A digital special section of | Subscribe

Matt O’Connor

Matt O’Connor

Staff veterinarian | Shedd Aquarium | Class of 2007

In the basement of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Small Animal Clinic, Dr. Matt O’Connor met the love of his life — and a few of his all-time favorite patients.

There was Willy the hognose snake, who came in with an eye infection. And Digit the coyote, who’d been struck by a car. And, of course, Squirt, the aptly named squirrel, who had a systemic infection (among other issues).

“Squirt liked to pee every time we handled him to administer his medications,” O’Connor says. “It was his way of saying ‘thanks.’”  

Now a staff vet at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, O’Connor (DVM ’07) points to his time working with ill, injured or orphaned native creatures at the UI’s Wildlife Medical Clinic as a launching point for his career. He spent three years as a resident vet at Ohio’s Columbus Zoo and Aquarium before starting at Shedd in 2015.

He also found his future bride here — Dr. Lauren O’Connor. Theirs is a love story unlike the many others we’ve told in this series; this one didn’t happen on dollar-beer night at a campus bar.

Says Dr. Matt: “I was most fortunate that she randomly signed up to be on my wildlife team and first got to know her when she managed to get me out of my clothes by dousing me with water after a failed attempt at handling a softshell turtle the size of a hubcap that had swallowed a fishing hook.”