a very strong, um, uh, experience with animal health. So that is why I chose to work with Edge. So I do both the biotech and, um, Smith, Gambrell, uh, is very flexible about this, allowing us, um, and there are other attorneys as well that, that work either as a virtual counsel or, or represent almost as an in-house counsel of these companies.
So that’s also something I do. But in the meantime, I also work with a lot of biotech startups and, and they, they all are, other than them too, they are mostly in the animal health arena, because this is what I know. And of course, as an attorney, people come to you who already know of you, and most of the people who know of me, um, are in animal health. So does that answer your question? I’m not sure if I really answered what you want me to say-
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
… what, what you’re asking.
Yeah. Yes, it, yes, it does. And then I wanna, I wanna go back to the work that you’re doing, uh, with women. I know that you’re on the board of Feather in Her Cap, and you actually received the honor of the Feather in Her Cap Award, and I’d love to hear more about your involvement with Feather in Her Cap.
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
So that was truly one of the (laughs) honors of my life, because it is a group Feather in Her Cap is a group that was, was formed to specifically increased mentoring and recognize the con- contribution of women in animal health. Now, it’s not, it doesn’t exclude men at all. Uh, men are very important, uh, to Feather in Her Cap, but its purpose is to increase the mentoring of, of women. I was an early supporter when I was at Merial, um, with my budget. And, but I never assumed that I would… First of all, I never dreamed I had what, what would, uh, result in being named a recipient. Because first, I’m not a veterinarian, and I honestly never thought of a, a lawyer, so to speak, as being a recipient. So it was a huge shock.
In fact, when they originally called me, um, uh, Julia, uh, is the one who called me. I thought she was wondering why I hadn’t been involved in, um, providing the financial contribution to Feather in Her Cap since I had retired from BI. I was, it, it took her several minutes to be able to get me to understand, no, she was saying that I had, I was going to be the, the winner. Um, so I was asked to join the board, and, uh, after, after I won, and it has been a wonderful, amazing experience because the board is composed some just fascinating women, all of whom have pedigrees that are incredible. But it’s their love for animal health and their desire to help other women that have really impressed me. Because, you know, um, men do have groups and they’re recognized that provide mentorship opportunities, for instance, but for, for women, it’s still relatively new. So to find a group in the animal health industry that is now becoming quite well known, that specifically is spending time, money, and effort to mentor women, has been a really incredible thing.
And when we receive the nominations, it’s an amazing gift of love from the other animal health companies, because anyone can nominate someone. And we get nominations from all the animal health companies, the big ones, as well as some of the small ones. But the reason I say it’s a gift of love is because what is required is real testimony from the people who nominate. And it’s not one of those forms that you just fill out. The letters are unbelievable. When you see how much people in animal health respect the people they nominate, it’s absolutely amazing. Last year’s winner, um, is somebody that I actually had worked with, uh, Veronica, um… I’m so bad with, what’s, names I cannot believe I just did that. Veronica Kodjo. And she is now with CEVA, and she’s a great example. When we read the materials that were, were provided in support, many of those materials, the people who would nominate her didn’t know that other people were nominating her.
And it was just amazing because it wasn’t just from the, the top CEVA people, which you would expect. It was from people who worked with her that were in other areas than industrial operations, which is what Veronica does. But it was also people, if you say below her in the, in the, uh, organization who again, wrote beautiful letters to say how much she had helped them and, and why they thought that she was, she was a good candidate. That’s the labor of love, when people who really mean it sit down and write you a letter, and it’s not going to benefit them in any way, that, that’s not their boss. That’s not their, you know, their direct report. This is somebody in a different part of the organization. And I see more and more of that with the people in Feather in Her Cap.
Well, I’m such a big proponent of Feather in Her Cap, and our company is a, a sponsor.
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
We’re very happy to be associated with the organization, and it’s so wonderful to see. I mean, every, every woman that gets nominated, their credentials are just so impressive. So it’s so nice to see the recognition with that. And then Judy, I also know that you do pro bono work for women in children. I’d love to learn more about that.
