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Janice Tan – 2021 DVM Student Candidate, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine?

Janice Tan

Janice Tan spent her first summer with us in 2019, and had this to say about her first ever Leo’s experience:

Upon finishing my second year of college as an Animal Science student, I finally set my heart on becoming a veterinarian, a profession that beautifully blended my love for animals and medicine. From a young age, becoming some kind of doctor always appealed to me as THE dream job, and while it was comforting to know that my college major was designed to supplement my journey to vet school, the reality was that, aside from working with livestock species in classes, I had zero animal experience. I had never owned a pet (excluding fish, which are only slightly different from dogs and cats), never volunteered at an animal shelter, and most ironically, never even set foot into an animal hospital.

With only one month of summer remaining, I began a desperate search for any clinic kind enough to offer an eager and inexperienced pre-vet student the opportunity to shadow or volunteer for a short period of time. After coming across the website for Leo’s Pet Care and reading through the consistently wonderful experiences of past students, I immediately visited LPC to deliver my transcript (which, in hindsight, should have been my resume) in hopes of being offered the chance to simply observe the inner workings of this award-winning vet clinic. Within an hour of dropping off my transcript, Dr. Magnusson had personally contacted me, and by the following Tuesday, I was walking into LPC for an interview. Though the interview critically evaluated my intentions and commitment to becoming a vet, I was relieved when Dr. Magnusson invited me to return the next morning for a full day of exams, a dental, and a spay.

Having never worked in an animal hospital, my plan for the day was simple – stay out of the way and observe. However, as many students before me have attested, learning through hands-on experience is a fundamental aspect of working at Leo’s Pet Care and before I knew it, I was handed a syringe and asked to draw blood from our first patient. The unfamiliarity of this task was daunting, but with the patient instruction and encouragement from Dr. Magnusson, Jen and Ric, I was able to successfully complete my first jugular blood draw! I didn’t realize at the time, but the way in which I was taught how to draw blood would be the same way I’d be taught how to restrain patients, trim nails, prepare lab tests, suture, and interact with clients. In fact, it’d be the same way any task was completed – calmly, and as a team.

Throughout my four weeks at Leo’s Pet Care, I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with such a phenomenal group of individuals who have shown me the importance of trust and teamwork, communication and friendship. Beyond dedicating each day to educating me about why and how clinical procedures are performed, Dr. Magnusson continually mentored me on the achievement of success outside the world of veterinary medicine and presented the most honest and difficult realities of the profession. He instilled in me, through his own actions, the importance of work-life balance, humility and compassion. In a field where there might be high expectations to “fake it until you make it” and “know it all”, LPC has helped me realize that the willingness to acknowledge and learn from your mistakes holds much greater value.

While I haven’t worked at other vet clinics, I know that this team at LPC is an exceptionally special one, as each member strives to work together to achieve a common goal of improving veterinary medicine. Their constant desire to lead with kindness and intelligence is truly inspiring, and I cannot thank Dr. Magnusson and Leo’s Pet Care enough for fostering my interest in pursuing the veterinary profession.

An addendum to Dr. Magnusson:

“In regard to what I “saw” while I volunteered at Leo’s, here’s a brief-ish summary:

I think there’s always this competitive nature held within the pre-health field where students are expected to give everything towards their career goal, and as they do so, they oftentimes lose touch of the more important things in life. I’ve always thought that the exhaustion and stress of being in the veterinary profession stemmed from the complexity of understanding medicine, but when you said “the medicine is easy. It’s everything else that’s hard”, I began to reevaluate what it meant to be successful. Those words reminded me that being a good veterinarian requires being an even better person, one who strives to be happy and well-rounded. As someone who tends to keep giving until they can’t, I’ve observed the importance of establishing boundaries to maintain self-respect and respect from co-workers and clients (whether it be by “training your clients” or saving some time in the day to exercise and re-energize).

I’ve also noticed and always appreciated how you speak and act with intention, allowing clients to feel comfortable that your advice is grounded and thoughtful.

Finally, it was very encouraging and refreshing to have a mentor who was willing to lower their pride in order to teach from the same level as the student. If I struggled to understand certain concepts, such as how in the world I was supposed to get three clicks with needle drivers, you were determined and humble enough to patiently find different strategies until we discovered one that worked for me. Rather than belittling someone for not knowing something, you’d reassure them that it’s fine to not know, and then focus on explaining that thing until they understood it.

