Dr. Eden Myers, DVM, is president and CEO of Myers Veterinary Services Company in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. She is also a practitioner at TriState Animal ER in Credo, West Virginia. Myers earned her bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where she graduated summa cum laude in animal science. She went on to earn her doctor of veterinary medicine at Auburn University in Alabama, where she graduated cum laude with an emergency and food animal emphasis. Dr. Myers also earned a master’s degree in agriculture from the University of Kentucky with a focus on nutrition and reproduction.
Prior to starting her own company, Dr. Myers was an associate at various practices, including Gainesway Small Animal Clinic in Lexington; Banfield the Pet Hospital in both Kentucky and Ohio states; OKI Emergency Veterinary Services in Taylor Mill, Kentucky; and Park Animal Care in Winchester, Kentucky. She is a member of several professional associations, such as American Veterinary Medical Assoc., Kentucky Veterinary Medical Assoc., American Assoc. of Small Ruminant Practitioners, American Assoc. of Bovine Practitioners, and Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society.
When did you first decide to become a veterinarian? Why?
I decided to become a veterinarian when I was in my mid 20s. There were lots of reasons: a desire to improve the welfare of farm animals, a desire to get paid for working with animals, and a desire to learn more about how animals worked and what they looked like on the inside.
How/why did you choose the veterinary school you went to?
I’m from Kentucky, so I went to the school the state has a contract with (Auburn). It offered the best odds of getting in and the lowest tab for getting out.
What surprised you the most about veterinary school?
I was surprised that the students weren’t any more mature or intellectually capable than the general undergrad population I was used to.
What was it like finding a job in your chosen career field? What were your options and why did you decide what you did?
When I graduated, I wanted to do food animal. A mixed animal practice in my husband’s home town was hiring at a salary I was willing to accept, so I took that as a good compromise. I’ve never had a problem finding a job when I’ve wanted to move on, but times have sure changed, and I think a lot harder and longer about it now than I used to.
If you had it to do all over again, would you still become a veterinarian? (Why or why not? What would you have done instead?)
I have to say I don’t know. Looking back, I can pick out the parts I enjoyed and the parts I didn’t and I can construct scenarios where I would have gotten to do more of the former with less of the latter that wouldn’t have required a DVM. But I can also put together scenarios where if I would have made different choices along the way I could have gotten a lot more of the former with my DVM than I could have without it. Hindsight’s not always 20/20.
Has being a veterinarian met your expectations? Why?
That’s a tough one. I’d have to say no, but not because there’s anything wrong with veterinary medicine; I think I had unrealistic expectations. I expected the veterinary profession to be full of vets like the ones I had known and worked for, and instead it was full of regular guys just trying to get by. I didn’t realize how lucky I had been to have the role models and teachers I did in undergrad.
What do you like most about being a veterinarian?
I like getting to solve problems, help people, save lives and alleviate suffering. I really enjoy learning from and about my clients and patients.
What do you like least about being a veterinarian?
I don’t enjoy working with staff. It’s the unrealistic expectation thing again–I have unachievably high expectations for myself and everyone around me, so I am consistently disappointed with myself and those around me.
Describe a typical day at work.
Well, right now I have a job in small animal emergency so my typical day is a night. We pull from a two-hour radius that encompasses all types of areas from well-educated well-to-do college towns to rural, poverty stricken Appalachian hollers and everything in between. We also see all types of patients–small exotics, your standard cats and dogs, the occasional bird, injured wildlife. This facility is open nights, weekends and holidays so there are no inpatients when I come in. We may have a few referrals from area veterinarians being transferred in for overnight care or monitoring when we first open at 6 p.m., then we’ll see the after work crowd who come home to find their pet has gotten sick or injured thru the day, or a chronic condition has deteriorated and needs care before their regular vet will be open again. That usually tapers off by 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.; after that we tend to see the true emergencies–dystocias, seizures, traumatic injuries, allergic reactions, trouble breathing. We also provide a lot of end-of-life care and euthanasia; it’s hard for most people to schedule an appointment for that, and in many cases it’s easier to get the whole family together for that kind of decision making on an evening or weekend.
Do you work with mid-level providers, and if so, what kind(s) (i.e. vet techs, etc.)? For most of my career I have worked primarily with on-the-job trained assistants who have no formal education beyond high school. I have worked with a few registered or licensed technicians, and love it–they really enable the provision of much better care.
On average: How many hours a week do you work? How many hours do you sleep per night? How many weeks of vacation do you take?
My current schedule is one week on, then two weeks off. So the weeks I work I am in the clinic 114 hours a week. The weeks I am off I pick up an average of one to two days relief work. I sleep four to six hours out of every 24. I don’t really think in terms of vacation, I just spend chunks of time pursuing different interests. Some interests pay me in money, some pay me in personal satisfaction or growth.
Do you have family, and if so, do you have enough time to spend with them?
Yes, I have a marriage of 17 years and two kids in elementary school. I don’t feel like I spend enough time with them, but I know full time stay at home parents who feel the same way. I think it’s hard no matter how you do it.
Are you satisfied with your income?
Yes. I’ve always been paid enough to do what I was being asked to do; if not, I found another job.
If you took out educational loans, is/was paying them back a financial strain?
I graduated with $80,000 in student loans in 2001, and that was a resident tuition rates, with no undergrad loans, a spouse who worked full time, and working close to full time myself most of the time I was in school. I’ve never had trouble making my loan payment, but it has really constrained our long term financial achievements. We’d be a lot further along the road to financial independence if we hadn’t had that payment to make every month.
In your position now, knowing what you do – what would you say to yourself 10 years ago?
Lower your expectations.
What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were pre veterinary school?
How to lower my expectations!
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in veterinary medicine today?
Finding palatable ways to restructure the profession so we can continue to meet the needs of a global society in a rapidly changing economic and demographic environment. The needs are the same as always. We need safe, nutritious food made from happy animals in a healthy sustainable global environment. We need the wild world preserved for the benefit of our bodies and our souls. We want to keep animals close for our companionship and entertainment. Vets are the go to people for all of that. Veterinarians have a uniquely comprehensive education that offers both the hands on practical skills and the theoretical knowledge to meet those needs. In a world that gets smaller every day with advances in communication and travel, veterinary education confers a skill set capable of creating solutions to problems that transcend political, geographical and cultural boundaries. Acquiring the education, skill set and data set has become so costly we can no longer afford to be vets the way we always have. We either change the way we educate, learn and provide services to meet those needs, or they will be met by others.
Where do you see veterinary medicine in 10 years?
Ask the students, they are the ones who will determine that. In other words, all the words in the world from me mean little compared to the actions of our recent graduates and current students. Half of all U.S. veterinarians graduated within the past 15 years. In 10 years they will be reaching the midpoint of their careers and the top of their profession. Don’t ask me what the future will look like, join me in watching them create it.
What types of outreach/volunteer work do you do, if any?
I speak to groups in which my kids are involved, we have a project at their school, I speak to youth groups at our congregations; this year I am running for a volunteer position with the American Veterinary Medical Association. I also spend time collecting data on various student debt, education and compensation issues and discussing it with colleagues and professional leaders.
Do you have any final piece of advice for students interested in pursuing veterinary medicine as a career?
Be prepared to fail, odds are you will. Have a plan to cope with that, then work very hard to make your plan unnecessary.