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A New Coat of Excellence in Cardiology from a Close Friend of NC State

Cardiology coats of excellence
The NC State Veterinary Hospital's cardiology service recently shared a coat of excellence honor. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

Teresa DeFrancesco — Dr. D to those who know her — is a professor of cardiology and critical care at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. She’s been at the NC State Veterinary Hospital since 1992, when she started her cardiology residency.

Cindy Clark and her husband Joe Hackley first met DeFrancesco 20 years ago. 

“She treated our second Boston terrier, Amy, when she had congestive heart failure,” says Clark. She gave us 15 extra months with Amy. She’s an amazing diagnostician and clinician.”

Something just clicked, and Clark and Hackley became more than clients  — they became close friends with DeFrancesco and her husband, Michael. That friendship has stood the test of time.

Clark has many stories about the different Boston terriers they have had treated at NC State, including a number of rescues that they have adopted. She tells of one Boston terrier named Sweet Addie who Clark and Hackley acquired in 2005 from an owner from South Carolina who had neglected and mistreated the dog. 

Sweet Addie had only three legs and one eye. Clark and Hackley saved her from being put down, and DeFrancesco and other NC State clinicians helped restore her health, allowing Sweet Addie to live until 2014.

“The cards and flowers we received from people at the vet school were overwhelming,” Clark says. Clark and Hackley donated a redbud tree to plant on the campus to commemorate Sweet  Addie.

Another Boston terrier belonging to the couple, Firecracker Jack, was treated for cancer at NC State. They were so impressed by the quality of care that they presented coats of excellence to a pair of oncology residents involved with Jack’s care: Stephanie Istvan and Zander Bennett. They also sponsored a special room in the hospital’s intensive care unit that is named after Firecracker Jack. 

Teresa DeFrancesco, Professor of cardiology and critical care. Photo by Nathan Latil/NC State Veterinary Medicine

Clark is active with the Boston Terrier Rescue of East Tennessee, a regional organization that operates in more than 10 states, including North Carolina. She says that DeFrancesco has been an invaluable asset to the organization through the years, treating numerous rescues, including some that ended up belonging to Clark and Hackley. Clark also served two four-year terms as a member of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation.

Clark says DeFrancesco even takes the time to check in on dogs. When they adopted a dog named Lexi Adeline that had been hit by a car and terribly injured, Clark says DeFrancesco visited her twice a day for six days. Lexi recovered and is living happily with her adoptive family today.

Recently, Clark and Hackley realized that in spite of their long and close relationship with the CVM, they had never done anything to formally recognize DeFrancesco. A coat of excellence seemed to be the perfect way to do it.

The coat of excellence program is a special way clients can recognize a faculty clinician, intern, resident or staff member who has touched their lives and the lives of their pets. The $10,000 donation helps support veterinary hospital services, includes a white lab embroidered with the name of the honoree and the name of the animal they so deeply cared for. 

True to form, DeFrancesco wanted to share the spotlight. “Veterinary medicine is a team sport,” she says. She saw to it that all the rest of the cardiology team received their own specially embroidered vest or jacket in recognition. She also led a variation on the white lab coat theme with a switch to outdoor gear.

“I’ve literally worn it every day since the day I got it,” she says about her own jacket. “Cindy and Joe are just amazing.”

~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine