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Career Spotlight: Heather Kvitko-White

Heather Kvitko-White
Dr. Heather Kvitko-White

This is the second 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. Heather Kvitko-White.

Dr. Heather Kvitko-White is a board-certified internal medicine specialist and founder of KW Veterinary Consulting and The Pragmatic Professor. A former specialist in private practice, Heather has become an industry consultant and activist, writer, and national speaker who promotes a creative and common-sense approach to caring for animals without sacrificing quality. Heather has been a volunteer leader with the ACVIM since 2015 as former chair and member of the Advanced Continuing Education Committee, former Ombudsperson, chair of the Specialists in Private Practice subcommittee, and currently as Assistant Chair of the Membership Committee. Additionally, Heather has been a consultant for the Veterinary Information Network in the urology/nephrology and canine internal medicine folders.

1. What made you decide to choose veterinary specialty medicine as a career path, and specifically your specialty?

I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, in an adventurous and entrepreneurial family. My dad was a professor at the Ohio State University’s dental school, and an entrepreneur who is still a practicing dentist today. My mom was a stay-at-home mom who supported the family through time, devotion, and encouragement. When my dad had time off, we traveled all across the east coast of the United States in an RV. This sense of adventure brought out a creative and free-spirited side from an early age. I was also insistent from the age of five that I would be a veterinarian one day. I remained true to that passion with a laser focus pursuit on graduating from the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. I discovered that I wanted to specialize while working for a progressive and entrepreneurial owner of multiple small animal general practices in Columbus. It wasn’t until clinical rotations that I specifically fell in love with the variety and intrigue of internal medicine.

2. What does a typical work day look like for you?

Today, as a fully self-employed consultant, I have already enjoyed doing a wide variety of work. On any one day I might be learning new trends and networking at industry meetings, remote consulting, collaborating, serving as a key opinion leader, creating educational content or lecturing, pursuing my own advanced training, mentoring veterinary students and house officers, or filling in at one of our teaching hospitals.

3. What do you consider one of your career successes? How did you achieve it?

I was invited to serve on a panel for the ECVIM-CA Congress entitled “Academia, Telemedicine & Corporations, where can we collaborate and compete.” This was such a meaningful opportunity because I was invited to represent the perspective of a specialist in private practice who has seen a little bit of it all. It is such an honor to represent any perspective on a stage like this and yet even more so to represent a younger, female, full-time working mother in private practice perspective. Someone from the trenches trying to figure out how to make this career work for me. And it was a lovely discussion that still gives me goosebumps! This, like most of my opportunities, developed out of my network which is an ever-growing accumulation of friends, colleagues, mentors, peers and all the other wonderful people in the animal health industry that I have been so fortunate to meet.

4. What do you consider a challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it?

Finding myself in my own career has been a challenge. For me, being so hyper-focused on achieving a goal for so long, it turns out that I had so many ideas of what I was working for, and yet ... I didn’t have a clue. My transitional days as an early career professional were the most challenging. Deciding to go into private practice after residency was a defining moment. Suddenly, I didn’t have access to the fancy toys and equipment I was accustomed to from residency; the fellow specialists, the low estimates, or the willing clients. In my case, I learned to use creative, cost effective, and common-sense methods to help my patients. I worked hard to find the same test somewhere less expensive or the cheapest way to buy that drug. My solution to the problem of trying to practice high level medicine in the “real world” was to do everything I could. It was a lot of non billable effort.

5. How did the global pandemic affect your day-to-day working life?

While practicing, the pandemic affected me similarly to others. A break from being face to face with clients was a relief but the never-ending phone calls and staff shortages were a major challenge. In my current role, the pandemic gave a swift push to virtual content. This has created more opportunity than ever before to create and consume continuing education. I think this is amazing, although now we are responsible for curating that content and making sure that it is good and valuable and evidence based. As specialists in particular, we have somewhat of a responsibility to be stewards of information. This is just one example of how technology is pushing our profession forward.

6. Where would you like to see your career path going next?

I am so energized by the animal health industry. While the struggles that we face are real, our market is good, and this is the great news! With so much opportunity out there, I couldn’t begin to tell you exactly what I’ll be doing in three months let alone three years. I do know that if I follow my “why,” in my case “improving patient outcomes through education,” whatever I am doing will be something that I enjoy.

7. What membership benefits offered by the ACVIM have helped you in your career?

The first “best” thing to me is the list-serve. I am a sponge for new information about ways to practice medicine, places to tell clients to purchase drugs, new — or even old — studies that give us some evidence to suggest that maybe we don’t need to do things the most expensive way. I have learned so much from reading the cases people post and the responses from my colleagues.

8. What impact has the ACVIM had in shaping your career?

I have served in some role as a volunteer or volunteer leader with the ACVIM going back to nearly the day I became a recognized Diplomate. Because of this, the ACVIM and its staff and leaders (particularly current staff and leaders) feel like my family. The engagement and networking have helped me not just professionally but personally. Working with my peers over the years to collaborate on specific challenges or to pursue specific purposes fills my cup.

9. What is a piece of advice you would share with job seekers or offer a new Diplomate just beginning their career?

It’s easy to feel that we must make ourselves fit our career. You are probably used to it by now. None-the-less, I believe that we all face a reality that maybe we can’t give, change, or bend any further. And if that is the case for you, as it was for me, the goal might switch to figuring out how this career can work for you. In my case, I had a lot of figuring out of things to do myself. It starts with you.

Learn more about ACVIM and its members.

View jobs of interest on the ACVIM Career Center