Surviving Veterinary Medicine
Whole-Hearted Veterinary Medicine
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.
I’m your host, Dr. Narda Robinson, veterinarian, osteopathic physician and leader of the Vet Med Revolution, calling for safer, gentler and more effective medicine for animals and their people.
Dr. Narda Robinson (NR): Hi, veterinary medicine survivors. Today, I am speaking with Dr. Wendy Harley. I’ve known Dr. Harley since veterinary school, and she’s been a long-term instructor for our Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians (or MAV) certification program.
Now that Dr. Harley lives in Grand Junction, Colorado, she teaches in our distance learning version of MAV called eMAV.
Join me in this in-depth discussion of what it means to care; to care for yourself, for your patients, for your clients and for your family. All the while, remaining whole, fulfilled and alive.
I’m so happy today to be talking with Dr. Wendy Harley, who’s a long-term friend and colleague, and co-instructor for our course, Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians. And I’ve especially gotten to know Wendy even more so as we’ve been doing the eMAV version, which is the entirely remote learning pathway to certification for our acupuncture course. And we have a lot of one-on-one instruction and it’s just been nice to get to know my instructors even better and see all their talents.
So, here’s Dr. Harley, and she will tell you a little bit about her life.
Dr. Wendy Harley (WH): Thank you, Narda. I’m really excited to do this with you today. So, thanks for the invitation.
When we’re talking about exploring veterinary medicine and surviving it with compassion, it really made me reflect on my own personal journey. And I think in the end – To kind of start at the end and then I’ll go back to the beginning – I think my takeaway of what I’ve learned about myself from my journey is that I do have a lot of courage and I have this really strong inner voice that I’ve learned to act on. And in order to act on that voice, it has taken a lot of courage that has developed over time.
So, if it’s all right, I’m just kind of going to go from my story at the beginning and we’ll see where it takes us.
NR: I love it. Thank you.
So, I grew up in a house where we didn’t have animals; we didn’t have dogs, we didn’t have cats at our house. I got my first dog during my undergrad. That was the first time I had a dog that I made an animal bond connection with. It was not till I was in undergrad. So, I wasn’t like a lot of our colleagues who knew, from the age of three, that they wanted to be a veterinarian.
I knew from the age of three that I wanted to be a mommy. And that was all I knew. So, going through undergrad, I was like, “I don’t know what I want to be.”
So, this dog came into my life and I fell in love with this dog; fell in love with him. And as I was exploring, “What do I want to be? Where do I want to go?” a family member had said, “You know, I always wanted to be a veterinarian. I thought that would be the coolest job.” And I was like, “Hmm, never thought of it.”
So, I started volunteering for a clinic and then working for a clinic. And I decided, “Yeah, this is pretty neat.” I loved in school, learning about how the body worked. So, the physiology and anatomy and how the body worked was something I’d already identified; I just didn’t know how I wanted to use it.
So, worked for clinic, finished my undergrad. I guess a little piece; before I finished my undergrad, I got married. So, I was married as an undergrad. And then I decided, “I think I’ll try to apply to vet school. If I get in, then I’m going to go down the path of being a veterinarian. If I don’t get in, then I’ll see what else I’m supposed to do.” I kind of gave myself at that point in time, one shot, and then we’ll figure out the next steps.
I got in. We were actually in class together. We were classmates in vet school. I enjoyed veterinary medicine a lot. Because I wanted to be a mom, during my sophomore year, I was pregnant with my first child. So, I decided to start a family during vet school. So, this is kind of where you go, “Oh, so she really is a little bit crazy.”
NR: It’s tough. I know.
WH: It’s tough.
So, I had my first child when I was a sophomore. And this was probably the point in my life where I had to make my first really strong decision about compassion for myself. And I was torn, because what I had always wanted to be was a mom. She was born over Christmas break. She was born a week before classes started. I’m like, “I can do this. I’ll just take a week off, then part-time next week and then go back.” And I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave her.
So, what do I do? I took a year off. I was granted a year off and then I rejoined the next class. So, challenging, but I loved having that year home with my daughter.
Went back to school. My senior year, I decided to have another child. So, I was pregnant again in my senior year. And then two years later, I had my third child.
