Dr. Jules Benson: Giving thanks to teachers, mentors, colleagues and friends

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I’m delighted to have Dr. Jules Benson join our team as an AVP for Veterinary Relations! I’ve asked Dr. Benson for his thoughts about how he got here, and he graciously complied. We share similar values on giving a hand up to others!  –– Dr. Carol McConnell

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I want to start by saying I’ve been extremely lucky. My path to veterinary medicine, and ultimately to Nationwide, is one that wouldn’t have been possible without all the mentors, colleagues, friends, pets, and pet owners who have been with me along the way. For my first post with Nationwide, I’d like to take a seat in the way-back machine to think about (and thank!) some of the people who really helped me find my true north, and to get me to where I am today.

Jules3Growing up in northern England, I was fortunate enough to have access to an amazing public education. My high school chemistry teacher at Lancaster Royal Grammar School, Dr. John Bentham, was one of the rare individuals who could make organic chemistry truly exciting. (This was way before “Breaking Bad“.) The depth of his knowledge and, more strikingly, the intellectual curiosity that drove it, left a deep impression on me. As I find myself, more than 25 years later, always probing deeper for the “why” and “how” in almost everything I do, I remember how some of that curiosity was kindled.

Between school and university, it’s not uncommon for students in the UK to take a gap year – to travel to a different country and teach or work, absorbing culture and language, learning new things and making new friends. I managed to work with a company called Project Trust, receiving a placement providing human and animal medical care to the native Bedouin residents of the Sinai Desert in Egypt.

Jules2The hospitality and generosity-of-spirit offered by the families we would work with was humbling. As a brash young Westerner, I found it a leveling experience to be so accepted by people with whom I shared no cultural or religious common ground except our basic humanity. As I’ve moved forward in my education and career, I hope I’ve lived up to this early generosity by being an ally and a proponent of diversity of all kinds. (If I haven’t, the blame certainly lies with me, not the Bedouin.)

The last place I want to visit on today’s trip down memory lane is the University of Liverpool. One of the options veterinary students in the U.K. have is to take an additional year of study to achieve an additional bachelor’s degree in a related life science.

At that time, a unique new degree in Veterinary Conservation Medicine was being offered at Liverpool. The individual designing and running this degree was Prof. Malcolm Bennett, the head of the pathology department and a leader in zoonotic and emerging disease. Prof. Bennett was a type of veterinarian I hadn’t met before – he was the first to suggest to me that our veterinary education provided not just a basis of knowledge but also mental tools and processes that had immense value outside of clinical practice.

The example he used that always springs to mind (and is apropos to our studies) was rhino conservation. While geo-tagging rhinos in sub-Saharan Africa may be an important tactic in preservation, our education may give us the tools to operate at a more strategic level, helping to navigate the technical, political and genetic complexities of habitat loss, or helping coordinate efforts to generate meaningful data that can help change government policy. While I knew early on that I probably didn’t want to stay in practice for my whole career, it was his influence that gave me the confidence to strike out and do something different with my education.

There is no doubt in my mind that the lessons I learned from these people were critical in helping me move forward and take a non-traditional career path in veterinary medicine. I use what they taught me every day, and I’m so excited to be able to continue my career at Nationwide, hopefully using what they taught me to continue to help our profession grow, and to help our pets and pet owners in my non-traditional veterinary way!

I’d love to hear any stories you have of mentors or experiences that have helped mold you into the individual you are today!

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Thanks, Dr. Benson! Welcome to Nationwide Pet!


One thought on “Dr. Jules Benson: Giving thanks to teachers, mentors, colleagues and friends

  1. Thanks for sharing, Jules. Thanks for asking, Carol.

    Since you asked, Jules, my career as a veterinary technician has been incredible. Within the many opportunities offered to a veterinary technician, I have taken as many as possible and am eager to explore more, in the future. 30+ years in the veterinary community and still no glass ceiling for me!

    I worked at a mixed animal practice in rural Colorado, 30 miles from the Continental Divide from the time I was in High School, then after graduating from Colorado Mountain College in 1987 as a Certified Veterinary Technician. My tenure at Town & Country Animal Hospital in Gunnison was over 13 years, blowing most statistics as a veterinary technician out of the water, even then!

