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Surviving Veterinary Medicine

The Contented Vet – with Dr. Alissa Edoff

 

Surviving Veterinary Medicine. Be smart, be bold, be creative and be your own boss. At the very least, find a practice where you can do what you do in the most positive way that gives you the space to practice medicine as you see fit. Because at SVM we set a higher standard for medicine than what you learned in school.

Dr. Narda Robinson (NR): On today’s podcast, we’re interviewing Dr. Alissa Edoff, and she is an instructor with our Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians Course and also has helped us with the Rehab Course that we have. Now, she’s embarked on some new adventures that relate to Surviving Veterinary Medicine.

NR: So, welcome, Alissa. Thanks for being here today.

Dr. Alissa Edoff (AE): Thanks for having me.

NR: Yeah, I know we all kind of have our own journey and how we got to this place. Do you want to talk about where you started, even if it was pre-vet school or… We do so much changing along the way.

AE: Yeah. So, I am a classic wanted-to-be-a-vet from the age of three, but when I got to college, I think I had imposter syndrome even then and I kind of chickened out and didn’t actually apply to vet school and ended up working as a technician for a year and didn’t feel like that was enough for me.

So, I still wanted to do something with animals. I still didn’t have the guts to apply to vet school. So, I went into pharmaceutical research, working with primates.

NR: Yeah.

AE: That was not for me, but it kind of gave me the kick in the pants to apply to vet school.

NR: Yeah.

AE: I got into two schools right off the bat, first try, which was amazing. Waitlisted at another school in the UK. I applied overseas. And loved it, went to vet school, enjoyed it. Amazing. Like it was just the best experience of my life. And yeah.

NR: So, you what you really wanted to get out of… You grew up in Boulder or Arvada or…?

AE: Arvada. Yeah.

NR: Yeah.

AE: Near Boulder.

NR: You knew you wanted to be somewhere different for a while.

AE: I did a study abroad to Australia when I was in my undergraduate degree at CSU, and that kind of kickstarted my passion for traveling. So, when I knew I could go to the UK and get an AVMA-accredited degree; that was the equivalent of a DVM. It was not really a question for me; I knew I wanted to go abroad. And the school I got into was actually the school that James Herriot went to.

NR: Oh, yeah. That’s really great.

AE: Yeah.

NR: They have all kinds of James Herriot stuff around?

AE: They did. The library was the James Herriot Library and they had a couple of his instruments that he used to practice from years and years ago.

NR: Wow.

So, I know that for me and for the people I’d seen like at CSU, especially in retrospect, when I was faculty, I mean, you come into vet school and to me, I mean, it just seems like there’s all these dreams; it’s your whole life, you wanted to do this and you’re there, and then it’s super exciting and everybody’s so thrilled.

And somewhere between that and second year, things start to change and it’s not something new anymore. And it’s, I don’t know. At some point, especially during training and then sometimes by internship or residency, people start either getting depressed, there’s something that shifts. It’s not your fairytale existence anymore. I don’t know. Did you see that in your school or experience that?

AE: I didn’t in vet school. For me, within three weeks of my first job getting out of school, I was wondering what I was doing with my life. But the UK formulates, like there’s…

So, from what I understand, the US schools, you have a test like every single week and it’s just boom, boom, boom, boom; constantly study, constantly taking tests. No time to have any break or enjoy your life.

Whereas in the UK and Scotland, we had a little bit more of a, I think, undergraduate degree take on school. So, we have labs and some things that we had to do throughout the semesters, but we had a test at the end of the first semester that was worth like 15 to 20% of our grade. And then a huge test at the end of the year, that was worth 70%.

NR: Wow.

AE: So, I felt that I was able to travel and enjoy my time. I mean, time management was really important because the amount of information is huge, similar to what you’re learning in the US. And I just, I felt I had the time to enjoy it and experience it and… Yeah, but then once I graduated, right away, I regretted everything.

NR: Yeah, yeah. What happened at that time?

AE: I took a job that was near home. I initially had wanted to be an equine veterinarian. Downfall of going to school in the UK, in Scotland, I didn’t come home enough to stand out for an internship. So, I found a job in mixed practice near home; was promised mentorship that I did not get. They weren’t practicing the medicine that I had learned; it was slightly different, a little bit more rural, and I remember waking up, I don’t know, three o’clock in the morning with a heart rate of over a hundred, just tears. I only lasted three months there because I was just so miserable. Yeah, it was awful.

NR: Yeah. I mean, they tell us – I don’t know if they say it in the UK, but just that your first job, you probably won’t last by a year. So, you know, you did have company, I guess, in that.

AE: Yeah.

NR: So, then you then you went into research after that?

