A Clear Vision for Marine Mammals
CARMEN COLITZ (DVM, ’93 and PhD, ’96) has a vision for animal eye health. Over the past 15 years, Colitz has performed more than 300 eye surgeries on marine mammals such as sea lions and seals. “These beautiful animals get cataracts as they age, just like everyone else,” she says. “It’s incredibly rewarding to help them regain their sight and previous quality of life.”
From childhood, Colitz aspired to be a veterinarian. As a veterinary medicine student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, she was fascinated when her professor showed a video of cataract surgery. She focused on animal ophthalmology from that point, but didn’t start working with marine mammals until she was on the faculty at The Ohio State University. “I got a call from a former student who had become the attending veterinarian at Six Flags in Ohio,” said Colitz. “She said, ‘I’ve got two blind sea lions here, and I want you to come and help them.’ ” Colitz assembled a team and drove to the park to perform cataract surgeries on the animals. The procedures went smoothly, the animals recovered their vision, and Colitz found a new calling.
Today, she runs a veterinary specialty and emergency practice in south Florida with her husband, a boarded veterinary surgeon. About 13 years ago, a colleague approached Colitz with an idea. “She wanted to create a supplement for dogs to help support eye health, especially those with cataracts and retinal degeneration,” Colitz says. “We both were already prescribing supplements for our patients from health food stores, but it was difficult because little dogs don’t like to take pills.” Colitz and her business partners developed a formula and tested it. “Our initial one-year clinical study showed that the supplement was safe, that treated dogs didn’t go blind from retinal degeneration, and the supplement benefited their health in general,” she says.
They patented the formula, OcuGLO™, and the product is now the top vision supplement for both dogs and cats, sold in more than 70 countries around the world. “We now have a formulation for humans as well, called OcuGLO™ Human,” Colitz says. “It’s been an exciting journey.”
Last year, Colitz enrolled in Haslam’s Executive MBA Strategic Leadership program. “So far, it’s a great experience,” she says. “The leadership focus is amazing and so well-balanced. My goals are for my hospital to become a world-class specialty and emergency animal hospital, and to make OcuGLO™ a household name.” This program is helping her get there.