So, after I graduated, I took five years off out of vet school and I didn’t practice. I kept up my continuing education, but I stayed home and raised my kids. Then I’d just tell you, out of the clear blue sky, a clinic contacted me and said, “Hey, I think we have a position for you. And we would like you to come work for us, part time.” I’m like, “Part time would be perfect.”
And five years out, this was kind of that turning point of, “Do I ever get back into medicine or not, because that’s getting to be a long time.” So, I said, “Let’s do it.” So, I went back into private practice. To date, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
NR: Oh, wow.
WH: Medicine has changed within five years. I haven’t done physical exams, except on my own animals, in five years. So, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done was having this column that says Dr. Harley. And you’re like, “Okay.” That imposter syndrome was pretty significant. Anyway, worked my way through that. Then I worked there for quite a while.
In 2007, I kind of had this inner voice speaking to me that within 10 years, I really wanted my career to look different than it did. There were parts of private practice that I really liked; I loved working with the people, I loved working with the animals. There were parts that I really hated. It was really stressful; the time constraints were stressful.
I’m kind of a processor. So, I need to think about things and muddle on them to make what I feel like is my best decision. And we didn’t even have 15 minutes schedules. We had 30 to 45-minute schedules. And still, it felt like they were fast decision-making for me. Surgery wasn’t my thing. And so, I just wanted it to be different, but I didn’t know how I wanted it to be different.
So, I continued on, starting this exploration of how I want it to be different. Actually thought about leaving the profession completely and going into more of a helping-people profession, just didn’t know where I was supposed to be.
Then my daughter got quite sick. And I was still working in private practice at this time. And I just didn’t trust myself to make the best decisions for my patients. So, I decided that I needed to leave private practice, at least temporarily, so that I could put all of my focus on my daughter and her health. She’s fine now. Outcome is good.
So, I did that. Then I was offered a position at CSU in their Client Communication Course. So, I took that position, feeling like it was still a little ways after – my daughter wasn’t completely better, but she was on the way to being better at that point. And I thought, “I can do this. This is really natural to me. This won’t be stressful like private practice was.”
So, I went and did this, working with students. I loved it. I loved the Client Communication Course. I loved working with students, their energy and their passion for the profession. It was so fun.
What I didn’t love was so much computer time and so much behind-the-scenes, outside-of-the-classroom time was hard for me. And then I started missing the patients, because I had the people connection, but then I didn’t have the animal connection.
So, again, still in that time period of, “Hmm, what now?” And I went to a continuing education, put on by Dr. Rychel. She presented a case where she had taken a dog that had a cervical lesion and was quadriplegic. And I was taught, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in veterinary school that that animal would never walk again. And the most humane thing to do was euthanasia. I believed that a hundred percent when I walked in the door to that conversation.
And she got this animal walking again through means of acupuncture, laser, rehab, and literally rocked my world; changed my world. I was like, “I didn’t know that could happen.” It turned everything upside down for me. It really did.
So, I decided, “That’s what I want to do. I want to do that.” I’m not sure I have the magic to do that. I just didn’t know what she had that made that happen. So, I went and I got my acupuncture certification and I got my rehab certification.
And ironically, on the 4th of July, it wasn’t meant that way, but it happened to be on Independence Day, I said, “I’m leaving CSU and I’m going to start this. And I’m just going to see what happens.” It was on the signing up for my courses, I wasn’t even in the courses yet.
NR: I didn’t know that.
WH: It was kind of leap of faith, of my inner voice said, “This is what you’re supposed to do.” And I just acted on it. And I said, “Okay, I’m going to open my schedule so that I can do whatever I need to do to make this happen.” Left my job, and fortunately, my husband was able to support us financially through this leap of faith.
Got my acupuncture certification and my rehab certification. And then in 2014, I saw my first patient on my practice of my own. So, it did turn out to be within this 10-year window. And it was really a path of just – it was a little bit of a torturous path, but just following my heart and going where I needed to go.
So, that’s kind of how I got to starting the practice that I’m at.
NR: Can I ask you; when did you shift or understand or make an active movement towards listening to your heart?
I think it was a slow process over that whole journey. Like I said, probably the first time was when I decided that I’m not going to follow the rules and stay in school for four years and I’m going to listen to – My heart says I need to stay home with this child for a little bit of time. And then that was successful.
