Three questions for … veterinary hospice pioneer Dr. Dani McVety

  • Dr. Dani McVety has combined her passion for pets with an independent streak to find her own path in the profession.
  • Started Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice three months after graduation.
  • Says profession can continue to evolve, requiring that DVM candidates be as prepared as possible, both intellectually and socially.

At Nationwide, we’ve known Dr. Dani McVety since she was a veterinary student, and I’m not alone here in being very proud of where she has taken her career as a veterinarian. She found her calling while volunteering with human hospice before veterinary school, and she knew she wanted to bring the same passion and respect for life that hospice upholds into her work as a veterinarian. Just months after graduation she formed Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice in Tampa, Fla., and quickly joined forces with her friend and classmate, Dr. Mary Gardner. They now partner with more than 70 veterinarians around the country. She is a veterinary hospice pioneer!

Dr. McVety and Lap of Love have been featured in numerous local, national, and professional media outlets. She is a graduate of the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and is the youngest recipient of both the college’s Distinguished Young Alumni Award (2013) and the Florida Veterinary Medical Association‘s President’s Award (2014).

I thought asking her three[-plus} questions would be very insightful, and I was right!

VBMAHave you always had a knack for seeing new ways of doing things, or it is a skill you taught yourself? How to you advise others to think in terms of finding their own path to success, however they define it? 

If you asked my parents, they would say yes, I always did things just a bit differently.

Maybe it was an innate fear of being the same as everyone else, or an intense shyness as a little girl that lead me to enjoy working on projects on my own.  I also grew up with a healthy questioning of authority; perhaps it was the coup my dad encouraged me to start in fourth grade when the teacher’s assignment to tape leaves to a piece of paper seemed more like busy work than actual learning.  Luckily no class riot ensued.

I rarely voiced my disapproval of authority figures, but I did quietly follow my own path more times than my parents or teachers would have liked.  In fact, one thing I enjoyed about wanting to become a veterinarian is that after around the age of 15/16, most of the people who still voice this dream are truly in it for life;  it’s not a childhood fantasy any more.  I always felt unique in this quest until I was actually in vet school, But then I found out I wasn’t different than my classmates!

But I had found “my people”!  Staying in veterinary school was hard enough that I didn’t question my eventual path mainly because I was so focused on getting through the next test.  After graduation was the first time in my life I ever remember having the thought “now what?”  I had already started  two  successful businesses, so the idea of working for someone else seemed like the craziest plan in the world. But I knew I had so much to learn, so I accepted a position at an emergency clinic.

That first year as a new grad was scary, amazing, frightening, lonely, exhilarating, and everything in between.  I was working overnights and started Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice just three months out of school  — I had no idea what it was going to turn into!  The only thing on my mind that year was figuring out how to do less of the things I disliked and more of the things I did like. (When you like something, you’re usually good at it.)

That’s why if someone asks me what’s the key to finding personal success, the kind of success that fulfills you every moment of the day and that keeps you up at night with new ideas, I tell them that sometimes the pull towards things you love will be less than the push from things you dislike, but keep moving regardless of which is stronger.  Keep looking, keep exploring, and eventually you will find a problem that needs to be solved within the context of what you love to do — that’s where magic happens.

At that point stop asking other peoples’ opinions on what you should do; otherwise, you will become a mosaic of someone else’s ideas rather than pure potential from your own.  Use others to provide feedback (when necessary) on the path you have already chosen.  Even now, my best ideas come in solace when my mind is quiet.  My business partner and I talk about these ideas and plans before we share them;  then our team helps build upon them to grow the ideas. But starts with a very clear vision of what the purpose of our company is all about in the first place.

Remember, finding what you love is the easy part.  Having the tenacity, endurance, and sometimes blind faith to continue despite failures, missteps, and non-supporters is what will really sets apart the ones that succeed.

There’s a much greater awareness now of the need for financial and business skills to be part of what every new veterinarian takes away from school. Is what’s being offered enough, or do you believe curricula will need to evolve to meet the needs of new grads in this area? 

This is the question of the decade.  The answer truly depends on what our current vision is for the veterinarians who follow us.  I imagine 70 years ago the vision for the current generation was to graduate students who had the latest and greatest education; doctors who were equipped with modern technology to diagnose, prescribe, and perform surgery with researched-back initiative.  I believe in this we have succeeded.  We have an unparalleled ability to tap into resources and knowledge that didn’t exist even 20 years ago.