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
Yes. Okay. Well, that, that is my labor of love. So as an attorney, um, all, all state bars rec- recommend, um, pro bono, um, work in any field. It can be in anything, of their, of their, uh, bar members. And, um, this is something that I was very fortunate because I’ve talked to other IP attorneys who’ve told me they would love to do something outside the IP field, but they don’t really know how, because their whole career has been in one direction. I was fortunate because when I finished law school, I actually first practiced in South Carolina. And South Carolina at that time didn’t have a, uh, pro bono bar, so to speak. They didn’t have money in South Carolina specifically for specific, uh, people who didn’t have, uh, who, who economically could not afford a lawyer.
So what they did is all members of the South Carolina bar were sort of put in a hopper, and as cases came up, your name was called. And, um, so that happened to me very quickly after I got out of law school. And it was an interesting case. And the firm that I was with in South Carolina, Dougherty and Manning, they were a wonderful firm. They, they were like, “Well, if you wanna do this, this is fine. We’ll, we’ll be fine with that.” So I took a couple of cases and learned through experience how to deal with, with the court case, how to represent in this case, both of these cases were women.
And that one of the things I found was that judges especially were really good to me. And that they, they understood that I was an IP attorney, that I wasn’t necessarily familiar, uh, with family, uh, law. And, and they didn’t laugh at me. They, they were really good. And, and I found that I loved helping people in an area that is so important as family law. So, although I love IP law, there’s such a wonderful opportunity when you have helped a family. And sometimes it involves the husband too. The husband, though, the reason that I emphasize women and children is because often the, the husband or the father has the resources to hire a lawyer.
But when we can come to a settlement, and I’m not using the word settlement as a legal settlement, but rather when we come to an end of a case and we have been able to work together, work with both of our clients, the output is so much better for that family going forward. I hope I’m making myself clear, but I do not believe that it is, the best thing is to have sort of that, um, you know, let’s, let’s just destroy the other side when you’re dealing with a family law case, because whatever the relationship, divorce, whatever, these people will all have to work together in the future, and the most important thing for the children. So if you can work with the opposing counsel and you can work to do what is right for the family, it is an amazing thing.
And one of the, the best things that has, has happened to me is that several of my past clients have come back to me and said, “You know, by the way, this has worked out so well, and we can’t believe it. We’re actually getting along better now that we’re divorced and the kids are happy. And, and it, it, it’s really worked out.” And that makes me feel very strongly that I’m not saying that every case this will be done, but certainly that’s the way I try to approach these things is to get a settlement that helps the whole family, get an end result that helps everybody not to win, so to speak, but to win for the family, if that makes sense.
But I do sometimes represent men as well. And I have had the unique opportunity of taking a, uh, family, uh, court case, uh, to the Court of Appeals in Georgia twice. And, um, our, our position was, um, affirmed twice, and that was really amazing to me to, to actually be involved in an appeal, the Court of Appeals in a family law case. So, um, but again, it’s not because I… One, so to speak, it’s because what happened was the very best outcome for that family and for the children. And when you meet some of these children, you know, after they’re 18, 19, 20, and they come back and they say to you, “By the way, now I’m in nursing school and thank you so much, my life, you know, was, was so much better.” You just can’t, that, that’s not something money can buy.
I loved winning my cases with patent litigation, but those are commercial cases. Yes, I tried very hard to win. I’m known as pretty much of a bulldog. But there’s something special when a child comes back to you or, or a, a family member comes back and says, “This really helped. Our life was better because of what you did.” That is really special.
You’re really making a difference. And thank you for the work that you’re doing there. I’m curious, we all face adversity. What’s been the biggest adversity that you’ve had to deal with throughout your career?
