Why This Veterinarian Doesn’t Own a Practice… Yet

Animal Hospital

If you’re like most of my clients, you probably think any veterinarian who has been around for a bit should own her own practice — or part of it, anyway. You’ll assume she has the ambition and the wherewithal to take her skills to the next level — that is, if she’s worth her salt.

Here’s where I confess: My name is Dr. Patty Khuly, and I don’t own a veterinary practice. Not yet, anyway. And, yes, you’re right. Mine is an uncommon career choice for a veterinarian of my age who has been practicing as long and as happily as I have.

To be sure, I don’t have to justify my personal life choices to anyone except myself. Yet I think an explanation might offer you some valuable insight into the inner lives of veterinarians.

Life Gets in the Way

It’s true; eschewing practice ownership doesn’t make me feel particularly virtuous or successful as a mid-career veterinarian. And I suspect the same is true of many of my ambitious yet not-yet-practice-owning colleagues. But that’s sometimes how it goes. Here are some factors that have contributed to my nontraditional vet career trajectory:

  • Money:I attended an expensive vet school, which means I had big debts when I graduated (more than $100,000!). I then moved to Miami, where almost half of my admittedly better-than-average veterinarian’s income goes into my not-so-luxurious home (though my yard rocks). Between student loan payments and the mortgage, scraping together $50,000 for a down payment on a clinic hasn't been easy, which is why practice ownership has thus far proved elusive.
  • Single parenthood:It’s a common refrain. Many of my vet friends have elected to go it alone. It’s a life choice that usually means less support, financial and otherwise, but it’s an increasingly common one.
  • Time:The single-parent thing probably explains this pretty well. It explains why flexible hours are a requirement for my working life. And while I don’t mind putting in long hours, finding ways to increase my flextime has required lots of creativity.
  • Fear of commitment:Life as a practice owner seems all-consuming. Which is not to say building and selling a practice isn’t desirable or laudable, but what would I have to give up? Would I be unable to explore other challenging sidelines to my career — like writing? Would I still be able to go kayaking in the Keys on Sundays if I owned a practice?

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