Dr. Rheba Zimmerman is an assistant veterinarian. She also works as a clown under the name Tutu Cute. (Courtesy Dr. Zimmerman)
Studies have shown that employees with a creative hobby are more helpful, cooperative, and creative when it comes to job performance. Many veterinarians usually have external interests, but some have taken these efforts to another level. When Dr. Rheba Zimmerman, for example, took a break during her studies, she studied to become a clown. Now she performs at charity events when she’s not in auxiliary medicine.
Dr. Zimmerman, or Tutu Cute, was trained by ex-circus clowns and has competed across the country. In fact, she was so adept at clowning that she was inducted into the Midwest Clown Association Hall of Fame in 2004.
JAVMA News spoke to several veterinarians who are concerned about working outside of clinical practice. During the 2020 AVMA Virtual Convention, one session focused on identifying areas of interest for developing a new business in veterinary medicine and how to use the time for such an endeavor.
Outside of learning
Dr. Zimmerman said being a clown improved her interpersonal and communication skills.
“It helped me to see what my patients need from me every day. There are so many emotions in the clinic and I feel like I am trying to have that same smile on my face if necessary, ”said Dr. Zimmerman.
She said it was hard to get it all right, but she tries to make time for clowns and other hobbies.
“I like to go out and clown regularly,” she said. “It’s a break in which I become a different character. I go to a job where everyone smiles and that doesn’t usually happen. It’s a good break from everyday life and I can play with everyone for a few hours.
“As veterinarians, we have a hard time finding a work-life balance and finding something outside of veterinary medicine that you enjoy and love is healthy. It can help revive the love of veterinary medicine. It’s easy to get burned out in this profession, and it’s mentally taxing. Allowing your brain to focus on something else will really have a positive effect on your overall mental health. “
It is important to have interests outside of veterinary medicine. I think it’s important to have something to keep your mind active and something to undress – any hobby, a way to relax and disconnect.
Dr. Vishal Murthy, illustrator and clinical assistant professor of neurology at Washington State University’s Veterinary College
Dr. Vishal Murthy, clinical assistant professor of neurology at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, grew up as a draftsman.
“I always wanted to be a cartoonist,” he said. “When I started getting into veterinary medicine, art became a way of keeping me healthy through veterinary school.”
During his veterinary school he took on several illustration jobs. Some even involved veterinary medicine. During his stay, however, he began to use art as a relief.
“It’s important to have interests outside of veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Murthy. “I think it’s important to have something to keep your mind active and something to undress – any hobby, a way to relax and disconnect.”
Now Dr. Murthy, he makes more realistic and more instructive art. He hopes his art will create better teaching materials for students and clients.
Dr. Vishal Murthy, clinical assistant professor of neurology at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, wanted to become a cartoonist when he was young. Now he draws for his lessons and the occasional customer. (Courtesy Dr. Murthy)
Dr. Kemba Marshall, Director of Veterinary Services at Land O’Lakes, is also a founder of a startup. The Marshall Recruiting Consortium is expected to be launched in December.
Dr. Marshall said the company will act as a job board for people in the agriculture and animal sciences. She said the company will also offer mentoring opportunities, business tips, and other help to job seekers, including moving advice.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, she believes the startup will do well.
“People eat several times a day. If you touch something that people are eating, it is inside and outside of a pandemic, ”said Dr. Marshall. “Agriculture will always be necessary.”
Dr. Marshall said building a startup allowed her to see the power of her network and she needs to become good at asking for help.
Dr. Quincy Hawley, co-founder of Get MotiVETed, is no stranger to building a business while also working as a full-time vet.
Dr. Hawley moved into small animal practice after graduating from North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. After a few years he got burnout. He used self care to overcome his anxiety and depression. He started Get MotiVETed with veterinary technician Renee Machel to help people enjoy veterinary medicine by focusing on wellbeing.
“We’re talking about the importance of personal development and radical self-care and how to do that,” said Dr. Hawley. “We talk about solutions.”
Into the unknown
A session at the AVMA Virtual Convention 2020 dealt with building a company.
Drs. Pat Mahaney and Hannah Fore spoke during the session, “From Primary Appearances to Sideline Jobs: Entrepreneurship in Veterinary Medicine”. They touched on how to deal with business challenges and gave tips for potential entrepreneurs.
Dr. Fore, a small animal rescue veterinarian in St. Louis, has worked in many emergency and specialty practices. She started her own charity company, Foxli, in January after leaving her full-time job.
Dr. Fore’s no business background worked with an accountant to set up their LLC.
She initially struggled with leaving her job and its benefits, but said that if she could go back to the past, she would feel more confident about the transition.
“That’ll be okay; you’ll get through this,” she said. “I’m a good vet and people will want me in their clinic.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the amount of her work, but she said there are job security concerns with this work so she is prepared for slow months too.
Dr. Fore said things like a business license and health insurance cost are hiccups for her, and she recommends doing research into both areas.
She said working for yourself has been great so far.
“I spend more time with my family,” she said. “And I was able to research general practice.”
Dr. Fore said her best advice to veterinarians interested in doing business or volunteering is to have a good website with a contact page and “network, network, network”.
Dr. Mahaney, founder of California Pet Acupuncture & Wellness in West Hollywood, Calif., Said his company started out as a mobile business, but he’s currently doing mostly home calls and concierge medication.
“It’s a very high-touch service. Every day is, in a sense, a working day, ”he said. “I always wanted to have my own business. I enjoy working with people as a team, but I also enjoy working for myself, deciding what I want to do and when I want to do it. “
Dr. Mahaney is also part of many side projects, including lectures, and he is a partner and chief veterinarian of Pure Dog Food, a Los Angeles-based pet food company focused on whole foods.
Dr. Mahaney said he found fulfillment and success when he moved to Southern California and started his own business.
“My business has grown more successful than I ever imagined,” said Dr. Mahaney. “I am very happy with what I do and I love having very personal relationships with customers.”
Dr. Mahaney added that owning a business is difficult and that you need to prioritize to take care of yourself.
“I eat healthy every day. I’m doing some kind of exercise. I have mindfulness practices. I’ve created a structure in which my customers can’t always communicate with me, ”he said. “I have to be able to take care of myself.”
Dr. Emily Tincher, a university relations liaison with an animal health company, has worked in a variety of veterinary medicine fields.
“Without researching and trying different things in part-time roles, I would not have the network and skills that led to my current position,” said Dr. Tincher.
Dr. Tincher believes that a sideline is an opportunity to ponder what kind of work you enjoy while balancing out the extra time and effort it takes.
“The balance between effect, compensation and time should be worth your while,” said Dr. Tincher.
She added that as an executive in the Veterinary Business Management Association, she was exposed to various areas of the profession during veterinary school.
Dr. Maggie Canning, who works for an animal health company specializing in data insights and practical information, said the VBMA had an impact on her as well and was a solid foundation for her career.
Dr. Canning and Dr. Tincher attended Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine together.
After graduating in 2016, Dr. Canning part-time jobs to discover new things.
“Keep trying to say yes to things that interest you,” said Dr. Canning. “I explore new possibilities and refine and edit them as needed.”
Dr. Canning said she knew she needed to diversify her identity, and doing sideline jobs helped her.
“I realized that I couldn’t put all of my self-worth and identity into clinical practice,” said Dr. Canning. “I knew I had to find other sources of happiness, including sharing ideas as a speaker and becoming a parent.”