Finding Inspiration Amidst The Chaos

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By Linda Kaplan, MHA, Vice President

Working in specialty medicine can often be overwhelming: patient care, pet owner demands, rDVMs, administration, inventory, equipment, operations, competition, regulations, finance, continuing education, employees, industry consolidation, the facility… and much more, day in and day out. It can be a grind.

Finding happiness, success, or passion is achievable of course in any job. For many of us, there was a person or two – or something – that inspired us way back when. They/it, without trying, opened our eyes to something new, or a new way of doing things, or provided us with the motivation to keep going and be our best.

And they have stuck with us, on a conscious or subconscious level throughout our careers. So on those days (or weeks, or months) when we’re struggling with why we are doing what we are doing, we reflect back on those game changing moments and use them as motivation to continue excelling.

I came into the veterinary specialty space 5 ½ years ago after a long career in human healthcare marketing. Since day one, I have been in awe of the people in this industry who work tirelessly for our furry family members. I’ve seen the best of the best and some heart wrenching situations that will always be with me.

From my vantage point, I have the opportunity to see a variety of specialists and their team members from across the country navigate through the complexities of each day. And despite the many challenges before them… they keep going. And most want more: to learn more, to mentor more, to help more, to be more. It is, to say the least, inspiring.

Recently, I asked a few clients where their inspiration came from – or comes from now, at this point in their career – meaning, how do they keep going, every day, with all that they have to deal with? Below you will find some of the wonderful responses I received. I was a bit surprised that the feedback mostly included thoughts about people in their current, daily lives – family members, colleagues, staff members, etc., rather than their professor, or an historical person, or their sixth grade biology teacher who helped them dissect a frog. Interesting…

Enjoy… and thank you all for doing what you do. Every. Single. Day.


“This is easy, my wife, head surgeon, business owner, visionary, mother, professional, educator, political activist, volunteer, friend, cohort, bed-mate: Diane Craig inspires me.

  • She passed surgery boards while nursing our first born.
  • She later became the first dual boarded ACVS diplomate (boarded in both large and small animal surgery).
  • She chaired the ACVS committee that addressed the issue of ACVS diplomates who needed or wanted to change species.
  • She will be president of the CVMA in 2018. Why? Because she thinks it’s important for women to have a voice and equal power share in the profession.
  • Her associates at VSS reap higher financial rewards that she does. We have employees that have been with her 20 years. That makes her (us) happy.

There’s much more, but if that’s not enough to be inspired by, you would have to be a little dead inside.”

Rich Pankowski, DVM
Hospital Administrator, Veterinary Surgical Specialists
Tustin, CA

“I am inspired by the people I work with every day. I am inspired by their deep caring for our patients and the way they continually give of themselves to do anything and everything they can to help improve life for these animals. My teammates will literally sit with an anxious, frightened patient for hours to calm and comfort them. They will gently bathe a patient and change her bedding after the most awful diarrhea or vomiting, not once, but many times in a single shift. They will spend hours at a patient’s side, closely monitoring their vital signs and adjusting their medications. They will spend countless hours talking to a patient’s family, trying to help them understand what’s happening and helping them to make the decisions that will be the best for the patient. They will tolerate difficult clients with empathy and kindness. My teammates will work overtime and extra shifts, will come in when the roads are so icy that schools and other businesses are closed, will consistently and repeatedly go above and beyond to ensure that every patient is cared for and comfortable.

When life is chaotic, I am inspired by my teammates. They remind me of our purpose every day.”

Julie Ducoté, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology)
CEO, Center for Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care
Lewisville, TX

“As a doctor being able to make a difference, whether that be bringing clarity to a diagnosis, developing a successful treatment plan or helping make the difficult decision to let go and alleviating pain and suffering.

As a business owner providing opportunities for employment, being responsible and giving members of the community.”

Stephanie Phillips, DVM, DACVIM
CARE Veterinary Center
Frederick, MD

“My inspiration will always be drawn from my wife and children. For me, my work provides the financial means to eventually spend more quality time with my family. I constantly try to live within the moment, while remaining mindful that forward planning and strategy helps to facilitate my ability to do so. I work to live, rather than live to work.”

Anonymous (Specialist)

“The Client who says “I appreciate you.”  Especially when the outcome isn’t as you’d hoped…

The extern/intern/resident/technician whom you educate and you see the spark of understanding and excitement in their eyes.

The coworker who acknowledges all that is done “behind the scenes” by the hospital Leadership team and contributes more than is expected.

Transitioning as a Leader/Partner from medical challenges to business challenges.

When my 2-year-old daughter points to a neighbor’s cat and says, “Daddy fixes kitty cats.”

Keven Gulikers, DVM, MS, DACVIM
Center for Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care
Lewisville, TX 

“My inspiration often comes from the pet owners; their devotion to their loved companions keeps me looking for answers to the questions. I remember a great professor said you don’t have to know everything you just have to know where to find what you need when you need it, and you must be willing to go looking for it. I am also inspired everyday by the great doctors and staff I have worked with.”  

Diane Johnson, DVM
Owner, Animal Emergency Hospital Volusia
Ormond Beach, FL

“This has been a difficult question to answer. Just as one doesn’t think about breathing, you just do it, the same goes for my approach with veterinary medicine, I just do it. To name just one person or experience that inspires me is impossibility. My path over the last 20+ years has crossed with several of the greatest clinicians, specialists, colleagues and team members. And each in their own way and time, have definitely helped keep my passion lit for veterinary medicine. Additionally, the countless experiences with my patients and clients have certainly left lasting impressions on my heart and mind. Lastly, the amazing bond that I’ve had and have with my pets keep the importance of the human-animal bond at the forefront of my mind. All of these have inspired my endless hunger for knowledge and desire to give back everything I’ve gotten. So when you sum it all up, the many facets of veterinary medicine inspires me.” 

Danielle T. Russ, LVT, BS, BA, AS
Hospital Manager, The COVE
Suffolk, VA

“I’m usually inspired by knowing that I am assisting someone, usually a client, to get through a difficult time. Something that can seem so simple to do can make such a huge difference to others. For example, I often can hear the relief in a client’s voice when I tell them that I have been through the same situation that they are facing. These types of positive interactions motivate me to continue to make these special connections with people.”

Noelle Norrie
Practice Manager, Animal Surgical of Seattle
Seattle, WA

Thank you to all of you who took the time to contribute.

Categories: Miscellaneous Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2017 Tags: ,