Most veterinarians come to the profession as children. That is, they knew before age 10 that working with animals was going to be their life’s work.
But Stephanie Morley, DVM, the Chief Operations Officer of Zomedica took another route. She came to veterinary medicine from an undergraduate major one doesn’t normally associate with veterinarians: hospitality business.
The Voice of the Vet™ recently spoke with Dr. Morley about her career and how it led her to become such a passionate advocate and “voice” for veterinarians. The excitement in her voice is palpable as she talks about its mission.
How did you get into veterinary medicine?
I loved college and learning and knew that I would be going for an advanced degree. But I wasn’t passionate about the hospitality industry. While trying to decide what to do with myself, I shadowed a vet and imagined working with dogs and cats would be a good way to spend my life.
Vet school is quite competitive, with several applicants for each seat. How did you manage to convince an admissions committee to choose you?
Well, I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me. I took the needed prerequisite courses and was fortunate to get an interview at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Then I had an epiphany.
It was one of those moments in my life where I felt like I was drawing energy from something; I knew I wanted this. So I told the interviewers (fully understanding there were only 100 seats out of more than 1,000 applicants): “If you give me this opportunity, I will not take it for granted.” I laid my bleeding heart on the table, and I am genuinely grateful for them giving me a chance.
You went on to work as a clinician with small animal clinics in both New Mexico and Michigan. Why did you end up leaving private practice?
I left work as a clinician in 2006 when it started impacting my professional satisfaction and family life, an issue that is quite common among veterinarians. I was struggling to balance life as a new mom with the demands of late-night emergencies, being on call, weekend hospital care and emotionally taxing decisions.
I was – simply – burned out and was fortunate to find work in a research setting. That’s why the DVM is such an amazing degree: you have a surplus of skills that, with some creativity, can take your career in several directions.
Yet I missed – and still miss – medicine. But I don’t miss justifying [to pet owners] the cost associated with my expertise or the valid medical recommendations I was making for their pet; my patient.
What’s more, I do miss being an advocate for a patient who can’t speak for itself. I say this a lot but it’s true. And I really enjoyed being a special part of a family’s life. You meet them when their pet is a puppy or kitten and you’re with them in the last moments of their pet’s life, it’s an honor to be a part of that.
How does your role at Zomedica help you continue to be an advocate for your former patients?
I look back at my career – private practice, research, operations management and business development – and I see the circle. Our philosophy here is “come full circle” and I see how my experience led me here and how it allows me to bring more to my profession than I would have been able to do as a solo practitioner.
We’ve embraced “come full circle” as our anthem. It really comes down to us helping vets realize their professional vision and potential; to remember why they became vets in the first place. Taking them back to their origins; and remembering that exact moment when they decided to go into animal care. That same feeling should be something they experience still today, on a daily basis.
Zomedica exists to advance veterinarian success. We are developing products that can help keep animals healthy and happy, and while we can’t make similar products for vets, we can identify solutions that will increase their professional and personal satisfaction by providing them with better, more effective tools that are easy to sell to their patients’ owners.
What is Zomedica’s mission?
At Zomedica, we believe that healthy vets equal healthy pets. It’s our mission here to be the voice, to represent what it really means to be a vet; the good, the bad and the ugly. We aim to advance the health, effectiveness and financial well-being of companion animal veterinarians by creating animal health products that serve a real need in practice.
What was the main purpose in developing the Voice of the Vet™ program?
We know that vets are under extreme stress – I’ve lived it – I understand the joys, the sacrifices, the challenges, and the desires to leave the profession so many vets have. We want to be known as the company that “gets it” among vets and that can only happen by listening to our customers early and often.
A HEALTHY VETERINARY PROFESSIONAL IS JOYFUL, PROFITABLE, EFFECTIVE, AND COURAGEOUS
This is the first post in a series of interviews with veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and practice managers discussing their devotion to the noble veterinary profession and love for their pet patients. We hope you will follow us during this series.
If you are a clinical vet, vet tech or practice manager we want to interview you for this series. It only takes an hour of your time and Zomedica makes a donation in your name to an animal charity of your choice.