And then I’d have another something and I’m like, “Oh, I’m just going to go with my heart and listen to my heart and do this.” And on the 4th of July going, “Okay, this is kind of a big one.” My voice says, “Do this.” And I just jumped in a hundred percent and did it.
So, it was really baby steps. And some of those baby steps were like, I’d be at a grocery store and I’d see somebody that I just had this feeling like, “Ooh, I’d kind of like to say a something.” And normally, I would go, “That’s silly. She would think I was crazy.” And I’d walk past them and not say something. So, I would start saying those somethings; like whatever it was, “I really love your hair” or whatever. And it was always so appreciated and received.
And so, I just started acting on this and seeing the response. And it turns out that when my inner voice says, “You should do this,” I’ve just decided to – or have this idea of this, I’ve just decided to act on it and see what happens. And to date, it hasn’t led me astray.
WH: It’s been so powerful.
NR: I agree. And I’ve talked on other podcasts about when I graduated medical school, how I couldn’t even really just, internally, locate my heart. Not, I know where it was, geographically. But just the enculturation of all those years and getting through, it’s like it was really gone. And then when I started to think about it, it felt encased in cement. So, how do I even get through that? So, it really took a lot of undoing of that. Did you ever feel that way?
WH: Oh my gosh, absolutely. Absolutely. And I wonder that people listening to this podcast might be like, “An inner voice?” It did take a long time to hear it and then to listen to it and then even harder and braver or more courageous to act on it. So, it was a process over a period of time. Absolutely.
NR: And kind of, I mean, empirically assessed. I mean, yeah, if somebody has voices that tell them to do bad things, that’s a problem. But this is kind of out of love and you’re assessing, “Okay, was that a good outcome? And then do I have courage, a little bit more courage, the next time to follow it?”
And then what I’ve seen with your workups with animals, like we’ve recorded for the eMAV course, what’s been really helpful to have you have said, plus that now I reinforce to students is, “Trust your hands.”
So, when you are doing your myofascial palpation exam, you don’t have to keep going over it and over it. Because that is the default that I’m seeing people do is like, “Oh, is it really happening? What are they saying?”
It’s like you develop those channels of awareness through your hands, through your perceptions. It becomes everything; you don’t even need to watch them. You can feel it. But it’s that like, “Can I feel inside me? Do I have that gut instinct?”
But for you to say, “Trust what they’re telling you and move on and don’t, don’t aggravate them.”
That takes a lot of self-control actually. More in the beginning than it did now, to first tell myself, “Just trust what your hands and this animal are saying to you and not go back and triple, double, quadruple, check it. To just take that as a fact, until later proven that that is, or isn’t a fact.” But it takes a lot of self-control and just go with it.
NR: Is this something now that you teach your children?
WH: You know, they’re grown now. I hope that they have this and have learned this. I think that they have. I don’t feel like I’ve taught it lecture-style to them. I feel like hopefully I have taught it and shown them through my actions; like quitting my job and following my heart. And I do see my children doing the same thing. So, I think that’s successful. I love it. I love it.
Everybody’s journey is so different. And then we’re not supposed to do it the same way. So, I think that’s a pretty special thing.
Well, and I think that in terms of clients, like you were with your daughter, on this receiving end of care from the medical professional, when she was ill. And I would suspect that you had intuitions or hunches or questions or something that you were picking up, as commonly happens, and then there’s either the acknowledging or shutting down, from the practitioner perspective.
And I think in veterinary medicine, I mean, what I’m seeing so much is, I mean, more than I would like is when clients aren’t listened to, when they don’t have the time to talk, when they’re not believed, when they’re thought to be histrionic, when their concerns about a certain medication or surgical procedure are dismissed or ridiculed or just not acknowledged.
Then to me, the heartbreaking thing next is if there’s a bad outcome with the animal and somebody says, “I knew it. I knew that I shouldn’t do that to my loved one.”
So, just that angst of carrying that in yourself. That’s happened to me a couple of times and I was like, “Never again will I let this happen.” Because you carry that around.
WH: It stays forever.
NR: Yeah, it does. And so, I think in terms of practicing veterinary medicine and human medicine better, is when we have that bond with everybody. And one is so shut down and head driven and, “No, it has to be this way. You need a TPLO ASAP and then let’s do the other one,” whatever that is. I’d say run away and find a different healthcare provider that you can talk to.
