Compassionate Practitioner

Gail Mason, V85, VR89, eager to continue Maine veterinary care while approaching four decades of service
a female veterinarian accompanied by a vet tech performs an endoscopy on a golden retriever.
Gail Mason, V85, VR89, performs an endoscopy with assistance from vet tech Kathi L. Smith. Photo: Perian Phillips

After completing a residency from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Gail (D’Amico) Mason, V85, VR89 (she/her) and her soon-to-be husband Mark Mason, V85 (he/him) landed their first jobs through a contact of the School’s Dean, Franklin Lowe. They took over a small veterinary practice in Maine, where Gail continues her work, nearly 40 years later.

Practicing veterinary medicine in Maine has had its quirks, Mason admits. “I’ve done rabies clinics from cold firehouses with people bringing their cats in onion bags,” she explains. “I’ve taken boat rides to treat animals on coastal islands and once worked on a goat that couldn’t fit through a door … but I don’t regret any of it.”

The early days of her Pine Tree State experience included some creative forms of payment. “They would bring in what they could afford, and we bartered … lobster, shellfish, or painting services,” she says. “Maine is still one of the lowest states in per capita income, so I tell clients directly that I’m looking out for what they spend. I think people trust us because of that.”

Through a career during which she has developed, grown, and sold two Maine veterinary practices, Mason has served as a board-certified specialist in internal medicine, active in small animal cancer treatment, including Stage III clinical trials and clinical pathology research. She founded and continues to operate Maine’s only radioactive iodine clinic for treatment of cats with hyperthyroidism and has helped train numerous interns. “We’ve made and kept a lot of friends, and that’s been very fulfilling.”

An individual with wavy brown hair and blue eyes wearing a collared shirt, a sweater, and a stethoscope

From Engineering to Veterinary Medicine
Mason earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, but always knew she wanted to be a veterinarian, she admits. “I really liked research, which I did as an undergrad, and wanted to wait for Tufts’ new veterinary school to be built. I hoped for an opportunity to continue research if that’s where I landed.”

She earned a master’s degree in medical pharmacology from Mount Sinai Medical School in New York before enrolling at the young veterinary school in Grafton, Mass., which opened in 1978 and graduated its first class five years later.

The best thing about Tufts was that there was not just a single way to do things. Learning from faculty who came from various backgrounds, I got just what I wanted. - Gail Mason

A native of Middletown, Connecticut, Mason was fortunate to earn one of only four spots available to Connecticut residents at the time, in a class which graduated 59 D.V.M.s.

Mason is very proud of the individual skill set she developed, starting at Tufts, which has served her so well. On campus, she established close relationships with several professors and mentors from her time as a student and house officer.

“The faculty was the bomb,” she says, noting that she completed an internship in California after earning a D.V.M., then returned to Tufts for her residency.

“My residency supervisor, Robert Murtaugh [current chair of veterinary medicine, National Academies of Practice], was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,” she explains. “And if it weren’t for Susan Cotter I wouldn’t have been trained in oncology, which is 90% of what I do.”
Mason also mentioned dermatologist Stephen D. White, internist Linda Ross, and large animal specialist George Saperstein as influential. “Dr. Saperstein helped foster my powers of observation which I depend on in my career and that’s what I try to teach students and interns.”

Notable are the long-standing relationships she built and maintained. “And I’m still in contact with them all,” she shares.

The Maine Experience
In 1989, she and [now ex-husband] Mark purchased a general practice in Maine [now Bath-Brunswick Veterinary Associates (BBVA)], grew it from two to five full-time doctors, and added an emergency service. In 2001, the couple started a practice which became Portland Veterinary Specialists, the first multi-discipline specialty hospital in the state. They grew the business from one doctor to eight specialists. She sold the Portland practice to her surgeon in 2019, and sold BBVA in 2021.

Now, after a lengthy administrative career, Mason is still employed at both practices. “I’ve come full circle, so now I’m an employee again, and I like it a lot,” she shares.  

Renamed Portland Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Care (PVESC), it currently employs 25 specialists—including Danielle Babski, V06; Alice Benedict, V04; cardiologist John MacGregor, VI98, VR04; Cory Mosunic, V99; and Adam Shoelson, V17, VR21.

“I feel very lucky to have had several other talented and well-trained Tufts alumni join our staff. Dr. Mosunic is our superstar ophthalmologist and Dr. Babski is one of our very skilled and busy criticialists,” Mason explains. 

“Dr. Benedict and Dr. Shoelson comprise half of our internal medicine department and Dr. Shoelson has successfully implemented our first internship program. It makes for a very collegial working and learning environment. I love that instead of saying ‘That won’t work,’ they are more likely to say ‘what if we...’ … It doesn’t get better than that.”

Though her ex-husband has retired, Mason is reluctant to do so. “I don’t want to retire until I’m ready and my work is really part of my identity and I’m OK with that … I like helping people.”

And she’s excited for the future of the PVESC, which is designing a 25,000-square-foot hospital. “I can’t retire now because I want to stay to see this come to fruition,” Mason admits. “And I’m also fortunate to have assembled a group of like-minded professionals to work with. We never say ‘no’ when we can say ‘yes.’ That was our motto as we built the practice.”

Reflecting on her career of accomplishment and service, Mason is humbled and thankful. She says, “I am very grateful to Tufts, because I don’t think I could have done it better.”