Career Spotlight - Lauren O’Leary, RVT, CVPM, B.Ed (Adult Education)
Current Job: Central Ontario District Territory Manager for Central Sales Ltd.
Her Motto: Be Awesome Today.
Q&A with Lauren
OAVT: Where did you go to school and what made you decide to take a Veterinary Technology program?
Lauren: I attended Centralia College, just outside of London, Ontario and graduated with honours in 1984. I went on to write my RVT exam as soon as I could in 1990. I took my oral, practical and written CVPM exam in 1998 and finished my B.Ed in 2014, graduating with distinction.
As far back as I can remember I have had an affinity and love for all creatures great and small. I’m just drawn. James Herriot was my idol!
I grew up on a small hobby farm with chickens, ducks, geese and a fat little pony named Ginger. In grade 7 a dear friend’s dad asked if they could come get me at 2 o’clock in the morning to see kittens being born. That was it; I was hooked!
By grade 9, Dr. Carmen Redmond of Shelburne Veterinary Services had taken me on my first “ride along”. That sealed the deal! I asked my guidance counsellor at school about jobs in the field of veterinary medicine and she tried to dissuade me, indicating it would be a low paying job that was “going nowhere” with little room for advancement. Well, me and 800 others applied for Centralia anyways! At the time it was a requirement to have a number of hours of practical experience and letters of reference so I started volunteering with Dr Redmond after school and I’ve never really looked back!
OAVT: You have been working at Central Sales for over 12 years now. What other jobs have you had in the field?
Lauren: As Sales Development Manager for Effem Inc. (Mars) I was involved in transitioning the Waltham Brand over to the newly formed Medical/Royal Canin brand. I was so blessed to have been able to travel to England to experience the Waltham Centre for Research in Waltham on the Wolds, Leicestershire, England and it was my great privilege to offer that same trip to veterinarians to come over and tour the centre with us! Such a great trip and great bonding! Similarly, it was an honour to travel to Aimargues, in the South of France to tour the Royal Canin plant and see their head offices and research facilities there. I’m not knocking Guelph, but France was extraordinary!
As Canadian Veterinary Market Manager/ Regional Operations Manager for the MGMT Veterinary Services (a.k.a. the Petsmart Pet Hospitals), my head office was in Phoenix, Arizona - a nice warm place to go in the dead of Canadian winters! As research before opening the practices I was able to tour facilities already operating in the US in the State of Georgia where I have formed many bonds and lasting friendships, including while attending team building and leadership skills meetings on the Salmon River in Boise, Idaho. Our clinics were located in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario so travelling to those locations was also a part of my job.
Early on in my career I had the joy of being an Account Manager for Hills Pet Products so I have had my share of time in Topeka, Kansas as well as many interesting locations for sales meetings and training such a Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, and Long Beach, California.
At the beginning of my career I worked as a Shelter RVT at Niagara Falls Humane Society. I was determined that I would save all the animals, stop the need for euthanasia, and prevent all cruelty. In the end, everyone I knew ended up adopting a pet or two; everything from Opossums to Chinchillas. We fostered baby squirrels onto nursing cats, and I always ended up with a bird or two in my bathtub – always hoping they would grow up into some exotic breed, only to find out I had nursed yet another pigeon or sea gull back to health for the city of Niagara Falls!
OAVT: You have the letters CVPM after your RVT credential. What do those letters stand for?
Lauren: Certified Veterinary Practice Manager.
The CVPM certification is through the VHMA or Veterinary Hospital Managers Association. At the time that I pursued the designation it required a written and oral practical exam, letters of reference, as well as the commitment to ongoing continuing education of 48 hours of study specific to the field of veterinary practice management every two years. The designation provides International Professional Recognition and an extensive network of same peer-level interaction and communication. There are yearly conferences and round table discussions, blogs, and newsletters to name a few benefits.
There are currently 16 people with the CVPM designation in Canada.
OAVT: And why do you think RVTs make great practice managers? What skills do RVTs have that make them a good fit for that role?
Lauren: RVTs play a pivotal role in the hospital setting. They understand the inner workings of the hospital as well as the nuances surrounding the dynamics between “the front and the back.”
Becoming a CVPM provides you with the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for a career path centred around the business of running the practice. Being an RVT is not a dead end job, it’s a launching pad for so much more within the industry of animal health.
OAVT: Is that why you've made education an important part of your career? To launch into other areas within the industry?
Lauren: Pursing my CVPM was a huge challenge set before me by Dr. Mark Thompson after he hired me to start the Petsmart group of Pet Hospitals. We opened and accredited nine hospitals in the first two years of that project.
As for earning my B.Ed, it started out as a lark actually! Classes for a degree in Adult Education from Brock University were held at the military base 10km up the road from our home and a fellow RVT dared me to take the first course. She said there would be men in uniform, and that should be motivation enough! Jokes aside, from the first class something just clicked. I am passionate about this industry and the love of it. I want to be able to share that passion with others and my teaching degree helps me do that.
I believe the future of the profession rests on having avenues to build a degree, not an associate’s degree or diploma. I was tired of hearing, “oh, so you just have a diploma then?” I felt it was career limiting.
Really, I guess the take way would be: don’t let anybody tell you it’s a dead end job, and that it will never take you anywhere! First of all, being an RVT is a career, it’s not a job. And it’s taken me to plenty of amazing places and I’m not done yet!
OAVT: What advice would you give to students and new RVTs who want to try their hand at different roles within this industry?
Lauren: Be open to adventures! Take the risks and go for it! You never know where you’ll end up or the opportunities you might get to experience! Never stop learning new skills or honing the ones you have.
Note: Lauren has also been doing consulting work since 2004 with Innovative Veterinary Solutions. Learn more at: www.ivsonline.ca