Choose Your Own Adventure at CVC Virginia Beach

June 02, 2016 • Virginia Beach, VA

Last month, Banfield was proud to sponsor the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative (WVLDI) track at CVC Virginia Beach. Our regional medical director for the Midwest, Dr. Kimberly-Ann Therrien, was one of three presenters during the “Choose Your Own Adventure” session. This interactive CE opportunity was unique in that the audience played an integral role; they voted on what they would do if walking in the shoes of the presenters.

For those who were not able to attend the session, we captured some key takeaways from Dr. Therrien as she shared her own stories and struggles related to juggling career, family and, of course, an unwavering passion for pet health.

“I was surrounded with mentors early on — mentors who saw that I had the skills needed for leadership, even when I didn’t quite believe it myself,” explained Dr. Therrien to the captive audience.

It is hard to picture Dr. Therrien not exuding confidence. She talks like a woman who always knew where she was heading and, as the other speakers joke throughout the convention, she makes it look easy to be a mother, wife, veterinarian and leader. It was anything but easy, and as she explained to attendees, it was a rough road filled with many of the catchwords floating around the veterinary industry: burnout, imposter syndrome, self-doubt and an unyielding need to please.

As she started her presentation, she asked the group what they would do if they applied to veterinary school but were denied. The audience voted on the four options: keep applying for vet school, work at the family business, join the Canadian Customs Border Agency as an officer or spend a year traveling.

She threw them a curve ball right out of the gate. No one was expecting that Dr. Therrien decided to join the Canadian Customs Border Agency as an officer. Dr. Therrien worked for nine years at the border patrol, loving every minute of it, but something was still missing. She still wanted to be a veterinarian, so while she was working she reapplied, got into school and earned her DVM degree.

After college her dreams started to shatter. Her first job in veterinary medicine was at an eight doctor emergency clinic in Canada where she expected to find great mentorship among her experienced coworkers. Instead, she found herself in a sink or swim situation, and she had to learn quickly. In addition, due to her inability to say “no,” she was persuaded to stay on at the border patrol providing relief services. She was working 80-100 hours a week, and she was exhausted. Her husband saw her continuous struggle with work/life balance, and he convinced her that they needed to re-examine their life. They packed their bags and headed on a new adventure. The audience was asked to vote again and this time they guessed correctly: the couple decided to sell all of their possessions, drive to Florida on their Harley Davidson motorcycles and start a new life.

This time around, Dr. Therrien got the support she needed to jump-start a healthy career. She started at Banfield, where she worked four days a week, instead of the previous six to seven she had worked at the emergency room. She also found mentors who saw that she had a leadership style known as “servant leadership.” She put other associates first, supporting them on their own path and giving them the tools they needed to be well-rounded veterinary professionals.

She was quickly promoted to chief of staff. When she was first promoted, she thought it must be a mistake. She saw herself as a fairly new doctor with limited experience. “I felt too young, too inexperienced. I had just had a baby and was planning on having another one within the next few years. Could I really take on a leadership role?” Her mentor pushed her, and she took the job. Shortly after, she faced a similar situation when the medical director position opened up. Again, she had a lot of self-doubt. It was a feeling that everyone in the audience at CVC could relate to — the feeling that you’d be discovered as not deserving what you have. It’s a term known as “imposter syndrome,” and subsequent sessions gave attendees tools to deal with these emotions.

For Dr. Therrien, she dealt with them by having an extremely supportive network both at work and at home that gave her the courage to move forward with her career. She currently serves as the regional medical director of the Midwest region.

“My biggest lesson that I have learned so far in my career is balance. And I’m not referring to work life balance — I love my job and without it, I wouldn’t love my life. What I mean is that I have priorities that I balance. I prioritize spending time with my family, I give myself time to develop other veterinary professionals, I even say ‘no’ sometimes to requests that don’t line up with my priorities. In my career, perhaps the biggest priority for me is connecting with veterinary professionals and showing them what their strengths are. I want to lift them up and bring them along with me for the ride.”

Interested in attending WVLDI’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” course? Visit Dr. Therrien and the other veterinary leaders spotlighted, including Dr. Karen Bradley and Dr. Sarah Wooton, at CVC Kansas City in late August.