It is the Friday before the clinic’s inaugural day, April 18th. I am doing a day of relief work to feed the money pit of my aspirations. As I sit at the desk in the office of another doctor’s clinic for the last time, I can’t help but reflect and smile. Starting Monday I will be promoting myself and my vision of the practice of veterinary medicine and that is exciting. A long time coming but not so much the fulfillment of a dream as the next step in my professional and personal development.

I have a curiosity about all things medical, technological, and scientific and my career has reflected that. I was at ground zero of public health at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. I have been a manger for a variety of projects: colonies of monkeys for drug and reproductive studies, inspection programs for the USDA, and hypertension/weight loss clinical research studies for humans. I was fortunate to attain a secondary childhood dream of becoming a professor at a medical school (My primary dream was becoming a veterinarian. I was a different kind of child. ).

I have worked in animal shelters, private practices, and was there at the dawn of corporate veterinary medicine in this country. All very exciting experiences. But in my case the reality belies the actual experience.

A couple of weeks ago I was having Sun- day brunch with a friend of mine. He has a doctorate in speech and audiology therapy from John Hopkins University. One of the reasons we are friends is our similar upbringing. We are both from the rural south and found ourselves in unique educational situations. We also had similar issues of self- esteem in our early years. When you grow up the way we did, often your world and self views are not as developed and strong as they should be. Though you feel deserving and qualified in academia, you somehow just don’t fit in completely, or so you think and feel. The entire experience seemed surreal. I always thought I was the only one that felt as such.

I received my DVM at 24 and was painfully aware what I didn’t know about life after being cloistered on a college campus for seven years. I was thoroughly educated in the art, but had no practical medical experience. Though he received his PH.D. at 35, my friend felt much the same way. When I mentioned I spent the first five years of my career waiting to be exposed as a fraud, he exclaimed he had the same view and experience.

The way I viewed myself began to change when I successfully treated a patient presented to me as a last resort. Even after that seminal experience, I have to admit doubt lingered. I had the good fortune of people seeing and promoting the qualities and skills I possessed which I did not see in myself. I thank those people daily. The unique career path I took was not just an exploration of my scientific and professional curiosity, but assuring myself that I never have been nor will be a fraud. I see that now.

All things lead to the next moment in our journey. My next moment begins in earnest in just a couple of days. That moment begins with a realization and appreciation of its foundation. As shaky as that foundation seemed to me in the beginning, it was and is rock solid. It just took my believing in myself to make it so. I now realize that waiting was the hardest part.