Opening my practice has made me come to an unexpected realization. To become a successful veterinarian, you have to become a public person. Becoming a public person means giving up the anonymity of day to day living I was accustomed to and frankly enjoyed as a professor and a researcher. I am finding it challenging being “on” and available pretty much all the time.
Part of the legacy of my practice is my vehicle of choice. I drive my Dad’s 1996 Toyota T-100 truck. A fresh coat of red paint and a lot of putting it back together one piece at a time has made it a distinctive vehicle for my use while being an important link to my past. And it is paid for. Add the magnetic signage identifying my practice makes it the stand out complete package. But being a stand out is not all it is cracked up to be. I have to be cognizant of the fact I can’t lose my cool while driving a red, 2 ton, mobile representation of my veterinary dreams and aspirations. Besides, it has my picture, name and phone number on 3 sides of it. I feel the need to be the considerate driver at all times less I receive the wrath of someone thinking or saying “Guess what I saw Dr. Bland do on fill-in-the-blank Street?” I am more reluctant to honk my horn at an annoying driver or pedestrian, drive extra defensively or resist relinquishing that parking space to the other vehicle. I am especially cognizant of activating the ever watchful cyclops of our road ways, the red light camera. I have been pretty successful at keeping my driving act clean except for one incident with the cyclops which set me back $150.00. Lesson learned.
One of the most unexpected ways losing my privacy has affected me is in how I dress. An effective marketing and advertising campaign has made me a lot more recognizable in certain parts of town and settings. Because of this, I feel the need to dress the part. My uniform of the day pretty much always includes, a logo monogrammed work shirt and pants or shorts with lots of pockets, and by lots I mean up to 8. I have found through trial and error and by necessity, I always have to be equipped: at least 3 pens, multiples in case one or more is lost, a note pad, business cards- a case for business cards was given to me, two cell phones, keys, billfold, and a couple of pockets left over for the unexpected. I think of myself as a modern day Captain Kangaroo (For those of you whom the reference escapes, please Google it!). I have also become more of a regular at the barber shop. My barber kids me, saying he wishes his other clients were as predictable with my tight every two week schedule for a fade and beard trim.
Being so recognizable by the public is a strange but necessary component of my success. The strange comes from the degree of familiarity complete strangers express towards me. A man and his wife who accompanied me asked questions about their pet as I grocery-shopped. In addition to asking question about their 12 year old poodle, they offered nutritional and recipe advice. The people who see me walking thorough a store or parking lot who wave and shout, “Hi Doc!” Most memorably was the nice lady who didn’t speak English dragging me off the elliptical machine at the gym and into the parking lot. She needed my help because there was a kitten stuck in the engine of her car. I was able to safely remove the kitten, which she adopted.
Sometimes being recognized is a bit of a pain, but I did ask for it. I only hope most of the public can be as considerate as the gentleman who called to make an appointment for his new puppy while I was at a restaurant. He called after recognizing me while dining at the same restaurant. He was seated across the room. Be careful what you ask for.
Dr. Pierre Bland is a small animal practitioner who offers office and house call appointments to his clients. His offices are located at 3225 N. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL and can be reached at 954 673-8579.