From the Sideview Mirror: A Different Perspective on Mental Health in the Veterinary Profession

WARNING: This article contains information about suicide, which may be upsetting to some people.

 

Why does the veterinary profession have these mental health challenges?

Sean: People drawn to veterinary medicine are typically intelligent, good-hearted people who love and want to help animals. They are often introverted by nature and are drawn to a fulfilling career that they believe is mainly focused on animals. But that isn’t the reality. The job is all about people, and being face-to-face with them every day, often under very stressful and challenging circumstances. An empathetic and introverted person may struggle with this but feel unable to express their emotions verbally. We’ve seen this communication gap not only with doctors but also with entire hospital teams. It’s a massive challenge. People are bottling up their emotions and feel they can’t ask for help.

Dan: It’s also difficult because veterinary professionals are dealing with emotionally charged issues every single day. I think about the day when Angus, my Boston Terrier, is going to die. He’s geriatric, almost blind, and his bodily functions are going. But my kids have known Angus all their lives. When he dies, I’m going to be a big ball of mess. I cannot imagine dealing with huge emotions multiple times a week. It is like a soldier going to war and getting pummeled over and over again.

Sean: On top of that, you’re a human being like the rest of us. You have relationships and you’re trying to create time for yourself. If you’re lucky, you have time to exercise or pursue a passion besides veterinary medicine. The nature of the profession is such that you may not get out on time to do what you want to do. You may have to work weekends and holidays. And you’re not trained to manage people. You join a practice and there are all these things that you’re exposed to that don’t come naturally to you, or you’re not actually made aware of how to do them. How unsettling must that feel?

How can veterinary professionals triumph over the challenges they face?

At Rarebreed, we aim for a culture that is comfortable knowing we will never be perfect, but we can always be better.

Dan: Have you ever seen someone out running in the middle of a blizzard? If you have, it was probably me. I do it to challenge myself and help build my resilience, both physical and mental. Mental resilience, in particular, is an incredibly powerful attribute, and I’m committed to creating a more resilient organization so that when things don’t go our way, we have a healthy way to cope. I don’t want another person to take his or her life.

There will always be things that are out of our control. We can’t control the actions of a cyberbully or prevent the cruel words of a nasty person. But the more we accept that we can’t control these things, the more peace we’ll have and the more we can focus on the things we can control. This is my mindset, and it gives me meaning. It helps build my mental resilience — callouses my mind — and enables me to accept challenges and persevere.

I’m at the point in my life where I crave obstacles because I know they will make me stronger. I try to constantly pull myself out of my comfort zone because it’s okay for me to be uncomfortable. But I’m not a veterinarian. Veterinarians are known perfectionists, so moving out of their comfort zone can be challenging because it means they might make a mistake. Making a mistake might be hard to accept, but it can also help a person learn something for the future, and that’s really powerful. But a perfectionist might not be able to think that way. That’s one of the reasons many veterinarians have been so successful. They’re striving for perfection. But perfection doesn’t exist. At Rarebreed, we aim for a culture that is comfortable knowing we will never be perfect, but we can always be better.

Any last thoughts?

Dan: I remember when I was about five years old, I ripped a branch off a tree and my father asked, “How do you know that the tree didn’t feel that?” My dad is a very compassionate person. He taught me to believe in the power of compassion and optimism, which are at the very heart of the veterinary profession. At Rarebreed, our mission is to create an environment where people feel fulfilled, happy and engaged, and believe that what they do has meaning. What could be more meaningful than going to work every day and taking care of people’s pets?

Sean: One of the most important things I’ve learned is that if there is something in life you want to do, don’t wait. Happiness comes in a lot of forms, and there are many different paths to getting there, but at the end of the day, being happy is all any of us really wants. Do whatever it takes to make yourself happy. I was lucky to come from a big, supportive family who made happiness a priority. At Rarebreed, we play the same role and offer that same support as a big family — we make team happiness our priority.

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-900-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. You can also text HOME to the 24/7 crisis text line at 741741.

