How movie animation led me to vet med

Before she became AAHA’s director of learning, Andrea Spediacci, DVM, had a budding career as a production assistant at DreamWorks Animation Studios.

By Connor Dunwoodie

You’ll find her name in the credits of Madagascar 2, and her work appears on other films like Megamind, Rise of the Guardians, and How to Train Your Dragon. 

Andrea Spediacci, DVM, is the American Animal Hospital Association’s director of learning, but before her career in vet med, her job looked much different. Graduating from UCLA with a degree in Communication Studies, for some time right after college, she worked at a radio station. 

“I got a job in radio for a little bit and then I found a job as a production assistant at DreamWorks Animation,” she said. “I started there as a baby [production assistant] and kind of worked my way through the ranks.” 

She became a production supervisor at the DreamWorks satellite campus in Redwood City. During her time there, she had a family member who was diagnosed with cancer and passed away.   

“It was something that made me realize two things: One—life is really short—like really short—like shorter than you think it is. And two, I became really interested in studying everything medical,” she added.  

When it came time to decide if she would stay at DreamWorks—work that she was passionate about, but that called for long hours—or pursue studies in “this cool new medical thing” —she chose the latter. 

She opened her own pet-sitting and boarding business to support herself in the meantime and started taking classes. 

 “I wanted to be a vet from when I was very little, but I never thought I would pass chemistry, so I never took those courses or took those chances,” she said.   

But she passed her first chemistry class and did really well. Next was physics, and just like chemistry, she passed with flying colors. 

“At a certain point I was like ‘What am I doing?’ Do I want to become a nurse? Do I want to become a dietitian? I really like education, so do I want to be a teacher?’ And that little voice in the back of my head that was like, ‘You want to be a veterinarian,’ started piping up again.” 

A friend who worked as a veterinarian let her shadow in her practice. She learned she could handle things like blood and needles, and she also volunteered at the SPCA in the kitten nursery and the spay-and-neuter clinic. 

One thing led to another, and in her first year, she got accepted to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where she started vet school as a general practitioner.  

“There was so much scientific information just flooding at me, and again I was very fortunate,” she added. 

After four years, her education had focused more on pathology research. And, some externships later, she graduated in 2020. 

“COVID happened and I couldn’t go back into the lab anymore,” she added. “So I kind of had to pivot and figure out figure something out.” 

After seeing a job posting at AAHA, she reached out to the hiring manager, sharing her background. 

“I consider myself as having like three careers: veterinary medicine, communications, and education. So, once we found there was a need [at AAHA], I was like ‘that seems like a really good fit for me.’” 

 As AAHA’s director of learning, Spediacci and her team tie in all three of those “careers” by creating an assortment of learning resources, from webinars to certificates, and much more, for her peers in vet med.    


Connor Dunwoodie is AAHA’s Senior Content Manager.   

Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.   



Subscribe to NEWStat