Alumni News

Alumni to Students: ‘Relax, Stay Open to Options’

[Illinois veterinary alumni speak to students]

As students, we are invited to many lunch lectures throughout the year. These lectures not only provide free food but also deliver information that prepares us to be better veterinarians. The knowledge we take away from those 50 minutes influences our future.

Last week I attended a panel lecture hosting five successful alumni:

  • Dennis Brooks, DVM Class of 1980, professor emeritus at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and owner of BrooksEyes LLC, an equine ophthalmology consulting firm;
  • Charlie McCully, DVM Class of 2011, executive director of Central Illinois Veterinary Associates;
  • Daniel Snyder, DVM Class of 1987, Illinois PhD 1983, a senior research advisor, Elanco Animal Health R&D, a division of Eli Lilly and Company;
  • Michael Thomas, DVM Class of 1974, owner of Teegarden Veterinary Clinic; and
  • Peter Weinstein, DVM Class of 1986, executive director for the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association and an expert on practice management, team building, leadership, collegiality, and marketing.

Each one had a unique story to share and important advice to help us all be successful.

We were hesitant to ask questions in the beginning, so the alumni panel broke the ice. We learned a great lesson from Dr. Peter Weinstein: “If you are on an airplane and someone asks what you do, tell them you sell insurance.” (I definitely learned a lot more than that, but I’m sure if that situation ever comes up I will be thanking Dr. Weinstein!)

[Alumni participate in a panel on October 26, 2017]
The view from Jen’s seat. Seated on the panel (from left) were Drs. Dennis Brooks, Dan Snyder, Peter Weinstein, Charlie McCully, and Michael Thomas. Photo by Jen TIto.
The veterinarians on the alumni panel were very laid back and helped us to relax about school. They told us to enjoy both school and practice, and that a lot of people would love to be in our seats. Personally, this helped put things into perspective for me as it is easy to get caught up in the difficult curriculum.

What really spoke to me, though, was how the vets talked about changing your track. As someone who isn’t completely sure about the area I want to go into, I was eager to hear about their paths. Every single veterinarian on the alumni panel started off wanting to do one thing in the field and ended up doing another. They discussed how it was okay to change your mind and to just stay open about it all. This helped me to relax about not being fully set on one aspect of this field.

The biggest topic the alumni panel covered was owning a practice. They mostly discussed the pros of owning a practice. One advantage is it will be the fastest means of paying down our increasing educational debt. Being an owner ensures long-term profitability (so long as the practice is successful). There was also the big enticer of being able to be your own boss. Overall, they made owning a practice seem like a great idea in the long run and a way to help ease our money stress.

Practice ownership is another thing we don’t have to decide right away. Dr. McCully stated it is okay to shift gears later on in practice. That is the great thing about this degree—there are so many options always available.

The outcome of this lecture and ones like it are that we as students are able to figure out, early on, how to navigate the world as graduates. We are given great information, great contacts, and an even bigger support system. For the most part, these lectures are also crowded as we are all willing to hear what these experienced veterinarians have to teach us.

While in school, we students are mostly learning the material we will need to do our job. However, the clinical practice and knowledge on how to just survive in this field are not strongly covered. That makes these lectures vital to us. We take away what these professionals have to share, and it only increases our confidence for entering the real world of practice.

I definitely look forward to attending more lectures and taking full advantage of the resources at our fingertips before entering my veterinary career.

Jen Tito

Feature photo by Jon Salvani