AE: No. So, the research was what got me into vet school. 

NR: Oh, I see.

AE: So, that was that was before veterinary school. Because I quit at three months, it was kind of an odd time. So, not a lot of clinics at the time were looking for new grads. So, I actually went into corporate and worked in corporate for about a year and a half.

It has positives and negatives because I didn’t have the support that I felt I needed during my first job and ended up in small animal practice when I had actually kind of focused equine in vet school.

I wanted to have multiple other veterinarians there with me as kind of a support staff, a mentorship. So, I was very specific in which practice, corporate wise, I wanted to work at, which location so that I knew I had, I think, there were five of us when I worked there; had that support.

NR: Did you feel like there was also such a structure… I mean, did the fact that it was corporate like attract to you because it seemed more rigorous or reliable or just that there would be a certain type of medicine or it be more systematic, maybe, than a rural general kind of thing?

AE: Yeah, it was that and I knew I could get a job. They were constantly recruiting. I mean, even still now, it’s been four years since I’ve left and I still get calls sometimes.

NR: Oh, wow.

AE: “Come back. We’ll offer you more money. We’ll do this and that.”

But I knew they had set protocols and just very rigorous; like, “This is how it is.” And so, I guess with my imposter syndrome and just not feeling like I was a very good small animal vet, having guidelines was, in my mind, helpful. But ultimately, I knew I could get a job there.

NR: Yeah.

AE: Just kind of I was scrambling after leaving three months into my first job.

NR: Right. Right.

Well, and so if you saw the life that you have now or that you’ve had, I mean, it’s only been a number of years, a small number of years. But if you were presented with somebody like yourself now that has all this multiplicity of opportunities and things, do you think you would have gone for that or do you think you needed sort of some kind of evolution to get where you are now?

AE: It was 100 percent an evolution. I never thought, my last day of vet school, that I would be owning my own practice, doing acupuncture, doing rehabilitation and being my own boss. That was never a thought in my mind.

NR: Right, right.

Well, and they might not have said that to you that that was a possibility even back then. And I think that probably most veterinary schools don’t give you that as one of the possible things; the routes that you can go down.

So, then how did you get… what was the next steps? How did you know you wanted to leave corporate?

AE: So, I found corporate frustrating because it was all about numbers and they needed you to see a certain amount of patients per day. And they never turned anything away, really. So, you had to squeeze it in.

I never wanted to be a small animal vet; I hate surgery. Kind of why I wanted to track equine is because I didn’t ever have to… I mean, yeah, there’s some lacerations and things like that that you’d have to fix, but I didn’t really want to have to do surgery ever. And that didn’t pan out. So, I knew small animal was not where I wanted to be.

I had had a shoulder injury when I was in my early twenties and had acupuncture for it, learned that they had acupuncture for animals, your course, actually, because I was a CSU grad. So, that was always kind of something I was interested in doing.

NR: Yeah.

AE: So, I talked to corporate and they said that they would allow me to do acupuncture there. I had to fund the course myself. They would do a follow up like continuing education and things like that. But the initial course was on me.

So, I applied for your course or did your course and then nobody ever wanted to have acupuncture.

NR: In the corporate environment.

AE: Mm hmm. A lot of people were interested, but nobody ever bit the bullet. I don’t know if it was the cost of it or… But eventually…

Well, actually, so what happened is I had this sweet little Chihuahua that had had a hind leg injury and again wasn’t super confident, we did radiographs. I was like I feel like this is Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.”

NR: Oh.

AE: But everyone else, and we had sent the radiographs off to the radiologist and they’re like, “Er, no, I don’t think it is. I don’t think it is.” And I was like, “Okay, well, the radiologist has to know. Like they’re board certified.”

So, I put this little dog on some pain meds and she’s kept coming back, “She’s still painful, still painful.” So, we re-radiographed, guess what? I was right at the beginning.

NR: Wow.

AE: And so, while I was looking for a place to do rehabilitation for her, I was on the website of a local clinic here in the Denver area and they were hiring. And I had already registered for my rehab certification at that point. So, I was registered, but hadn’t taken it. But I had just become certified with acupuncture through CuraCore. And it was like, “Well, I’ll apply and see what happens.” They said, “Someone interested or certified.” And I was like, “Well, I’ve already certified in acupuncture and I registered for the course” and I got the job.

NR: Great.

AE: So, again, kind of evolved and went that direction.

But what was kind of neat is I did the mixed CuraCore. So, I’m equine or large and small acupuncture certified and I had already established my LLC. So, when I went into my job at the rehab facility, I said, “I already have this LLC. I want to do some equine on the side and some house call stuff.”