But if we keep doing what we’re doing, we will keep getting what we’ve been getting.  Yes, highly analytically intelligent doctors are vital to our medical advancements — and are fabulous employees — but may lack the social and creative intelligence it takes to own a clinic and grow their service in a client-focused, team-oriented way that this new generation of pet parents requires.  I realize this is a hugely generalized statement, but there’s merit to focusing on upholding society’s view of our profession as caring, supportive doctors who are community servants to the family members who cannot speak for themselves vs. strictly medically oriented technologists.

I honestly feel that the generations before us have done an amazing job of getting our profession to where we are right now. That’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about helping to continue  our advancement by evolving veterinary medicine into  a profession that fits the demands of our current society. We need a profession now that understands  veterinarians do not sell medicine;  we sell the human-animal bond.  In order to not become huge bureaucratically-run hospitals with hoops and chains required to get some simple blood work, it’s going to require that we do some things we’ve never done before. Business, financial, and management education is a great place to start!

So do I feel we need more business curricula?  Absolutely.  Should this take place in veterinary school?  I do not feel that’s entirely necessary.  The Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA) does an incredible job of offering extra business classes to those students amenable to spending even more hours at the college than they actually do, and thank goodness for that! (The image above is Dr. McVety speaking at the gathering of the national VBMA.)

A much more efficient place to put these classes is in the undergraduate coursework, which would actually serve two purposes. The first, of course, is to give students a better foundation to learn more about business in the future.  The second would be to prepare them for their own personal financial journey.  I wonder how many students would willingly go to veterinary school and assume $150K+ in debt after taking an introductory accounting class and fully understanding what “loan interest” or “opportunity cost” is.  So many  are blinded by the desire to be a veterinarian that they fail to see the price that comes with it.

When they graduate, they do not understanding simple business, accounting, or management concepts that could literally make or break their ability to get a job, keep it, and advance.  As an employer I find it frustrating when I’m expected to make decisions for employee doctors’ compensation because they cannot afford their loan payments.  There are numerous courses in undergraduate work that can be added as “required” for acceptance into veterinary school.  I’m on the admissions committee at my college which already does an amazing job at this.  Perhaps we can re-evaluate some liberal arts requirements as well.  There’s plenty of room for improvement.

In short, we can continue to select for a population of veterinarians who can take tests and make As,  or we can continue to evolve, requiring that our candidates be as prepared as possible, both intellectually and socially.

End-of-life care has grown in recent years, and many practitioners find it fulfilling work. Do you see other areas of veterinary practice primed for growth to match the needs and wants of pet-owners and the veterinary community? 

Absolutely!  This revolves around one simple concept, that our “product” as veterinarians is the support of the human-animal bond.  We all have different ways of supporting the love between pets and their people, and the amazing thing is that opportunities are endless.

There are life-changing, revenue-generating business concepts that we haven’t even begun to tap into!  Pets are becoming increasingly important in society, and with that rise in the social ladder, there will be new industries forming to support them as the family members they are. Many of these new services will require veterinarians to anthropomorphize animals just a bit more than we may be comfortable doing, but that is what society is asking from us. That doesn’t mean a lapse in medical care — quite the opposite, actually.  We can provide a 5-star physical setting, comprehensive emotional support, and technologically advanced medical service all at the same time.

Some of the most un-tapped areas I see flourishing over the next decade will be the utilization of remote communication and medical monitoring with our patients (Voyce collars, for example), concierge or on-demand veterinary care, and innovative platforms of client education.

There will be a place for telemedicine, and I expect we will make a huge swing that way over the next five years. But  I also believe the pendulum will eventually swing back to a more supportive, in-person relationship between the veterinarian, client, and patient. Nothing replaces that relationship, and the person or company that provides the best, most personalized and client/patient-oriented service will be the one that ends up with the largest market share.

I look forward to seeing new ways our profession will uncover to support the love that brings people into our clinics in the first place.

1 thought on “Three questions for … veterinary hospice pioneer Dr. Dani McVety

  1. GREAT article!! Thank you for such wonderful information and beautiful insight into these amazing people. What an amazing and incredible service Lap of Love provides.

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