Dr. Corey Gut is a veterinarian at DePorre Veterinary Hospital in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Her passion for animals and medicine started at a very young age.
Born and raised in Birmingham, Michigan, Dr. Gut started veterinary school at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine after only three years of undergrad. Who would have guessed she would end up practicing at the clinic where she took her childhood pets, working alongside the veterinarians that penned her vet school recommendations?
Dr. Gut now lives with her husband, two daughters, two hermit crabs, one fish and two very special mutts, Vinnie and Derby.
Voice of the Vet™ chatted with Dr. Gut on a busy summer afternoon.
How long have you been practicing and what do you think makes DePorre Veterinary Hospital unique?
I have been practicing for almost 15 years at clinics both large and small. But what I really love about DePorre is that while we’re a larger private practice with state-of-the-art equipment and resources, our team goes above and beyond to maintain a very comfortable, small-practice feel. Our staff is dedicated to knowing our clients and spending quality one-on-one time with each pet, so owners never have to worry about losing uniformity with our team. All of our doctors and staff focus on that loving relationship and really getting to know each client and patient.
What inspired you to become a veterinarian?
My mom was a high school science teacher, so she exposed us to science, animals, and nature at a very young age. With most kids, if you have a rainy day—you watch movies or play board games, but she would bring home starfish and crayfish for us to dissect on the dining room table. It all fascinated me. My mom also had a wildlife rehabilitation license, so we always had different animals in our house growing up—raccoons, opossums, and we even fostered a baby cougar for a short time before she was released to a conservatory in California. That exposure, among other things, created a natural progression toward veterinary medicine. By the time I reached high school, I was very focused on veterinary medicine. I was participating in mentorship programs, internships, anything I could do to get involved in the field.
I had these grandiose plans of moving to California to work with seals and marine life but ended up a whopping two miles from where I grew up. I always thought I would live in a larger city, but home is where the heart is and it’s so important to me to be close to family and friends.
Do you feel like a courageous veterinarian?
I do feel courageous. All veterinarians are courageous. Although, I think probably the most courageous thing anyone can do is admit when they’re wrong. Everyone makes mistakes, but true strength is having the courage to admit it. Many people look to doctors, both for humans and animals, like they have all the answers and that’s not always true. There are going to be things we haven’t seen before. One of two ways to manage a case—you choose one, and later wish you selected the other.
So it’s courageous to share your experience and learn from it, not only as a practitioner, but for your team and even the veterinary community. It’s just so important to keep learning and evolving together.
What do you think is a common misconception about what you do?
I don’t think aspiring veterinarians necessarily realize how important interpersonal skills and communication will be in their career. Whether you are reassuring someone who is dropping off their puppy for a routine spay, or holding someone’s hand as you discuss their 15-year-old golden retriever’s deteriorating quality of life—you need to be compassionate, supportive, and it’s important to make their concerns a priority. As a veterinarian, it’s just as important to love people as it is to love animals. Every animal that comes into our hospital comes with a person.
Tell us about your stories from clinical practice. Do you have a most memorable animal that comes to mind?
Ha! There are so many. One of my most memorable is actually a human client. He grew up in Iran, where dogs are not always viewed as pets, and didn’t have the most favorable experiences with dogs. When he got married, he and his wife embarked on a new adventure—their very first dog together. It was really challenging for him to overcome his discomfort.
But his transformation has been remarkable and incredibly endearing to watch. He now has three dogs and they are his entire world. He is so devoted to those animals. It’s been rewarding to watch the change. They’re like family to us now. It just goes to show you how important it is to take on your fears and try new things.
Have you ever had a client pass out in the exam room? Is there a memorable story behind this event?
I have had a client pass out in an exam room before and I actually passed out in my very first surgery—a routine spay. I was a mentee in a high school mentoring program at a cat only practice. I think it was a combination of feeling overheated while wearing a cap and mask and being unprepared for the smells in a surgical suite—and out I went. As a kid, I panicked. I thought, “How are you going to be a veterinarian and perform surgeries if you faint?”
Now I perform surgeries all the time and it’s actually something I’m really good at and love to do. I would say 1 out of every 5 veterinary professionals has to step out of the surgical suite at least once. It’s always important to remember that just because your first experience with something isn’t the greatest, it doesn’t mean you should quit.
If it’s something you’re passionate about, check your ego at the door, dust yourself off and give it another go! If you want it badly enough, quitting should not be an option.
What do you love most about being a veterinarian that has surprised you?
I love being a part of my patients’ families. As a veterinarian, you become a very important part of both your client’s and your patient’s lives. It’s surprised me how much I’ve enjoyed that. Especially when it comes to euthanasia. I definitely don’t look forward to it, but in the end, I’m very glad that I can be there for my patients and their families. It’s a beautiful thing to give these animals the peace they need, to alleviate their suffering, and to assure those clients that they’re making the right decision for their pets. Helping people and animals in this way is a unique and rare opportunity. As veterinarians, we get to help people and pets through one of the most emotionally challenging times of their lives.
Euthanasia can be hard on families, especially children. You’ve written two books to help children cope with pet loss. Tell us about that journey.
I’m often asked as a veterinarian, “I have young children. How am I going to explain euthanasia to them?” A lot of children haven’t dealt with that type of loss and it’s a really difficult concept for them to understand.
I started to notice a trend. As couples are together for a while or as they wait to get married, they often get a pet. Nowadays, so many people have fur babies before they have human children. And by the time the pet is 3 or 4, the humans are having children. All of the sudden, you fast forward to when the children are 6 or 7 and now you have a 13 or 14 year-old animal.
When my sister’s dog, Bailey, developed liver cancer, she looked for resources on pet loss for her young daughter, my niece Lexie, but came up with limited options. I thought bibliotherapy, the use of books to address an emotionally provocative topic, would be the best way to introduce and explain pet loss to her. And so, “Being Brave for Bailey” was written. I worked closely with an elementary school counselor, to make sure we created a tool that was thoughtful and could help both parents and children alike, because while this is a sensitive subject for children, parents are grieving too. My mom, Jaime Myers, actually illustrated the book.
Then shortly after, my kitty clients requested something for them, so I wrote “Staying Strong for Smokey.” It was illustrated by Kim Stahl, who is one of my fabulous clients. No matter your age, losing a pet is extremely difficult. I hope these books bring comfort to adults and children alike. I’ve also launched a donation program (www.beingbraveforbailey.com) where people can donate a copy of the books inscribed in their pet’s name to a library or school, a way to commemorate their pet and provide a tool for many more families at the same time.