So, I had my lawyer kind of write up a letter stating that I was able to do that. As long as I didn’t do rehabilitation, I was able to do acupuncture through mobile. So, I kind of had both jobs at once. And yeah, I still kind of just evolving.

NR: So, the things that I hear, like you had a lawyer – so, a business lawyer, I’m thinking – and you thought about the flexibility that you wanted in your life. You kind of knew what your goals were and your requirements. So, I guess maybe that’s from not having that.

But it’s still such a valuable thing that you knew what you needed to know and you had this resource of – I mean, I didn’t think… I mean, until, what was it? 2014. And I’d been out in human practice and in veterinary practice all this time, but that was when I first even hired my first business lawyer.

And that’s what like when we see on our MAV Facebook page or private group and everything, when people want to start out, that’s one of the first things I say, “Get a good business lawyer.”

Because we know people that have been trapped in these contracts or a private clinic gets sold to corporate and they don’t have the wherewithal, they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know. Even if you think you know, well, let’s have my lawyer look at this or something, and it’s like, “Oh, wow, I just dodged a bullet or whatever.” And so, just the tools of self-protection, self-advocacy and all that.

And so, good for you that you had that awareness and also, good for you for the diagnosis. And you are a good vet.

And that imposter syndrome; when I first learned of that, I mean, that was decades ago and nobody else was talking about it. But I found a book that was on the imposter syndrome and I thought, “Wow, that’s what I have. And is that ubiquitous?” I mean, I never knew.

But they don’t tell you that either. And even for all the more touchy-feely things or whatever; communication, all these things that are going on in vet school now because of the suicide and the depression, everything, I don’t know that anybody actually talks about imposter syndrome.

AE: Yeah, I never had really heard of it until I started listening to, like, veterinary podcasts. And now looking back, I’m like, “Oh, that’s one hundred percent.”

I feel like I still have it. I’m always wondering, like, “Am I doing enough? Am I am I missing something?”

Now, owning my own practice, I get that reassurance from clients like, “Thank you so much. You’ve helped us so much. And you’ve saved my dog’s life. We wouldn’t be here without you.”

So, I know even if I’m not perfect, I’m definitely doing good in the world and I’m helping animals and, I don’t know, I do the best that I can and try to learn as much as I can as I go.

NR: And you’re educating others. I mean, you’ve been a teacher in our courses for a long time. And you’re very effective.

And I think even to me, I mean, what would perfect be? I think you’re perfect how you are. I think we’re all perfect how we are. And other than being a robotic, kind of like an excellent chess player, in terms of like a computer can beat anybody, I don’t get the perfection. I know that we can make mistakes.

Just an awakening for me, as you know, are all these specialists and everything that we’re taught to revere so highly and to – Like you did with the radiologist that first didn’t know it, then they must be the right ones – there’s so many flaws in the educational process across the board with health care, so many omissions.

And sometimes, people are just there because they didn’t – especially people that stay in academia. It’s like, well, they don’t have any other options because they’ve been in that cloistered environment so long, they can’t become independent. But yeah, I don’t know.

So, it’s just that whole power structure, too, that I think we enter into in school where, especially the old way, it’s like you’re not encouraged to be who you are, to examine all these independent ideas. And just that idea like if you say, “Oh, maybe this animal has this” and it’s like, “Yeah, right. Don’t be looking for zebras. If you’re hear hoof beats, think of the horses.”

I mean, just the way that it’s not encouraging for individuality and for the to the more sensitive, intuitive kinds of people, I think.

AE: Yeah.

I don’t know. I feel like learning acupuncture and rehab, I approach everything so differently. Like I feel I can get an idea of what’s wrong with that animal before I even touch them. Just by spending 20 minutes with the client on the first visit and watching that dog move around; are they weight shifting? How are they holding their head and neck?

Whereas when I was in other practice, you walk in, you have 15 to 20 minutes and you do your physical exam, give them what they need, and then you’re out the door.

And that whole 20 minutes, I don’t even touch the dog on my initial evaluations now because I’m observing them and I love being in the home.

Covid has been a little bit different because I can’t really go inside. But, you know, you just see them moving around their house and do they go from carpet to carpet and they avoid all the wood floors. How are they doing on stairs; things like that that you would miss other times.

NR: Right. Right.

And in the process, you’re building this connection, intentionally, with the animal and with the client versus in the, I think, the structure of the corporate thing is you don’t build those connections. I mean, it’s more mechanical and like you said, fee-based, money-based, all that stuff.

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NR: So, you’re in another evolution now that you’ve talked about.

AE: Yes.

So, I left my rehab practice and started my mobile business exclusively. And it has really taken off. It has become very successful. And through teaching at CuraCore, I have talked to a lot of the students and we’ve done some kind of group situations about mobile practice and people that are interested in that.

