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Natalie Marks, DVM, CVJ, CCFP, Elite FFCP-V, shares her journey through life in and outside of veterinary medicine to help inspire others to find the good in the bad

(From left to right) Natalie Marks, DVM, CVJ, CCFP, Elite FFCP-V, Ashley Pochick, head of national accounts for Embark, and Adam Christman, DVM, MBA, on stage during the Fetch Nashville conference. (Image courtesy of Adam Christman, DVM, MBA)

(From left to right) Natalie Marks, DVM, CVJ, CCFP, Elite FFCP-V, Ashley Pochick, head of national accounts for Embark, and Adam Christman, DVM, MBA, on stage during the Fetch Nashville conference. (Image courtesy of Adam Christman, DVM, MBA)

In Nashville, Tennessee, there are plenty of musical influences and inspirations that can be found throughout the city limits. In songs, musicians discuss the best times of their lives, the worst times of their lives, and every feeling in between. Like the artists she listens to and looks up to, Natalie Marks, DVM, CVJ, CCFP, Elite FFCP-V, uses the best and worst times of her life to become the best veterinarian she can be.

During her keynote "Man, I Feel Like a Woman!" How Country Songs Made Me a Better Veterinarian, at the Fetch dvm360 conference in Nashville, Marks used some of her favorite country artists and songs inspirations to tell the story of her veterinary career’s highs and lows, as well as some personal, to help the attendees understand that although your path may not be what you thought it would, it is still the path you were meant to be on.

“Hopefully, you're going to leave a little more inspired, maybe challenged, maybe with a more open mind to new adventures and new possibilities that are ahead for your career and your life journey. Or maybe this is going to kickstart you into a totally new detour down the road,” Marks told attendees.

“There could be some moments that maybe you don't feel so good. Probably like this one, right? I promise they're going to be short. But it's really important that I share my whole journey, even the darker days because, let's be honest, our industry and our profession is not always rainbows and unicorns. We know that. And nobody's perfect no matter what Instagram shows you,” she added.

The intro

Growing up in a small farm town, Marks gained a love for and interest in animals starting at a young age. She shared with attendees that a good friend of hers had a horse ranch and she would spend all her free time there working with the horses. She reminisced fondly about how she would do everything for them, including bathing them and her personal favorite, getting them ready for wagon rides. Although the admiration and love for the horses were transparent, so were the issues of equine veterinary medicine. This would leave her on a much different path for her future.

“As I grew older, and spent more time in the barns, I saw some of the darker side of equine medicine. I didn't like these hours, the way my back felt at the end of the day, and transparently, how worn down the equine vet spaces looked, especially at those 2 AM colic calls. So I switched to companion animal [care] and took my first job out of school practicing in the Atlanta suburbs… After 5 years, I finally shared with my boss that my goal was practice ownership, and we set a date to start discussing it. And then a tornado hits. Not literally. The week before we began initial negotiations, his daughter got into the University of Georgia veterinary school. And he told me that [my workplace] was going to be her practice. So my boss, in return, got my resignation letter,” explained Marks.

She would then move to Chicago where she would later go on to become a co-owner of Blum Animal Hospital. For Marks, although she was looking forward to becoming the owner of the first clinic, this new life path brought her to a hospital she truly loves, which was made clear during her address. However, now as a practice owner and not an associate, she began to learn the new challenges blocking her path.

Marks explained that once she became a co-owner, she talked too much, didn’t listen enough, and set silent expectations for her team because she did not want to come off as bossy. Instead of getting discouraged, she shared that she took the time to change her approach and began replacing words such as should, must, and can’t with a more firm and kinder approach with clear instructions and deadlines to help the clinic flow better and give everyone a better understanding of her as a leader.

A chord change

A traditional veterinary career is the expectation of most when finishing school. You graduate, get your first job at a clinic, and begin seeing patients. Some professionals love this and will continue to love it until they retire. This path, as picturesque as it sounds, is not the reality for some professionals. Some may get to a point in their career where they are facing burnout or compassion fatigue and can no longer continue practicing veterinary medicine. However, Marks told attendees that throughout her career, she has learned that clinical practice alone does not define a veterinarian or a technician, and they may excel in places other professionals do not.

“[Clinical practice] is just one of the puzzle pieces in your life. Are you feeling stuck right now and you're afraid to take that leap? Let me remove that mental block for you right now. Because you can start writing a blog, and submitting articles to publications,” expressed Marks.

“No one is going to know your talent until you show it. Maybe you're a selfie addict, loving behind the camera or you're already making short clips, or doing a ton of TikTok dances with your kids.. [or maybe] video production really could be your jam. You know you have one of the best cameras ever available to you on the back of your smartphone. So start small, and dream big because the content is in high demand today,” she continued.

Marks told attendees that it is okay if your brain works differently than other professionals. Maybe you have a great invention idea and want to become a business owner or you found that education is what you love to do, so you move to become a conference speaker. Regardless, your path is your path, and paving it in a direction that you love and enjoy is all up to you.

The outro

Marks reminded the attendees that some days in this profession are not good ones. It can be draining going from euthanasia to puppy exams, or have a pet pass away unexpectedly, just to go home to screaming children and a messy house. Because of that, Marks reminded attendees, as she concluded her address, that veterinary medicine should not consume their lives. She encouraged attendees to take their children to concerts they want to see, coach their softball teams, and have a fun time with family and friends. Overall, just give yourself time. To close her address, Marks told all attendees to be like Taylor Swift when they are having a bad day and just Shake It Off.

Reference

  1. Marks N.  "Man, I Feel Like a Woman!" How Country Songs Made Me a Better Veterinarian. Presented at: Fetch dvm360 conference; Nashville, TN. May 18, 2024.
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