 

Megan Belcher, LVT

Regional Operations Manager

Fun Fact: Meg’s cat has more Instagram followers than she does.

Meg grew up in a small Midwest town and is a graduate of the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in veterinary technology. Meg was raised in the saddle and pursued her passion for horses by further focusing her degree on equine business management. Following graduation, Meg relocated to Virginia to work as a licensed veterinary technologist with dual equine anesthesia and internal medicine caseload responsibility. Meg then served more than 220 veterinary practices across the Mid-Atlantic as an equine and companion animal pharmaceutical specialist with Zoetis. In addition to maintaining licensure, Meg continues to further professional development by pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree from Purdue University Global. Meg, her significant other, Brian, and adventure cat, Gypsy, live in Virginia, where time outside of work is spent in running shoes, in hiking boots, and on the lake or traveling

Christina Foster

Partner Onboarding Specialist

Fun Fact: Christina lived in Alaska, Hawaii, and the continental United States all in the same year.

Pet in Photo: Oakley

Christina has spent most of her career in the nonprofit world, raising funds and awareness for type 1 diabetes. Before joining Rarebreed, she worked in an attorney’s office in Portland, Maine. In her spare time, Christina runs a nonprofit organization for her community to help feed families in need during Thanksgiving and provide gifts during the holidays. Christina enjoys spending time with her three children, husband, and two German short-hair pointers, Gus and Jack, in the outdoors or camping in the beautiful New England woods.

Sam Thibault, CVT

Business Transformation Specialist

Fun Fact: Sam is an avid antique collector and enjoys woodworking and restoring furniture..

Pet in Photo: Ollie

Sam is a native of the Syracuse, New York, area where she began her career as a kennel attendant at a local shelter. She found her purpose there and pursued her passion for animals by attending Mount Ida College to obtain her veterinary technology degree. She moved to Nantucket where she excelled in general practice and became a member of the New England Aquarium Marine Mammal Field Response Team. After leaving Nantucket, Sam worked for an emergency and referral hospital where she spent time in the ER/ICU and in dermatology and later worked as a supervisor. Taking a step out of practice, she refined her skills as a practice consultant.

Sam lives in the hamlet of Leeds, New York, with her wife, her dog, Petunia, three cats, Gilly, Max, and Tomato, and 15 chickens. She enjoys homesteading and restoring her 1890 farmhouse.

Nancy Stevens

Area Manager

Fun Fact:  Nancy is an avid bowler with a 180 average and a high game of 256.

Pet in Photo: Ollie

Nancy brings a wealth of experience in human resources, legal compliance, IT, and marketing, plus 20 years’ experience managing veterinary practices. She is passionate about animal welfare and holistic care. Nancy is excited to join the Rarebreed family and is looking forward to supporting the success of Rarebreed partner hospitals. As an accomplished equestrian, Nancy won numerous awards on her beloved thoroughbred, Chaz. She enjoys sanctioned bowling, gardening, hiking, and spending time with her family. She is an enthusiastic catch-and-release angler, and can often be found on the lake in the Adirondacks with her husband, Mike, and Yorkie, Sam.

Clint Peterson

Finance Manager

Fun Fact: Clint hiked Mount Katahdin 12 years in a row.

Dog in Photo: Charley

Prior to joining the Rarebreed family in 2022, Clint spent seven years in the veterinary industry leading various finance teams, most recently as the finance business partner for IDEXX Laboratories’ software business. He also held finance roles supporting the company’s in-house diagnostics business, marketing programs/promotions, and corporate accounts. Clint holds an MBA from Saint Joseph’s College and a Bachelor of Science in finance from the University of Maine.

A native Mainer, Clint enjoys exploring the beautiful state with his wife and three boys. He loves skiing, hiking, and golfing, and anything to do with New England sports teams.

Linda Elliott, LVT

Medical Education Team Clinical Training Manager

Fun Fact: Linda loves to go fishing.

