Dr. Richard “Chip” Godine (DVM ’87) leads the way with veterinary laser therapy

Dr. Richard “Chip” Godine might not have become a leading proponent of laser therapy in veterinary medicine had he not injured his shoulder in 2007. When Godine went to his family doctor to treat the injury, his physician recommended laser light therapy to reduce pain and inflammation. Amazed at the treatment’s effectiveness, he went to an international laser therapy conference in Toronto to learn more about this emerging modality.

Dr. Chip Godine serves as a mentor to veterinary students like Anna Katogiritis, DVM Class of 2017, who visited Ruckersville Animal Hospital in November 2014. She shadowed Godine to learn about medical procedures, client communication, and laser therapy. Katogiritis is pictured (second from right) with Godine and his team, whom she says treat her like family when she visits.

Godine, who graduated from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 1987, became convinced of the science and potential for the practice and immediately purchased his first therapeutic laser system at the conference, Meditech’s BioFlex system. After a year of customizing human protocols for his veterinary patients and being pleased with the outcomes, the company asked Godine to develop its veterinary protocols and presets for its entry into the veterinary market.

Today, Godine is the immediate past president of the North American Association for Light Therapy and the first veterinarian to serve as the leader of this organization comprised mostly of physicians and dentists. He served as conference chair of the 2014 World Association for Laser Therapy Congress, the largest and most successful international laser therapy conference to date, and has authored a chapter on veterinary laser therapy applications in two textbooks to be released this summer.

Godine’s knowledge of photobiomodulation — the technical name for laser therapy, which works to decrease pain and inflammation while stimulating regeneration of injured and diseased tissue — has resulted international speaking engagements in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Canada, as well as domestically throughout the United States. He will travel to Italy this fall and Brazil next year. (Bonus: watch a YouTube video of Godine discussing the veterinary applications of laser therapy.)

Godine puts his knowledge into practice at the Ruckersville Animal Hospital in Ruckersville, Virginia — about 30 minutes north of Charlottesville. The hospital’s licensed veterinary technicians use eight therapeutic lasers 10-15 times per day to complement traditional treatment protocols and sometimes as a solo treatment modality.

A patient poses with Dr. Chip Godine at Ruckersville Animal Hospital, which the family has owned since 2006.

Godine and his wife, Dr. Caroline Kohlstadt Godine, who also graduated from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 1987, are both veterinarians at the Ruckersville Animal Hospital and have worked together throughout their careers. Caroline was the first person that Chip Godine met at the veterinary college, and after marrying in 1988, they initially practiced in Kilmarnock and Yorktown in eastern Virginia. They then became partners with John and Sharon Franklin (DVM ’85) at The Animal Hospital in Lynchburg.

Caroline Godine, who received her undergraduate degree in dairy science from the University of Maryland in 1982, practiced full time until the birth of the first of their four children in 1991. She homeschooled each child through the ninth grade, taught at the Charlottesville Homeschool Co-op, and served on the board of directors at the Covenant School during an active time of change at the Charlottesville private school.

In 1995, the Godines purchased Franklin County Animal Hospital in Rocky Mount, Virginia. By now the Godines were frequently traveling to visit grandparents and cousins in Baltimore and Charlottesville. In 2000, they decided to move closer to family and sold the Rocky Mount clinic and moved to Charlottesville. Chip Godine worked in Waynesboro and later as a relief doctor and traveling ultrasound service. Caroline Godine was busy homeschooling all four children, while Chip was serving on the VA-MD Vet Med Alumni board and the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association board, presiding as its president in 2003.

“It is important for all veterinarians to participate in organized veterinary medicine like the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, and American Veterinary Medical Association,” said Chip, who currently serves as Virginia’s delegate to the latter organization. “It is the best way that we can advance our profession to meet the needs of society as well as preserve our livelihood and reputation within society.”

In 2006, a wonderful opportunity materialized, and the Godines bought Ruckersville Animal Hospital from the retiring Dr. John Hayes. The hospital is only five miles from the farm Chip grew up on.

Back row, left to right: Caroline, Chip, and Lina Godine. Middle row: Kohls, Spencer, and Taylor Godine. Front row: Golden retrievers Ellie, Lacy, and Annie.

Chip Godine’s parents were stationed in Germany with the military when he was born, but when he was 6 months old, they moved to Baltimore. When he was 9 years old, they moved again to Charlottesville where they owned a beef cattle farm in northern Albemarle County. Here, he became interested in animals — first cows and then horses. In 1977, he received his undergraduate degree in history from the University of Virginia, where he played on the varsity lacrosse team.

Upon graduation, he landed a position at the now Bank of America in Washington, D.C. After three years in banking, Godine went back to school to follow his heart’s desire of becoming a veterinarian. He and his wife attended the veterinary college in its early days and are pleased to see how much it has grown in stature and reputation over the years.

“The school has been blessed with great leadership at critical times in its development and has placed significant effort into reaching out to practitioners, listening to what they want, and responding in kind,” said Chip Godine, whose veterinary interests outside of laser therapy include ultrasound, cardiology, and orthopedic surgery.

This past May, the last of the Godines’ four children graduated from high school, and all the while Caroline Godine has been able to keep up her veterinary skills and practice part-time. She will now begin adding her special interests in reproduction, dermatology, and soft tissue surgery to Ruckersville Animal Hospital on a halftime basis.

Of their four children, the eldest two graduated from the University of Virginia. The oldest is studying to be a physician’s assistant, while their youngest sons both attend Christopher Newport University and play lacrosse. Their second child, Lina, hopes to follow in her parents’ footsteps and has been accepted into the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2019.