You may recognize the quilt behind me in the image above. It hangs in our lobby. My wife made it. it reads ‘All creatures great and small, the Lord God made them all.’ James Herriot wrote a book entitled ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, plus several others which I read in my early teen years. They are stories of his experiences as a country veterinarian in Yorkshire England in the 1930’s and 1940’s. I have always loved those stories for their humor, humanity, heart and positivity. My Mom told me being a veterinarian couldn’t really be like it is in those stories. She was wrong.
After reading those books I completed the Boy Scouts of America Veterinary Science Merit Badge, which required me to spend time at veterinary hospitals. I have never looked back. I have always done well in school, except Algebra and above required some extra effort. I completed a B.S. in Animal Science at Brigham Young University, with one semester left to complete a B.S. in Zoology as well when I was accepted to Veterinary Medical School at Washington State University in 1996. I didn’t complete the Zoology degree because that was my backup plan if I couldn’t get into medical school. I graduated from Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine in the top 25% of my class in 2001 with a DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) degree. I then spent 2 years in Residency as a Veterinary Pathologist at Texas A&M through the summer of 2003. I did not complete the residency, leaving early after I realized I didn’t want to do that after all.
I have reviewed my educational experience to help educate our clients about the level of education that is required to become a veterinarian. Throughout my days at B.Y.U. I rubbed shoulders and competed for A’s with students who were headed to human medical and dental schools. I studied the same subjects, except my anatomy and physiology classes involved animal, not human, cadavers. in medical school I routinely carried a class credit load between 20-25 hours studying anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, microbiology, immunology, radiology, virology, surgery and medicine at an exhaustive, graduate level every semester for 4 years. After medical school many veterinarians go on to complete Masters and Ph.D. degrees, including additional years of specialty training as Residents in surgery, internal medicine, neurology, radiology, pathology, behavior, ophthalmology, and many other specialties.
I also reviewed my educational experience to demonstrate there are any number of other career paths I could have taken. I took the one I chose because I have loved it from the day I first was exposed to it. I chose it with the understanding I would make merely a fraction as much money as I could have as a human physician with an MD degree while accumulating similar amounts of student debt. Just like keeping a pet, or paying thousands of dollars for a pet’s medical care, it was, and is, not a rational decision. It was, and is, an emotional decision.
The pay-off comes in emotional satisfaction, not financial satisfaction. I do what I do because I love it. I do think I could be happy, and successful, and better paid, as a human physician. However, I do not think I would be as happy as I am. Not because Veterinary Medicine is inherently better than Human Medicine, or any other profession. It is just better for me. I love helping people love their pets, I love helping pets love their people. I believe that when a human being can open their heart to an animal, and forge a lasting, loving relationship with that animal it enlarges the heart of both the animal and the pet, and adds just a little more love to the world. And God knows we all need as much of that as we can get.