And I was being emailed and messaged a lot by the students that had taken the course, wanting to know more and having very specific questions and they wanted to start their own practices. And I felt like I was answering the same question over and over and over again.

So, being the entrepreneur that I apparently have now become, I started yet another business. And I will be launching a course for veterinarians that want to start their own mobile practice.

It will kind of be specific for acupuncture and rehab-focused, because that’s what I do. But I guess if you wanted to do more than that, it would have the basis that you’d have to order your medications and drugs and do all of that other stuff. But I’m sure there are other people out there that can kind of guide you past setting up your LLC.

And I’m going to be talking about all the stuff from legal, getting a lawyer, having a CPA, how to set up an LLC all the way down to like how to pick colors. There’s all this kind of psychology on colors for logos and how to create your logo, how appointments go, how to schedule things, insurance, all of the stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily think about. Have it all in one place so that people can purchase this course, and just basically have their hand held from step to step.

Ideally, what I’d like to do also is find a… I think I’d have the platform for the course that also has a forum on it so that we can kind of create a community. And if people have very specific questions on certain things that come up, they can reach out on the forum. Because you work by yourself.

And so, having someone else to bounce ideas off of or even cases and just create support for everyone else.

NR: Right. That’s really great.

When do you feel like you want to tell us about the name or the website? Is that coming out next month or…?

AE: I am aiming for January. I already have somebody interested and I actually am kind of creating affiliates with… So, the medical records that I use exclusively, AcuroVet, she was a CuraCore grad too. It’s been amazing for my practice; so easy to use.

So, I’ve got a discount code for my course goers exclusively for that. And so, my goal is to have everything going in January. Things will change. And what I think is going to be really neat is once you purchase the course, you have it for life. So, as I update things, you’ll have access to new videos or if I edit them, add things, you’ll still have access to that.

But it’s kind of an umbrella company and it’s going to be called The Contented Vet.

NR: Ooh, I love that.

AE: Yeah.

And so, what’s cool about that is that I can create a name for the course and then I still have all these other goals and aspirations that I want to build off more in it.

The Contented Vet: I just think we want to be happy.

NR: That’s so perfect.

AE: Yeah.

Having your job and being your own boss. It doesn’t get more content than that.

NR: Right, right. It evokes so much contented imagery, just even hearing that; contented cat, having a cup of tea. I mean, yeah.

And it feels like you can be settled and just that striving that we have done since whenever we wanted to be a vet and then you had to just always push. And, you know that there’s a way off that treadmill where you can, like you’ve done, you have your image of what you want out of life and then you create it, you fill it in. And it’s possible.

I mean nobody has that. That’s such a unique idea and just manifestation of everything you’ve been through and you brought to your own life and now you can share it with others in a very generous way like that.

AE: Yeah.

Kind of back to the perfection thing. We as veterinarians, I think, characteristically are these very Type A people. From day one in undergrad, it’s all competitive; you need to have the best grades to get in. And then once you’re in school, it’s who can be the best, who can be the best, the smartest.

And even, not necessarily in practice, but it’s still a competition; like even sometimes as a mobile vet doing acupuncture, I wonder if I don’t get referrals from certain practices because it’s competition.

And I’d love to create this unity with everyone and just be there to support people. And it’s not trade secrets necessarily what I’m doing. Like, if somebody else wants to start a practice in the next town over, I’m overbooked. Like, by all means. I’d love that.

NR: I know. I mean, and that’s the…  it’s not really a secret, but it’s a key ingredient that you’re so good at what you do and that connection is very meaningful. Your joy of practicing of what you’re doing, your ability to have good results efficiently, effectively.

And, you know, it’s just reinforcing so that you have abundance. And so, other people coming in would actually be helpful for you because you have over abundance kind of now and you want to have this.

And I think that that’s another thing that I feel is really important in the world right now is us communicating to the general public how effective our techniques are, how we’re doing work with our hands and just watching animals and everything. We’re being better diagnosticians, which can actually, in the end, save that client money and save maybe an animal’s life, make better quality of life because we’re not doing unnecessary surgeries.

Because to me it’s obvious, like there’s way too much surgery in veterinary medicine because of poor diagnoses. And to me, because of, you know, it’s like you make a lot of money on a surgery for a dog and they might not have needed it. But there is definitely temptation to reinforce oneself through a lot of maybe unnecessary procedures.

And I think that corporate, sometimes – At least some people that have been through corporate that I’ve known – have been told to push surgeries; do a lot of things that maybe it wasn’t in the best interest of the animal.

