Three Questions for … Kansas State VBMA’s Kelsey Sparrow

Kelsey Sparrow Kansas State VBMA

This is my last blog post for 2014, and I’m ending it with a “Three Questions for …” feature on a veterinary student who has 2015 in mind: Kansas State VBMA‘s Kelsey Sparrow.

While I am taking some time off to spend with friends and family, I’m also working on a game-changer of a presentation for The NAVC Conference. It’s a natural follow-up to our 2014 VPI-Veterinary Economics Financial Health Study (that was the No. 2 story on DVM360.com in 2014), and we expect our new project to be just as talked-about in the veterinary community. So stay tuned, and don’t worry if you can’t catch the news at The NAVC: We’ll release an executive summary right here at the same time.

Enjoy meeting Kelsey Sparrow. The Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine is no doubt proud of her. See you in 2015!

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What drew you to veterinary medicine?

Initially, I was attracted to veterinary medicine because of my love for animals and the people who I knew in the industry.  While I was growing up, my dad worked for Bayer Animal Health, and I grew up around the business side of the animal health industry.  I loved going to conventions and spending time in the exhibit halls; I particularly enjoyed asking exhibitors what made their products superior to the competitors’ products.

For many years, I was sure I wanted to be a veterinarian, but during high school and my undergraduate years, my career interests changed monthly and included investment banking, law, federal law enforcement, and human medicine, among other things!  However, after working during school breaks at a small animal practice, I was pulled back to veterinary medicine because I enjoy not only working with animals but also the medicine itself.  I also love the variety of opportunities available as a veterinarian.  There are so many ways that I can potentially incorporate my different interests into my career as a veterinarian, and I am very excited about the possibilities.

Kansas State VBMA leader Kelsey Sparrow meets a new friend. Do you think new veterinarians will face different challenges than in previous generations and if so, what are you doing now to meet those challenges?

I definitely believe that new veterinarians will face some different challenges.  The biggest change that I see is the ever-growing impact of internet resources that are available to pet owners.  To combat this, I believe that it is important to do two things.  First, we need to familiarize ourselves frequently with the popular sources and information that pet owners will search for and find.  Without knowing what information, both true and erroneous, is available and prominent, we cannot properly prepare ourselves for the inevitable questions that arise based on that information.  Second, we need to embrace internet resources and social media to connect with clients and other laypersons.  We need to find reliable, layperson-friendly sources of information and use those resources as a key component of client and public education.  We also need to channel our inner Dr. Andy Roark and be open and active on social media.  At the heart of the matter, this is not a new challenge, per se – just a new spin on an old challenge – how to find ways to connect with pet owners to increase our ability to provide the best care possible for their pets.

Another challenge that I think new veterinarians will face is that of rising debt.  While previous generations of veterinarians certainly took on debt, the debt burden of today’s new graduates is substantially greater than that of previous generations.  All too often, I hear comments from fellow students that go something like this, “I know my debt is going to be really high, but I don’t want to hear about it now, and I can’t do much about it.”  While I understand where my colleagues are coming from, I believe that we need to look at ways that we can change the situation and find opportunities to increase our salaries.  For me, being an active part of the VBMA is a huge step towards better educating myself about managing my finances, negotiating a salary and benefits, and taking a proactive approach towards addressing my debt.

Can you tell us one thing about you that would surprise your future veterinary colleagues?

I am allergic to dogs!  When I was about 12, my doctor had me undergo allergy testing, and I tested positive for dogs and dust.  He told me that I shouldn’t let my dogs sleep on my bed or in my room … but he was about 10 years too late! There was no way I was kicking my collies off the bed.  Currently, I have a Miniature Australian Shepherd who doesn’t just sleep on my bed – she sticks her head under the covers until I lift them up for her!  Evidently, my dog allergies aren’t too bad, but even if they were, I’m pretty sure I still would have found myself in veterinary medicine.

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Thank you, Kelsey!