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5 questions with ... Dr. Emily Fox, veterinarian from Ashley, N.D.

Emily Fox

Q: What sparked in your interest in becoming a veterinarian?

I've wanted to be a veterinarian since I was 4 or 5, pretty much since I learned what the word meant. I did not grow up on a farm, and when I was young I wanted to go into small animal medicine. Through middle and high school I was sure I wanted to be an equine vet, and it wasn't until my first year of college that I decided to focus on bovine medicine.

Q: How did you get from Vermont to rural North Dakota and why?

To be a bovine vet, I decided I needed to leave the east coast. Not growing up on a farm I felt I was at a disadvantage. I transferred to the University of Minnesota, where they had a very strong husbandry and nutrition program. I was fortunate to work for the beef research team there as well. My fiancee Andy was a year ahead of me in vet school. We looked for a two-person position after graduation, which can be challenging to find. We wanted a clinic to stay in for the long haul, and we wouldn't be happy working only on cats and dogs.

I felt immediately the American Association of Bovine Practitioners was the position we had been looking for. What really convinced us was the community. People in Ashley and the surrounding communities don't fully understand how special this town is. My hometown was not much bigger, and it never had the sense of community Ashley does.

Q: What's your role in agriculture today?

I've entered the industry at a unique time. In the past the vet's role in agriculture was treating sick animals, pulling calves etc. While I certainly do all of those things I also see myself as having responsibilities in the realms of public health and beef quality. I try to promote proper injection technique, judicious use of antibiotics and appropriate management options to minimize antibiotic use where possible. All of these things are important in instilling consumer confidence and ensuring a safe food supply.

I play an important role as an ambassador for agriculture. I have many of friends and family not directly involved in agriculture, and I hear a lot of untrue statements, like, "Farmers these days pump cattle so full of antibiotics and hormones that beef is unsafe to eat." I have a responsibility to the industry and consumers to educate them about how untrue that is. I believe I have changed minds with well-rounded and fact-based arguments. I know it's easy to write off these people as ungrateful and ignorant, but many are just so far removed from agriculture they genuinely do not know. Please take the opportunity to educate them; you might change some minds.

Q: If you had the opportunity to share a message with a large group of prospective students considering veterinary medicine, what would your message be?

Make sure you understand that it's a lifestyle choice, not just a profession. Mixed animal rural practice is extremely demanding. It's also a long and expensive degree. Many jobs that require as much time (eight years) and financial investment ($100,000-$350,000) have much higher starting salaries than veterinary medicine. That being said, it's such a fun and exciting profession.

Q: If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor and why?

I was fortunate enough to have a great mentor in Mr. Mike Robson. I spent three summers at a veterinary clinic in Cornwall in southern England as a student. One would think an older male vet of his generation would look down on me for being small and female and wanting to work on cattle, but he gave me a lot of faith in my own abilities. I had hoped to be able to call on him for advice once I was out in practice. About six months before I graduated, I got news that he had an inoperable brain tumor. I was lucky enough to see him one more time before he passed on. If I could pick anyone, I would choose to have Mr. Robson back. I know I'm a better doctor for the time I spent with him.

Dr. Emily Fox didn't grow up on a farm in Vermont but knew at a young age she wanted to be a veterinarian. Today, Dr. Fox practices as veterinarian in Ashley, N.D. She shares about her passion for beef cattle, veterinary medicine, outreach to non-ag consumers and her love for her community of Ashley.