Three questions for … UGA’s Michael Pabon, self-styled veterinary nerd

For some veterinary students, the love of animals is what puts them on the road to a veterinary school or college. For Michael Pabon of the University of Georgie’s College of Veterinary Medicine (Class of 2018), he felt the calling when he realized he had a passion for physiology and medicine.

There are so many things I love about these veterinary student profiles, but Michael Pabon has two things I think I’ve loved as much as anything any of these students have told me. First, that a single educator was able to make a huge difference, and that his student wants to acknowledge that and thank him. The second was his belief in the importance of self-care and personal wellness.

What drew you to veterinary medicine?

A passionate, skydiving, pirate-costume-wearing, chalkboard-loving professor by the name of Dr. Mark Compton. Like many of my peers, I “knew” I wanted to become a veterinarian since elementary school, but  I had no idea if it was truly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Nothing else seemed to capture my attention. I considered becoming an engineer, because I was pretty good at math, but that thought didn’t last long.

In the first year of my bachelor’s degree program, I took an introductory Poultry Anatomy class with Dr. Compton. That was when I discovered my passion for physiology and medicine. I clearly remember the day he drew a heart on the board, explained the normal cardiovascular physiology, and later started teaching about PDAs and valvular diseases.

This will sound very nerdy, but I just fell in love with the medicine behind everything. The endocrinology section made so much sense, I enjoyed learning the anatomy, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. It was at that point in my life when I became convinced that veterinary medicine was indeed my calling. I became a volunteer at a local small animal clinic at the end of that semester, and the rest is history.

TeddBear2Do you think new veterinarians will face different challenges than in previous generations and if so, what are you doing now to meet those challenges?

The challenge of convincing a difficult client to buy preventive care for a pet might be something that will forever haunt veterinarians, but there are definitely many new challenges that we will be facing as the new generation. Social media, internet reviews, skepticism towards medical advice and products, increased debt load, clients who are more prone to “hop” from one clinic to another, a possible saturation of veterinarians in some areas of the country, and the rise of big-box stores and pharmacies as competitors are some of the challenges that could have been considered minimal or non-existent in previous decades.

The Veterinary Business Management Association has been the biggest help when it comes to learning about these challenges and starting to prepare for them. Not only do we get the opportunity to learn from speakers coming from all over the country, but we also get to make connections and create relationships that help us grow personally and professionally. This past year and a half I have received great life advice and small tips that I have been able to start applying already. I signed up to receive AVMA’s Animal Health SmartBrief emails in order to keep up with veterinary-related news, I follow famous veterinarians to learn from their successes (and failures) in social media, and I have started reading more books related to veterinary medicine and business. Thanks to a suggestion from the past president of the GVMA, Dr. Duffy Jones, I will start reading “The E-Myth Veterinarian” in the next couple of days.

One important thing that I have not mentioned is wellness. Even though this is not a new challenge, recent studies have brought to light its importance in the life of the veterinarian and veterinary student. It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest business plan and the most effective team in the business, if you haven’t taken care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually, you will not be able to achieve true success or happiness. Learn about wellness and try to apply it every day. You’ll thank yourself down the road.

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

Not many people know this: I had a very short-lived career as a rapper when I was about 15 years old. After a grand total of three successful performances, I decided to retire. Even though I was no longer under the spotlight, I kept writing and transitioned into writing short poems. I have a whole notebook filled with them, but I haven’t been writing much these past few years. It’s a powerful and beautiful form of expression that allows you to take what you are thinking and feeling and spill it on top of a paper. Like they say in my country — I’m from Puerto Rico — “el papel lo aguanta todo” (the paper can stand everything).

Shout out to my parents for always being supportive, even through my teenage wannabe rapper phase.


Thank YOU, Michael, for being our latest featured student! Being a veterinary nerd is great!