Women fulfill dreams to be veterinarians; now work together at local animal clinic|[6/18/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 20, 2005

The dogs and cats don’t seem to mind and the horses don’t give a hay that Drs. Rachel Potter and Amy Brogdon are women.

In fact, the pets that visit them at the Vicksburg Medical Clinic on Paxton Road may even like that their caretakers are women.

“Women show compassion more than males. Clients like that in a certain way,” Potter said. “Not that we care any more than a male veterinarian – we just show it more.”

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While the percentage of women in veterinarian medicine has increased throughout the country, before the two doctors came to town, only men cared for animals – big and small. It’s not something either can explain, but they are here to stay.

Potter, a 1996 graduate of Vicksburg High School, said there were 47 women and 15 men in her class at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, where she graduated in 2002.

Potter said she has never wanted to do anything but be a veterinarian.

“When I was 5, I was playing – where I wasn’t supposed to – and I found a baby bird that was injured. Since then, I never considered doing anything else,” she said.

Even though the animals don’t mind she’s a woman, Potter said she was met with some resistance from clients early on.

“When I first started, it was rough. It took a while – I was so young and a woman,” Potter said. “It’s gotten a lot better. I think everyone is learning that there are benefits to having a male and a female.”

For Brogdon, a 1997 graduate of Warren Central, things are a little easier since Potter has broken the ice for her. Brogdon graduated from MSU in May and has been at the clinic for about three weeks.

“I’ve had a whole lot of experience, but nothing negative. I’m getting used to working all day and actually being the doctor,” she said.

Her father, Bob Anderson, was a veterinarian at Vicksburg Animal Hospital for 18 years.

Brogdon said she always wanted to be a vet. She got a degree in nutrition and dietetics before attending vet school.

“I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was old enough to know what it was,” she said.

Brogdon said having another woman doctor to look to has been good for her since she joined the team.

It’s comforting to Potter, also.

“Before, I was always the woman doctor. Now, if they say ‘woman doctor,’ I say, ‘Which one?'” she said.

Dr. Michael Bailey teamed up with Dr. Steve Krapac in 1991 to start the Animal Medical Clinic of Vicksburg.

“Vicksburg never had a female vet before. They have been great about understanding – trying not to treat me differently,” Potter said. “They look out for you – tell you diplomatically if something is over your head.”

Brogdon said she has received nothing but respect from the doctors at the clinic.

“They have been accepting of new ideas,” she said. “It’s flattering when they ask. They want to know what’s out there since I’m fresh out of school.”

The hardest thing about being a woman in veterinary medicine, said Potter and Brogdon, is having to deal with animals that weigh twice as much as the doctor.

Other than that, the line between being a woman and a man is blurred. It’s not about what gender they are – it’s about being a people person, they agreed.

“What it takes is good people skills,” Brogdon said. “I use that a lot more than what I learned in vet school.”

Not everybody can do it, though. Potter knows that for sure.

“It was the funniest thing – I was cleaning a wound on a horse’s leg last night and my husband was holding the rope. The horse was sedated, but all of a sudden, (my husband) was on the ground – I guess he fainted,” she said.

Both doctors hope more women will join the ranks in Vicksburg. Until then, they will continue to do what they do best.

“It works for us,” Potter said.