Career Spotlight: Jean-Yin Tan

Written by: Dr. Jean-Yin Tan
Published on: Jul 21, 2022

Dr. Jean-Yin Tan
Dr. Jean-Yin Tan

This is the latest 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. Jean-Yin Tan.

Dr. Jean-Yin Tan is a board-certified large animal internal medicine specialist and Senior Instructor at the University of Calgary. She graduated from Cornell University with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 2005 and completed an internship at Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center in New Jersey. After a large animal internal medicine residency at University of Minnesota, she incorporated her expertise in internal medicine with general practice as an equine ambulatory practitioner at UC Davis in California and subsequently in private practice in New Jersey, where she also began internal medicine consultancy work.

In 2011 Dr. Tan opened a successful ambulatory and referral equine veterinary clinic in Upstate New York, where she served as Managing Partner. In 2015 she joined the University of Calgary, where she teaches equine internal medicine, clinical skills, professional skills, and business. She obtained her certificate of professional management in 2021 and is anticipated to complete her Master of Business Administration in 2022.

She has held several international leadership roles, including Chair of the ACVIM Advanced Continuing Education committee and member of the Board of Regents (2019-2020), and founding Chair of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion taskforce (2020-2021). A winner of the 2019 AAEP Good Works for Horses award, she was named one of Avenue Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 and received the University of Calgary Teaching Award for Educational Leadership in 2021.

1. What inspired you to become a Board-certified veterinary specialist?

I know a source of pride for veterinarians is our ability to treat more than one species. While I love the range of opportunities and the wide pool of knowledge that the veterinary profession offers, I was drawn to the idea of absorbing all the knowledge, techniques, and skills to truly excel and make it to the top of my profession in one area. Specialization offers that opportunity — to focus on something until you become exceptionally good at it.

2. Are there any resources or pieces of advice that helped you along the way? Is there any advice you would specifically give to job seekers?

When reflecting on my career “successes” the other day, I also had a chance to reflect on my career “failures.” They are almost equal in number, with every success made sweeter by a past failure. I would like early career veterinarians to take solace that even if things get hard at times, when you find something that you’re truly passionate about and that drives you, have faith that your knowledge, creativity, and skills will allow you to find a way to turn every failure into a success and persist beyond any obstacle.

I finished my residency in 2008 during a recession that worsened for the equine industry over the next few years. It was a struggle to find employment, yet I am thankful for every barrier that presented itself during my career because I would not be in the position I’m in today without them.

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

I would consider acquiring and running my veterinary clinic one of my greatest career successes. It took a great deal of grit, determination, resilience, and passion to acquire a practice and a clinic before the age of 30, move to its rural location in another state, and successfully lead it through the years of an extended recession to achieve financial success and advance veterinary medicine in the area. I am proud that we were the first large animal veterinary practice in the extended geographical area to build a social media presence, to establish strategic deworming in equine health, to institute a wellness program that encouraged horse owners to commit to year-round preventive health maintenance procedures for their horse, and to encourage dental health through awareness campaigns. We provided board-certified internal medicine and surgical expertise and I truly believe we were successful in both advancing the veterinary care in the region and modelling best business practices that linked to equine veterinary health.

I successfully approached this career challenge the same way we are taught to approach every problem in internal medicine: identify the challenges, be creative about using all resources you have at your disposal to solve the puzzle, stick to your values and ideals, tackle each obstacle as they come your way, persist, and strive towards a successful outcome.

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

One challenge was the transition from a career in private practice where I was my own boss to working at a large academic institution with many complex layers of administration and many different teams. It was an adjustment to go from being able to single-handedly make decisions and institute immediate changes to navigating the different layers that exist in a large organization. I have come to appreciate the level of accountability, care, and responsibility that goes into changes at the university level.

Adapting to academia took a change in mindset towards long-term changes and rewards as opposed to immediate gratification, and I took my leadership and management training to another level through formal education and experiential growth. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to thrive in this environment by learning from my colleagues, staff members, and students, and have surprised myself with the level of both curricular and organizational changes I have been able to enact with their support.

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

Like many veterinarians, an essential component of my career path is to always challenge myself and to continue to grow. Although I had experienced a level of leadership and management in my role as Managing Partner of my equine veterinary clinic, my leadership path in national and international veterinary medicine was shaped by my experiences volunteering with the ACVIM. Over six years on the Advanced Continuing Education (ACE) committee and almost four years on its leadership team, I oversaw the growth of ACE from four to 12 courses per year, a growth in resident training opportunities such as Boot Camps, and most recently this year I had the opportunity to introduce business training to resident courses.

Beyond the ACE committee, I have been fortunate to be involved with the ACVIM as a member of the Board of Regents, a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Taskforce, through a nomination as a candidate for President in 2021, and now as a member of the DEI Strategic Planning Taskforce. My leadership roles in the ACVIM kickstarted my role as a volunteer leader with multiple veterinary organizations, including the AAEP, AVMA and AAVMC.

I am grateful for the volunteer opportunities with the ACVIM that have helped me to challenge myself and grow as an organizational leader, and I hope to be able to continue to contribute to this organization for a long time in the future.

6. Finally, what is something unique about your career, or career path?

A former mentor at Cornell University once told me that one thing that had stood out to her was that as a first-year veterinary student, I had written about my aspirations to own a veterinary clinic one day and indeed, 10 years later, I was a business owner. For me, the challenge of running a business was something that I loved. This interest integrated well with my role at University of Calgary, where in addition to equine medicine, I lead the business stream of the professional skills program. I have since formalized my interest in business by completing a certificate in professional management at University of Calgary in 2021, and I am expected to complete my Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 2022.

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