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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Burcaw

VEGgie Talk: Life in Emergency Medicine with Dr. Sean Gadson

Updated: Apr 5

BlackDVM Network has partnered with Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG) - an incredible organization revolutionizing emergency medicine with 40+ locations nationwide. Through this partnership, we have had have the opportunity to welcome several VEG employees (VEGgies for short!) into the BDVMN member community. We wanted to take the chance to learn about our new VEGgie members and their journeys into ER med in our new VEGgie Talk blog series.

To start this series off, we had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with Sean Gadson, DVM MS at VEG in Colorado and getting his take on all things emergency med.

 

Sean, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.  Tell us a little about your journey into emergency medicine.

When I went into vet school, I didn’t know what exactly I wanted my career path to be.  I think a lot of students go in with an idea of what they want to do, and that ends up changing over the course of those 4 years—but I definitely wasn’t sure. When I was in vet school (and I think a lot of vet students feel this way), I felt pressure to specialize. That’s not necessarily the fault of the school, it’s just that when you’re a student and looking for guidance, when you’re surrounded by all of these specialists that are primarily teaching you, it’s hard not to think that I should specialize, too.  Honestly, I had that mind set for 2.5 – 3 years of vet school.  Then, I wasn’t clicking with any of the specialties I was rotating on. I was kind of frustrated with myself—why isn’t this clicking for me?


I had an amazing mentor in vet school who was into ER med and veterinary business. He never pressured me to do ER, he was just helping me find my path in general. I remember having this moment when I took at step back, and instead of saying, “I should specialize.  What should I specialize in?” I said, “Let me think about what I want my life to be, and then let me build myself into a career that best facilitates that,”—because that’s really the point. It’s a career, but your career should facilitate your life, not the other way around. I said, “What do I want?” I know I want to get married. I know I want to be a father one day. I want to have time to spend with my family. I like working fewer days and longer shifts condensed into a few days because that feels good and sustainable for me. I knew that I wanted it to be as economically viable as it could be. I knew I wanted to own a practice one day, raise a family, pay off student loans.  You need money to do those things.  As I was researching careers that help facilities those things, ER med just seemed to really click. I really enjoyed the people when I finally got to my ER rotation my last year of vet school.  The support staff, the tech, the assistants, the nurses.  The doctors that were doing that work, I felt like kindred spirits with. Certain personality types will gravitate towards certain fields in vet med, and I felt at home in ER. Those things all coincided into me choosing to pursue it long term as a career.

 

Tell us about your journey into veterinary medicine.

My start in vet school was kind of strange and atypical.  I grew with the classic black education story. I grew up in a place that didn’t have a lot of opportunities, shady neighborhoods, and my mom was effectively a single parent. She was a courtesy clerk at SafeWay so as you can imagine, we didn’t have a ton of money. When it came to my education, my mom said, “You can do whatever you want! Whether it’s a trade school, college…”. She was super supportive. Other than that, the people around me would say, “You don’t have a lot. This isn’t the place where a lot of people go to college from.  Just get your GED and that’s all we can ask of you.” That really put a chip on my shoulder because I was so wanting that education. I didn’t know what in, but I knew that I wanted to be educated and go far. I remember (and I’m going to age myself here) firing up my computer on my AOL dial up and going to AskJeeves, and as a kid, typing in: What is the hardest job to get into?—because I had this chip on my shoulder and something to prove.  Vet med came up. It showed that vet med acceptance rate was very low, and a lot of people want to do…I said, “Fine, that’s what we’re going to do.”  I always loved animals so that fit fine, and I was always gravitated more towards the sciences, but it was more about something to prove.


When I finally got into it in high school and could finally work, which I did the second I got a permit, I just happened to fall in love with it. I loved not only the pets but also the people interaction.  I got into it and never left. I stayed working as an assistant all through high school, all through college, through my master’s degree and up until I started vet school. I was an assistant for 11 years straight before finally getting into UC Davis and starting my journey there.

 

What is your current role at VEG?

I’m an Associate Doctor on the floor at Veterinary Emergency Group in Colorado. When you call a clinic and ask to speak to a doctor directly, I’m one of the people you might get ahold of and talk about what’s going on with your pet. If you bring your pet in for care, I’m one of the doctors that is coming up and discussing physical exams, building a treatment plan that you’re comfortable with to serve your pet best, and executing that as far as interpreting diagnostics and advising you on what we would recommend to get you the best health outcomes for your pet. That is my main role. I also do quite a bit of continuing education as far as facilitating my own education, continuing to stay up with the latest treatment plans, things that are more recommended that more scientists have done, so I can give you the most up to date recommendations as far as your family member on the ER floor.

 

Overall, how has your experience been working with VEG?

I really like it. If I could sum it up, the thing VEG did for me was when I started in ER, I heard about all this burn out and how you can only do it for a few years, and you get the benefits from that and then move on to something else. But VEG really turned something I thought was going to be temporary into what I think could be a sustainable working, career-spanning profession for me. It’s been a great experience. I really, really appreciate the time and effort that VEG puts into making this work sustainable not only for the doctors but for everyone involved. And as a new grad (I just graduated 2021 a little over 2 years ago), their commitment to continuing education is really important.  Vet med moves so fast as far as what is changing and what should we be doing for our patients. I have unlimited CE to go to conferences to learn about those things and get access to a ton of the internal CE VEG puts on. That goes beyond just feeling like I’m doing good medicine. It also helps me feel like I’m doing right by my patients, which translates directly to me feeling like I’m fulfilled in this work and keeping it sustainable.  It’s been amazing and I love it.

 

What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone aspiring to get into ER Med?

I have two and I’ll keep them short.

The first one, and this is regardless of whether you go into ER med or not, but always, always be kind and respectful to your support staff—to the assistants, to the nurses/techs, the receptionist. They do a very, very hard job well and especially early in your career, you’ll learn just as much from them as you will a doctor—so just keep that in mind. As it relates to ER med specifically, especially early on, do not run from the cases that make you nervous. If GDVs make you nervous, take more GDVs. If managing diabetic patients when they’re in DKA makes you nervous, take more of those.  I am a firm believer that if you run from what scares you, then you are also running from your own growth. Really challenge yourself to take those things on and it’ll make you a better doctor, I promise.



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