My initial introduction to Indiana was not so much a desire to move here as it was a desire to be with my soon-to-be husband who was working in Indianapolis at the time. I had never been to Indiana except once to visit him during my time in veterinary school. I graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012. During veterinary school, I also completed my Master of Public Health and initially had no intention of working in clinical veterinary medicine long-term. My main passions were and, to a degree, still are public health.
When I moved to Indiana to start my one-year small animal internship, I realized the culture of Indiana is very similar to that of TN. Everyone was so nice and friendly. The only thing to adjust to was the frigid winter. With most of my time being spent at VCA Advanced Veterinary Care Center that year, though, I didn’t have much time to worry about the weather. Working that year with all the specialists, ER doctors, and knowledgeable veterinary nurses and staff, I gained invaluable experience and stories I will hold on to forever.
Once the internship ended, I had to go out and get a real job. I started up in Muncie, even though I still lived in Indianapolis. The clinic I worked at allowed me a flexible schedule to get some of my free time back I had missed out on during the 4th year of veterinary school and the internship year. So for three years, I commuted to Muncie working in small animal clinical medicine. Thankfully, the practice owner didn’t get upset or cut my pay when I requested not to do surgeries anymore. I explained to him how doing surgery gives me what feels like stomach ulcers and I have a tremor issue with my hands. I couldn’t sleep well for days after I did the surgery as I worried constantly on if the sutures would slip or if the patient would heal okay.
After three years of a long commute and ready to expand our family, I decided it was time to leave the clinic in Muncie. I still wanted to have adequate flexibility in my schedule and I felt competent enough by now to go out on my own. After reading about vets who had started their own mobile practices, I started my own house call business. For me, understanding all of the business and tax side of things was much more complicated than growing the client base. The business people would ask me if I knew there was a need for such a thing and how I would grow my clientele. I can formally tell anyone who is interested in doing such a thing that the last thing you should worry about is how to get clients. They will come and they will come in droves. People want their vets to come to their homes.
Since I wasn’t sure how quickly my business would take off I did feel I needed to have another part-time gig at a clinic base somewhere to keep me afloat financially. Even though I may not come off as one, I am a planner and have a Plan A, B, and C for almost every aspect of my life. As I was building my house call practice, my supplies distributor connected me to another local small animal veterinarian who he thought shared similar values as me. He wasn’t sure if she was hiring but thought she’d be open to it. Well, she hired me and also provided me with an invaluable perspective of how a small practice can be run, and run well.
Throughout all of this, I had been dedicating much of my time to a local non-profit that helps people experiencing homelessness or who are going through hard times who also have pets. Working in this capacity and with people living on the fringes made me more passionate about public policy- regarding everything from animals to people and in between. That is where I’m heading now. I don’t exactly know where I’m going yet. But I’m doing whatever I can to get there. This fall I’ll be applying to the AVMA Congressional Fellowship as a segway into a career in public policy. If that doesn’t pan out, you better know I’ve got my Plan B and Plan C ready to activate.
Leslie Brooks, DVM, MPH
Formerly: Indy Home Veterinary Services, LLC