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
Oh, really. You know, I would say I’ve been so fortunate. I don’t know. I mean, it’s always, you know, losing family members. Of course it happens to all of us, but that always has something to do with the way that you approach life. Um, there are things that people do and say to you. I suppose the biggest thing I would say is I was so fortunate because coming up at a time, I’m older than, than many of the people that are, uh, beginning their careers. I came from a time when people did not always support women at having careers. Um, and sometimes even inadvertently said things to you that, that it, that maybe would’ve knocked you off your path.
I recall particularly, and I’m not going to name her, a teacher in high school that I had who when she asked us, you know, what we wanted to do, and I said, “Well, I wanna be a doctor.” She said, “Oh, oh…” And she did this with love in her heart. Let me, let me be clear. She wasn’t trying to hurt me. She actually said to me, though, “I think you need to look at something different so you’re not disappointed because, uh, maybe nursing.” And, and she didn’t do that in a mean way, but I was so lucky because my parents were never, ever questioned that I would be a doctor ever. They never suggested that maybe that isn’t something I should do. And that’s different from a lot of the people I talk to now, especially young people will tell me sometimes that they just feel hopeless because they don’t see how they’re going to, here’s something that they want, but they don’t see how they’re going to get there.
And that’s why I think one of the most important things that can happen are the people around you that maybe don’t even realize. Teachers, for example, are so fantastic because teachers can say something, just a couple of words of encouragement or provide some advice or give people the resources and that can change the person’s life. And so I really can’t even say that was adverse because I was so protected by people who can, who never said to me, “You cannot do this. This is not what you need to do.” So it never occurred to me. And then I’m Irish and there is something to be said. And, and my mother used to say this to me all the time, “Oh, you Irish, you always, you know, you’ll cut your nose off to spite your face.” But I think that stubbornness does work very well. I was raised in a time where there was just nothing that was gonna stop me. And that’s what I try to tell people now.
Whatever you wanna do, it’s within you. It’s not about anybody else. And it’s not about your finances, and it’s not about, you know, whether you’re married, it is about you. If you decide to do this, there is a way, uh, sometimes it’s a very difficult way. I worked all the way through school. I had my second child the first day of medical school. And when I was teaching, years later when I was teaching, that was something that the course coordinator would always announce much to my chagrin, (laughs). Instead of saying, “Oh by the way, she’s done this vaccine and she’s done all of this.” It was like, “You know, she’s the one that had the baby different, you know?” But I didn’t miss the day of class because I knew I couldn’t.
So to me, the biggest thing we can also teach people is everything is within you. You’ve got to want something. And sometimes you have to want it really, really badly, and you have to assume that it’s never going to be easy. And that, that is the gift that I was given. So when I say adversity, I really don’t think I had adversity. I had the same problems everybody else had. I worked, I was divorced, sometimes I was a single mother. But that to me isn’t adversity. I was very fortunate that, that I, my children are so self-sustaining.
It was just amazing, you know, that they, that I never heard things like, “Well, mom, you missed this game. Why weren’t you here?” It was always, “Gosh, let me tell you about the highlights of this game, because I know, you know, you were on call, you were at work, whatever.” So I feel kind of strange that I don’t have some horror story (laughs) that I could share with you, Stacy, but I just don’t, I was very fortunate.
That’s so inspiring. And those words of encouragement, my mother was the same way. She would say things like, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” or, “You can do anything-”
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
“… you put your mind to.” And you know, I’ve got some stories early in my career, somebody said, “You can’t start a search firm that specializes in the animal health or veterinary profession because nobody’s ever done that. That’s not even a niche.” And, um, you know, long story short, I, I did, and I’ve been doing it for 25 years. So, um, but I love those, those stories, um, that you shared. And, you know, ’cause sometimes I think today there’s, you know, some such a, um, you know, victim mentality out there in the world.
And, um, you, you know, you said, “Don’t expect it to be easy, but it’s up to you, you know, if, if, if you wanna do something, you can do it.” And I think that’s, that’s great advice. Um, which leads me to my next question. What advice would you give the younger version of yourself?