Pet in Photo: Izzy

Linda’s teaching experience began when she was just a teenager, heavily involved in the United States Pony Club as a member, instructor and regional examiner. She finds nothing more rewarding than helping someone else in their quest for learning. Since becoming a licensed veterinary technician, she has devoted herself to helping her co-workers elevate their veterinary practices.

Linda earned her Bachelor of Science in Animal and Veterinary Science at the University of Maine, Orono, and has been working as a licensed Veterinary Technician since 1996 in both large and small animal practices. For the past 10 years, she worked at an emergency and specialty practice focusing on surgery.

Linda lives in Scarborough, Maine, with her husband, daughter and two Siamese cats.

Danielle Mauri

Medical Education Team Technician/Trainer

Fun Fact: Danielle has been crocheting since she was six years old.

Pet in Photo: Dante

Danielle has always wanted to work with animals, often bringing home injured critters to take care of. Her passion for helping animals grew as she went to a vocational-agricultural high school, which set her up perfectly to earn a degree in animal science from Becker College.

Danielle jumped into the field in emergency/referral animal hospitals where she gained a wealth of knowledge and skill. Wanting to be well-rounded, she worked in general practice to focus on anesthesia, but ultimately went back to emergency/specialty. She spent four years as lead technician of an Avian & Exotics Department where she expanded her skills and knowledge to additional species. She is very excited to put her experience to use at Rarebreed. Danielle lives in Connecticut with her boyfriend, beautiful daughter, two stepdaughters, two dogs, three cats, and a crested gecko.

Brian Michaels, CVT

Medical Education Team Technician/Trainer

Fun Fact: Brian lives on a 24-acre farm in Rhode Island with his son, Wyatt, a dog, 3 cats, and a menagerie of farm animals.

Pet in Photo: Milo

Brian’s interest in working with animals began in middle school when he assisted at a horse barn. He went on to attend Norfolk County Agricultural High School and then Mount Ida College for veterinary technology. Brian is an experienced certified veterinary technician with more than 20 years working in the veterinary field. He is passionate about emergency and critical care, anesthesiology, wildlife medicine, and teaching others veterinary medicine.

Brian loves all four New England seasons and spending time outdoors. In his free time, he enjoys woodworking, gardening, and taking care of his many farm animals, which include alpacas, goats, sheep, mixed poultry, and rabbits.

Danielle Conway, DVM, CVA, VSMT, CCRP, Nutrition Board Eligible

Nutritionist, Integrative Medicine & Medical Education Team Member

Fun Fact: Dr. Conway was in an MTV music video in the 90s.

Pet in Photo: Brady

Dr. Danielle Conway is a nutrition residency trained veterinarian with extensive experience in evidence-based integrative medicine. Her pursuit of “helping patients live their best lives” has led to training and working alongside leading professionals countrywide. She has certifications and advanced coursework in veterinary acupuncture, spinal manipulation, rehabilitation, and nutraceutical support. Her approach is to combine traditional medicine with individualized integrative modalities to achieve optimal wellness.

She is excited to share her skills with the Rarebreed network via the creation of nutrition and integrative wellness programs. Her personal interests include researching science-based next-generation wellness techniques, environmental stewardship, and doing anything outdoors, including gardening, skiing, biking, and hiking. She is also passionate about using her integrative training to help reduce veterinary profession burnout.

In addition to a variety of hooved, scaled, feathered and furry companions, Dr. Conway shares her home with her husband and two beautiful and spirited daughters.

Lisa Bourazak, DVM, MPT, DACVAA

Anesthesiologist & Medical Education Team Member

Fun Fact: Dr. Bourazak bicycled from Seattle, Washington to Washington, DC to raise money for the American Lung Association.

Pet in Photo: Charles Darwin

Before she became interested in canine rehabilitation, Dr. Bourazak received her master’s in physical therapy from Northwestern University. After 15 years as a physical therapist, she left the profession to study at the University of Illinois School of Veterinary Medicine where her love for anesthesia grew. After graduation, she completed a rotating internship at the University of Georgia and her residency in anesthesia and analgesia at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Since finishing her residency, Dr. Bourazak has worked in private practice, elevating anesthesia techniques for patients and surgery teams. She has a special interest in locoregional techniques, critical anesthesia, and adjunctive pain management.

