This is the fourth in a series of interviews with veterinary specialists connected to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) to share insights, knowledge and expertise about career opportunities, growth and development. Today we hear from ACVIM Diplomate Dr. Ewan Wolff.
Dr. Ewan Wolff is a Board-certified internal medicine specialist (and vertebrate paleontologist) in private practice at Blue Pearl-Maitland. At Blue Pearl, Ewan is involved in intern and resident mentoring locally, and nationally on the scientific advisory committee and as chair of the LGBTQ+ associate resource group. They have authored scientific articles, chapters and opinion pieces in veterinary medicine and paleopathology. Ewan has been a volunteer with ACVIM since 2020 formerly for the Diversity & Inclusion Task Force and currently with the Membership Committee. Additionally, Ewan is gender identity subgroup co-chair with the DEI Working Group at PrideVMC, and has been involved in various volunteer roles with ASVNU including co-chairing the research committee. In addition to the recent Gender Identity Bill of Rights, Ewan is involved in co-leading the effort to write a followup Gender Diversity Guide for PrideVMC.
1. What made you decide to choose veterinary specialty medicine as a career path, and specifically your specialty?
I originally wanted to be a surgeon, but as a vet student I had to focus on medical care of post-op patients. I found myself being far more interested in the medical problem solving than I was in the surgery. I had been interested in both internal medicine and oncology, but I ended up settling on internal medicine because there was a combination of difficult problem solving and interventional procedures.
2. What does a typical work day look like for you?
Work begins around 7:45 a.m. I see anywhere from two to four new appointments and some combination of one to two emergencies or transfers depending on the day. I typically also see anywhere from eight to 14 rechecks. We work in procedures in gaps during or at the end of the day. Our internal medicine service shares intern and resident training duties, so sometimes we will have a house officer training with us in our team. During the day we will also field about 15-25 phone calls, sign multiple prescriptions, do phone consults and in-house consults for colleagues, and sometimes additional consults within our special interest area. On top of this I also mentor research, write my own research and talks, attend company meetings and chat with clients. Our day typically ends anywhere from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. and sometimes later.
3. What do you consider one of your career successes? How did you achieve it?
One of the greatest successes I think is working with house officers through their training programs and then seeing them go out and succeed in practice. We recently had our two senior residents finish our program, pass their boards and get their first jobs. It's immensely gratifying to see where people are at the beginning and where they are at the end of their program and to have had a part in them reaching their goals. No one ever achieves this for other people – they obviously did this for themselves, but we collectively worked really hard with them to get there. Our new batch of residents is coming through and I’ve been working through their research projects from the beginning of their program and it's going well so far.
4. What do you consider a challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
Not matching for internship and residency (the first time) was a tremendous emotional (and ultimately financial) setback. I felt incredibly motivated because I would look at my kids (who were really, really young at the time) and say, OK, I need to somehow make this work. I knew where I wanted to get to. I knew I wanted to be a specialist and to work in a large hospital with other specialists where I could train people. I decided to be incredibly stubborn and not let myself get dragged down no matter how bad it got. I had personal mottos that I lived by on a daily basis to keep me going and I’d remind myself of why I was doing this. It was incredibly hard to be a parent who wanted to be present for the kids and to have my training time stretched out more than it was for other people. It was also hard to see people who did their internships when I did finish ahead of me and place in positions that I wanted and couldn’t be considered for. Ultimately it took me six-and-a-half years to be done with my training. We moved three times during that time period. But it did get done, and that was to a large part because I had great support from my residency mentor, my husband and my friends and staying focused on my goals.
5. How did the global pandemic affect your day-to-day working life?
We became much, much busier than we had ever been on a weekly/monthly basis. We were all working at 125% capacity daily, with periodic waves of absences from COVID-19. There has been a lot of stress which we have really come together over as a team and tried to strategize through. I would say we are doing better now because we have been trying to figure out solutions.
6. Where would you like to see your career path going next?
I hope to continue growth and contributions in veterinary nephrology and urology. I am busy working efforts around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for LGBTQ+ people in the veterinary profession. I am also very interested in working on ideas around frontiers in industry growth and development.
7. What membership benefits offered by the ACVIM have helped you in your career?
JVIM, ACE courses, the fellowship program and the ACVIM career center job board have all been quite helpful in the past.
8. What impact has the ACVIM had in shaping your career?
I wouldn’t have this career without an organization to hold the guidance for training programs and certification. Beyond that, the ACVIM has provided excellent continuing education opportunities, and funded my clinical training fellowship. As a volunteer for the organization on the Diversity & Inclusion Task Force (2020-2021) and the Membership Committee, I have learned more about the organization and its development, tried to help the organization with future growth, and made important connections. I hope to continue contributing during my career.
9. What is a piece of advice you would share with job seekers or offer a new Diplomate just beginning their career?
You’ve spent awhile getting this point, make sure that you respect yourself and don’t undervalue your worth. If you have a gut feeling that you won’t be happy, then make sure you find a place where you will be happy – which often means asking hard questions during your interview and advocating for yourself. When people tell you about a job, listen to what they have to say and make sure you understand the details. Also, think about the future and what abilities you may have to learn, grow, advance and ultimately retire (if that's what you want to do). My family is LGBTQ+. When I interviewed for jobs, I asked everyone who interviewed me if they valued LGBTQ+ people and respected them, and I made it clear that I have no time in my life for places that don’t support me and my family. This mostly went over well, but for a few places it didn’t (including a major university), and that was very instructive in my decision making.
10. Is there a particular area of specialty medicine you enjoy working with, such as research, private practice or industry? Why?
I enjoy working in private practice because I can enjoy the atmosphere of a large multi-specialty hospital with great colleagues. At my hospital, I have a set schedule with stability, limited weekend call, appropriate pay and benefits and I am involved in mentoring the next generation of diplomates.
11. Finally, what is something unique about your career, or career path?
I didn’t start in veterinary medicine. I did my doctoral work before vet school on bird, crocodile and dinosaur paleopathology and I continue to publish in that field. My career path in vet med wasn’t straightforward – I didn’t match for my internship or my residency. I worked my rotating internship for free at the University of Wisconsin Madison, then stayed for the beginning of an oncology specialty internship and left to start my medicine residency in New Zealand. After a year of being there the program was having some difficulties with ongoing faculty and I went back into the match and matched with Purdue. I stayed there for both my medicine residency and an ACVIM Clinical Training Fellowship in Nephrology and Urology. When I was finishing my residency, I was bent on getting an academic job because I had been in academia since 2001, but I ended up getting a great opportunity in Florida at an established large specialty center outside Orlando that is now Blue Pearl Maitland.
Learn more about ACVIM and its members.