Hi, everyone. This is Dr. Narda Robinson. Thank you for tuning in to our podcast, Surviving Veterinary Medicine. Did you know the CuraCore Vet now has another monthly podcast? It’s called CuraCore Academy Talks.
This is a series that I am providing to cover topics, not commonly, or in my opinion, adequately discussed in vet school or your run-of-the-mill continuing education; critical thinking about unnecessary surgeries, harmful medications, the pandemic of tunnel vision that affects many practitioners in both human and veterinary healthcare.
For me, questioning the status quo and improving the lives of animals and the people who care for them is one of my ways to survive veterinary medicine. Find CuraCore Academy Talks where all the cool kids find their podcasts.
WH: Yeah, when my daughter was going through her illness, it was for the first time, to be on the receiving end of medicine. And it was so scary. And it was so frustrating and expensive and time consuming. But emotionally, it was scary and frustrating. And I came in it with a medical background. And I came in it, actually, with a great relationship with our pediatrician.
So, for it to come out still feeling frustrating and scary, was again, eye opening to me. And it has created a passion so deep in me, or helped reinforce this passion, so deep in me, that I don’t ever want, if I can be a part of making it better, one of my patients or their owners, to ever feel like they have to navigate this path of medicine by themselves without a partner on their side.
And I want to be there to help them process, “What are those things that you might regret on the backside, and that you won’t be able to live with yourself on the back side, as we go through our decision making process?” Because our animals are here for a short period of time, our interaction with them and the decisions we’ve made for them, stay with us. Like you said, they stay with us forever.
And sometimes, we can walk away – My hope is that we can walk away feeling as good as we can about those decisions. And as best as I can, I want to help people have no regrets on the backside. Oh, I’m going to tear up.
Have no regrets on the backside, because those are what’s hard to live with. And like you said, you carry them forever. And I don’t want any of the people that entrust their care to me – It’s not a hundred percent. I want to minimize that as best we can; minimize their fear, minimize the animal’s fear. It’s so not about me. It’s really about them and their path.
And I guess in a way, it’s all about me because that’s my own inner voice saying, “This is what you need to be doing. This is your gift of compassion to give the world, and this is what you need to be doing out there.” And so in a way, it’s all about me and in a way it’s not at all about me.
Because I see people on the whole spectrum of decision-making, deciding early or deciding late. And it’s all okay. Because I feel like it’s really their journey. I’m just here to support them in making those decisions.
NR: It’s kind of like, when I was in osteopathic school and we were told and learned, and it’s true that in Latin, doctor means “Teacher.” So, instead of like a patriarchal or hierarchical system where – This is how I learned to practice medicine, and some of my human patients resented it. They were like, “Just tell me what to do, doc.” And it’s like, “Well, my orientation is to educate you and that we’re partners.” So, that’s what it sounds like you were doing.
And so they’re supporting people in their decision, but there’s also the educating them about their options, which is what we need to do, legally, anyways, is without bias or trying to get them to do one or the other, “Here’s everything. And here’s the pros and cons.” Then it’s up to them, sort of an informed consent though I know some people have debated whether we should use that term with animals or not.
So, your goal of teaching this, I mean, it’s like you’re teaching that right now and it’s so beautiful. Were you able to do this when you taught at the institution, as I call it, in this way?
WH: Well, if you’re talking institution as in the university or the institution, as in kind of private practice. In private practice, I was able to do some of this. Compared to what I do now, like I was able to do a seed of it. And now, I do a flower of it. Private practice to doing it in my own practice.
And then in teaching the Client Communication Course, I do feel like I was able to help students open their perspective to this. It’s really about hearing the client’s purpose and concerns and what they need to get out of this, and having the veterinarians and students slow down and listen to that first in order to help guide decision-makings.
So, actually, I felt the role I had in teaching client communication, a hundred percent, that was our goal, was to help navigate this. It’s not about you and you as the veterinarian determining what diagnostics do you want to run. We do this as a team and what’s right for them.
And I think that’s part of what I loved about it is that I was able to develop that even more there.
NR: Yeah. Yeah. Good. I’m glad to hear that. I hope they’re still doing that.
WH: They are. They are. And I still participate in it. So, it’s wonderful. I love the program. I love the program.
NR: That’s great. So, you’ve moved away, but you can still do it remotely?
