Dr. Fleckenstein grew up in a family that spent much of their time out of doors, hiking, eating wild foods, and enjoying nature. Dr. Fleckenstein’s mother is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and their house was home to many orphaned or injured animals and birds over the years. When she started working during high school summers she only considered work that took place outdoors, and so she worked on a beef cattle farm in Maine. It was there that she became trained in artificial insemination of cattle. She delayed starting college and worked on a farm in Switzerland, where she learned to her shock that women there had only just gained the vote, learned from a co-worker that “women’s work” didn’t involve driving a tractor (or so he thought), and that women “didn’t become large animal veterinarians”.
She returned to the United States and Cornell University, studying Animal Science. She continued study and completed a Master’s Degree in Animal Nutrition and Toxicology, studying the effects of fluoride pollution on the rumen bacteria of cattle in the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation. All of this background provided impetus for her to apply to veterinary school, where she planned to continue work with large animals and research. Her need for a job during her first month at veterinary school, however, led her to the small animal emergency service on nights and weekends – and that was that. She was hooked on ER.
After earning her DVM degree in 1993, she worked for a short time in general practice, then went on to a Small Animal Internship in Massachusetts where she came to value specialty and 24-hour care for pets. She joined the Veterinary Medical Center’s Emergency Service team in 2002, and was integral in transforming the service into a 24-hour emergency hospital.
A friend invited Dr. Fleckenstein to a weekend introductory course in acupuncture at Cornell after the friend’s geriatric dog had benefited from acupuncture treatments. This inspired her to pursue an intensive acupuncture course through International Veterinary Acupuncture Society. She became a certified veterinary acupuncturist in 1998. As she found more ways to help animals beyond medications, she realized that she needed to continue to learn, to put “more tools in the tool box” of animal care. She trained in both Chinese and Western Herbal medicine, got certified in Veterinary Spinal Manipulative Therapy, is a certified animal chiropractor, and became certified in Pain Management. She offers all of these modalities to patients — from athletes to geriatrics, from birds and rabbits to dogs and cats. She still is hooked on emergency medicine and continues to split her time between the CARE Center at VMC and the VMC Emergency Service.
Outside of the hospital, Dr. Fleckenstein gives her time to several groups. She has been a member of the National Veterinary Disaster Teams since volunteering to provide veterinary care to the working dogs during the response to 9-11. She is a Veterinary Medical Officer with US Health and Human Services, providing care both for disasters and national security events. She wrote a chapter on working dog management and health in a veterinary textbook. She volunteers with the local and state veterinary associations and organizes continuing education lectures for veterinarians in our area in additional to personally lecturing in and around our area on acupuncture, pain management, and herbal pet care. In addition, she has organized both a neighborhood and a VMC team at the Race for the Cure and Earth Day clean ups.
Dr. Fleckenstein lives with her husband, Larry and son, Ben on a 350 acre farm outside of Syracuse. They share their lives with numerous animals, including cats and a dog (who dabbles in agility), chickens, horses, beef cattle, and honey bees. They farm (sometimes with draft horses) hay, grains, sunflowers, some soybeans and corn, maple syrup, and maintain a productive wooded area and miles of hiking trails. As with her career in veterinary medicine, the farm and family is always evolving, and provides a balance of work and peace.