Courtney Post: Welcome to Let’s Vet Together. Before we dive into our conversation today, I want to introduce our guest and give her some time to share a little bit about herself, as well as a local treat that has been brought onto the podcast as we always start. Dr. Ainsley Bone, welcome to Let’s Vet Together, and can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you brought with you today?
Ainsley Bone: Thank you Courtney, and thank you so much for having me and for this opportunity, and everybody listening. I could not be more excited to join and talk about purpose and just meet all of you as we go forward into the future as well. I am, let’s see, how would I describe myself? I’m a mother. I am a wife. I am a veterinarian. I am passionate, creative, and love, love, love people, and I also love oranges, so I brought with me–
I live in Florida, Jacksonville, Florida in the northeast. If you’re not familiar, about an hour south of Georgia. We live about a mile from the beach and we grow oranges in our backyard. Many of you have probably seen Florida oranges in the grocery store so I thought an orange was a very appropriate little snack to bring and share with the audience.
Courtney: Our time together, Ainsley, and your personality, there’s no surprise that you brought in orange. You bring light and brightness to the room when you enter it. You bring so much of that to the profession in this really perfectly little contained fruit of knowledge and passion and experience. That’s really what I want to talk about today so I love that you brought the orange because I feel like you’re a piece of fantastic fruit within this profession and you have so much to share.
Ainsley is actually the director of veterinary college engagement on our Suveto team, a recent addition to our team. I will say that in the time that Ainsley and I have spent getting to know each other, it’s been very, very clear that your work and your place as a mother, as a wife, as a veterinarian, as a member of the Suveto team, and in your past experience, has been very, very driven by purpose and purpose-driven work, and I really relate to that.
I think that anytime we can keep our why, as some folks like to call it, or really the reason by which we show up every day, and that can be different for everyone, but where we can keep that at the center of what we do, no matter how mundane that is, is really a powerful force. It brings a great energy to what we do so I wanted to talk to you a little bit today about how you’ve kept purpose at the center of your professional career.
To get started, early on in your career, did you even think about purpose-driven work? I know a lot of veterinarians do, or maybe you did and didn’t realize what it was, but I’d love to hear from you, just if you could go back to baby Ainsley veterinarian. What was at the center of what you you did?
Ainsley: Absolutely. It’s such a great question because I think our entire profession, veterinarians, technicians, our receptionist, our whole Guide Dog team, I feel like everybody that I meet within the profession, who chose this, lives and thrives on purpose but whether or not we went through the motions to get here, or whether or not it was active, as I reflect back on my own journey, I think that a lot of it was going through the motions at the start. Especially vet school, I was fortunate to dop undergrad at University of Florida. I almost became an architect and I almost backed out.
Courtney: Dr. Ainsley fun fact I didn’t know.
Ainsley: Right, fun fact. My counselor said, “No, I think you should apply.” The reality is I was just afraid. So many of us are afraid sometimes to lean in. It takes courage to lean into your purpose. I went for it and ended up out at Washington State University after a dream about a cougar, a whole other story, and found truly that my first weekend– Those of you who know Rick DeBowes, who speaks a lot on leadership and courage and authenticity, he asked our class the first day. He said, “How many of you guys went into veterinary medicine because you like animals more than people?” The whole, most of the class raised their hand. Then he said, “Well, how many of you have ever seen a dog or cat pay their bill?” We were like, “Oh, that’s a really good point.” It’s a people business.
I started thinking about it. I think around that time when I was already in vet school and I realized, “I’m here and I get to make a difference in people’s lives because I truly and fundamentally believe that pets make people better humans,” so, in many ways, it’s how I give back to the world by being a veterinarian and part of the profession.
Courtney: That’s pretty early on in your career that you were able to at least have that moment to say, “Hey, it’s not about your purpose. It was not about their, of course, to take care and provide amazing care for animals, but it was about the impact that they made on people’s lives,” which in vet school that’s pretty early to acknowledge that. Kudos to you.
When did you start to actually see that in motion? When did you actually start to feel that purpose align with the output of what you were putting in because that’s a pretty powerful moment too? You prepare for it, prepare for it, but when did you actually see the fruits, oh, do you like that, of your purposeful labor?
Ainsley: I think it’s the client interactions. When you’re in vet school, you get asked a million questions beacuse the second that you’re in vet school or you work in a clinic or wherever you are within the profession, you’re automatically an expert and so everybody asks you questions. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be a Purina student representative. This was the time where there was a lot of misinformation floating around around nutrition and pet owners were seeing their pets more like family. Whether I was on the airplane home and had a veterinary logoed shirt on or whether I was meeting with friends and family everybody had questions.