AE: Yeah, I think that’s one of the unfortunate things about vet school, is here’s the gold standard and you’re taught this. And they don’t really, or at least I didn’t feel like, walking out, like, “Here’s the condition. What are my top-tier and all the way down to my very bottom-tier; all of my options.”

And yes, they kind of give you that, like that’s how you should present things. So, I didn’t feel like walking out of school, “Okay, I have a cruciate,” it was like, “TPLO.”

But then they don’t really talk about like what about conservative management? What about rehab, acupuncture, pain management, all these other things? Same with disc dogs, things like that. It was, “Go do surgery.” And I still feel like sometimes with the specialists, that’s the route you go. And I’ve had so much success.

Or even things missed too; like I’ve had crazy cases of dogs that the owners were like, “I don’t want to do a TPLO,” and then I go and examine the dog and I’m like, “Your dog has cancer” or “Your dog has a neurologic condition.” And they would have had this surgery. And yet one of them had lymphoma. I started palpating the stifles. I’m like, “Yeah, your dog might have a cruciate, but I think the lymphoma takes precedence.”

All right, another one that they thought it was a cruciate and I spent, again, 20 minutes just watching the dog. I’m like, “This dog is neurologic. And not just neurologic. This dog has cerebellar issue.” And she ended up having a tumor on her skull, compressing her cerebellum. And the dog would have had a TPLO; issues not resolved.

And I mean, I don’t know how they got from A to B because I came in as kind of a second opinion. We want to do conservative management. I’m like, “We don’t need to worry about your stifle. We have other things going on.”

NR: And that should be such an anti-imposter kind of dose right there. But again, I think it stems back to, like you said, it starts in school and you’re taught, “This is the way.” But we’re taught that by a patriarchal system; very surgically centered and there is a monetary reward for that veterinary hospital. So, all those things come there.

And what I like is seeing, whether it’s the mobile or the small practice, the independent spirit that you are helping to cultivate with integrative medicine, which is often kind of denigrated.

And I mean, I can see where for the non-scientific approaches, there are issues and I would agree with that. But well, we’re getting the results we are, yet we’ve been so kind of used to this relationship of, “Oh, are we less than the surgeons?” Because just this even unnamed thing and I call it Systemic Anti-Integrative Medicine-ism, like the systemic racism and the insensitivities and things.

And just what racism needs to be turned around and how many unconscious things there are that when we’re fighting for the dog’s life, for the client’s well-being and their resources; whether their emotional or financial or whatever, that we are protecting those that can’t speak for themselves.

And the community building that you’re interested in doing, I think is great, because it will be through this community of likeminded individuals that see a different way, that are willing to question authority. And that we have power in numbers. And I think we just have to get that word out there more.

AE: Yeah. I mean, I have all these dreams. I’m only five and a half years out of school. I’m like, “Wow, I’ve done so much even just five and a half years.”

NR: Well, you have. And what used to be like when I got out of school in like ‘97, there was this idea from the one course that used to teach acupuncture only, till ours started in the ‘90s. But there was always this thing like, “Oh, you should be out in practice for X number of years and only then should you learn acupuncture” or “Only then should you do this.”

And it’s like, you know, the ‘only then’s you could die in the meantime or you could hate what you’re doing so much or whatever. And it’s like, “I know what I want to do.”

And it’s not like acupuncture-related techniques are so wild because out of that mindset where it was, “Yeah, we’re going to do the woowoo acupuncture. Yeah, okay, maybe you should learn science first and then see why you should actually be doing a scientific approach to acupuncture.” But that was way in the early days.

But if this kind of medicine was taught from day one, and that’s where my kind of osteopathic medical school thing is like, yeah, from day one, we were taught about manual therapy. And with anatomy. We learn things with that kind of integrative mindset, the whole being, a whole person kind of thing. And that’s where I see veterinary medicine needs to go.

So, it shouldn’t be after everything. It’s like, we need this now and you’re saving so many animals.

And yeah, that you are so nimble to be able to create what your being is expressing is wonderful. And so, you know, whereas in the old ways of, well, you don’t stay on one thing, you stay till you know it. And then you make continual adjustments and you’re just giving so much to the profession. I think it’s very admirable and needed.

AE: I’m trying. Wendy Harley; wonderful Wendy. She and I had a conversation about a month ago or so and I was telling her about all my ideas. And she’s like, “Well, I kind of think of you as a wanderlust veterinarian.” She’s like, “Your personality with your drive to travel and just be a free spirit.” She’s like, “That’s kind of what you’re doing in veterinary medicine and you’re just constantly evolving. And you’ve got this wanderlust soul that I just want to do the next thing and continue to evolve and just become more and more and offer more and more.”

