Giving Thanks for Veterinary Medicine

Caring for patients, making a difference for clients and the community, pursuing a lifelong dream — there are many reasons to find meaning and gratitude in a career in veterinary medicine.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we asked UW School of Veterinary Medicine alumni why they’re thankful to be working in this field. “Obviously the love of animals is one of the most treasured things, however, there is so much more,” responded Debra Olbrich DVM’07.

Below, read excerpted comments from a number of graduates representing many different professional paths.

I am thankful for my career as a dairy veterinarian because each day gives me an opportunity to work with cows and people in the outdoors. I always dreamed of helping sick animals or finding ways to help prevent illness and improve animal welfare and my career enables me to pursue those passions in a variety of ways.

     The relationships I’ve built with my clients over the years are a huge bonus I never really expected back in my days in vet school. Our agriculture community is filled with hardworking, kindhearted individuals that serve others in so many ways. Recently, our clinic did a challenge to raise milk donations for local food pantries and despite the tough economic times for our industry right now, we received donations to purchase over 1,000 gallons of milk for needy families this holiday season. –Chris Booth DVM’00, Dairy Doctors Veterinary Services

Working in veterinary medicine ended up being one of the great blessings of my life. As a dairy practitioner, I really came to appreciate how my role as an animal care provider had a positive impact on the financial wellbeing of my clients’ and their family’s lives, as well as the health status of the individual animals that I treated.

     My “job” as a veterinarian evolved into a lifestyle of enjoyable service that after more than 30 years of practice is still an honor to pursue. I cherish my relationships with colleagues in academia, practice life and organized veterinary medicine as an extended part of my family. John Been DVM‘88  

As a son of a veterinarian, and as the spouse of one, this profession has provided sustenance and fulfillment for me all my life. I have been working for a veterinarian or as a veterinarian for over 51 years, and remarkably it still provides those things for me.

     I think most veterinarians could compile the same lists of gratitudes: For parents and friends that supported us, for professors and mentors that taught us, for patients and clients that encouraged us, and for a vocation and profession that fulfills us.
     I am grateful for the opportunity to be a veterinarian. This is not something that I take lightly, as I remember the days of my veterinary school applications. Days of opening one thin letter after another, only to find that I was number one, or two, or three on a waiting list. … What I remember most, in March of 1983, is the euphoria I felt when I received a letter of acceptance from the new School of Veterinarian Medicine at UW-Madison. –Rodney Kuenzi DVM’87, Kuenzi Family Pet Hospital

Reflections at the SVM
We also asked UW School of Veterinary Medicine faculty, staff and students to reflect on what they are thankful for at the SVM. Read a sampling of their notes of gratitude.

I am thankful to be a veterinarian because I get to help people every day. Nothing is more valuable to me than the relationships I have made with my clients over the years! –
Jesse Sondel DVM‘03, Sondel Family Veterinary Clinic

I’m grateful I was asked to reflect on the many blessings I enjoy. … My career as an ambulatory equine veterinarian, out and about in the upper Midwest nearly every day. The many spectacular dawns, breath-taking sunsets, unbelievable heat and humidity, piercing cold, blowing snow. Watching the corn grow, the hay baled and the harvest reaped. I truly love being outside nearly every single day. … The great veterinarians, veterinary technicians, assistants, client support staff and everyone working in our practices. The hard work, the commitment to providing the very best patient care and customer service, the passion, the empathy, the ecstasy and
the heartbreak. –Scott Spaulding DVM’91, Badger Veterinary Hospital

Veterinary medicine is such a dynamic field. Overall, I am thankful for being part of a team that makes a difference every day. Whether it is preventive care or managing an ailment, working with our patients and clients in a partnership to determine a plan moving forward — those interactions are unique. Partner that with participating with my colleagues for the betterment of veterinary medicine gives me a sense of satisfaction. –
Doug Kratt DVM‘98, Central Animal Hospital

I am thankful there are so many opportunities within veterinary medicine … that it allows for pursuit in whatever interest you may have. I would have never dreamed of going down the path that I have, but every day that I get to make patients feel better and improve their quality of life is a great day. –
Jennifer Lorenz DVM’09, Capital Performance Veterinary Services, LLC

I am thankful that I can be in a position to influence owners to increase the quality and quantity of their pets’ lives. I have benefited by meeting some amazing people and being witness to their love for pets.

     Being involved in my state veterinary medical association led to being involved at the American Veterinary Medical Association as a delegate. I love meeting other veterinarians. I get such a charge off being in a room with 300 other veterinarians. We are in the best profession in the world. –Kathy Reilly DVM’90, Park Place Veterinary Hospital

While in private practice, I was presented the opportunity to work in industry as a professional services veterinarian. Taking this job was a big leap of faith, but I am so happy that I did! Working in industry combines two of my passions — veterinary medicine and education. Now I get to do both on a larger scale.

     I am extremely grateful to work in a profession that, with a single degree, offers such a wide variety of career paths. There aren’t very many post-graduate degrees that can offer this degree of opportunity. –Debra Olbrich DVM’07, Merck Animal Health

I have had the pleasure of working in a number of different roles in veterinary medicine … in private practice, [where] you get direct feedback on the benefits veterinarians have on the lives of pets and their owners … in veterinary virology research studying infectious disease in production animals, where you see the benefits of research and vaccine development from the perspective of helping to maintain a healthy food source for the world’s population.

     Now I have the privilege of working in the veterinary pharmaceutical industry, where I see the impact veterinarians have on keeping pets and production animals healthy through drug development. So many doors have opened for me because of my education. I have also met so many wonderful people during my career. For this I am very grateful to the UW School of Veterinary Medicine. –Diane Larsen DVM’90, PhD’99, Boehringer-Ingelheim Animal Health

Many of us enter this profession to “make a difference” and that may look different for different folks. I learned, very early in my career, that behavior issues were one of the top reasons pets ended up in shelters. I also discovered that the human-animal bond was key. Repairing and enhancing the bond owners have with their pets became my mission and it still is, and I do this through behavior consultations and follow-ups.

     Every speck of positive feedback and reached goals makes me beam inside. To know that I helped a family and their pet overcome a behavior issue is quite a high, especially because I know that animal will remain in the home. Not only that but if I do my job right, the family comes away from the experience understanding their pet so much better. –Manette Kohler DVM’91, Helping Hand Veterinary Behavior Counseling

When I was still a high school student working for a small animal veterinary practitioner in Janesville, Wisconsin, I learned of a group of veterinary practitioners that created a partnership to take their skills to help animals in need of health care on the Cayman Islands. Fast forward 20 years to a cold winter and a colleague sharing photos of a similar tropical paradise on the Turks and Caicos Islands. … Together with the support of my husband, we took the leap and purchased a share in this revolving doctor practice. A different veterinarian goes for a two-week tour every two weeks. Each practitioner carries down the necessary medical and surgical supplies for practice.

     We started going in 2004 and have been blessed to visit eight times over the years. We have been able to help the people and the animals on the islands and learn about life in an entirely different climate and ecosystem. … We have formed friendships and been able to experience a corner of the world that I never would have thought possible.
     I have always been told that a veterinary medicine career can grant many opportunities and this one has been a bright spot in my life for many years. –Ann Sherwood Zieser DVM’90, Middleton Veterinary Hospital

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