(Written by Sara Arthurs, staff writer for The Courier. Story originally published on July 6, 2018).
Starting your career after graduating from college can be a challenging transition, but two Findlay veterinarians are navigating it together.
Drs. Kara Schmidt and Tyler Fields are new at Blanchard Valley Veterinary Clinic. In addition to being colleagues, the two have been friends for some time. Both attended the University of Findlay for their undergraduate work, graduating in 2014 with a pre-veterinary degree, then went on to veterinary school at Ohio State University.
Schmidt said it helps, at a new job, to have a friend already when you walk in the door.
Originally from Waterville, she said shew as the “typical little kid” who always liked being around animals, although “I didn’t grow up with pets.” But she went to horse riding camp, and eventually got a dog in high school. Fields, from Marion, wasn’t someone who had always wanted to be a veterinarian – he’d considered going into optometry, for humans. But he’d always liked animals and raised them in 4-H, and realized veterinary school was a good fit.
As he is treating animals, Fields will ask himself a series of questions: what tests does he want to run to diagnose a problem? How should he formulate the medications? And how does the client’s financial situation play a role?
Schmidt said she’s still learning about this last point in particular. As a student, she worked at a specialty hospital at Ohio State University. There, money wasn’t usually a concern, as by the time animals came to see her, their owners had already decided to invest the money in a specialist. But here, money is sometimes an issue and that is understandable, Schmidt said.
When treating an animal, you’re “trying to go with your gut,” Fields said. You look at the likely answer to a particular problem, and consider the tests you need to run. Sometimes you can’t go with the option you think is best, and instead just treat the symptoms.
Schmidt said they do their best to help humans and pets establish a bond. They also educate people on litter box and potty training.
Fields did most of his elective coursework in exotic animals and said sometimes this is a challenge for a veterinarian. You might take something that worked on a 1,200-pound horse and extrapolate to how the same treatment might be used in a tiny rabbit. This is particularly true in zoo medicine, he said, where there is limited research available about some species, so you extrapolate based on what you know of other species.
Fields said no matter where you go to veterinary school, it’s impossible to learn everything in the four years it takes to get a degree. Long after graduation, veterinarians are still learning, every day. He and Schmidt bounce ideas off Dr. Tony Fuller and Dr. Rachael Chiu, the senior veterinarians in the Schmidt said shew as excited upon her first day, “but also terrified… you’re making the decisions” now that can affect a pet’s health.
She has made new friends, both four-footed and human, in her time doing this work. Upon hearing she’s new to the job, people often say, “Oh my gosh, welcome to Findlay!” During her last year of school, in clinical rotation, Schmidt realized talking with the humans she met was one of her favorite aspects of the job.
And Fields said he likes that he gets to teach people things, and correct misconceptions. Sometimes this means debunking things a pet owner learned from “Doctor Google.” His goal is for the client to walk away with knowledge, not just a bottle of medicine.
Fields finds it particularly fun to do the “first kitten or puppy exams,” knowing that he will potentially see these animals throughout their lives as they get older.
Of course, there are challenges. Some animals just don’t want to sit still. Schmidt said sometimes she’s circling the room trying to catch up with a kitten so she can look inside its ears.
Fields said the babies tend to be “more wiggly,” although less averse to going to the vet. There’s a “curious phase” and young animals try to explore their environment.
Animals do sometimes have a fear of the veterinarian, but Fields aid veterinary school today teaches graduates to be attuned to “making it as comfortable as possible.” They try to create an “environmental of success,” knowing that if a client is embarrassed by what they perceive as their pet’s bad behavior, they might fail to bring the animal back to the vet at all.
And, Schmidt said, the animals receive treats while they are at the vet, so the vet’s office becomes associated with treats.
Both Fields and Schmidt have been there when new baby animals came into the world, although not at this practice. Schmidt, during her clinical year, was involved in an emergency C-section on a dog. It takes a team of veterinarians, each performing a specific role.
“It’s very exciting,” she said of the feeling you get knowing you’re the first person to get to hold a baby animal.
The veterinarians also talk with pet owners about the end of their animals’ lives.
Schmidt had had a conversation about euthanasia with a client not long before her interview with The Courier and said, unfortunately, “it’s part of the job.” In certain situations, “it’s sad to end a patient’s life, but if they’re suffering” it may be the best thing. Still, she said she gets teary-eyed talking about it.
Fields spent three weeks of veterinary school in Thailand, where euthanasia is less socially acceptable. He said the experience taught him to understand and recognize that different patients have different goals for end-of-life care.
American society tends to assume that every animal will die by euthanasia, but they don’t always, and hospice and palliative care may be options that make sense for some pets, he said.
“Our job is, we are an advocate for the animal,” Fields said. He tries not to look at euthanasia as a “bad thing to happen” necessarily, although it is emotional and “it never becomes easy.”
That is, it’s easy to recognize when it’s time, but the process itself is always hard.
Technology has changed what veterinarians can do. For example, doctors can treat arthritis and wounds with surgical lasers. And, Fields said, a veterinary hospital these days has as elaborate of a setup as any human hospital.
The two, of course, have pets of their own. Schmidt has a betta fish named Bane, and Fields has two guinea pigs, Opal and Pearl.
They’re also enjoying meeting other humans here in Findlay. The veterinary office staff compete against other local businesses in a volleyball league.
Fields plays euphonium in the Findlay Civic Band and anticipates volunteering to help 4-H youths as fair season approaches. Schmidt enjoys outdoor hobbies like fishing, kayaking and playing tennis.
Schmidt said she’s enjoying “just getting to meet everyone.” The other doctors and staff members at the practice have helped create a “very comforting, family feeling.”