And I don’t know; that kind of really hit home with me when she said that. It was like, that really is my personality, because it’s kind of my passion and the thought of a 9 to 5 or I guess 8 to 6, four-day a week, same job over and over, not really bonding with my patients or my clients because they’re coming in for their three-year rabies vaccine and that’s it. And it’s just kind of this assembly line of next patient, next patient, next patient, that just was never what I really pictured for my life.

NR: Yeah. Yeah. That is an awful existence, I think, to have to do that. But yeah, that’s all that some people know about.

So, then what are you thinking about down the road? Like are you getting glimpses of what you think the profession needs, what you want to give, what are your inspirations?

AE: Well, so travel’s probably my number one passion, veterinary medicine is up there. But I love fitness and nutrition. And so, I’ve always thought, like, “If I wasn’t a veterinarian, what would I be?” And personal trainer always comes up.

So, I actually, now that Colorado continuing education requires the opioid training, I did the CVMA, so, the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association one. And as part of their CE, they talked about this group in somewhere down south, like Littleton or something like that and they were a support system for veterinarians with substance abuse.

And I have also dealt with alcohol issues. I can proudly say I’ve been sober for four and a half years; don’t drink at all anymore. But it kind of hit home with me that I was like, “Wow, I wish I had had a support group.”

So, rather than becoming like a psychologist or something like that, I thought, “Well, how can I be supportive for my fellow veterinarians that may be dealing with burnout from jobs – which I feel like I’ve been there – maybe substance abuse, whether that’s drinking alcohol after a bad day of work every single night. But how can I incorporate nutrition and fitness with that, too?”

So, I thought, “Well, why not become a personal trainer? Like what’s stopping me?”

So, ultimately, what I’d like to do is become a personal trainer, become a yoga instructor. I’d like to become a running coach, and then I’d love to become a nutritional therapy practitioner. And then under the umbrella of The Contented Vet, be able to be a support system for other veterinarians. And so, if you had a really bad day, well, instead of going home and drinking wine, let’s do a yoga class or let’s run together.

And I’m sure there’s a way to do it virtually, create kind of this physical fitness or be able to help people with their diet and how the meal plan and just eat better and be a healthier person and then maybe, I don’t know, down the line, collaborate with a mental health practitioner and just have that mental health support, because I will not be qualified for that. But I can help people with their physical fitness and sleep and nutrition, because that’s…

NR: Yeah, being a veterinarian, you know the stresses the people are under. I mean, I just it’s just a collective. And I think that there is that old saying, “Heal or heal thyself.” But there is there’s something… there’s just a different way. It’s like an unspoken thing we all know.

What I like is how, I mean, I think about just being a vet and I think about, versus being a physician. I just love who vets are so much. And we’re good people and sensitive and love animals and that’s why my cat pulling out the plug from all my accoutrements. Good, my mic is back on.

I can’t think of a better group of people than veterinarians that I’d want to hang out with and help.

AE: Well, and then there’s like travel and I’m like, “Okay, well, I want to do this, but then what can I still even do further?” And I was like, “How cool would it be to be able to branch out to vet schools and start out even vet schools and get them doing fitness and nutrition and just understanding, “You can be your own boss. You can take care of yourself.”

And you know what? If I even went into the corporate world and offered like lunchtime yoga classes or just be able to just incorporate all of it and help as many people as possible. And if I can travel around and just be there and then people can get on my online course that I’ll have and we could do yoga classes across the country and just be that support system.

And who knows, you could do an hour yoga class, spend 40 minutes doing yoga and then 20 minutes, just “How was your day? Do you need to get anything off your chest?” And even just talking about it, whether it’s like giving advice as a mental health professional or even just talking about your day to somebody who understands could be amazing.

NR: Right. I mean, yeah, you could just say like, “hemangiosarc” and everybody goes, “Okay, I get that.” You know, and all that kind of thing.

That’s fantastic. I mean, I think that despite the hardship of 2020 and everything that’s happened, one thing that broke everything apart in a good way was like us even being able to do this. So, that Zoom and even, I know vet schools are wrestling with the online stuff, but there’s so much like even when we’re teaching the eMAV and that you have your animals or whoever is teaching a case, it’s right there.

And what I’m seeing is it’s so much more effective in a way than like when we used to just do the classes in the hotel ballrooms. So, it’s like you got one hundred people there and that is all very distracting to me. And I want to know… I want to get a cup of tea. I want to… But I’d sit at the back of the room because I just wanted to be like kind of in my own space.

So, the fact that we can do that now, we can still have so much connection. I think it’s more connection, actually, because we see each other when we can, you know, see my cat pull the plug out. And I mean, it’s just we’re in our own space and it’s even more that we can be genuinely who we are. And so, I love that.

