Suzanne Saueressig (February 4, 1924 – February 8, 2013) was the first practicing female veterinarian in Missouri. Saueressig was the Humane Society of St. Louis' Chief of Staff for 55 years. She was born in Nuremberg, Germany and graduated from the University of Munich Veterinary College, class of 1953. She was the only female in her class. She came to St. Louis, MO and was hired as a veterinarian for the Humane Society. She insisted on raising the standards at her clinic- ensuring surgical instruments were sanitized properly, increasing cleanliness standards for the animals, and insisting on modern x-ray equipment. She was named their Chief of Staff ten years later in 1965. She is accredited with playing a major role in the St. Louis Humane Society’s success. It is one of the largest operating practices in the Midwest today. She campaigned for spaying and neutering animals and had a column in the local newspaper to help educate and improve the local community. In 1972, she claimed the award of “Woman Veterinarian of the Year” by the national organization American Veterinary Medical Association.
Suzanne Saueressig was born in Nuremberg, Germany. She was the first of four siblings. Her great-grandfather built their family home directly behind his construction building. It was a five story apartment building. Her early education was done at a Catholic school, despite her objections with the school dress code. Her love for animals started at a young age as she had cats and dogs as pets growing up. One day after her cat had gone missing, Saueressig suspected the maid as the cause. She placed mice in the maid's dresser and the cat reappeared the next day. At the age of 17, Saueressig enrolled in a typing class. The first session she attended the school was bombed. This moment led her to quit the typing program and instead pursue a career as a nurse. During her first semester in nursing school, she once again was involved in a bombing. This time she suffered a concussion. She and her classmates at the nursing school were drafted into the army. In 1945-1946 she was held as a prisoner of war by the United States in Nuremberg Germany for about a year. During this time in Nuremberg, the Nuremberg Trials were taking place- the most notable being the Trial of Major War Criminals. During Hitler's reign, Nuremberg was a popular site for Nazi propaganda and rallies.
Acceptance into a veterinary school was no easy feat, especially as a female. At the time, the college favored war heroes and this may have attributed to her successful acceptance into the University of Munich.She graduated from the University of Munich Veterinary college in 1953. Out of 90 students in her graduating class, she was the only female. Despite this, her parents were not pleased at her choice to become a veterinarian.They believed working on animals was unbecoming for a young lady and that handling animals was dirty labor. After graduating, she did a year-long research study in an internship studying salmonella in mollusks. This earned her a master's degree magna cum laude after completing her doctoral dissertation in 1954 at the University of Munich. During her schooling, the opportunity to work on large animals like horses was very limited due to Word War II. Most of the horses in Germany belonged to aristocracy and were considered precious at the time.
Originally, Saueressig traveled to America to spend a year learning American veterinary methods. Saueressig moved to St. Louis and first had to wait five years before allowed to practice in the United States. First, she had to undergo the process to become a United States Citizen and become licensed by the state. She was then hired at the St. Louis Humane Society clinic in 1955. At the time, the clinic was very small and had only a few other staff members. One of the staff members was a third year veterinary student- Richard Riegel. While she was working her way to a higher position at the clinic, Riegel and Saueressig fell in love and married in 1956. Saueressig was soon placed in charge of the facility. From the start of working there, she insisted on raising the clinic's standards. She also insisted on sterile surgery equipment, using modern day technologies such as x-ray equipment, and clean cages. She would hide small newspaper comics on the bottom of animals' cages overnight and check to make sure they were removed the next morning as a way to ensure the staff was properly cleaning the cages. She is accredited with being the primary reason the St. Louis Humane Society clinic is one of the largest in the Midwest today. The facility now annually receives around 80,000 patients and performs 17,00 surgeries. She became Chief of Staff in 1965 and used her power to continue to expand the facility and raise the standards.
Saueressig was very involved in improving her community. From the beginning, she was a huge advocate for spaying and neutering pets and had a campaign to raise public awareness for the spay/neuter project. She served on veterinary and community organizations and mentored many successful veterinarians. She had a column in the newspaper St. Louis Globe-Democrat which was entitled "Ask the Pet Doctor" and was ran weekly from 1979-1985. She answered many community member questions about their pet's care and helped spread awareness this way.
She received the national award "Woman Veterinarian of the Year" from the Women's Veterinary Medical Association in 1972. The organization transitioned into a foundation, Association for Women Veterinarians Foundation, and continues its awards and scholarships through the American Veterinary Medicine Association.
Her community recognized her hard work in 1983 and titled her a Leader of Distinction and was added to the YWCA Metro St. Louis Academy of Leaders.
Saueressig died on February 8, 2013. She did not leave any children behind. Her husband died two months later on April 30, 2013. She was a mentor to many veterinarians and an inspiration to her supporters.
Kathy Warnick, the president of the Humane Society of Missouri at the time of Saueressig's death, accredited Dr. Saueressig with provided care to over a million pets in need.