14 Veterinarians Share the Best Advice They Received from a Mentor

Applying their wisdom helps these veterinarians stay focused.

Are you surprised when you think about the impact of a few words of wisdom a mentor shared with you along the way? I’m fascinated by how words like that become guideposts that endure for years to steer us toward values we know we can trust. 

The following are responses from more than a dozen of your peers who credit advice from a mentor with helping them become better veterinarians.

1. Choose what you focus on wisely.

"After I'd been out of school for about a year I had lunch with a former clinician. He asked, 'What do you see most commonly?' I responded parasites. He advised, 'Get really good at that.' Today I'm a boarded parasitologist."

— Chris Adolph, veterinary specialist at Zoetis

2. Be satisfied knowing you’ve done your best every day.

“My mentor told me to never think of clients as ‘my clients.’ You don't own the clients; they are free to go and come as they like. Just feel privileged that at that moment in time they are entrusting the care of their pet to you. Other vets don't ‘steal your clients;’ they just decide to go somewhere else, many times in spite of everything you try to do to please them.”

— Dan Jones

3. Give yourself a good night’s sleep.

“My mentor always told me to do whatever would help you sleep better at night. If you were 90% sure about a ligature but you'd lose sleep over that 10%, then throw another ligature on whatever it was. That sort of thing. I often ask myself, ‘Will I lose sleep over this decision.’ And if the answer is yes, I do something different.”

— Anna George, Sierra Vista, Ariz.

4. Never procrastinate conflict resolution.

“My mentor told me that when a client is angry with you the best thing to do is to call or talk to them right away, and to give them plenty of time to vent. Often it diffuses the situation because they just want someone to hear them.”

— Hope Teyler, associate veterinarian at Copper View Animal Hospital in Riverton, Utah

5. There’s a reason we call what we do “practice.”

“In my first year, when I was feeling a bit like an imposter, my mentor said to me we all feel that way, and then we go find out more, study always, that is what will make you a great clinician! And he was right. When he said that to me, I felt better in the moment, but I have used that advice whenever I am down on myself.”

— Lynn Hendrix-Chupa

6. There’s nothing wrong about selling.

“As a fourth year student shadowing a cardiologist in a private specialty hospital, we looked across the hall and saw a salesman pushing products with the ophthalmologist and laying it on real thick.

One of the interns who was also with the cardiologist said, ‘I'm so glad I'm not in sales.’

The cardiologist responded, ‘We're all in sales.’”

— Ryan Gates, graduate of Ohio State University

7. That degree gave you a license to learn.

“From a faculty member in last year vet school: 'We have prepared you with 10% of what you need to know to be a good veterinarian, now go out there and learn the other 90%.’”

— Terri Readdy, independent contractor at Readdy Veterinary Relief Services in Tampa, Fla.

8. Learning really is a lifelong proposition.

“I have had a lot of people mentor me in unofficial capacities. The collective result in me is: No matter what happens, learn from every situation, good, bad, ugly and beautiful. There is always a lesson, some are hard to learn and some are hard to accept. Sometimes, the most difficult lessons to accept are that we are good at what we do and it is okay, in fact necessary, to know that you can do this. Never stop learning.”

— Melanie Metz Goble, relief veterinarian at Renewed Strength Veterinary Services in Manitowoc, Wis.

9. Don’t worry about money.

“My best advice was ‘Don’t worry about money. Worry about being thorough, and the money will follow.’”

— Don Woodman, owner at Animal Hospital of Northwood in Safety Harbor, Fla.

10. Everything hinges on a thorough physical exam.

“I worked for a vet between 2nd and 3rd year of vet school and he taught me the importance of having a system of doing a thorough physical exam. I know there is more to vet med than that, but I have found that advice was worthwhile. Thanks Dr. Townsley.”

— Carl Bello, former assistant clinical professor at Washington State University

11. Question everything.

“When I prefaced a question with the statement ‘this may be a stupid question,’ my ophthalmology professor stopped me and said, ‘There are no stupid questions. If you are wondering about something I want you to ask it.’ Had a profound effect on my confidence and how I practiced.’

— Tina Swanson, veterinarian at College Mall Veterinary Hospital in Bloomington,  Ind.


What is your best advice? Let us know in the comments.

12. Extra effort pays off.

“You can never get in trouble for doing too much but you can definitely get in trouble for not doing enough.”

— Dana Willis-Henderson, veterinary medical operations/regional medical director

13. Never let age dictate treatment options for your patients.

"‘Age is not a disease.’ I use this response on a daily basis. And I recommend the same best medicine option to the 16-year-old pet that I do to the 4-year-old pet. By the way, owners will indeed try to convince you that age is a disease!”

— Rene Richards Reimer, Dillsburg, Penn.

14. Follow the “3 A’s” to keep clients happy.

“A mentor in my first practice after graduation shared these with me, and over the years they proved to be true. He emphasized that the order of the characteristics

reflects the priorities in the minds of clients, too.

  •    Availability (first priority in client’s mind)
  •    Amiability (second priority in client’s mind)
  •    Ability (third priority in client’s mind).”

— Steve Pearson, Retired veterinarian, freelance writer in Athens, Ala.

What advice did you receive from your mentors? Share it in the comments area below. That way we can all learn and enjoy the benefit of wisdom from a wide variety of sources.

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One thought on “14 Veterinarians Share the Best Advice They Received from a Mentor

  1. Always try to put yourself in your client’s shoes. Try to understand where they are coming from in regards to how they are acting/speaking/feeling. Doing this gives you greater insight into their expectations.
    I had a client several years ago request his pet’s records because he had decided to leave the practice. I was given the job of finding out why. Not because we wanted to convince him he should stay, but because we had apparently done something to make him want to leave. It turns out a miscommunication on our part had caused his pet’s chronic medication not to be filled correctly. Once would have been understandable, but this same miscommunication had happened several times to this client. I told him that I would be pissed if that happened to me. I apologized and told him it shouldn’t have happened. Our job is to help him take care of his pet and we had failed. It was inexcusable and unacceptable. I promised him that we would learn from this and make sure that it wouldn’t happen to someone else. I asked him where he wanted me to send his records and he was silent for a minute. Then he completely shocked me by saying “actually, I think I’ve changed my mimd. Without me asking, you completely owned up to your mistakes. You didn’t make excuses. You simply apologized and promised to do better and I believe that you will. That’s the kind of practice I want taking care if my pet.”