Reach for new heights in your veterinary career


An encouraging practice owner gave a once-homeless mother a shot at success.

Cheryl Butya, CVPM, LVT, was in her 40s when her practice owner looked up from reading an article on management certification. "He said, 'You can do this, kid,' and I thought to myself, maybe I can,'" Butya says.

After all, Butya's father had taught her two things: Never give up, and never be afraid to dream. "This advice, along with my own conviction not to return to the dark days I experienced early on, have seen me through a lot of adversity," she says.

The dark days

Butya's parents divorced when she was 10, and she and her siblings were raised by her father. "He was a good man, but strict," Butya says. "He taught me tenacity and perseverance."

After she graduated from high school, she left home and took jobs as a bartender and a waitress before going to Pompano Park Racetrack to fulfill her dream of working with race horses. "But things didn't pan out," she says. "I returned home disillusioned and enrolled in veterinary technology school. I graduated with honors, got a job and got pregnant, but the relationship dissolved." Around the same time, Butya's roommate said she no longer wanted to live with Butya.

"I was 8 months pregnant with no place to go, still working full time as a technician. I went to my sister's house, sat on her back porch and waited for her to come home. Fortunately, she took me in," she says.

The tide turned when Butya was approved for the public assistance apartment she'd applied for. Her daughter was born two weeks later.

A brighter today

Since then, Butya has had a long, steady rise upward. She pursued her CVPM, and her employer surprised her by reimbursing her for all the tuition she spent on the requisite credits for the CVPM designation. Then she set her eyes on practice ownership.

"I pursued the acquisition until the door closed," she said. "I told my boss, 'I'm going to own a veterinary practice someday. Maybe not this year, but I'm going to own one.'"

In 2012, she and two associates at the practice approached the owner again about buying in, and on Dec. 31, 2012, she signed a deal for ownership. She offers these eight tips to push your career to the next level:

1 Never go through life without a plan B.

2 Think of your problems as solutions in work clothes.

3 Never panic hire. It's better to run short-handed than hire the wrong person.

4 Hire for soft skills. You can always train for hard skills, not the other way around.

5 Cultivate your team. The team is your practice's most valuable asset.

6 When you're pursuing your CVPM, take it one step at a time. Keep your eye on the ultimate goal, but focus on what's directly in front of you.

7 Remember, nothing is impossible.

8 Dream big.

For more advice on certification, practice ownership and leadership, visit

Cheryl Butya, CVPM, LVT, is a practice owner at Chartiers Animal Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa. Bash Halow, CVPM, LVT, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a partner at Halow Tassava Consulting.

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