Fulfillment Runs on Diesel
When talking to a veterinary student, by far the most common origin story you will hear is that being a veterinarian has been their dream ever since they could remember, and they have aligned the trajectory of their life to achieve this singular goal. That is not my story.
The decision to pursue veterinary medicine came to me while on a run through the canyons in Southern California, at the age of 27. At the time, the completion of my dissertation was in sight, and I was constantly trying to figure out the next steps of my career. What I knew already was that I was not happy in my current profession, and feared that staying on that track, although the most convenient decision, would not deliver professional satisfaction nor pride.
And so it was during a run, where often my best thinking occurs, that I had the idea to pursue veterinary medicine. I felt that connecting with people through helping their animals, problem solving using diagnostic results, and collecting data points embedded in convoluted clinical histories would not only keep me mentally engaged, but would deliver the professional fulfillment I had been seeking.
Starting my career over was not a decision I took lightly. As I continue down this new path I can’t help but look for affirmation that I’ve made the right decision. To this end, I have amassed a collection of experiences, perhaps the most significant one at Tufts at Tech, that tell me I’m headed in the right direction.
Diesel is an 11-year-old rat terrier, who suffered a dog bite injury to his hind leg. The injury was severe enough that surgery was necessary. He was my patient at Tufts at Tech, and I had discussed with his owners all of the management options and coached them through their surgical decision, so, naturally, I was going to perform the procedure.
The days leading up to surgery I researched everything I could to prepare myself. I watched instructional videos, re-read surgical textbooks, created a pictorial guide and reached out to a former surgical resident who provided me with a step-by-step tutorial. Her eagerness to help, excitement and faith in me was an amazing confidence boost.
The day of surgery I scrubbed in along with one other doctor. I was unsure of how much of a leadership role I would take, yet under the operating room lights the attending veterinarian handed me the scalpel and explained that today, he was my assistant and I was the surgeon. The operation was successful, and upon its completion I felt exceptionally proud of myself.
The success of the surgery speaks to the amazing support I received before, throughout, and after the procedure. The supervising doctor was patient, calming, and informative, and coached me through it all. Technicians assisting with anesthesia and monitoring were always attuned to Diesel’s vital parameters, and other doctors in the clinic were constantly checking in, asking how we were, providing positive feedback. It was the first time I felt part of a community medical clinic, and felt as though I was a direct, positive contributor.
A teaching moment
My greatest sense of accomplishment didn’t occur until two days after surgery, when Diesel came back in for a check-up. Diesel brought with him an entourage, including his owner, his owner’s daughter, and his owner’s mother.
His owner had tears in her eyes as she thanked me for saving Diesel’s life. She asked me if I was the one who performed the surgery. Caught a little off guard, I conceded, unsure if I should answer with pride or caution. Diesel’s owner then bent down to her daughter, and explained how Diesel had helped a student travel a little further down the road toward becoming a doctor.
She expressed how much Diesel had taught me, and how I will now be a better veterinarian after caring for him. That simple yet eloquent exchange between Diesel’s owner and her daughter affirmed everything Tufts at Tech offers to both the local community and students. It also affirmed that veterinary medicine was the right decision for me.
May 22, 2017
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