When I started to be able to aggregate my knowledge and build the confidence to share back with them what I knew to be true from an evidence-based standpoint, and I could see the light bulb go off and I could see them look at their pet in a different way and feel like good owners and feel like they were closer with their pets, that to me was where the purpose started coming to life. Then that became the fuel. I think that’s why I’m so passionate about client communication and around the human-animal bond connection.
Courtney: Yes, it’s where you can see your work really coming to life. Who modeled that for you, Ainsley? Was there someone in your professional life that you could look to to say, “Wow, that is how I want to keep coming back to that north star, keep coming back to my purpose, remind myself of it daily,” because we can all get caught up in the day-to-day of work and output and stresses, but when you can center yourself to your purpose, it’s really powerful? Did you have anyone that really modeled that for you?
Ainsley: Courtney, it’s another great question, and, gosh, I could name 12 names, honestly. I think again, that’s the beauty of our profession as you look around and so many of us, we’re all living this purpose, the shared love of animals and the shared love to communicate with clients. I will tell you in my internship, so after I graduated from vet school, and I actually chose my internship of Coral Springs Animal Hospital because a doctor by the name of Caleb Frankel, who was an emergency doctor there really modeled empathy for clients.
That to me was really powerful. That’s where I learned to finesse it and really connect with a wide– In South Florida, it was beautiful because it was a general practice all the way up to 20-plus doctor specialty practice but we had such a wide variety of clients walk through the door and to learn how to shift your communication skills to live that purpose. He and then a number of other professors and the people that I worked with at Purina, also, just helped me to continue to evolve that and live that.
Courtney: Yes, it’s important to surround yourself with people that also have that drive to really lean into their professional purpose, and to reevaluate if you’re not surrounded by those folks, what is it that you’re doing that can help fill your needs.
Your purpose, have you ever questioned it? Is it different at this point in my life? Is it shifting for me? Is it still about animals making humans’ lives more fulfilled? Did you ever think maybe my purpose is shifting a little bit? Just curious.
Ainsley: 100%, yes, absolutely. It wasn’t until recently where I really did an even deeper dive into purpose and what it meant to me because as it started to evolve and shift, I started to get- because it’s wrapped up in identity. It’s part of your identity and so as that evolves and shifts you can sometimes feel like, “Wait a minute, what am I losing?” and the brain’s wired to keep you back. What I found is that the fundamental reason for my purpose of helping people live better lives through their pets has never shifted, but the way that in which I contribute to the world to affect that change and make that happen and drive that impact has changed over time.
When I was about a year out of my internship, my old college manager from Purina called me back and said, “Hey, we have an opening. There hasn’t been an opening in seven years on the team, but we have one. Are you interested?” I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I just got out.” I love what I do, but I also loved teaching veterinarians about nutrition because, again, it was such a gap in our knowledge in school and something that clients cared about and where you could really make a difference. Because I was able to still continue to do relief work and still practice, it was an easy choice to take that journey, and that’s how I shifted into industry.
There it was about mentoring students and partnering with colleges and teaching veterinarians and technicians and receptionists in practice how to bond over nutrition and enrich the lives of pets in that way, and then it’s continued to shift. Like now, I’m so excited to be here with Suveto and I believe so strongly in the pillars of growth, ownership, and well-being, that to be able to share the journey with the Guide Dog team and all at Suveto who believe in that journey, together we just can do so much more. It’s really all still tied back into that belief that we have the same purpose.
Courtney: Sure. It just showed up differently for you.
Ainsley: Yes. It’s just evolved over time.
Courtney: Yes. I think that’s important because sometimes you can feel like you’re not serving your purpose, or maybe you need a change in your life, but that doesn’t mean your purpose has to change. It just means how you impact that or how that is allowed to really show up in other people’s lives maybe just a different outlet for the same purpose but to do self-work, to constantly be assessing that and to being true to yourself of like, does this serve my purpose? Is this filling my bucket? Is this something that allows me to show up in a really positive way for other people, is important. You did that even at that assessment of, I just got done with my internship, but there’s an opportunity here for me to even have a broader impact, so I think that’s really important.
This is a total side-note, fun fact, that some of the client feedback data that we’ve been seeing in our Suveto veterinary health hospitals, nutrition is listed as the most valuable thing that veterinarians are sharing with pet owners. I think that’s so important for us to acknowledge that it may seem like low-hanging fruit and easy, and you talk about good nutrition, but it really impacts clients and how they show up for their pets and how they feel like they’re able to properly care and feed. We all want to love through food. That really resonates with clients. Our data proves exactly your point, just so you know.
