Libbie Fort, the Journey From Pony Club to DVM
It is already April and in just a couple more months we will have a new veterinarian joining our practice. I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce Dr. Fort and let you in on the back story. To know the whole story, I need to take you back about 10 years. As a veterinarian, we are frequently asked to give talks to a variety of groups including college fairs, career days, boy/girl scouts, etc. A good friend of mine is involved in our local pony club and asked if I would speak to the pony club kids (ranging in age from 7-17) about a career in veterinary medicine. I gladly accepted the invitation and headed out a couple Sundays later to the pony club barn. My friend introduced me and pointed out several girls in the club that had specifically shown an interest in becoming veterinarians, one of them was a blonde haired teenager named Libby Fort. I dove into my speech covering all the basics of what it means to be a vet, what a typical day might look like, various career options, and, most relevant to this age group, what they should be doing to prepare for college and, eventually, vet school. Of course I stressed the importance of good grades, especially in your science courses, and taking a rigorous course load in college with a heavy emphasis on science. I spoke of the competitive applicant pool and the veterinary school entrance exam. I told them the importance of community service and getting involved in clubs and extra curricular activities. All these things would help them to become a well-rounded, competitive candidate. We finished the meeting with a question and answer session and I told them all good luck in their future endeavors. At this point, it is important to note that I thought I did a great job of covering all the necessary information and possibly inspiring the next generation of veterinary graduates. I remember thinking to myself that I delivered such an inspiring speech I, quite possibly, could have recruited an extra student or two that didn’t
come to the meeting interested in a vet career. Over the course of the next several years, I became better acquainted with Libbie. She was several years older than my daughter, who had just joined pony club. Libbie often helped give instructions and guidance to the younger kids. She was such a good rider that I recruited her to help with my own off-the-track thoroughbred I was training. During this time, Libbie graduated from Pekin High School and started her undergraduate work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During summer and winter breaks, Libbie would come back and spend time shadowing us at the clinics, watching surgeries, observing in the exam rooms and soaking up as much practical skills and knowledge as possible. After graduating from the University of Illinois, Libbie was accepted to Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences Program Class of 2015. I had the honor of being asked last year to “coat” Libbie at her White Coat Ceremony. This ceremony takes place between your 3rd and 4th year of medical school. In veterinary medicine, this is when the classroom sessions end and the clinical rotations begin. Each student selects a person that has been instrumental in their lives, helping them along their career path. It was an extraordinary honor to be asked to perform this symbolic gesture for Libbie. The road trip to Stillwater and tour of the OSU campus was an added bonus. After the ceremony, Libbie had a short break from school and we drove back to Illinois together. We had the opportunity to reminisce on that 10 hour drive. The discussion floated around from the excitement that your last year holds to the looming board exam to come and finally landed on the infamous pony club talk that, from my perspective, helped inspire this journey. Much to my dismay, Libby told me that my talk that day scared her to death and intimidated her to the point that she almost gave up her veterinary dream. Thankfully, Libby is not an easily dissuaded person and she persevered to get where she is today. I, however, had to take a step back and evaluate this new chasm. It occurred to me that, in this new revelation, was an invaluable lesson.
How many times do we, as veterinarians, talk to pet owners and think we are explaining something really well or saying something a certain way but, in reality, the message is coming across completely different to you, the owner? How can I improve my communication skills? How can I be assured that the message of compassion, understanding and openness I want to demonstrate does not get clouded or diluted by the medical terminology, details of the pathology, and treatment options? How can I make sure owners feel comfortable asking questions and discussing concerns? The veterinary-patient-client relationship is very different for each and every pet and family. Our job, as veterinarians, is to be sure we are actively listening to both our 4 legged patients and their 2 legged owners. We strive everyday to do the best we can for both the pet and their owner, but the road runs both ways. As an owner, please don’t ever hesitate to ask us questions, discuss your concerns or ask for clarification, especially if something doesn’t seem clear. We have a wealth of knowledge within our group and we love to share this knowledge, especially when asked. Keeping the lines of communication open helps us to help you make the best decisions for the health and happiness of both your pet and your family.
Spring is finally here and school will be wrapping up for the year. Veterinary students will be graduating and starting their much-anticipated careers. Oklahoma’s graduation ceremony will take place in May and Dr. Libby Fort will be joining our practice in June. Please help us in welcoming Dr. Fort into our group. For the first several months, she will be traveling between the 3 clinics, getting to know all of our patients, clients, and staff before settling on a more regular schedule.
If you see her, tell her you are glad she pursued her dream and didn’t let that overzealous Dr. Calhoun inadvertently dissuade her. Although there will still be lots to learn, especially in those first couple years, I can tell you from experience, that she has an amazing journey ahead of her, in one of the best careers imaginable. And, if her journey turns out anything like mine has been (and I know it will), she is going to meet some amazing people with absolutely wonderful pets. Their stories, maladies, and antics will make her laugh and cry and puzzle and keep her up some nights; and above all, make her love coming to work everyday. And if she is wise, she will keep a journal of these tales and write a great book someday.
By: Dr. Lissa Calhoun