Veterinarian celebrates 40 years of practice
There's a smile in there somewhere. Larry Koehler, veterinarian at Jensen's Animal Hospital, celebrates 40 years of practice -- all at the Petoskey clinic. (Morgan Sherburne/News-Review / June 17, 2013)
Yes, he’s been practicing veterinary medicine for 40 years.
Yes, he’s worked at the same clinic his entire career.
In fact, he has worked at Jensen’s since before he went to veterinary school — even before he attended college.
“I came back and asked if they needed a veterinarian. They said, ‘Absolutely not,’” said Koehler, 62. “I interviewed out east for a job in Massachusetts when they called and said they reconsidered, they would like to hire me. I started work the day after I took my veterinary boards.”
Longevity — and a degree from Michigan State University’s vet school, the doctors joke — is the name of the game at the clinic. Each of the five doctors have come to the clinic directly out of Michigan State’s veterinary school. One veterinary technician has been there more than 30 years. Another receptionist has been there for 25 years. Pam Graves, one of the veterinary partners, has been with the clinic since 2000. She said what has kept her around is the mentoring relationship the more experienced partners have.
Koehler began his veterinarian career as a large animal doctor, but moved to working with small animals. He also is the clinic’s major orthopedic surgeon.
“He has been a great resource,” said Graves. “When I graduated from veterinary school, I graduated with 87 other students. Sixteen of them had internships. I thought, ‘Oh man, should I be getting an internship?’ But my learning curve shot straight up within six months of starting here.”
That mentoring is something Koehler cultivates. He says mentoring is “not a one-way street.”
“Mentoring helped me a lot,” said Koehler. “Now, I’ve got a lot of good partners. I’ve been lucky that way.”
He is also lucky in that he still finds his profession interesting. He has to, he says: the field is ever-changing.
“Continuing education is a constant battle,” said Koehler, noting that the orthopedic aspect of his job intrigues him most. “I’m like a kid with a giant erector set.”
Koehler said there was a particular aspect of the job he didn’t expect: to be so entrenched in the local community.
“You not only develop a relationship with animals — you develop a relationship with their owners as well,” he said. “It turned out to be a very rewarding experience, one I didn’t much understand when I came to practice.”
Strong relationships are what keep people working at the clinic, according to the clinic’s employees.
“We are all grateful to Dr. Koehler. He has been an inspiration to all of us throughout the years as a veterinarian, boss and friend,” said veterinary assistant Donna Zmikly, who has worked at the clinic for 25 years. “He has made an incredible difference in all of our lives, but mostly for our animal friends he has cared for over the years.”
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