It’s hard to say what paves the road to success, but for Diane Krumanaker, DVM, the power of positive thinking has led her to become an associate veterinarian with the Montgomery Animal Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Dr. Krumanaker chatted with the Voice of the Vet™ just after finishing calls with her clients on a busy morning at the clinic.
Tell us about your practice. Why do you think your clients bring their pets to see you?
We’re a private, small animal hospital accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). I treat dogs, cats, and the exotics—anything you keep as a pet. I’ve even cared for some backyard poultry, but I really try to avoid large farm animals.
Our team is very service oriented. We schedule lengthy appointments to become acquainted with the pet, their owners, and families so we can really understand the household. It’s important to know if we should consider other factors when treating our patients. For example, are there aging parents in the house? Are there kids? Such dynamics can impact the patient.
We’re general practitioners at our core. The owner of our practice is here full time. I serve as an associate veterinarian, part time, along with another associate veterinarian. We’re both moms so it works well for us.
When did you know you wanted to be a veterinarian and why (what triggered your interest)?
Oh, I think I was five! I was one of those kids who always wanted to be a veterinarian. During high school, I started to think about other career options. For a while, I thought about research. I bounced around in college trying different things and realized research was not for me. I really wanted to be in a hands-on, practical position.
While in college, I participated in a summer internship at a non-profit human clinic. This sparked my interest in hospital administration—to provide healthcare to the underserved human population. I took a consulting job straight out of college with a marketing strategy company that introduced me to the pharmaceuticals business. But, life didn’t quite work out as planned. I suffered from some nerve damage in my arms and a desk job was just no longer possible.
At the time, it seemed life altering—maybe even earth shattering—but it turned out to be the biggest blessing. While on medical leave, I volunteered at an animal shelter and fell back in love with veterinary medicine. I took a job as a veterinary assistant, then went back to vet school at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. As I look back, it was not easy, but it’s all been worth it. I wouldn’t change a thing.
What do you love most about veterinary medicine that has surprised you?
What’s surprised me is how much I love working with people. I knew I loved the animals and caring for them, but I really enjoy meeting and getting to know my clients. It’s not just about the relationship with the dog; it’s also about who the dog is attached to. My first job out of vet school was at a very high volume, low cost clinic. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the luxury of time to form relationships with our clients, so that connection is something I really appreciate now.
I’ve also experienced some very cool opportunities as a veterinarian. One of our clients happens to be a morning anchor on our local Fox 19 news show. We were doing laser therapy on her dog and she was thrilled with the results. She invited me to the studio to perform a laser therapy treatment on her dog...on live TV. That successful moment has since transformed into a monthly 3-minute segment where I talk about an animal topic of my choice. It’s become an amazing opportunity.
From your perspective, what do you think makes for a healthy veterinarian? Do you feel like a healthy veterinarian?
I do feel like a healthy veterinarian. I think the separation between work and family is what allows me to be healthy. When I’m at work, I’m the veterinarian (as much as possible). When I’m home, I don’t focus on the clinic. That allows me to concentrate on both spheres.
As a profession, we often take our daily rewards for granted—even the small ones. But, those rewards help reinforce my positive attitude. It’s important to remember that people walked in our door for help and advice. No matter the situation, recognizing that value helps put everything in perspective.
Do you feel like a courageous veterinarian?
At first thought, I’m not sure I would call myself courageous. But as I think about it, I feel courageous when performing a procedure for the first time or caring for a different species for the first time. I mean to examine turkeys for the first time was a leap of faith. I would also say I’m a grateful veterinarian—grateful for the work I do and the people I work with.
Tell us a story about a memorable patient that comes to your clinic.
Well, one patient sticks out because of his family and their persistence. Two years ago, their cocker spaniel came in with chronic back pain. Their previous veterinarian diagnosed the dog, as we all would have, with a disc injury and prescribed pain medication. The dog had all the classic signs of a disc injury. I was their second or third opinion. We x-rayed the dog and his spine looked like Swiss cheese. The dog went to see a neurologist who diagnosed severe discospondylitis, a bacterial infection of his vertebra. We’ve managed the dog for two years now with a variety of antibiotics.
The family’s commitment to his comfort and care has been unwavering every step of the way. I will say, he has regular laser therapy and takes pain medication three times a day. Nevertheless, he loves walks, plays, and is very happy. It’s been a good lesson for me, as a patient advocate. My focus is making sure the dog does not suffer by having that candid conversation with his owners so they can make an informed decision. At the end of the day, we can take something that might be hopeless and turn it around.
Is there a procedure you love that others might consider gross or bizarre?
Oh yeah! I love a good abscess. The ones that smell terrible and squirt. They make for great lunchtime conversation at the vet hospital. I expressed a marble size abscess on a hamster last week—through his ear. He came in for a recheck and he’s doing great. His cheek pockets are stuffed with food and he’s happy again sans abscess.
Do you have a particularly impactful euthanasia story you could share with us?
I’ve had some horrible and, of course, very touching experiences. But there is one in particular that still makes me cry—a family with two old golden retrievers. They were siblings, together for their entire lives. One of the dogs was having trouble walking and the family just couldn’t manage her anymore. In the end, the family decided to euthanize the dogs together. It was probably one of my most difficult euthanasia experiences because those dogs were so sweet, side-by-side. The whole family was there—Mom, Dad, grown children—everybody in the room.
What is a common misconception about what you do?
There are two answers to that question. The first is that the general public is under the impression that veterinarians make much more money than we actually do. And second, as a profession, there’s a lot of routine in veterinary medicine. We do a lot annual exams, fecal floats, heartworm tests, and make sure patients get the correct vaccines. There is life, death, and emergencies, but we also pick up poop and clean up pee.
What’s one piece of wisdom you would pass on to future vets?
Be prepared to work very hard. I think people know that, but they don’t understand what it means. I always tell my family, I know what time I start the day but I don’t know what time I end the day. It’s important to know that’s part of our profession. Now, I certainly don’t think we should allow our job to swallow us up…and I work part time...but there’s a certain amount of commitment required to enjoy this profession. If you want to leave at five, are bitter about staying late, then this might be the wrong profession for you. However, if you go in knowing the office closes at five but by the time you treat all the patients in the building you are leaving closer to six or seven, it’s a much happier way to get through the day.
My approach to treatment is to make sure I have good clinical evidence for any choice I make. I also involve the client in the treatment recommendation when appropriate and use my past experiences to make different choices in the future if needed. A successful veterinarian has to be able to live with daily uncertainty and have the inner fortitude (or courage, if you like) to see the consequences of each decision without internalizing negative outcomes.
What’s your favorite thing about coming to work each day?
The people. And, each day is always different from the last. I’ll have a conversation that is different from what I anticipate. I’ll see a new case, something I haven’t seen before. The variety of it all is my favorite thing.