Dr. Bourazak loves adventuring outdoors with her partner, her yellow lab mix, Charlie, and her Beagle, Ruth. She is excited to be part of the Medical Operations team at Rarebreed, bringing her passion and experience to our partners and patients.

Nicole Kaltsas

Strategic Partnerships Manager

Fun Fact: Nicole obtained a master’s degree in public policy and management, and was accepted into law school, but opted to change gears and pursue a life in the veterinary field alongside her husband.

Pet in Photo: Titan

Nicole joined Rarebreed after spending 15 years managing and owning Stoneledge Animal Hospital alongside her husband, Dr. Mike. They decided to partner with Rarebreed after recognizing how clearly the philosophies and goals of Rarebreed align with the needs and desires of smaller practices. Prior to her career in the veterinary field, Nicole spent 8 years as a human resources professional at Fairchild Semiconductor. She was responsible for hiring IT and engineering professionals in Maine and Silicon Valley. She also managed Fairchild’s Immigration program globally and was the HR business partner to their Corporate Legal group. In her spare time, Nicole loves spending time with her husband, their girls and their 2 French Bulldog pups, Mabel and Henry. She also loves to garden and design and re-design rooms in their home.

Millie Bogue, LVT

Medical Education Team Technician/Trainer

Fun Fact: Millie and her husband lived in a Yurt off grid in New Mexico.

Pet in Photo: Grace

Millie received a BS in wildlife biology from the University of Vermont and an AS in veterinary technology from Foothill College. During her time at UVM, she fell in love with dog training and went on to become a certified dog trainer. She owned and operated a training school while actively competing with her own dogs.

Millie’s love of the human-animal bond led her to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. She spent 17 years as a registered veterinary technician and has experience in emergency medicine, neurology, and general practice, and extensive training in anesthesia and critical care. Her passion and love of veterinary medicine have led her to the Rarebreed team. Millie lives in Vermont with her husband, three Doberman pinschers, one cat, and twelve chickens.

Terri Bastarache

Compensation and Benefits Manager

Fun Fact: Terri has been skydiving and scuba diving.

Pet in Photo: Khaleesi

Terri grew up in southern Maine and graduated from the University of Maine with a business management degree. After graduation, she moved to Thailand to teach English and backpack through Southeast Asia. Before joining Rarebreed, Terri worked at Woodard & Curran and ON Semiconductor (previously Fairchild) focusing on benefits and well-being. Terri is an SHRM-CP certified professional (Society of Human Resource Management) and a certified wellness program manager. She is excited to join Rarebreed and combine her passion for helping others with her love of animals.

Terri and her husband live in New Gloucester, Maine, with their dog, Ellie. Terri enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, CrossFit, and making charcuterie boards.

Rachel Fredette

Regional Operations Manager

Fun Fact: While living in San Francisco, Rachel worked with the pets of many celebrities such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Chase Utley, and Bonnie Raitt.

Rachel grew up in central Connecticut before attending the University of New Hampshire to study biomedical science and dairy herd management. In college, she spent as much time as she could at the campus dairy barn where she worked as a research assistant and farm hand. She started her career in veterinary medicine as a veterinary assistant in a general practice in New Hampshire, and eventually moved to the San Francisco Bay area where she worked in both specialty surgery and emergency practices. After moving back to Connecticut, Rachel worked as an integrations specialist, discovered her passion for field operations, and became a regional operations manager. Rachel is an outdoor enthusiast and spends most of her free time hiking, camping, and backpacking with her pit bull mix, Maple. She is passionate about sustainability and waste reduction.

Melanie Flynn

Partner Onboarding Specialist

Fun Fact: Melanie is a special-occasion florist and has been on the holiday decorating team at The White House.