WH: We are able to do it remotely. Yeah. So, I meet with them about twice a year. So, yeah, it’s lovely.
NR: So, what was that journey like for you to move from the Fort Collins area, out of it?
WH: Narda, here we go again. This is kind of that listening to your inner voice thing.
NR: Mm hmm.
WH: So, for a period of time, my husband wasn’t working and my profession was our sole source of income. And at this same time, I was getting this voice of, I really, really would like to live on a small farm. I want to surround myself with other animals, other species. I would love to have sheep. I would love to have a cow. I’d love to have chickens. You know, I just had this vision that I really want to live on a small farm.
My husband was interviewing several places. He got a job here in Grand Junction and we couldn’t afford a small farm in Fort Collins, but I could afford a small farm here in Grand Junction. So, we did it. We bought this small farm.
Like I’m such a small animal person. To go livestock feels a little brave and courageous. But I have sheep, I have a cow, hopefully getting chickens in the spring.
So, it’s again, kind of this listen to this desire and be brave enough to act on it and go, “Okay, it’s kind of now or never. Life is zooming by us. If we want to do this, this is the time to do it. And let’s just uproot and move to Grand Junction, because having this farm is really, really important to me.”
And then Covid hit. So, restarting my practice here in Grand Junction has been slow, because I haven’t been able to make connections with veterinarians up here.
But I feel like the tide is turning; my voice is saying it’s time again. So, I’m starting to explore, how do I make that happen here? And so, I’m excited for what the next part brings with having a farm and starting this lovely practice again.
Are you finding the need to do any acupuncture on your large animals?
WH: Oh, I do have one, but I haven’t tried it on her. I haven’t tried it on her yet. I’m kind of afraid of losing needles in all the wool.
I figured it was a sheep.
WH: Yeah. She doesn’t really love restraint. So, it’s hard have her hold still for stuff. Although she does love massage. I do a lot of massage for her, but she doesn’t get a lot of acupuncture yet.
NR: Mm hmm.
NR: No, that’s wonderful because, yeah, I mean, just like a large animal practitioners might go someplace and say, “Oh, can you treat my dog too?”
NR: That’s really nice to have that. Yeah.
WH: It will be fun to see what unfolds.
NR: Right. Right.
And you, having this farm, that is helping those animals that are fortunate enough to live with you.
WH: Yeah, they’re all rescues.
NR: Yeah, I figured.
WH: They’re all rescues. As nobody gets eaten, everybody has a name. It’s just really for the ability to live amongst and learn about other species in a safe place like my home. And it’s fun. It’s fun.
NR: It’s so beautiful and inspiring.
WH: It’s mentally so healthy for me. I love getting out there, feeding them and being around them and it’s blissful. I love it.
Thinking going back to the practice and some of the things that really work for me. So, as a mobile practitioner, I’m in people’s homes for often an hour. And being a processor like I am, some people are really good at quick decision-making, but for me, doing mobile practice in a home is such a great fit, because I can watch and observe and listen to the owner for over that hour to help me make my decisions.
So, I just feel like now I practice such a gentle, patient, calm practice. Like nobody has to do something they don’t want to do. Like you’re not going to get vaccinated. You’re not going to be poked. Although, you’ll have acupuncture needles, but it’s a different kind of poke. If they don’t want to sit in one position or another, the animal doesn’t have to.
It’s such a great place to be able to just go with the flow and do whatever feels appropriate, given what the animal is telling me, given what the client is telling me and giving what my own senses are saying to me. And that’s kind of how I dictate my practice now. And I would’ve never, never dreamed in 2007, that this is what would have come out of that ask of, “I want my practice to be different in 10 years.” I would’ve never dreamed it could be as lovely as it is now.
It’s one of those mysteries of how things happen.
NR: Yeah. Right. Right.
And trusting and just all those things that aren’t typically taught in school or in society. It’s like with the Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world” or something like that.
And I think that as Bernie Rollin used to talk about the Aesculapian authority. So, just the added reverence or power or whatever it is that a practitioner or a doctor has, that other people will look up to, whether or not it’s earned and warranted.
And that, that’s something I think to be very careful with, because like those people that want a hierarchical, patriarchal, whatever it is, matriarchal; I don’t know. But if they want someone to tell them what to do, you know, they have invested a lot of authority in that individual, but that’s just too much control. To me, it’s not the right way because, again, that might not be a founded or a well-earned amount of trust that they have.
