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Kick up your heels


Dancing keeps this veterinarian on her toes.

Imagine hopping up and down on one foot for a minute and a half without your heel touching the ground. Now you're starting to get an idea what Scottish Highland dancing is like—very aerobic. In fact, in the 18th and 19th centuries, men used Highland dance as calisthenics for military training.

I started ballet when I was 4 years old. When I was 8, I first saw Highland dancers performing, and I decided I wanted to give it a try, too. And today I still enjoy dancing, teaching, and performing. Now I teach a group called the Heather Highland Dancers. Our group includes students as young as 6—all the way up to adults in their late 50s. We perform throughout southern Wisconsin, and some of my students compete at the Scottish Highland Games in the Midwest. My husband, a microbiologist, is our bagpiper.

During my fourth year of veterinary school I had to give up teaching Highland dance because my schedule was so hectic. And I missed it. It was so nice to hang out with people who had different interests. You might have noticed that veterinary students are all stressed about the same things. I picked up teaching again this June, and now I teach two hours a week.

I'm an associate veterinarian at Prairie Veterinary Associates in Sun Prairie, Wis., and I've been working there since I graduated last May. Now that I'm both dancing and working, I've noticed that my work and my hobby give me complementary skills. And they probably always have. Dancing has given me the confidence to deal with the new people I meet at the clinic every day.

Catching their breath: Dr. Susan Jeffrey and her Highland dance students, from left, Tekla Wlodarczyk, Heather Tongue, Carrie Marlette, Jennifer Sutherland, Dr. Jeffrey, and her husband, Adam Borger.

This hobby helps me get my mind off of work. It allows me to use the other side of my brain and meet people I wouldn't meet otherwise. It's relaxing for me, and I can't imagine not doing it. —Dr. Susan Jeffrey

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