My (Winding) Road to Veterinary Medicine

My (Winding) Road to Veterinary Medicine

The road to career happiness can sometimes be winding. But if you stay true to yourself, and trust your instincts, you’ll end up exactly where you need to be. Samantha Thibault, CVT (pictured far left above), Rarebreed field operations manager, is living proof of this.

Recently, while serving as keynote speaker at her alma mater, Mt. Ida College, she reflected on her personal struggles, managing teams, and working through burnout, all with the hope of inspiring future veterinary technicians. Here’s what she shared with the students

My foray into veterinary medicine started when I decided to take a year off college and spend my time working in an animal shelter. I loved animals and wanted to help them, but I didn’t know that taking care of animals would be my future career.

A few months into my work at the shelter I had progressed from cleaning cages and cuddling pets to administering meds, helping doctors, and meeting veterinary technicians – a profession I had never heard of but was now very interested in pursuing. I researched my options for veterinary technology programs and decided on Mt. Ida College in Massachusetts because their four-year program offered a bachelor’s degree.

Fast forward to student life at Mt. Ida. After fainting in the middle of my first blood draw and hearing my instructor jokingly say, “this one’s not going to make it,” I questioned whether I had made the right decision.

I pushed through that initial (and very bumpy start) and fell in love with the space. My coursework took me to research facilities, wildlife rehabilitation, ophthalmology, and even Africa, but general practice had my heart. On a whim (are you sensing a trend?) I moved to Nantucket and worked for a mixed practice that serviced the entire island. We saw dogs and cats but also served as the island’s wildlife rehabber and large-animal veterinarian.

Sounds great, right? Well, not so much. I found myself crying a lot during those first few months. I didn’t know what I was doing, I was homesick, and I felt like an imposter.

Luckily, I was surrounded by doctors and support staff who encouraged me, cheered me on, and took the time to teach me. They even made me a hand-drawn map of the island so I wouldn’t get lost on the dark roads.

After Nantucket, I did a stint in an ICU in Massachusetts, moved to New York City to do ER/ICU, dermatology department, and eventually worked my way into a managerial role. Despite a seemingly huge win, I found myself burned out, so I took some time for myself, found love, got married, and decided to try something new. I worked in sales at a pet insurance company then got into consulting.

It was in consulting that I came across Rarebreed, a new company with only 18 practices but big goals. I was struck by how different Rarebreed was from other corporate groups. They put people first. It was never about finances, it was always about people and their ultimate goal of supporting veterinarians and entrusting them to practice great medicine. I kept my eyes on them and knew that was where I was destined to go. And here I am.

Despite my zig zaggy path to happiness, I have arrived and am now honored to share my story and advice with others. My top five tips for aspiring veterinary professionals?

  • Trust yourself. Push yourself to continue on the path but do not be afraid to change course if it doesn’t feel right. 
  • If you have the right team and treat them well and practice great medicine, you’ll have financial success.
  • Always try to meet people. The vet industry is small, and you never know when you’ll cross their path again.
  • Don’t be afraid to do the dirty jobs.
  • Double down — if you don’t know, make sure you learn. Stay curious because one tidbit can change the course of something in the future. Ask why.