Pet in Photo: Titan

Melanie comes to Rarebreed with over 20 years of experience in the veterinary world including as a client service manager, practice manager, and, most recently, referral coordinator at a 24-hour emergency, specialty, and general medicine practice. She has always had a passion for animals and has never been without one in her life. She was an avid 4H member and has shown many of her pets, including dogs, guinea pigs, horses, and even cows.

When she’s not busy designing wedding flowers or helping her husband, Kevin, with his Cornwell Tools franchise, Melanie and Kevin enjoy camping throughout New England, often in Maine, with their Corgis. She also likes spending time with her grandson and her three grown children who she’s lucky to have still living in the same town.

Jen Fish

Payroll Supervisor

Fun Fact: Jen has worked concert security for over 15 years and has seen more than 800 concerts.

Pet in Photo: Gill

Jen brings extensive experience in payroll, human resources and leave administration in areas that include the automotive industry, the mortgage industry, nonprofit and retail. Her true passion is payroll, and she enjoys the pressure of payroll processing, analyzing numbers and working with Excel!

Jen has lived in Maine her whole life and recently purchased a condo in Old Orchard Beach with her two cats, Sophie and Buddy. In her free time, she enjoys cooking new recipes from Pinterest, kayaking, watching sports, traveling and taking advantage of walking on the nearby beaches.

Kate Pichugina

Assistant Controller

Fun Fact: Kate speaks Russian.

Pet in Photo: Simba

Kate is a licensed certified public accountant and certified internal auditor with experience in accounting, auditing, financial close management, and compliance. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in economics with minors in accounting and business administration from the University of Southern Maine. Kate lives in Falmouth, Maine, with her family and is the proud mom of her son, Nicholas, and her Pomeranian, Simba. Kate likes to spend her free time outdoors, traveling, and reading.

Timothy Norden

Senior Facilities Manager

Fun Fact: Tim circumnavigated the world between two of his deployments in the Navy, one from San Diego, California, and the other from Norfolk, Virginia.

Pet in Photo: Khaleesi

Tim grew up in central Massachusetts and earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Boston University. Afterward, he spent eight years in the US Navy as a nuclear engineering officer before returning to Massachusetts to work as a project engineer and later an operations manager at a local utility company. While working there he completed an MS degree in engineering management at Tufts University. He then worked in facilities and lab management in the life science industry in Cambridge, Mass., before joining Rarebreed.

Tim and his wife, Sarah, live in Medford, Mass., with their pandemic pup, Russell, and spend most of their weekends in Maine with friends and family. Tim loves to travel and enjoys the outdoors — camping, hiking, biking, snowboarding, and paddleboarding. In his spare time, he also loves cooking, especially making pizza and grilling.

Christie Lee Verschoor, PHR

Senior People Operations Manager

Fun Fact: Christie and her husband got married at an animal sanctuary in Saugerties, New York, with two rescued steers as their witnesses.

Pet in Photo: Simba

Christie graduated from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, with a degree in business administration and a concentration in marketing, human resources, and international business. Christie’s HR career began in the wine and spirits industry where she spent 17 years as a regional human resources manager servicing the New York tri-state area. She was drawn to Rarebreed as she sought to align her career in human resources with her passion for animal welfare.

Christie and her husband, Robbie, split their time between living in Westchester County and Ulster County, New York. Together they have a rescue kitty, Logan Fuzzybottoms. In her free time, Christie enjoys spending as much time outdoors as possible, hiking, biking, kayaking, trail running, and spending time tending to her garden of native plants.

Test Name

Business Transformation Specialist

Fun Fact: Adria dove with sharks in Yap, located in the Micronesian Islands next to Guam.

Pet in Photo: Khaleesi

Adria’s passion for animals has always been a big part of who she is. Her many years of experience working in animal care began in a Maine animal shelter. Later, after moving to Florida, Adria flourished as a veterinary technician, surgery technician, inventory manager, and trainer. Most recently she lived in Guam where she worked as practice manager for an animal hospital. Now back in Maine, she is excited to continue her career with Rarebreed and complete her undergraduate certificate in veterinary practice management. In her free time, Adria enjoys horseback riding, painting and dancing.

