Jana Norris, DVM, DACVS joined our San Fernando Hospital in January 2013 to head up our new surgery department, though her road to veterinary surgery had quite a few twists and turns in it. Jana grew up as a child actor working in theater and received her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from USC. After working as an actor for a few years, she literally “woke up one day and didn’t want to do it anymore”. We sat down with Jana to find out what led her to ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals.
How did Dr. Norris decide she wanted to work with animals?
When she was acting, her dream was to land a sitcom and make enough money to move to the country and live around animals. Jana decided to cut out the middleman and go right into veterinary school.
What is her favorite animal?
The Octopus. Why? “They can change color depending on their mood, they are the smartest invertebrates, able to learn a task in a single trial and remember it for the rest of their lives, and they can fit through a hole the size of their own eyeball!”
Jana has always been into fixing things and finding out how they work. As a child, she used to like playing with tools, and even took apart the TV and phone, much to her parents’ dismay. She really enjoys “the structural approach to disease”. The chronic, inevitable decline of patients is too emotionally taxing, whereas surgery is repairing the issue at hand. Jana sees surgeons as “the cowboys of the hospital”; they’re able to come in, take a patient, and fix the problem they’re presented with.
What are the most challenging procedures Dr. Norris has ever done?
“Any critical care patient is stressful, because you know that there is a risk that what you’re about to do to help them has the potential to be unsuccessful, but they will not survive without your treatment.”
What is her favorite procedure to do?
Dr. Norris is heavily influenced by her past, enjoying ‘putting things back together’. In her words, her favorite procedures have to be “fracture repair and skin grafting & reconstruction!” The procedures are the same as they are with humans, and Jana enjoys being able to be creative with both art and structure to reestablish form and function with the surgical procedure.
What is her “bread and butter”?
“Cruciates! They are so well researched and such a common injury. We have excellent outcomes with the right approach, and when done correctly, have a 100% success rate.”
Jana lived in California for 17 years before moving to the East Coast. She eventually ended up in Philadelphia, where she worked at the University of Pennsylvania with her then future husband, ACCESS Cardiologist Dr. Steve Cole. She loved California and what it had to offer, so after marrying Dr. Cole in Switzerland and having their reception at the Mutter Museum(!), Jana and her new family moved back to the sunny scenery of California.
Wait… they had their reception at the Mutter Museum?!
They sure did! Dr. Norris has a fondness for things many people would consider…unusual. She has a collection of 40 skulls, both human and animal. The smallest skull she owns is that of a vampire bat, and the largest bone structure is the entire spine of a calf. She even has a fully articulated canine skeleton in her living room! When she was a pre-vet student at Santa Monica College, she supervised a dermestid beetle colony. The dermestid, or carrion, beetles are used to clean bones as they are the most effective tool to clean the bone while also preserving it.
So, she has a skull and bone collection. What else is she into?
Dr. Norris’ home is quite the showcase for out of the ordinary collectibles. In addition to animal and human bones, she also has an array of vintage medical equipment and posters. Her collection includes decades old handheld Oster clippers, speculums, and glass syringes that are seen as pieces of art in her house.
What is her most prized possession?
“My father’s medical kit from the 1940s.” Dr. Norris’ Dad, Dr. Norris, is a Rheumatologist and gave his black doctor’s bag to Jana. Inside you’ll find a stainless steel emergency tracheostomy kit. It’s basically a Swiss Army Knife with tools used to stab, cut, and intubate a choking patient.
What’s her favorite dish?
“Beef tenderloin, rare, with my mom’s white spaghetti”. Dr. Norris also loves to cook and her Rum Cake is her specialty. She makes a ton of them around the holidays, as her family and friends are constantly requesting her delicious dessert!
Dr. Norris is one of over a dozen skilled and interesting doctors at ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals, and we are so grateful to have her on our team. She brings a fierce dedication, wealth of knowledge, and passionate enthusiasm to each day she works and is available Tuesday through Friday.