Dr. Lisa Donato

by Neal Sivula



When did your interest in Veterinary Medicine begin?

I first knew I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was 7 years old.  I used to try to save all the baby birds that fell out of nests that were hurt. My mother who is from Dublin, Ireland used to tell me stories of wild horses in the fields behind her house when she was growing up and this also sparked my interest in animals, particularly horses. I thought I would become an equine veterinarian, but discovered in veterinary school that I enjoyed small animal medicine (working with dogs and cats) even more so. 

What led you to Holistic Medicine?

In 1998, my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and I became a “Hotbot Doctor” and searched the internet for other therapies he could try in addition to chemotherapy.  I soon discovered that acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutritional supplements could be used.  He tried some of these therapies and I think they did help him.  I then began thinking that maybe I should be using some of these therapies for my own patients so I started to take courses about acupuncture and herbal medicine and decided I needed to learn more how to use these therapies.  In 2001, I finally signed up for the acupuncture course at The Chi Institute in Florida. Chinese medicine was a completely different way to look at and treat patients, and to me it made a lot of common sense.  I then went on to study Tui Na, Chinese herbal medicine and other therapies.

Did you have any mentors as you became involved in Holistic Medicine?

Yes at The Chi Institute, I learned a lot from Dr. Huisheng Xie and also Dr. Bruce Ferguson. Dr. Xie is from China, a 3rd generation herbalist, is a professor at the veterinary school in Florida and started the Chi Institute. He really is the master of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.  Dr. Ferguson was one of the teachers there and also had gone to acupuncture school for people and knew so much about Chinese medicine.  When I became certified in acupuncture, I started working with Dr. Allen Schoen and worked with him for 5 years.  He truly in a pioneer in veterinary holistic medicine and I learned so much from him about acupuncture, aquapuncture, Homotoxicology and nutritional supplements and therapies.

What modalities do you practice, and where did you get your training?

I am certified in Veterinary Acupuncture, Tui Na Practice (Chinese medical massage), and TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine) Practice and Herbology from The Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine in Reddick, Florida.  I also studied Chinese Food Therapy and advanced acupuncture at The Chi Institute.  

I traveled through China with The Chi Institute in 2006 and learned further techniques in Chinese Medicine and some Tibetan medicine from professors who had taught Dr. Xie.

I became the 9th veterinarian to become a Fellow of The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture in 2007.

I studied Western Herbal Medicine at The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. The course was taught by Dr. Steve Marsden, Dr. Susan Wynn and Dr. Allen Schoen.

I took the Correspondence Course in Homotoxicology and was awarded a Certificate of Completion by The Society of Homotoxicology of North America. I had also learned about Homotoxicology from Dr. Schoen and I attended a course with other health professionals as well.

I became certified in Animal Chiropractic by The International Veterinary Chiropractic Association.  I learned this modality at The Options for Animals College of Animal Chiropractic in Wellsville, Kansas.  I also learned some basic Craniosacral techniques there.

I also went to The Healing Oasis Wellness Center in Sturtevant, Wisconsin and studied Craniosacral Therapy from Dr. Neal Sivula.

I use many different nutritional supplements as well.


What is the structure of your practice (eg. Solo, group, Integrative, solely Holistic)?  How many support staff do you have?

I used to work at a specialty center on Long Island but now I am a solo practitioner.  I started my company, Veterinary Acupuncture and Healing Arts a few years ago.  I basically work alone but I do have the help of receptionists and technical staff at an office I work out of 2 days per week in Westchester (Village Animal Clinic in Ardsley, NY).

What is your physical practice environment?  

I work in a veterinary office 2 days per week.  I also see patients on Long Island on a housecall basis.  I try to make the patient as comfortable as possible so I will use blankets and towels and I work on the floor for the bigger dogs.

What is a normal workday like for you?

I try to start the day, if possible by attending daily Mass.  Then I am in the car either driving to housecall patients or driving to the veterinary office which is 30 miles away.  I can see more patients in the office and schedule appointments every 45 minutes.  I try to take a lunch break, catch up on phone calls and I am always at the post office sending herbs and supplements to my clients.  Usually I am home by 6-7 pm.  I work Monday thru Friday mostly.

What are your favorite tools (eg. Supplies, products, computers, etc)?  

I actually use my hands a lot for scanning the energy field of patients for problems, palpating acupuncture points and use them of course to treat!  I also like my acupuncture needles, electro-acupuncture machine and homotoxicologic formulas for injection (aquapuncture or biopuncture).  I keep in contact with the world with my iphone. 


What provides you with inspiration in your practice life?

Having patients respond well and giving them a chance to have a better quality of life and to live longer.  Many patients are older dogs or cats with chronic problems that reach an endpoint with conventional medicine. Sometimes clients are considering euthanasia when they see me.  I am so happy when I see these patients do much better since quite often the patient is not ready to give up.  Many of these patients know that the treatments help them so they often are happy to see me (of course it could just be the cookies I bring).

What are your favorite conferences?  

I have enjoyed the annual conference at The Chi Institute whether given in China or Florida.  I also like the AHVMA conference and for some conventional medicine I like the Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference in Atlantic City.

Are there any other things you do to be inspired professionally?

I will talk to other veterinarians about patients and different ways of treating. Also going to conferences or learning on VIN are ways to find out what other treatments veterinarians are using and what their experiences have been.  I have also learned from my own healthcare team about treatments I can use. 

Do you have any other professional activities?

I am a member of many veterinary organizations.


How do you maintain balance between your professional activities and home life?

It’s not always easy.  After practicing for many years, I now take off weekends to catch up with the family and to get my own acupuncture and chiropractic treatments!  One has to have perspective and that often comes with age and wisdom.  I have learned to put God first since everything I do is through Him and glorifying Him.

What do you like to do away from the office?

I enjoy spending time with my family and dogs and watching nature.  I write poetry and I like to read. When I can, I enjoy traveling.


The Future

What is the future of holistic veterinary medicine?

I think many more people, including other veterinarians are realizing the benefits of the different holistic modalities, which is great.  There are also more veterinarians studying these as well. 

Do you have any advice to those just starting out?

I think it is best to have a good foundation in conventional medicine.  One needs to understand disease processes and diagnostics and treatments. I think it is best to learn a modality at a school, whenever possible. 

Are there any new developments in Medicine that excite you?

Certainly there are a lot of new diagnostics and therapies in oncology which is wonderful.  This allows one to have a better idea of the nature of the cancer and to try to use some type of target therapy.  Also the world of rehabilitation is expanding which allows greater improvement for patients post-op and after any injuries or trauma.