One of our favorite things about veterinary medicine is its tendency to run in the family. Countless members and students have stories of being inspired to become a veterinarian by their parents or grandparents, and some have even gone on to practice right alongside the men and women who motivated them to become DVMs in the first place. In honor of Father's Day, we interviewed several current and future veterinarians who, by becoming a DVM, have not only chosen a life-time of service to animals but are also proudly carrying on a family tradition.
Sam, on how his dad inspired him to pursue veterinary medicine: "My dad had a huge impact on my decision to become a veterinarian because of the passion he has for the profession and the skill with which he practices. I’ve watched my dad make a meaningful impact on countless people’s lives through the quality of care that he provides to their animals; and the ability to make such a difference definitely motivated me towards being a veterinarian as well. I saw how happy it made him and thought that it must be a pretty wonderful career to keep him feeling fulfilled for so many years."
David, on the moment Sam officially decided to become a DVM: "Sam had always talked about veterinary school and then in his last year of college, he told me that he had decided on going. It wasn't much of a surprise, since he was an animal science major and he had worked at my small animal hospital since he was a teenager. I felt extremely proud to know that he would be following in my footsteps and even more excited that he would be attending the same veterinary school (Tufts) that I did when he was a baby/toddler."
Sam, on lessons his dad has taught him: "My dad has taught me how to manage cases in a practical, efficient and decisive way. He taught me to be a leader who takes ownership of a case and sees it all the way through. He also taught me how to connect with people in a meaningful way and to always offer treats to our patients (even before Fear Free methods were cool)."
David, on the highlights of getting to work with his son: "I feel blessed that I can work with him- not every father has the pleasure of reading fecals, analyzing urines and interpreting radiographs (to name only a few) with his son! I can appreciate that he brings a fresh set of eyes to our practice with progressive ideas, so we are able to combine what I know to be tried and true in my experience with a new perspective that he provides."
Sam, on his favorite moment at the clinic with his dad so far: "We share laughs daily, but I’ve really enjoyed doing rabies clinics with my dad in particular. During those, we are basically both running around our parking lot administering rabies vaccines in collaboration with our friends, Pet Pals Northeast. Once, I threw him a rabies vaccine over the top of a car and watched him catch and deliver the vaccine effortlessly without missing a beat. Impressive."
David, on his favorite moment at the clinic with Sam so far: "My favorite moment at the clinic with Sam, so far, was the first time we were doctors together taking care of an emergency on a Friday night shortly after he had graduated and begun to practice. We worked side by side doing the surgery, suturing, and repairing a dog wounded in a dogfight. It was the cumulation of all the hard work he had put in, and to watch him working alongside me was a moment of pride that I won't forget."
How his father and grandfather affected his decision to become a veterinarian: "Both were great role models, though very different. I saw at an early age the impact veterinarians have on our clients and their pets, which was well before we talked about the human-animal bond. In their own way, both my grandfather and father supported and promoted the relationship we have with the animals we care for."
On practicing with his father: "I started working as a veterinarian in our practice the day after graduation, so I was able to practice with my father for almost 20 years. Of course there were bumpy times and being related to the boss is not always easy. While we may have had differing ideas on how to get where we wanted, we knew where we were going. Recognizing that I would not be a clone and would have to develop my own style (of practicing medicine) was very important, too. I believe there are times I channel my grandfather and times I am more like my father. I hope I am only showing the best of both."
Natalie Whalen, University of Illinois Class of 2023
On the moment she knew she wanted to be a vet: "It was on a pre-veterinary trip to Chiang-Mai, Thailand, where I worked on elephants that had been abused. It was the combination of that experience and being surrounded by like-minded individuals that made me come to terms with the fact that I loved this career. I had always wanted to be a veterinarian, but at this point, it was no longer me 'following the footsteps' of my dad, and instead developing my own passion for it."
On what she'd like her dad to know about the ways he's inspired her: "Just seeing the successful career he has made for himself and for his family speaks leaps and bounds as to why I am so motivated. His actions have given me the confidence and drive to pursue an exciting career and I can't wait to practice and be mentored under him.
One of her favorite father-daughter stories: "One time, he accidentally wore my scrubs to work so he had to walk around with the name tag Natalie all day... That was fun."
Elliott Millinor, University of Arizona Class of 2023 | Son: Miles, age 2
On the effect his son has had on his veterinary school experience: "Miles has really challenged me to be a more patient person and I think this has carried over to veterinary school. Like some of our animal patients, kids can be headstrong, and they don’t always respond to our verbal commands, so we have to be willing to communicate with them in other ways. Having Miles has shown me just how adaptable I can be when necessary."
On the lessons he'd like to pass on to his son: "That it’s okay to fail. The majority of people who get into veterinary school do so because we’ve always been high achievers, but we often don’t handle failure or criticism well. Being a student-dad has shown me that it’s okay not to succeed initially. I’d also like him to know that learning to fail with humility is the most important step in learning to become successful. Seeing the way that a child continues to love you unconditionally even when you’re not at your best as a parent reminds me that I can give myself that same grace in my veterinary career when I haven’t done things as well as I’d hoped."
On gratitude and words of encouragement to fellow student parents: "I’d like to give a huge 'thank you' to the faculty and staff at the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine. We have a number of non-traditional students in our program who are also balancing parenthood, and they’ve been extremely understanding of the unique challenges that this poses to us as students. To my fellow veterinary student parents, I know how challenging it is to balance vet school and home life and I’m inspired by the unique ways each of you manage to do that while also being intelligent, motivated, competent veterinary students."
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