Andrew Rockwood

Technical Operations Network Manager

Fun Fact:  As a Dell driving technician, Andrew was consistently ranked one of the top five techs in the country based on speed, technical skill, and customer satisfaction.

Pet in Photo: Sully

Andrew attended York County Community College and has been working in the technology field for over 15 years. Starting from a modest beginning as a Staples Easy Tech, Andrew has worked with technology in healthcare, retail, manufacturing, government, and MSP environments. All of this has led to a breadth of lessons learned through experience in the field.

He has always been a geek and has been fascinated with technology since he was seven years old. Andrew has always been motivated to be the change he wanted to see in the world and strives to make tech support a team effort custom-tailored to each user.

When he is not working you can find Andrew working on projects around the house or spending time with his wife and three young children. Beach days are always great, and summer is by far his favorite season in Maine.

Jennifer Shaw

Area Manager

Fun Fact: Jennifer went to culinary school.

Jennifer has been in the veterinary field for 20 years, starting as a technician in emergency/ specialty services on Long Island, New York, before moving to general practice. Advancing in her career, she became a practice manager with multi-site responsibility.

Jennifer was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and currently lives in Staten Island with her partner, Cindy, two amazing boys, Matt and Tim, and her crazy dog, Theo. In her free time, Jennifer enjoys cooking, spending time with her family, camping, and bike riding.

Bernetta Gethers

Clinical Training Manager

Fun Fact:  Bernetta was a director of a dance school where ballet, tap, ethnic, and lyrical dance were taught.

Bernetta began her veterinary care as a veterinary assistant in general practice. After graduating from tech school, her eyes were opened to the emergency, specialty, and critical care world of veterinary medicine. This proved to be the excitement that she had been missing. She quickly navigated a path into a management/leadership position where she trained, mentored, and cultivated veterinary technicians and assistants. Bernetta thrives on making connections with people and facilitating difficult conversations and direct communication. She has an associate degree in applied science from Camden County College and a BS in management from DeVry University. She lives in Pennsylvania with her three children and four fur children.

Shishira Adiga

Quality Assurance Manager

Fun Fact: Shishira can play the tabla, an Indian percussion instrument.

Pet in Photo: Oakley

Shishira earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Texas Tech University and has since been working in various engineering roles related to hardware and software, such as test lead, development manager, and scrum master in chip fabrication. He has experience working in the insurance, banking, and veterinary fields.

Shishira enjoys spending his free time with his children, learning the ancient languages Sanskrit and Tulu, and reading about new technologies such as Blockchain.

Bill Nabozny

Payroll Manager

Fun Fact:  Bill lived on an aircraft carrier while serving in the United States Navy and has “cruised” the Mediterranean Sea.

Pet in Photo: Cleo

Bill comes to Rarebreed with an MBA from Bentley College, a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Suffolk University, and more than 20 years of payroll, accounting, human resources and benefits experience. He’s worked in a variety of industries, including healthcare, research, software and medical manufacturing. At Rarebreed, Bill is working toward expanding and enhancing the payroll systems as the company continues to grow.

Bill is a team player who enjoys getting deep into the details and analysis (aka weeds) of his work. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, kayaking and boating. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, daughter and four spoiled cats.

Adria Fusco

Business Transformation Specialist

Fun Fact: Adria dove with sharks in Yap, located in the Micronesian Islands next to Guam.

Pet in Photo: Titan

Adria’s passion for animals has always been a big part of who she is. Her many years of experience working in animal care began in a Maine animal shelter. Later, after moving to Florida, Adria flourished as a veterinary technician, surgery technician, inventory manager, and trainer. Most recently she lived in Guam where she worked as practice manager for an animal hospital. Now back in Maine, she is excited to continue her career with Rarebreed and complete her undergraduate certificate in veterinary practice management. In her free time, Adria enjoys horseback riding, painting and dancing.