But on the other hand, you being in somebody’s home, I mean, there is that aspect of what you bring, who you are, that gives permission to the client, to love their animals, to see them in this very gentle and compassionate way as a whole being that they are with their own agency. So, that the dog doesn’t want to sit in a certain way or stay lying down or whatever it is; they don’t have to do that.
That, as I said, in one of my recent courses, when I was teaching – and this was in conjunction with another university – it was like, I did this, “I see us as equals.” And then I thought of it later, but you know –
Not as puppets. But just because I’m bigger and a human and whatever, to me, it’s not like you’re such a minuscule amount of what I am. It’s more, you have needs and wants and a right to live and all this stuff. And I realized that that contradicts a lot of views; like, “Oh no, we have to be alpha. And we have to dominate. And the animals are put here for us” and all this stuff. And it’s like, boy, that’s not who I am. And just even you talking about how you created this career, that now you love.
There are so many things that I wouldn’t be able to do at this point because I’ve navigated to a life that, as sensitive as I am and everything, it’s like I have somewhat of a bubble, because I know things that will kind of destroy me emotionally. And there’s so much of it. And it’s like for me to give and to create and maybe inspire people or whatever it is or support them, I know that I can only do so much and be exposed to so much. For me to survive, I have to create something.
And so, I think that in terms of surviving veterinary medicine, the people that don’t realize they have choices and feel so overwhelmed by student debt, that they think they have to go to a certain corporation or this or that, when they could, as we just had with Alissa, you can make more money than in corporate, carving out your own mobile practice, if you get it going and everything. And to have autonomy and choices, and then to know, be able to tune into what’s good for you. So much goes into it.
WH: And I think that’s really the key, is to tune into what’s good for you and what gives you energy to go back to work the next day. And for everybody, it’s different. You know, thank goodness we have veterinarians that love emergency medicine. Thank goodness that not everybody is like me.
But that’s where I love; everybody has a different journey. And so, if your journey is emergency medicine, then you go do that and you do the best at that, that you can be. And if your journey is about compassion and support, like mine is, then you go do that and do the best that you can be in wherever you are on that spectrum.
I think we should each just listen to what makes us happy, what’s fulfilling to us. Because I do know that for a lot of veterinarians, what I do would be soul sucking to them.
NR: Right, I know.
WH: Some people just would hate what I do. So, find what it is that you love and make that the emphasis of what you do. Yeah.
NR: That’s right.
WH: It’s a neat profession to work in because we do have the flexibility to be able to make that happen.
And to change when there’s something else that needs to happen. I mean, if you suddenly got the desire to work as a pharmaceutical rep in a big veterinary drug maker, or I did, which isn’t going to happen. But yeah, there’s so many opportunities. So, we can change and our lives do change and call upon us to do different things, I think sometimes.
I don’t know. I feel like my journey and my story has been, at times, quite challenging. And so many tears shed along the way, trying to figure out, “Why do I not belong in this profession? Where am I supposed to be?” And then to come on the journey to where I am now, from where I started, looking back, it’s been, I wouldn’t do it another way. It’s been lovely. And it’s unfolded just beautifully to me.
NR: It is. I mean, yeah, I think, just you bringing up the 5,000-foot perspective versus the 35,000 or the retrospective thing. Yeah, I think we’ve gotten a lot of ways, but I think when you’re in the moment, it can be scary and challenging and confusing.
And I know that when I was just doing human medicine, and I had it as great as I could have it, but it wasn’t enough. And I felt called to the veterinary profession. It’s like, “Oh no, I cannot be a veterinarian.”
WH: “I’m already a DO. I can’t do that again.”
NR: Well, it was more emotionally because – and I’ve said this on earlier episodes –
WH: Oh, I see what you’re saying.
When I was like 16, I thought, “Well, I think I’d like to be a veterinarian.” Because I thought when I was three, I wanted to be a veterinarian and then didn’t do much on it. And then I always like, spent time with somebody. And just seeing euthanasia of a healthy animal, it’s like, “Okay, nope, that’s not for me.”
And that was door closed, went to human medical school, even though that wasn’t like my heart, but it’s like, “I can’t do veterinary medicine.” And then just, “Well, can’t do human medicine. And now I am so many tens of thousands of dollars in debt.”