I mean, to me, it’s like you don’t need to wait for a corporate this or that or a vet school. You are creating your own structure. And it’s maybe things like this and however that that information gets out there that, yeah, this is really needed. And I think you have all the tools you need now. It’s just getting that word out and shifting the culture.

But you know that saying that “out of chaos that there’s a lot of change.” This is the chaos that I think is an opportunity to make some changes. And like you, you’re living by example in such a great way.

AE: I mean, it’s crazy. I never pictured myself being this independent and kind of entrepreneur and just get it done. But I feel like this is my calling, just all of these things.

And I mean, who knows what? Like once I get all these fitness certifications and health certifications that it might even go on from there, who knows?

NR: Oh, yeah.

AE: But it’s nice that I can still be in the veterinary world and yet still be happy and help people and help animals, but not be so stressed and crying and drinking and just miserable.

NR: Right. Right, right.

So, it gets back to sort of that thing that we started with, with there being lots of opportunities. And that I think that when people, like you had mentioned before we started, about somebody that you knew, they had died by suicide recently. And it’s just…

I mean, that’s whoever’s their decision, but if they could only know that what you’re living with now, you don’t have to stay that way. That, yeah, you have student loans, but you can be even more successful than corporate offered you. And have the freedom to really be who you are.

It was worse in medical school, but it happened again in vet school where I didn’t even know who I was at the end of each of those. Especially with med school, it was I just didn’t have as much awareness then.

But like you, I mean, at the end of vet school, I really felt I had PTSD. It’s not like being in a war or anything, but it was like, “What was I thinking? Why did I go to vet school?”

And that lasted two to three years. Even though I had started the acupuncture service and the acupuncture course, but there was still that disconnection. I don’t know. It’s just, it was so tough getting through vet school to me because of, in part, the way they treated animals, which is just standard fare. But, you know, when your heart is getting pummeled a lot, it’s like it’s hard.

Versus now the kind of practice. I mean, there are sad things, but… and especially with me now, I mean, I’m mostly teaching. And so, I don’t euthanize animals. I know what I can do and can’t do it and I can set the limits where I can protect myself.

AE: Well, it’s tough, too, because, I mean, the debt from vet school, you’re stuck. Like, in order to have the income to make any sort of dent on your student loans, like you can’t do anything else.

So, I loved vet school. But like I said, within three weeks I was like, “What have I done? But I can’t do anything else. I have now been trained on this very specific path. I have hundreds of thousands of dollars of vet school debt. I can’t do anything else.”

So, it’s been really nice to be able to kind of create my own practice and make my life something that I do enjoy. And I mean, if I can share that with other people.

I’ve only been out; I graduated 2015 and I’ve already had a classmate commit suicide. Like, it’s heartbreaking. And I know so many other people just are miserable and nobody enjoys what they’re doing. And it’s so sad that the profession has gotten to this point.

NR: Right. Right.

Which I think though is reflective of what’s happening. And so, when the AVMA or somebody else is like, “Yeah, you should – I don’t know – this one suggestion, like put something in a balloon and send it across the room and somebody else…”

It’s like you’re all putting these band-aids on when the problem, the pathology, is the practices that are being done now.

Because I don’t really, I mean, I know people that have come to our courses or whatever and have had suicidal ideations or attempts before they got here, but so much of the time, when they get to our type of program, they are looking for something else. Even if they’re in their final year of vet school, whatever, they’re seeking it out. And it is, you know, we see them come from corporate or from wherever they are and they come to our course. And then already, they’re talking about going mobile and they need your kind of services. They need that handholding. So, you don’t have to invent it anew all the time.

And I mean, it’s just so liberating. Their lives just change, a whole new trajectory and they’re happy. And that’s so wonderful because when we’re healthy and happy inside then we’re better doctors, too.

AE: Yeah. What is it that they say, like on an airplane, you have to put your mask on before you help somebody else? Super cliché, but…

NR: Right. No, I agree. Because I didn’t do much traveling ever in my life, but I did, in sophomore year of vet school, during break or summer or whatever, I did take a trip to India and had talked to certain spiritual leaders and stuff like that.

But I was still… I was so just everything that happens to animals, I mean, it really bothered me and I wanted to make such a difference, but I was still being so bothered.

And even in India, they said, “You can’t fight a battle if you’re so weakened. You have to take care of yourself enough that you’re strong and then you can work on behalf of others.”

So, what you’re doing is helping people get whole, be strong, recover from all the different dents and injuries that we get along the way.

AE: Yeah.

And I guess I just really want people to know that they can do it. It’s scary. It’s terrifying. But there’s a lot of us out there that have done it. And to create a community and just know you’re not alone. We’re here for you. We’re rooting for you. Do it. We support you. I think that’s crucial.

