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A Discussion with Anthony S. Johnson About Finding Motivation

Vero Shiko

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Dr. Anthony S. Johnson, DVM, DACVECC, is a 1996 Washington State University grad

Dr. Anthony S. Johnson, DVM, DACVECC, is a 1996 Washington State University grad and obtained board certification in emergency medicine and critical care in 2003. He is currently the Minister of Happiness for VIN, the Veterinary Information Network, an online community of 75,000 worldwide veterinarians. He is a former clinical assistant professor at Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine in Indiana.

He has lectured for several international veterinary conferences (winning the small animal speaker of the year award for the Western Veterinary Conference in 2010) and is an active blogger and writer.

He used to live in a converted one-room schoolhouse in the middle of a cornfield but has since taken up occupancy in a normal house in a normal neighborhood with very little corn. They recently moved from Carmel, Indiana to the suburbs of Chicago. He has 3 young kids and a beautiful wife named Gretchen, who is also a veterinary emergency and critical care specialist. In his spare time, he enjoys sleeping, eating, and breathing with occasional forays into woodworking, cooking, wine, reading, and writing tiny little horror stories.

 

What keeps you motivated?

I remain motivated by reminding myself that I am working to a better life for my family, humanity at large, and those entering the profession of veterinary medicine. As an emergency clinician, I am always motivated by my patients, their best interests, and my passion for animals. The rewarding aspects of being an emergency clinician heavily outweigh the negatives, and these also help to keep me motivated.

 

How has your company grown from its early days to now?

I work for a large online community of veterinarians. We have established trust by maintaining a neutral stance, avoiding corporate influence, and keeping the trust of the membership as top priorities.

 

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

My wife and I are both veterinarians, so we each know the stresses that the job comes with. We purposefully make time for things like family trips, date nights with each other, and time away from work to enjoy all that life has to offer. I manage my time at work by having a clear schedule for the day, and this helps me to remain organized and achieve the necessary tasks for the day. I find that writing down your schedule also helps, but with all of the technology available, it’s easier to tap into your calendar electronically. Turning off your devices is also a great way to relax with the family; it ensures that my focus is completely dedicated to them.

 

What traits do you possess that make you a successful leader?

I am able to explain complex medical issues to laypeople (pet owners) well, which helps to establish rapport. Establishing a proper rapport with your patients helps to build trust, and trust is the foundation of any positive patient-doctor relationship. I am also a good teacher, which has granted me the opportunity to lecture students and professionals around the world. I am really looking forward to getting out and lecturing again whenever the travel restrictions are lifted, and it is safe to do so.

 

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Throughout my career in veterinary medicine, I have had countless medical moments with critically ill pets that have turned out very positively for the owner and pet. It is too difficult to narrow down just one time with critically ill pets that I would classify as my greatest accomplishment. As part of my lecturing and teaching, I lead an online class for new graduate veterinarians on the basics of ER medicine. We are about to enter our 13th year of teaching the curriculum, and I am very proud of the course and the thousands of people we have helped educate over the years. Helping shape the future of thousands of students is easily one of my greatest accomplishments.

 

What trends in your industry excite you?

Veterinary medicine is currently facing several unique challenges; this is especially true now with the pandemic affecting how we do business and treat patients. I think this pandemic will usher in a new era of telemedicine, which will come with its own set of challenges and opportunities. I am also a firm believer that artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to develop and become a very critical role in the medical world.

 

What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?

Whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its shame, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. (From Desiderata – Max Ehrmann, 1927)

 

Outside of work, what defines you as a person?

Kindness, empathy, a sense of humor, and a nearly always nearly empty bottle of bourbon.
I enjoy spending time with my family and cooking. My happiest moments are when I am preparing a meal for a large gathering with the music on, my kids helping me in the kitchen, and a glass of good wine in my hand (and perhaps some in the dish I am cooking).

 

What is one thing you would change in your industry today if you could?

Student debt is crushing the dreams and opportunities of our profession. I would work to educate those entering veterinary medicine to manage debt and find alternatives to taking on huge loans, Universities and private colleges also need to recognize their role in the problem and take steps to prevent unmanageable debt.

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