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NAVC Perspectives, Personal/Professional Development, Practice Management

The Secret to Long-Term Success in Practice: What Moves You?

The Secret to Long-Term Success in Practice: What Moves You?


Gail Gibson, VMD
Animal Medical Clinic, Inc
Skowhegan, Maine

I am often asked how I can still be so interested in veterinary medicine after so many years in practice. I’ve been seeing patients at our small animal hospital for over 30 years, and I’m still excited about going to work. In this day and age, when it is common for veterinary professionals to burn out, I’ve asked myself: how have I been able to remain enthusiastic?


Years ago, I discovered that I enjoyed certain aspects of practice more than others. My husband, who is also a veterinarian, has similarly migrated to areas of practice that interest him.

Early on, we realized that we were passionate about different areas of study—he was drawn toward orthopedics and I preferred dermatology and ophthalmology. Although we are not specialists and do not portray ourselves as such, we certainly have expanded our training in these areas to an extent that our knowledge is, at least, above average.

I share this with you, not only to encourage you to follow your interests throughout your career, but also because our profession and the animals we care for will benefit from your expertise. Nothing is more gratifying to me than repairing entropion after a dog has suffered for months or years with this painful condition or curing sarcoptic mange, resolving another dog’s long-time misery.


I live in a very rural area​, with​​ limited access to boarded specialists​, which​ is one of the reasons why I felt a need to become more proficient in the areas ​where​ I saw the most patients. This focused proficiency has allowed me to offer better veterinary care to my patients, pursue my areas of interest, and remain engaged throughout my career.

In this economy, and with increasingly more veterinarians in private practice, we need to stand out among our peers. For example, I doubt a single practitioner goes through the day without seeing a patient with skin problems—whether parasites, allergy, or infection. Recognizing allergy patterns, being well versed in various approaches to testing, and developing proficiency in other aspects of dermatology goes a long way toward helping patients and advancing the bottom line.


In veterinary school I, like most of our colleagues, received a minimal amount of training in ophthalmology. Very few, if any of us, had the opportunity to perform ophthalmologic surgery in school; rather, we observed and hoped that, when faced with the same problem, we would either be able to perform surgery on our own patient or trust that our clients would be willing to travel to a specialist to pursue treatment.

However, while attending one of the laboratories during the NAVC Conference, I had the opportunity to perform an entropion surgery, keratectomy, and placement of a conjunctival flap, as well as other procedures. We used cadaver eyes, and had several instructors present who guided us through the procedures.

This lab was the beginning of my pursuit to further my knowledge about ophthalmology, and was the most beneficial, educational program that I have attended throughout my career. The hands-on experience allowed me to learn a tremendous amount, which I used in my practice to help my own patients. I continued studying ophthalmology—and continue to do so—by attending all the lectures available on the subject, both in my state and at national conventions.


Whether your interests are broad, such as internal medicine, or specific, such as ultrasound imaging, there are many avenues you can pursue to increase your knowledge and abilities. The NAVC offers several options, such as the January NAVC Conference, with its many laboratories, and the NAVC Institute, which offers even more comprehensive instruction in specific areas. There are also many educational, clinical articles available between Today’s Veterinary Practice and Vetfolio, an online learning platform provided by the NAVC. With all the continuing education currently available to us, we can continue learning, improving, and remaining as enthusiastic as when we first started our careers.

—Gail Gibson, VMD
NAVC Vice President