27 February 2008

Beyond Bizlex, Part II: AAEP's Dr. Jennifer Selvig

Yesterday I posted my Business Lexington column's full Q&A with Sally Baker, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the strategic vision behind AAEP's blog, Out of the Starting Gate.

Today I'm sharing the Q&A from Dr. Jennifer Selvig, a first-year equine veterinarian and the voice of AAEP's blog. In addition to her obvious skill in equine veterinary medicine, she's a strong writer and an excellent strategic fit for the blog.

Why did you agree to participate in the blog?

I was originally asked by one of my vet school mentors, Dr. Julie Wilson, who serves on the AAEP student relations committee. She is a great advocate for students, and thought I would be well-qualified for this. I'd like to think she is right - I have always enjoyed writing. During undergrad and vet school I worked at The Minnesota Daily, the largest completely student-run daily college newspaper in the country. I held lots of different positions, including editorals & opinions editor and copy desk chief. So I suppose it was an opportunity to use a skill I have to reach out to future veterinarians.

Did you know much about blogs or social media before you started this project? What have you learned?

Only in the sense that I knew basically how they work and that they existed. I never thought I'd be a "blogger" - I'm not a good creative writer; I'm a much better technical writer. I don't really follow any other blogs consistently. I have learned it can be hard to keep up with demand - when I get "writer's block," people start to wonder what happened to me! It's actually a pretty big responsibility.

Do you think you’ll continue working with blogs and social media to share your stories and experiences with young people?

I hope so! If I have the opportunity and the support of a great community like the AAEP, it's relatively easy. I'm not sure about the long-term plans for this thing - it's kind of taken on a life of its own, but it seems to be popular, so I'm happy to keep going with it as long as it's entertaining and useful to people.

The AAEP blog is making you a bit of a celebrity and an ambassador for the profession. How does it feel to be AAEP’s answer to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta?

This part is kind of surreal. I have been to a couple of continuing education events since I started this and it's weird to be recognized by people I don't know, even if only by name. America's Horse, the AQHA magazine, published my first blog entry as a feature, complete with a gigantic picture of me with two of my horses, and it was very odd to have clients and friends come up to me and say, "Hey! You're famous! I saw you in this magazine that goes out to thousands of people across the country!" When I finally got a copy of the magazine, it was pretty weird to see that spread. At least all the feedback I've gotten has been positive!

As far as being an ambassador for the profession - I guess mostly it's daunting to be held up that way when I'm really just a first-year veterinarian. I graduated from vet school less than a year ago - by a lot of people's standards, I don't know anything yet! I just try to do right by the profession and the horses, practice good medicine and keep learning. I hope the more seasoned members of our organization see that.

Part of the way this blog has taken off is with non-veterinary students and non-veterinarians. The original intent of the blog was to give veterinary students considering a career in equine practice a little window into what their first year out might be like. But now it seems my audience is so much broader - so I have to try to balance writing for my original intended audience and remembering that, apparently, a lot of other lay-people will be reading it too. I don't know about being on CNN, though!!

What do you have to say to young people considering a career in veterinary medicine?

My ultimate goal is to balance my career with my life. I have a fiance - I'm getting married in June - and three horses to ride. I want to show the profession it's possible to have a good work ethic and put your time in without burning out, and still practice good medicine. I worked really hard to get where I am - every would-be veterinarian has to work hard. But it IS worth it. Even though you're scared to death the first time you have to make an honest-to-goodness critical decision for the life of a patient, it's still worth it.

My biggest piece of advice for students thinking about vet school: Make sure this is what you want to do - if your reasoning is that you want to be a vet because you like animals and not people, you're heading in the wrong direction. Veterinary medicine is a very human-oriented profession. And then get experience. Work at a clinic cleaning and walking dogs or doing barn chores - it's how I started. You never know when they'll need an extra set of hands to help with an interesting procedure. And it's never too early to start networking and building a reputation as a hard worker.

For the equine vet students, my advice is: Go after the job you want. If that's a prestigious internship, go for it. I was fortunate to have made the connections I did early that allowed me to get a job I love. I have a classmate who turned down a prestigious internship for a job on the other side of the country because he didn't feel right about it - and he's having a blast in the job he ended up with. There isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to go after graduation - look for something that makes you happy and fits in your life where you're at, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You won't practice good medicine and you won't learn anything if you're not enjoying your job.

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