Three questions for … Shune Kimura, Tuskegee VBMA president

The stories told by the veterinary students I meet never fail to fascinate me. I never expected one to include a reference to a practice in Zambia, but by now I shouldn’t be at all surprised at the wide range of experiences today’s students bring with them.

And with that, meet our next featured veterinary student: Shune Kimura of the School of Veterinary Medicine at Tuskegee University. A member of the class of 2017, he’s also president of the Tuskegee VBMA chapter.

What drew you to veterinary medicine?

It’s hard to find one moment that drew me to veterinary medicine. I started volunteering at the Showgrounds Veterinary Clinic in Lusaka, Zambia in an effort to convince myself that veterinary medicine was not what I wanted to do. That successfully backfired, thanks to Dr. Liza Oparaocha and Dr. Julie Hoag. However, in spite of the constant cliché of having always loved animals, what fueled my desire to pursue this profession was the relational opportunities with people.

One of my mentors, Dr. Arhonda Johnson, is a 2002 Tuskegee graduate based in Atlanta. In the three years that I was working in her clinic I was inspired by her passion in serving people. In the exam room and behind it, her passion for people was evident whether it was treating patients, talking with clients, or working with the hospital staff. I benefited so much from her mentoring me. Dr. Johnson and the fellow Tuskegee alumni I have met from working there drew me to apply to Tuskegee. Even now, I am awed by the opportunities to connect with so many different kinds of people. For a “small” profession, veterinary medicine is indeed awe-inspiring. There is always something new to learn, there are so many places we can be, and so many people we can serve.

Our field is a diverse, passionate, honest, and humble profession. No two veterinarians will ever have the same story, and to each and every one of us, the adventures that lie ahead are truly exciting. Who wouldn’t want to be in veterinary medicine?

Shune KimuraDo you think new veterinarians will face different challenges than in previous generations and if so, what are you doing now to meet those challenges?

As upcoming vets, we face a variety of new challenges. Two challenges that immediately come to mind are the fast-paced dissemination of information and the public perception of veterinarians as “pet doctors.”

Fast dissemination of media is highly beneficial for bringing practices to forefronts, and increasing awareness of public health and client education; however, it also poses dangers. For example, as resourceful as we can be when it comes to finding information online, the incomplete education from “Dr. Google” will never come close to the education we receive. The Internet has also made our world smaller. Social media is a wonderful tool, but now, even in the smallest practices, the entire world can be watching our every move. Additionally, cyber-bullying  will test our passion for our profession all the more.

I appreciate the role the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA) has taken to prepare me for this. Indeed, “Forewarned is forearmed.” Having had opportunities to listen to prominent speakers such as, Dr. Dani McVety, Dr. Mary Gardner, Dr. Andy Roark and many others, has been integral to building my knowledge of the media and relational challenges that we will face as veterinarians. They have highlighted the importance of social media, relational competence, and other business skills to communicate to our clients and colleagues with humility and clarity. The Business Certificate Program offered by the VBMA is also a great addition to our veterinary education, complementing and furthering ways that we as veterinarians in any field can succeed.

With pet owners coming to an all time high, there has been a prominent perception of veterinarians as “luxury good providers” without taking into account the variety of fields we are involved in — public health, food animal safety, mixed animal medicine, and so on. (See “The veterinary profession and precarious values.” Coming from the city, early on, I was also guilty of the belief that a veterinarian “just treats pets.” As important as clinical medicine is, the homogeneous stereotype that others can have of us can deeply undermine the importance and value of the other vast aspects of our profession.

I think the best way that I have prepared to meet this challenge is exploring the various fields that exist in veterinary medicine. My love for this profession never ceases expanding, even in my third year of veterinary school. Being involved in other extra-curriculars, in addition to VBMA, such as Internal Medicine, AAEP, AABP, and others constantly broaden my horizons. My first year as a veterinary student in Tuskegee and the Georgia Veterinary Scholars Program during the summer have given me opportunities to be exposed to the theme of “One Health,” and to me this is the greatest argument for advocating veterinary medicine.

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

“I’m a ramblin’ wreck from Georgia Tech and a helluva engineer!” Medicine (human and animal) was very far from my list of prospective careers when I started my undergraduate degree earning a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering. However, slowly but surely, I was drawn into the biological sciences, and here I am today!

Thanks, Shune! I look forward to seeing what the future brings you. I know it’ll be interesting!