And just, I mean, this is going to sound really airy-fairy, but I was practicing in Boulder and just taking a long walk. And I just felt like this horse came up to me and said (we can edit this part out), but just, “You know, you need to do that.”
WH: Yeah. Yeah.
They do. Animals communicate to us. And like, I would say the dog that was given to me helped me find my path here. That horse helped you find your path.
WH: They’re pretty special animals.
NR: Yeah. So, that was the tide turner.
WH: But I guess the one other piece is that I feel like the way my story was presented makes it sound like it was so easy, and then I had this feeling, and I acted on it. I guess I just want listeners to also know that it was hard and there were so many tears behind the scenes and so much self-doubt.
And sometimes, I’m like, “I think maybe I just got my veterinary degree through Walmart because I am not sure I know what I’m doing.” The imposter syndrome has been hard.
So, those feelings that go with it are also a part of my story. It’s not, la, la, la, la, la. It was hard. And it still is hard at times to – It’s still sometimes just hard.
NR: Yep, yep. As is life
WH: As is life. Right. Right.
WH: So, I just don’t want people to walk away thinking, “Oh, well, she just happened to have it so easy because she listens to her inner guide.” But doing that, like I said, it takes a lot of courage. You’re doing a lot of unknowns, which is scary. And I don’t like being scared. And there were lots of tears shed along that journey that I described. So, that was what I wanted people to hear also.
I think that’s vital. And I remember, I think it was in DO school. Actually, it was a DO that was in Texas where I went. And he had been a veterinarian and then he went into human medicine. So, just this memory came back. And I was in third year and I said, “I think I should have gone to vet school.” And actually, he said, “You wouldn’t have survived.” And that was because of just the inhumanity that vet school was at the time, when he went through.
And then, I don’t know if you ever saw Sherry McConnell’s (Stewart) – I think it was her talking about her experiences in vet school. I mean just how hard it was on women and animals. And he’s right; I wouldn’t have survived. And so, then that was, “Well, I don’t know what to do now.” And it still wouldn’t go away, two or three years out in human practice.
But then, knowing that at CSU, at least at the time, they had the alternative surgery pathway where you didn’t have to kill an animal for your education. That was what made it possible for me, because in medical school I had to kill a dog in physiology lab.
So, I think that, and maybe to wrap things up, but just – So, I mean, I was still listening to my heart through medical school, but I mean, in a way, sometimes you’re powerless, but it’s like, “Okay, the next time I have an option, I am not making that same decision. I’m going to change,” and continually orienting towards what you want to do to survive.
Because, you know, those people that do feel like they have nothing else, that they have no hope and everything, that there’s a lot of different options. I think that’s what we can show by our own paths. That just, it’s not right for you; you can’t force yourself to do that. It’s not going to be right.
WH: And the other thing that this kind of brings to my mind is trying not to kick ourselves for, “Boy, I should have done that the first time.”
WH: You know, I go back to that history and go, “Maybe I should have blah, blah, blah.” But I think the time wasn’t right. So, like in your story, the person you were at that time wasn’t right and the vet school wasn’t right at that time.
WH: You have to become the right person for it to be the right time for that to work. And for me, to do this practice right out of when I first started, it wouldn’t have worked. I wasn’t the right person at that time; I am the right person to do it now, partly because of all of that other journey that went along with it.
So, I do try not to kick myself for, “Whoa, what if I would’ve, blah, blah, blah.” I really do believe that I wasn’t the right person for that or the circumstances weren’t right for that at that time. And it’ll unfold, however it’s supposed to unfold when the time comes.
NR: That’s beautiful. And I fully agree with that. And then just the complimentary aspect of that. I think it was during my Boulder years, but people would say, “Continuing to do something that isn’t good for you. It’s like if the universe gives you a message, it can be kind of subtle at first. And if you don’t listen to it, it gets louder and louder.” And I certainly had seen that in my relationships and different things.
And so, I think if people don’t maybe listen at first, it’s like, you’re going to have more opportunities. But if you keep not listening, the negative consequences of you staying stuck might get bigger.
NR: Yeah. Yeah. Good.
This has been such a wonderful time to spend with you, Wendy.
WH: Likewise. I really enjoyed this time with you, Narda. Thank you.
NR: Thank you. And we’ll be chatting again soon.
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.