Very few veterinarians can lay claim to their own practice within a few years of graduation. But Ramard Wright, DVM 2008, accomplished that very feat when he purchased Brown Deer Animal Hospital in November 2011, only two and half years after leaving the UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM). Now redubbed Wright’s Brown Deer Animal Hospital, the clinic, located just outside of Milwaukee, is thriving under his direction.
Wright distinguished himself as an exceptional student while at the SVM. Those who know him are quick to mention his charisma, keen intelligence, and unwavering work ethic, qualities he has carried with him into his practice. But a great deal led up to his enrollment in the school and his eventual success as a veterinarian.
Wright’s fascination with animals began in the woods surrounding his grandparents’ cabin in Dodge County where he spent his youth tromping through streams, stalking deer, catching fish, and capturing frogs and snakes. He recalls vividly the long moments he spent studying the scales of a garter snake and peering inside its mouth in awe.
“It was a learning thing,” says Wright, a native of Milwaukee. “It was exciting for me. If I didn’t have that cottage, I would have been stuck in the city all summer and every weekend. I would have never been able to discover that interest.”
The cottage sparked Wright’s curiosity, but his grandfather fanned the flames and encouraged him to carry that burn into higher education. After two years at Tuskegee University in Alabama, Wright transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he earned a degree in biology, becoming the first in his family to earn a postsecondary degree.
“I’m fortunate that he’s a patient, diligent, hard-working man who didn’t have a degree but pushed me to get one,” Wright says of his grandfather.
Before he even began college, Wright was already earning his clinical stripes. In high school he landed a job at St. Paul Veterinary Clinic where he started cleaning cages and eventually worked his way up to more interesting responsibilities.
“When I interacted with the animals, I found that I have a skill that a lot of other people don’t have,” Wright says. It wasn’t long before the clinicians at St. Paul noticed his easy rapport with animals and sometimes relied on him to calm the feisty cases. Wright’s current clients have also taken stock of his natural ability.
“He seems to have a real connection with animals,” says Peter Gensler. He and his wife, Jane, recall how their shepherd mix, Bear, could not be coaxed out of the parking lot into the clinic. For a few visits, Wright examined Bear in the Gensler’s van, but Bear soon allowed Wright to lead him inside. Now he walks in on his own. “I watch Bear closely, and he never flinches for Dr. Wright,” says Jane Gensler.
Wright has not only instilled trust in Bear but also his owners. He helped see the Genslers through a trying time when they lost McKenzie, their lab-pit bull mix, and they have been impressed ever since. “If Dr. Wright left Brown Deer, we would take Bear wherever he is,” says Jane Gensler.
The dedication of Wright’s clients comes as no surprise to Jason Bleedorn, a clinical assistant professor of surgical sciences at the SVM who as a resident worked with Wright. “Within five minutes of being in the exam room, he would always have a relationship with the clients,” he says.
Honing his skills with animals and clients, Wright racked up six years of experience in clinics before he even set foot in the SVM. The familiarity he gained with many aspects of veterinary medicine gave him a leg up in school, he says, and helped him focus on one of his true passions—surgery.
“I could do surgeries all day,” Wright says. “I love that aspect of veterinary medicine. I do more surgeries than most vets who are five years out of school. I love that, unlike medical treatments sometimes, the outcome is literally in my hands.”
Fortunately, surgery happens to be one of the more lucrative services a veterinary medical practice can provide, so Wright gives credit to the SVM for providing an experience that has helped his clinic succeed. He also continues to learn about surgery whenever he can by floating questions to SVM faculty and following up on cases he refers to the UW Veterinary Care Teaching Hospital. “He learns as much as he can from each case,” says Bleedorn.
In addition to surgery, Wright devotes time to client education and the promotion of preventative medicine and vaccines, which he says requires a little extra effort and the right communication style. The added attention he gives to his clients seems to have paid off because his caseload has grown steadily in the last year. While mostly a good thing, even growth comes with problems.
“I only had one day off last year,” says Wright with a haggard smile. Even with six people on staff, he still spends a great deal of time on paperwork, personnel management, and supply ordering. But in December he hired fellow alum and classmate, Rebecca Banks, DVM 2008, on a part-time basis to share some of the workload. Wright hopes to spend some newly freed time with his two young sons and his partner, Candice Bibbins, and perhaps make a few more visits to local schools to talk with students about the veterinary medical profession.
“He works so hard and so often, and I wanted to help out so the practice can flourish and he doesn’t burn out,” says Banks who feels they will work well together. “Both of us really love our jobs. We’re here because we love animals and we want to help and be advocates for them.”
For all his exceptional qualities, Wright is unusual for yet another reason in that he is one of few African Americans who practice veterinary medicine. According to the most recent American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, only 1.8 percent of veterinarians are African American, and only 0.6 percent are African-American males. According to Wright, he knows of only a handful of African American veterinarians who operate in Wisconsin.
“Most educated, black male professionals go into a field where they make more money,” says Wright, citing law, medicine, and nursing as options that are more often pursued by his peers. “But I think it’s good for people to see a black professional in any field, to see that this kid from an urban environment surrounded by crime and poverty, no father in the house, still pulled it off.”
“I always tell people to do what you’re good at and do what you love,” says Wright. For him, it is practicing veterinary medicine and helping the wonderful animals and people it brings through his doors.