Interview Series: Vetgirl’s Justine Lee’s Veterinary Career Morsels

Part 2 of Interview with Vetgirl’s Justine Lee: Veterinary Career Morsels…yummy!JLEE-Bio-238x300

  1. Any survival tips for those struggling through vet school or residencies/internships.
  • When in doubt, work hard; play hard (that’s her mantra!)
  • Find something that makes you passionate about what you do.
  • Find your escape (for both of us it is running/hiking)
  • Reach out for support and exercise.
  • Take the time to care for yourself.

  1. What steps did you take to transform VetGirl from an idea to a reality?

As you may know Dr. Lee released VetGirl, a subscription-based podcast and webinar service offering RACE-approved veterinary continuing education back in 2013. The idea came to her when she was studying for ECC boards in 2003. She wanted to “work hard, play hard,” and study for boards while trail running or hiking with her pit bull. She wanted practical clinical advice she could listen to while on the go. The idea revisited her in 2012, while she was studying for her toxicology boards. By that time everyone had a smartphone and she wanted to utilize her smartphone to help teach her. She partnered with a tech savvy criticalist, Dr. Garret Pachtinger, who she from Penn to create the technology and the website, and voila VetGirl was born.

The nuts and bolts of creating the business involved:

  • Lee’s vision
  • Her own financial investment
  • Time
  • Dividing up the tasks with her business partner
  • A lot of sweat equity
  1. Any advice for veterinarians who want to become entrepreneurs?

“Just do it! Everyone has great ideas, but only a small percentage takes it to the next level. It just takes labor and passion!”

  1. You manage multiple careers in one, how do you achieve work-life balance?

Her career path has taught her a strong work ethic. Dr. Lee works hard in her clinic, but when she leaves the clinic , she leaves. She has stopped herself from checking emails, checking lab work, and will even turn off text functions/emails, when she is not on duty. She recommends playing hard, when not at work and to consider “shutting off” to maintain work-life balance.

As she points out, no one ever says, “I wish I worked harder,” right before they die. When in doubt, be passionate about life and what fulfills you.

  1. Since you were NAVC Speaker of the Year in 2011, any tips on public speaking?
  • Provide passionate, clinically relevant veterinary education!
  • Keep it simple and repeat your take home message.
  1. You have written textbooks, articles, and books for humor. What do you like about writing and how did this become an interest for you?

Dr. Lee is passionate about client education. She would prefer to provide clients with education to help them avoid a visit to the veterinary emergency clinic. After reading, Why do Men have Nipples?, a book written by an MD debunking medical myths, she realized she could write a similar type of book, but for our pet family members. She developed It’s a Dog Life…but It’s Your Carpet and It’s a Cats World …You Just Live in It, humorous and informative Q&A for pet owners!Its dogs life pic cats life pic




Follow up question: how does a veterinarian get involved with publications?

  • Start blogging, but remember what you write is on the Internet forever.
  • Get involved in forums and social media.
  • Contact your local radio and tv stations
  • If you’re a veterinary specialist, consider contributing to a veterinary textbook in your area of expertise.
  1. What mistake did you see many vet students make when you were faculty at University of Minnesota?
  • Not demonstrating a strong work ethic. Many students would ask, “my ER shift is done can I leave?”
    • Caution vet students, do not ask to leave before the clinician leaves…ever!
  • Not being prepared. Be passionate about that rotation. Bring a white coat, backup pair of scrubs, calculator, stethoscope, pen, and notebook for taking notes!
  • Take the time to learn from clinicians – especially as they talk to clients
  • Don’t waste too much time writing long SOAPs – focus on patient care and learning instead!
  1. Why do you think that despite women comprising 54% of all veterinarians and 80% of students is female leadership hovering at only 20%?

This a multifactorial issue:

  • Women are not “leaning in.” They plan on having a child in 5 years , so they are reluctant to buy a clinic and mentally back out of pursuing their dreams or vision.
  • Lee recommends (as Sheryl Sandberg does) for veterinarians to take more opportunities and stop planning life out so methodically.
  • There is a lag time from when the profession was male dominated and became female-dominant in the 1990s.
    Women don’t “sit at the table” and don’t initiate for fear of the stigmas associated with powerful women: bossy, bitchy, pushy. We need to overcome that stigma to prevent gender injustice.
  • Lack of support by certain veterinary organizations that are dominated by older, white males in the field and fail to help build a network for women. There must be a vision to change from the top and support of women in the area of leadership.
  • Watch #Likeagirl video= what’s wrong with the gender injustice today.

As usual Dr. Lee also provided some solutions:

  • Focus and women and leadership and One Health.
  • Read Lean in and recognize the signs.

Thanks Dr. Lee for a wonderful experience in the first in the interview series! I hope to run into you again on the veterinary circuit! You are truly inspiring.


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