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
[inaudible 00:39:28] uh, I did. I don’t know. It’s not, I, I suppose it’s the same advice I give my children. Looking back, I realized that if I made a mistake, it was not really reflecting. As I said, I, I apparently, even from memories that I don’t even remember, I had said, “Well, I was going to be a, a, a physician.” Um, probably I should have thought about other careers. My big regret, and, and it’s not a really big regret, is why I didn’t become a veterinarian. I love animals. I run a rescue farm now. Um, but I never opened my mind. I had it set that I was going to do this.
Now, that said, so I tell my children all the time, “Don’t, don’t close your yourself off to proce- uh, possibilities. You know, keep your eyes open about what you like and let life open doors for you and don’t be afraid to go through.” Now, although I was very set on, on one particular path, at least I was, I can’t even call it smart enough. I think I was just fortunate enough that I took some of those, those right turns, because I never would’ve dreamed that my life would’ve ended up this way, ever. I never could have imagined it. And it is, it has been so uniquely challenging and exciting.
So that’s what I would say to people is, is keep your options open. We live now so long that it’s ridiculous to think of yourself, “Well, I’m going to do this one thing, and that’s the only thing I’m gonna do and I’m gonna do it until I retire because my goodness, now retirement age gets pushed and pushed anyway.” Um, keep your eyes open for other things, because sometimes the most effective use of your talent is just as you mentioned, Stacy, in a niche that nobody else saw, but you did. And you were uniquely qualified because of your background and, and not just your background in animal health, but some of the other things in your background to mix those things together, to be able to start a search firm.
I find the most interesting people and the people that have the best success are sometimes the people that mix two or three different things as opposed to have this straight career path. Because it’s that mixture that allows you to know of things, do of things, and use tools that other people don’t even realize exist. Does this even make any sense? (laughs).
Yeah, that’s so, that’s so true. And I, I love what you said about let life open doors. Don’t be afraid to walk through them, keep your eyes open for other things and, and combine two or three things together. You know, that that’s the most, what the most successful people do. I love that. Well, I’m, I’m curious, is there a key book that you’ve read throughout your life or throughout your career that’s impacted you the most?
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
So I, you told me that you were gonna ask me that, and I have thought more about this question than anything else because… All right, so first of all, I read constantly, but I read mostly fiction. I love well-written fiction, um, especially mysteries, thrillers, legal things. So looking at books that really inspired me. I’ve only got a couple and one is very strange (laughs). And so I wanna explain that. So, uh, when I was 15, I read Atlas Shrugged the first of seven times I read Atlas Shrugged. I read it because like so many of us, I read it because a boyfriend was, was uh, was reading it. And I was just like, “Okay, if he can read it, I wanna read it.” Um, however, what inspired me about Atlas Shrugged is not what other people read it. I [inaudible 00:43:10].
I was inspired because looking at the book and the story, it’s about doing what you want to do in spite of all odds. So I didn’t take from it any philosophy, capitalism, anything like that. I took with it the whole idea that, that the, the feminine heroin, um, is in an area that again, is a male dominated area. And, and so many people are telling her you can’t do this. And she does. Anyway, that’s what I took from Atlas Shrugged. Um, but then the other books that really mean a lot to me are, are more philosophical books. Um, but even more than that, there’s certain poetry. You know, you mentioned something that your mother said to you about where there’s a will, there’s a way. For whatever reason, maybe because my brain is very, works in very little minute points, I’m fairly OCD. I love mnemonics. I also love poetry. If there are certain small poems or small stances that can mean something.
So Desiderata is a big deal to me. I keep it in every office that I’m ever in. Um, because I think that all knowledge is in that poem Desiderata. Desiderata was the one that, you know, is supposedly found on, on gravestone. But things like that really mean a lot to me because they’re not just inspirational. The more you read things like that, the more you see everything that has happened to people has happened. It may be different because you have a different background, but somebody else has had the same thing and has had the same struggle and can tell you how to get out of it in a graceful way that your spirit grows. And so those, those are the sorts of things that, that I really think of more than just any book.
