Letter to dvm360: Female veterinarians, don't stop dreaming big

Letter to dvm360: Female veterinarians, don't stop dreaming big

This reader encourages female veterinarians to take a step up, not a step back, in their careers, even as their personal lives get busier.
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Jan 11, 2019

Illustration by Ryan Ostrander

Editor’s note: This letter is in response to the article “Old School, New School: Meet Dr. Seasoned!” Share your thoughts on Dr. Greenskin's story with us at [email protected].

As a recent DVM graduate, I've followed dvm360's Old School, New School stories and related to Dr. Greenskin over the past couple years. Although my boss isn't quite as old school, there are many points that ring true and help me keep a healthy perspective when transitioning from gold-standard academia to occasionally homeless general practice. Overall, I've admired Dr. Greenskin's tenacity and maturation over the years. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed by the most recent installment of the column.

I understand that you've tried to portray the many facets of private practice through this column. I understand that many vets change their ambitions and career goals several years in, especially to focus on other priorities. I don't shame women who put family first. I myself am getting married in just a few months to an intelligent, accomplished, well-salaried partner. I know that I could live comfortably as an associate for the rest of my life. However, I hold onto my dream of one day owning a practice, and I still believe it's possible to pursue that goal while living a balanced life and being married.

Your column highlights the perks of working for a corporation and points out they're not all evil, but I wish Dr. Greenskin hadn't gotten so complacent so quickly. It was disheartening to see her "letting go of ambitions" when she had recently made a solid proposal for buying out her crusty boss. As someone who was rooting for Dr. Greenskin to advance her career, I felt let down by the new outlook on work that came with her new surname. Furthermore, her complacency with corporate life suggests that practice ownership (and the duties that come with it) is neither desirable nor attainable for people who also want relationships and families.

I understand that veterinary medicine is shifting more and more toward corporate consolidators, and I know many vets are satisfied in the corporate environment. Yet, I hope that there will still be viable buy-in options for the Greenskin generation to maintain the personal nature of private practice and to give ambitious vets something solid to invest in and make their very own.

I don't blame the now Dr. Seasoned for wanting to take some time to focus on her personal life, but I also don't want veterinary medicine to become an ordinary 9-5 job rather than her passion. (Acknowledging the mental health issues of our field–I am happy that she isn't on call without pay and that she has more free time!) Will Dr. Seasoned one day outgrow her current practice and realize that she has greater potential? Will she revive her ambition to take more of a leadership role? Will she realize that someone needs to step up if we want to preserve the culture of privately owned practices that let profits go to veterinarians rather than ever-growing corporations?

Veterinary medicine is becoming increasingly female, but there remains a huge gender gap in leadership, particularly practice ownership and representation in organizations. I think Dr. Greenskin has followed a common career arc that partly explains why we have this gap, but I hope that more women will step up, lean in and take on the work. Maybe that's not what Dr. Greenskin wants anymore, but I have faith that there are strong role models out there for those of us who still want to "take over the world one pet at a time."

Yuan Kang
Cornell University 2017