NR: Right. Right.

And again, just that love and that interrelationship thing that we’re not trying to beat… it’s like the competitive time is over, that there are so many animals to treat, there’s so much information to get out there and there’s so many opportunities that it’s a different way of practicing, of just working intercollegially that is a success. That’s what we’re seeing.

AE: Yeah, definitely.

NR: Yeah. So, keep us informed. I mean, we will definitely need to send people your way and it will be exciting to see how things evolve. And then, I mean, you’ll be teaching with us, too, and everything. So, I’m really happy that you’re doing what you’re doing.

AE: Thank you. I’m really excited.

NR: Yeah.

AE: Yeah.

NR: So, any final words or anything about encouragement for people or…?

AE: I think just know you’re not alone. If you like general practice, you can be a mobile general practitioner and still be your own boss. Like it doesn’t have to be this niche.

But if you want it to be very specific, you can. You could make veterinary medicine something that you had that passion for when you started vet school and turn it into something you’re so passionate about. And you’re not alone. And we’re here to support you. And that’s my goal.

NR: Yeah. Yeah.

Even if maybe mobile wasn’t for somebody, but you could have a tiny practice. You can have just a small little storefront. There’s all different kinds of creative things that you don’t have to have a lot of overhead.

If you’re not doing surgery and radiology, then that’s about 80% of a big practice’s overhead. And so, you can be small, you can have a tech or two.

And that’s how, I mean, from my human practice on it was always just me. Really always just me. I just didn’t want to be an active home neurosurgeon thing after; I didn’t want to do that.

I’d like to set my schedule. I like to not have to… I mean, that’s the biggest thing; don’t make me be somewhere. And it just evolved.

AE: Like, you can do contract work, even. Like Mark and I, my husband, during Covid, and he had to go to Texas for work, and so we were wondering if we were going to need to move and live more rural. He is a railroad locomotive engineer.

NR: Wow.

AE: I was like, “Well, how can I do… Like if I go rural, I’m going to have to be a small animal vet again or mixed animals.” So, I was like, “Well, no. How can I turn this into something that I want?” And I was like, “Oh, my gosh. Well, what if I just still have my practice, I am at my home base, and on Mondays I go to this town an hour away and I offer acupuncture for their clients. And then on Tuesdays I go the opposite direction.”

I’m like, there’s just so many things you can do. And then I’m still just doing acupuncture. I’m still making my schedule say, “Hey, once a week, I’ll be available for your clients.” I don’t know. There’s just so many… that’s what I want this forum to be, too, like how can we help you make your job something that you want it to be?

NR: Yeah, get ideas on opportunities like that and even parts of the country or whatever.

Way before vet school, I was just with human practice. And I would cover… when I moved to Colorado, I would do locum tenens for people and I did some things, did some weekends in Nebraska, of all places, but I still had acupuncture to offer.

And I was like, “Well, are they going to know what acupuncture is? How are they going to receive it?” And they’d come in with back pain and they’re like, “I don’t care what you do, doc, just help my back.”

AE: Yeah.

NR: And so, things should be more progressive now, what, 30, whatever, how many years later. But, yeah, if you… and especially from a scientific approach that you can talk about what you’re doing and you can see animals walk a certain way and it’s like, okay, you just show them. “I know where your dog hurts or your cat” or whatever.

And what a relief for people to be around somebody that will spend that time, because it’s that human connection, too, like even though you’re talking about veterinary-human connection, it’s our clients, too. And clients become not irritating when you connect with them and understand their needs. And it’s just a different way. We don’t have to fight against them either. We can embrace the whole kind of thing. So, I think they become different people, too, when they feel that connection.

AE: Oh, absolutely.

NR: Yeah.

AE: Yeah. It’s forming relationships.

NR: Right, right. Right. And that builds the trust and the bonds and everything so.

Well, thank you.

AE: Yes, of course.

NR: Thank you for spending this time. So, yeah. And we’ll put out the word. And especially The Contented Vet. I just love that.

AE: Yeah, I know. I’m so excited. I’m kind of designing my logo right now. And I have this idea. I just need to get it all in one spot. So, yeah.

NR: Right.

Well, at least we know the name. So, we can look for it.

AE: Yes.

NR: And we’ll help you in whatever way you need.

AE: I appreciate that.

NR: Sure. Okay, well, we’ll see you at our next Zoom for the eMAV course, and whenever.

Thank you for doing this with me.

AE: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

NR: You’re welcome. Talk to you soon.

AE: Okay, bye.

NR: Bye bye.

If you’d like to learn integrative medicine from a scientific perspective, visit us at curacore.org. Thanks for listening to another installment of Surviving Veterinary Medicine.