On Air with Heather Loenser

One day Dr. Heather Loenser was doing what most of us do on a daily basis.

But unlike most of us, checking her Facebook page in her New Jersey kitchen literally changed the 2003 Iowa State DVM graduate’s career focus.

“There was a post looking for a female ER veterinarian with surgical experience for a reality television show,” Loenser related years after that fateful day. “I thought, ‘I’ve been an ER vet for 10 years. I have strong surgical skills since I was trained well at Iowa State. Why not me?’”

Loenser went through the application process. She got publicity photos taken and working with a videographer, she shot “A Day in the Life of an ER Vet.” She submitted the audition tape. 

And then nothing.

“I never heard back so I emailed them,” she said. “Turns out the network decided not to go forward with the show.”

So how did this switch Loenser’s career path away from working as an ER vet? Seems the audition tape came to the attention of a television producer who booked guests in the New York City area for local and national shows. A guest had cancelled for “Fox and Friends” at the last minute. Loenser got a call to see if she could show how to do CPR so that viewers at home could do it on their pets.

Oh, and they also wanted two other medical procedures owners could do on their pets. And all three had to be done in a three-minute segment.

“I said, sure, so I brought CPR dog dummies to the set in New York. I also decided to bandage a foot and show how to wrap a chest wound with plastic wrap to try to prevent a tension pneumothorax so an owner could rush them to a vet,” Loenser said. “I did the show and thought it would make a fun cocktail party story
I could tell.”

The cocktail story Loenser tells now is even better. Soon she was getting other gigs. Martha Stewart called. She continued doing segments for “Fox and Friends,” more than 25 in all. She appeared on “The Today Show” and “Regis and Kelly.” 

Loenser developed a great working relationship with the television producer, took a crash course on media training that augmented her ISU Theatre experience and developed a good pitch for stories. One of the most popular was the different ways your pet can be injured around a holiday.

“Name a holiday and I can tell you the dangers to pets of those holidays,” Loenser said tongue in check. “We did Christmas – tinsel; Valentine’s Day – dark chocolate; St. Patrick’s Day – raisins in Irish Soda Bread!”

Her appearances on television soon led to another job – this one with the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Loenser was originally on the AAHA Board of Directors before she moved onto the organization’s staff fulltime as a senior veterinary officer.

Loenser continues to do television segments – she recently was on Dr. Oz and the “Today Show.” But her job has morphed, working with AAHA conferences and guidelines in addition to her public relations responsibilities.

And although the reality show didn’t pan out, Loenser doesn’t have any regrets.

“I applaud the vets that do practice high-quality medicine on TV. I just wasn’t comfortable with the lack of control of constant filming. It’s the perfectionist in me, I guess,” she said. “With AAHA, I can contribute to the profession, pets and their people in a different way.

“I’m proud to say that the television segments I’ve done have been solid medically."