Ainsley: That’s interesting. I didn’t know that. It’s a trust-builder. Every pet owner, fundamentally, they want to hear and know that they’re doing a good job. They love their pets so they want to feel like good owners, like good parents to their pets and so providing for them– This reminds me- do you have time for a quick story?
Ainsley: I remember being in practice in Atlanta, Georgia, and on a relief shift, and over lunch it was really quiet, I was doing some notes in the back, and I was just finishing up with some paperwork, and a mom and her daughter came in with no pet. They asked my receptionist, they said, “Hey, is the doctor here because we saw a commercial, and my daughter really wants to change foods.” I just let her know that I think we should speak to the experts first before we change foods. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, did you walk into the right practice.” I am so excited.
I remember sitting there with my legs crossed on the floor with this seven-year-old girl and sharing with her the WSAVA guidelines for how to evaluate pet food. There’s a list of 10 questions, and I encouraged her and her mom together to call the pet food companies and ask these questions so that they could evaluate for themselves whether or not they should change.
What was amazing was they called me back the next day. They also sent me a $25 gift card to Starbucks, which was the only, I think, gift card that I’ve gotten from a client that wasn’t related to a pet being in the ICU or euthanized. They were so grateful and they decided to stay on the food they were on, which was a good evidence-based supported food. Then they came back three months later because their puppy had vomiting and diarrhea. It had been about a day and a half, and they said yes to the entire full workup, no questions asked because that trust had already been built from that 15 minutes that was spent. Anyway, that’s an example of living purpose and having a great impact.
Courtney: I love that. You enriched their lives through their pets with education, with great client communication and with how you show up and acknowledge that seven-year-old as a valuable customer just as much as the parent is. Now you get to do that at mass with our college engagement program, which you’ve done for years at Purina as well, so it’s really exciting. I’m curious, your professional purpose, is it also your personal, and how does that show up every day for you? Is that similar? Are they at odds with each other? Do they support each other? Professionally and personally, should our purpose always be the same?
Ainsley: It’s a check-in. I think it’s a regular check-in for ourselves too because we are so purpose-driven and it’s so wired into our identity. I say we as anybody within the vet profession who shares this same belief. I think checking in on that regularly, but I recently heard a new definition of purpose that I really loved which helps me every day, and that is that purpose, the definition of purpose, means to get your own needs met so that you can help others get their needs met. I had always heard, put yourself first and you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others, and I just wasn’t very good at it. I’m very much the person that will put all my needs aside in order to help others.
What I learned through that process is there’s a wall that you hit sometimes, so checking in on that is important. By this definition, I can look at my personal life and make sure that I’m getting my own needs met for health, for leisure, for autonomy so that then I can lean really heavy into purpose. I would say as a new mom, I do find a lot of value in raising my son. My parents are aging, looking after them, but so much of that’s still tied into veterinary medicine because we have pets in our own life and they do. My dad is on the list for a therapy dog right now, so we’re excited about that.
Yes, I think it’s really important for us to remember to get our own needs met. I’ll circle that back to the fruit, Courtney, because I think about what’s the purpose of an orange, why does it exist. It brings nutrients. It brings us joy. It can help us–
Courtney: Essential vitamins, I mean–
Ainsley: Essential vitamins, exactly, hydration on the soccer fields. The orange tree we have to fertilize it for nine months out of the year in the back yard. There are certain types of oranges that grow better in some environments versus others, but the important thing is that it gets food, water, and sunshine. My best friend, my roommate from vet school, would always tell me we are just like plants only with more complicated emotions, so make sure, everybody listening, make sure you get your food, water, and even if it’s 10 minutes of sunshine get it where you can so that you can live your purpose and your best life.
Courtney: That’s so perfect, especially perfect this month, in mental health awareness month. Sometimes we have to break it down for ourselves of us needing food, water, and sunshine in order to care for ourselves so that we can show up for others and live our purpose. Thank you so much, Ainsley. This was so fun. We will do this a lot. I’m sure everyone listening to Let’s Vet Together will hear from Dr. Ainsley Bone frequently. We’re into our deep conversations, Ainsley and I, so thank you for joining us today. Everyone, go grab an orange and get outside for some sunshine. That’s really important and I appreciate you coming on today, Ainsley.
Ainsley: Thank you, Courtney. I am so incredibly excited to be a part of this wonderful Suveto community. I couldn’t think of a better way to live my purpose out on this new chapter ahead. Thank you.
Courtney: Thank you. Everyone take care.