Stories from the front lines of the war on veterinary debt


Stories from the front lines of the war on veterinary debt

The first of three stories of real veterinarians who are all engaged in the battle.
Oct 01, 2013
By staff

This month we're kicking off a series highlighting the stories of three veterinary professionals, all in very different financial circumstances and stages in their careers. I chatted with each of these doctors, and our open discussions left me with a broader perspective on the various elements that play into how we each perceive and manage our careers and debts. They also led me to reflect on a couple of situations during my own career when I had to make an important decision that would profoundly impact my financial future.

Have you been given financial advice to deal with your debt along the way? How good did that advice turn out to be? With so many opinions and experts out there, finding the best path can be daunting. During my internship year, I recall one not-so-helpful tip that I received from an associate veterinarian in the same practice. The associate suggested that my best strategy to deal with my student loans at that time was ... to shoot myself in the head. While he may not have been that far off strictly in terms of practicality (equine veterinarians tend to be very practical), I was motivated enough at the time to explore alternate approaches.

Another factor that influences a veterinarian's financial situation—and ability to pay down debt—is whether he or she chooses to pursue an internship or advanced training. Does the financial benefit of being board-certified offset the opportunity cost of compounding interest and decreased savings during those important years? My feeling is that the majority of specialty-trained veterinarians pursue their passion, not the salary.

I recall one potential "job interview" in which I was extended a fantastic opportunity. It was three years after my graduation and I was coming to realize that my dream career in equine practice just wasn't panning out. It was time for me to make the (very scary) shift to small animal practice if I was going to survive as a practicing veterinarian. The owner of a reputable small animal referral hospital in California had a truly great offer, just for me. He said that if I wanted to work at his hospital full-time and receive no salary or benefits, then perhaps in a year or so there might just be an opportunity for me to enter a training program. After many sleepless nights of deliberating, I decided that the offer was too good to be true and politely declined.

Pursuing our career and financial goals will lead us down a bumpy, winding road. Here is the first of three stories illustrating more of the varied experiences within our socioeconomically diverse profession.