But then the other book that made a world of difference to me which now is no longer even around. There was a physician years ago named Tom Dooley, right? It’s a big joke about the song, if you’re old enough to remember the, the big song, Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley. But Tom Dooley was a real American physician. He started as a Navy corpsman. Um, and then he, he, uh, became a physician and he started this whole idea of bringing medicine to countries, in those days, it was mostly South, Southeast Asia, where they really didn’t have medical care. And he said that he used to, that he was accused of giving 19th century medicine instead of 20th century. But he said, “Well, that’s true. But in the countries I’m in, they’re practicing 16th century medicine.”
His selfish, selfish, I can’t even say the right word, lack of selfishness. His concern for the world really opened my eyes to how lucky we are in this country, but also how much we owe to people in general, because life is hard and life is even harder in other places. And we need to keep that humanity within us, or no matter what we do, how much money we have, whatever house we have, none of that means anything if we lose our humanity. Unfortunately, Tom Dooley died, I think in 1963. It was very early that he died, um, of cancer. But that is the one book that I remember. I was 17, 16 years old, something like that, when I first read this, he was already, I believe he had already passed, but it just amazed my life.
And yes, at one time I thought about, “Okay, that’s what I need to do is go to another country and give medical care.” And then I realized that you can do that anywhere because there are so many areas that do not have really good care. But again, as I said, my life then took a right turn, but I would still say the same thing. It’s that knowledge and that, that, that worldview that has, um, that I’ve tried to use in all of my decisions. And I still believe that we’re all a member of the human race, all of us. And if we, if we forget that we’ve lost the best part of ourselves.
I love that, Judy. And Judy, you’ve got the mic. What is one last thing that you would like to share with our listeners of, The People of Animal Health Podcast today before you drop the mic?
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
Oh my goodness. I have no idea. I just really love the animal health, um, field because the people that I have met, and so many of them, and, and I’m gonna, I’m gonna mention three if you don’t mind, people who have been so much a part of my journey in animal health. Um, I mentioned Don Hildebrand and Mark Mackowiak, but there was also Jean Walden was an accountant. Uh, she… Let, let rephrase, she’s a CPA. One of the most incredible people I ever knew. But then also, um, the person, uh, Ellen, um, de Brabander, who’s now at Elanco was a, an important, not only mentor, but person with a worldview that really opened my eyes.
But the last one I want to, to mention is Dr. Fabian Kausche because, uh, he was, he was my boss at, at Merial, my last boss. He meant the world to me. Um, and I still work with him a great deal. And by the way, he’s being honored this year at the KC Quarter, he as the winner of the Iron Paw, and he has become such a close friend. And that to me is what mentorship is really about. It isn’t just about, “Let me help you with your career. Let me tell you the things…” It’s about helping you in all sorts of ways and sharing everything with you that they themselves have gone through. And Fabian, um, is actually the epitome. And I, you know, I could spend hours though, I’ve been so fortunate with not only the mentors in my life, but just the people I call friends. And I’ve heard other people tell me in, in human industry for instance, and sometimes it’s not that, that, that well. Um, but in animal health, I have never found a better group of people ever in anything.
Well, I would agree. This is the best industry. And that’s, um, that’s why, that’s why I started here. That’s why I’ve stayed. Um, it’s, it’s the people. It’s the people of animal health that make this industry so great. And Judy, I’m so thankful for you taking the time to be here on The People of Animal Health Podcast today. It was wonderful to talk with you.
Dr. Judy Jarecki-Black:
Well, thank you very much, Stacy. And, um, I really appreciate your podcast. I also appreciate what you as a woman have done in a very, um, interesting area in animal health, one that isn’t greatly represented. So it’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Well, thank you, Judy.