Most veterinarian origin stories begin the same way, with an early and undeniable love for animals. But, mine is a little bit different and perhaps a little surprising, although in hindsight, it makes perfect sense.
More than a love for animals: Early motivators
My first “I want to be a veterinarian” recollection is a phone call—a human, not animal, connection.
Dr. Connolly, our family veterinarian and my first veterinary role model, was a kind and reliable figure in our lives. One particular night, after our beloved family dog had been euthanized, our phone rang right in the middle of dinner. This wasn’t intrusive, but intentional, because Dr. Connolly knew this was the best time to reach us, when we were all sitting around the kitchen table. I remember being called to the phone and listening to Dr. Connolly express his condolences. He made me—a little kid—feel so valued and supported. Someone understood my sadness and cared enough to speak directly to me.
That small moment solidified my veterinary dream. I Ioved Dr. Connolly’s role in our family, and I wanted to be for others what he was for us. And now, as a veterinarian who coaches others on communication and client relationships, those interpersonal connections that spoke to me make the most sense.
Pleasantly persistent: The road to vet school
Once I set my sights on veterinary school, I was all in. I accepted every and any opportunity that would put me closer to my goal. I cleaned kennels after school, worked as a veterinary assistant, volunteered at the zoo, and scooped horse manure at a stable. And, when I couldn’t find an opportunity, I made one. My previously like-minded friends shifted away from the veterinary dream and onto other goals and directions, but I kept going, despite being the only one left.
I shared my goal with everyone I met, and I stepped up whenever I saw a need I could fill or a chance to learn. After a particularly dogged display of determination, an interviewer described my then 16-year-old self as, “Pleasantly persistent.”
I wish I could find the woman who told me that. I would tell her that those two words shaped my personal character, my professional success, and my life. To this day, being pleasantly persistent helps me create new opportunities and build new connections in the veterinary industry.
Veterinary school and beyond
My unwavering certainty about general veterinary practice is an example of that persistence. I graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2004, applied for an internship, and was accepted into a rotating small animal internship at Michigan Veterinary Specialists. Unlike other internship opportunities, MVS respected and supported my desire to be an outstanding general practitioner and didn’t try to pressure me into specialty medicine or suggest that a general practitioner was inferior.
After my internship, I was fortunate again in that my first job at Pet Medical Center, a three-clinic practice in Southern California, was an incredible experience. We provided general, emergency, and surgical services, and while the mutli-disciplinary aspect may have overwhelmed some new grads, I embraced the opportunity to grow my skills and take on new challenges.
Sharing the love of learning with others
I don’t think anybody wakes up and says, “I want to be a mentor.” That evolves organically from the joy someone gets from their work, from learning, and from sharing their knowledge and experience with others. And, the most effective mentors recognize that mentorship is a mutually beneficial relationship, because learning is dynamic and limitless, and mentees are teachers, too.
Although I’ve always enjoyed being the point person for new hires and helping onboard new veterinarians, technicians, and externs, my mentorship vision crystalized in 2020 during our mid-Pandemic staffing crisis. I asked my employer to waive his “No-new-grad” policy and hire a recent vet school graduate whom I would personally onboard, mentor, and train.
We hired Dr. Katie, who was a fantastic addition, a wonderful mentee, and an avid learner. In addition to her own questions, Dr. Katie began asking about cases and scenarios that her peers were struggling with in other practices. Her colleagues clearly lacked mentorship and support, and—like me—she wanted to help. So, I began hosting a small Zoom meeting to provide new veterinarians with an open forum for their questions and challenges. Then, as I watched these new graduates gain confidence, make discoveries, and find camaraderie, I realized the necessity for a structured, virtual veterinary mentorship program that would ensure more new and upcoming veterinary graduates would have access to the support and guidance they need during their critical first year.
Ready, Vet, Go gets going
Over the next year, these informal conversations with new graduates produced several themes. What began as a medical case discussion always seemed to evolve into a larger, more nuanced topic that wasn’t covered in veterinary school.
These recurring themes created the foundation for Ready, Vet, Go’s content and curriculum. Six distinct modules emerged that would tackle new graduates’ biggest issues as they found their place as a veterinarian:
- Effective communication
- Fitting in with practice culture
- Achieving financial wellness
- Time management
- Identifying and avoiding stress
- Preventing burnout
My initial Ready, Vet, Go growth plan involved developing and refining the program for several years, while also creating my path to transition from full-time practice to full-time mentoring. But, like our tagline, Ready, Vet, Go took things to the next level. As soon as we launched, we had an eager and demanding audience, which quickly led to new growth opportunities (e.g., small corporate group memberships, private coaching sessions, publications, speaking engagements) and sold-out opportunities—and I am still practicing full-time!
Equipping future veterinarians for sustainable success
Ready, Vet, Go’s evolving success demonstrates the need for a fresh perspective in veterinary medicine—for veterinarians who lead by modeling deep joy and passion for their work and show others how to do so by establishing healthy and practical habits, strong communication skills, and clear boundaries.
When early-career veterinarians learn to cultivate and maintain healthy client and team relationships, indulge their professional curiosity, and seek to understand—rather than cope with—inevitable challenges, they have the tools they need to access sustainable, renewable, and career-sustaining joy.
That’s what we do at Ready, Vet, Go. We build foundations that support rewarding and impactful careers, so our graduates can become like Dr. Connolly, the veterinarian who inspired me all those years ago.