Overall, I began my pre-vet journey bracing for the fact that this career path would be extremely cut-throat and competitive, causing me to doubt whether the stress would be worth my desire to become a vet. However, being at Leo’s has reminded me of the oftentimes forgotten humanity and compassion that underlies all of the medical professionalism.”

Dr. Magnusson responds:

One random late summer day, I got word from my staff that a young woman had stopped by the office while I was out, and wanted to know if she could shadow us for a short time. As is their normal routine, my staff asked if she had some kind of paperwork, a resume, a cover letter, anything really, some kind of professional document she could leave that would tell us who she was and what she wanted from us.

Not expecting our request, the young woman left the only thing she had with her, which was a copy of her college transcript.

That could have been the end of the story. Yet another inexperienced young hopeful, who thought she wanted to play with puppies and kitties, who didn’t even know she was supposed to bring in a resume when she approached a business. About to enter her transcript into the circular file, I instead took a moment to look it over. And I’m glad I did. WOW, what a transcript! Two years of nearly perfect grades in an animal science program at the University of California, Davis, home of one of the most prestigious veterinary schools in the country.

Not knowing what to expect, I emailed this young woman, and soon found myself face to face with a brilliant scientist, a hard worker, a thoughtful philosopher, and quite possibly the most respectful student we have ever had the pleasure of training.

There was a movie once, called The Karate Kid, where the old teacher Mr. Miyagi gives his ambitious student Daniel-san seemingly pointless tasks, like painting his fence, and waxing his car, that on the surface felt to the young student like a waste of time, but eventually ended up being critical muscle memory tasks that ensured his ultimate success in karate.

This in mind, and mostly just for fun to see how long it would take before she gave up, I would assign Janice tedious and repetitive tasks, like teaching her how to properly manipulate a 3cc syringe one-handed. What’s remarkable about this story is that I would tell Janice to pull and push the syringe a couple of times, then when she seemed to grasp the task, I would tell her to keep doing it, and then I’d walk away.

A normal human would do it a few more times until I was out of earshot, then put down the syringe and get down to something more interesting. But this is Janice Tan we’re talking about. Half an hour later, and I’ll be damned if she wasn’t still practicing, and practicing, and practicing that technique, until she soon had it absolutely mastered. Then she took the syringe home, and mastered it some more.

Janice did such an amazing job learning the basic manipulations, that it was the same day we had her drawing blood with that same technique. And I don’t think during the entire month following, did I ever see her miss a single stick.

That’s Janice. You give her a task to learn, and she just… learns it. No matter how many times she needs to practice it to get it right. Just like with Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel-san, even the most menial and boring tasks, done properly and with Janice’s unshakably positive attitude, quickly gave her all the skills she needed to be successful in our practice.

Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Instead, it’s perfect practice, that makes perfect. And Janice perfectly practiced every last technique I gave her, in exquisite detail, until she was operating all our tools like a professional.

On top of that, I was thrilled to learn that Janice has natural animal handling skills, and the gentle demeanor that is required to keep my patients feeling safe and happy. That’s a skill that is impossible to teach; you’re either born with it, or you’re not, and Janice definitely was born with the animal handling gene.

But she didn’t stop at learning techniques. In between appointments, while she was diligently practicing the suture patterns I taught her, Janice and I would engage in the most fascinating conversations about the meaning of life, and the state of veterinary medicine in our challenging and changing world. Many times, I tried to convince her to become a human anesthesiologist, or an orthodontist, ANYTHING but join this incredibly frustrating, sometimes even life threateningly stressful profession. And every time I tried, she would seriously consider my words, then look around at the life I was actually living, and make up her own mind that she wanted to become a veterinarian, despite my warnings.

She really means it. She really understands exactly what she’s getting into, and she wants it anyways. Janice understands exactly how challenging the veterinary profession can be, how awful, how wonderful, and she wants to know every last little part of it, and how and why we do what we do.

Janice deserves a spot in veterinary school, and any college smart enough to accept her will be very proud to know her, and admire her, and watch her thrive, and see just how far she can go.

Perfect Practice
Janice’s perfect practice – at home and after hours! – making perfect sutures.
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