    I was fortunate to become the first paid administrator to the Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians. I had zero experience in association management (you will see this a trend in my career) and yet I was hired by the CACVT and the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association, Jan 2000. During a short time, I learned an immense amount from my dear colleague and friend, Ralph Johnson. The leaders within both veterinary professional organizations were amazing, supportive and my passion for the veterinary industry grew!

    In 2004 I was working in Gunnison, again, as a veterinary technician on the floor with a desire to expand my wings into new areas of veterinary technology. I wanted to work for an industry partner. Keep in mind, once again, I had no formal training in sales or geared towards details, BUT I can network! Another obstacle to working for an industry partner, Gunnison is small, really SMALL, in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, without much opportunity for direct sales (especially in 2004) or building clientele, but I wanted to work with an industry partner….

    I attended a ColoVMA program on Veterinary Pet Health Care, given by Dr. Jim Wilson. I had read his books on Veterinary Law (yes, that’s kind of stuff I read) and new of his incredible talents and was awestruck by his public speaking and demeanor ( I love him!). After the presentation, there was a social (remember I can network!). Dr. Wilson and I struck up a conversation. I explained I was a veterinary technician and that I wanted to work for an industry partner. He stated, “Veterinary Pet Insurance is hiring!” I applied…..without much experience and the need to live in Gunnison, CO.

    Well, Dr. Carol McConnell and I tossed a few emails back and forth, she invited me to LA for an interview. The most important question, “What do I wear?” She suggested “Business Casual.” OK, Gunnsion, CO business casual (carharts, Oletha boots and levi jacket) is MUCH different than LA business casual. I packed two outfits that would fit the scene.

    Upon arriving at the nearby hotel, within walking distance of the VPI office, I moseyed over to “check it out.” There I discovered men dressed in three piece suits and a young receptionist dressed very nice. My outfits were TERRIBLY WRONG! Not nearly business enough! OMG! I need a new suit! I have never bought a suit in my life! I asked the hotel concierge to point me in the direction of the nearest department store where a kind sales woman put me in an out of business suits with hosiery and new shoes. I have a tatoo on my foot and I wanted to cover it…. I spent $300 that I did not have on a mighty fine outfit! One I can continue to wear to nice, business events.

    To make an already long story short, I LOOKED GOOD! I FELT GOOD! I interviewed with all the VPI Department Heads. At the end of the day I met with Dr. Aine McCarthy. I explained my dilemma of Gunnison Business Casual and the purchase of Mighty Fine Suit. She started to bust a gut! She told me the men I had seen the day before were Security Men, unaffiliated with the office, whatsoever!! HAH!!

    I do have a great, flattering pinstripe pencil skirt and business jacket! Anyway, Aine, Carol and Erin hired me as one of two VPI Field Educators in the Fall of 2004. That’s how I know Carol is the best boss!

    I worked with VPI as a part-time employee, visiting veterinary hospitals throughout the Northwest part of the United States, flying in and out of Gunnison, all seasons of the year! My ability to network was the clincher!

    While working for VPI, I was supported in writing Career Choices for Veterinary Technicians. You guessed it, no formal training in writing, other than Mrs. Borah’s Senior High Class, but AAHA Press published the first book in 2009 and revised update in 2013. All the while, my relationships at VPI/Nationwide grew. Dr. McConnell, Linda Markland and Erin Bedell were my greatest cheerleaders! Their encouragement meant and continues to mean the world me to!

    When I saw VPI/Nationwide field educator force changing, I began my own business (on a shoestring and a prayer!). Now, CATALYST Veterinary Professional Coaches has an even bigger networking sphere, focusing on veterinary team development, retaining quality team members and improving wellbeing for everyone on the veterinary team.

    I am confident you will receive the same wonderful support and be inspired by those in your sphere of influence. Wishing you the VERY BEST!

    Carol, Linda, Mark and Aine, THANK YOU, dear friends.

    Cheers, Rebecca Rose, CVT

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