Keith Loria is an award-winning journalist who has written for major publications on topics as diverse as veterinary medicine, travel and entertainment. He started his career with The Associated Press and has held editorial positions at publications aimed at health care, sports and technology.
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MentorVet, a veterinary mentorship and professional development program that offers evidence-based solutions to promote early career well-being, was selected as the winner of the fifth annual VMX Pet Pitch Competition, a Shark Tank–style contest where innovative businesses present products and solutions to help the veterinary industry.
The Lexington, Kentucky, company’s founder, Addie Reinhard, DVM, believes MentorVet is much needed for veterinarians in a world full of stress and uncertainty.
An Idea is Born
When Dr. Reinhard graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2015, she started a small animal practice in the Lexington area, and though it’s been a somewhat short career so far, she’s already experienced feelings of burnout twice.
“Thankfully, I was able to have the support and mentorship of those around me to help me through those tough moments,” she said. “As I was looking around at some of my classmates who were feeling the same way, some of them didn’t have that same support — in fact, some didn’t have any support — so I started looking at what resources were available for new and recent grads.”
Her search didn’t lead to much, as Dr. Reinhard found very little in the way of external support for those in the profession.
“I felt this calling to be able to help vets who might be experiencing feelings of burnout or feelings of being alone,” she said. “I decided to quit my full-time job and got my master’s degree in community and leadership development.”
That led to the genesis of MentorVet, a one-stop shop for trusted resources to help support early career veterinarians.
“It’s about helping to support our early career professionals in the transition of practice,” Dr. Reinhard said. “The goal of this was to really promote well-being so that other vets wouldn’t have to experience what I did, or if they were experiencing burnout, they would have a resource available.”
Making a Difference
Dr. Reinhard is thrilled that her business received some notoriety and is looking forward to growing the business and helping more veterinarians in the future.
For instance, in the spring of 2021, Dr. Reinhard started collaborating with Merck Animal Health to grow and expand MentorVet. As the founding sponsor, Merck Animal Health has been a huge supporter of the program and has been instrumental in getting the word out about the benefits of the program.
“We had around 80 veterinarians participating in the program in the fall, and planned to have around 200 in the spring [of 2022], so things have been growing fast,” she said. “There’s definitely a need for it, especially looking at the current mental health support in the transition of practice.”
Thanks to a financial coach, a veterinary coach and a mental health coach, common stressors for veterinarians are discussed and solved in the program.
“We have a multifaceted program, with the core essentially being an online curriculum that is self-paced in professional skills,” Dr. Reinhard said. Veterinarians are able to pay either a set or monthly price to join a cohort for the five-month program, which includes online learning modules, group meetings, financial coaching, a mentorship pairing, 10 RACE-approved CE credits and more. The modules cover topics such as self-care, leadership, ethical decision making and conflict management.
“Essentially, all the things that are stressful for early career professionals,” she said. “By giving them training in those things, it empowers them to be able to better manage their stress. If we just give emotional support and don’t empower veterinarians to be able to learn how to cope with these things on their own, we’re not going to move the needle on the mental health challenges.”
Therefore, the foundation of the MentorVet program surrounds education and training on these professional skill topics so that inherent stressors in veterinary medicine will be less taxing.
“We also create communities,” Dr. Reinhard said. “We have monthly cohort meetings of five to 10 veterinarians. They go through the program together, so it creates a peer–mentorship network of others going through similar challenges.”
This also presents the veterinarians with opportunities to apply what they are learning in the modules. Continuous evaluations ensure that the program is making an impact.
“We have seen tremendous results in the prevention or decreases of burnout over time,” Dr. Reinhard said. “There are a lot of other optional resources we have available, like individual financial coaching or mental health coaching with a mental health professional. We want to provide our mentees with lots of different support to help them.”
Winning at VMX
At the VMX Pet Pitch Competition in January, Dr. Reinhard presented her business to judges and emerged the victor among five finalists.
“The nice thing about winning this is the exposure that it provides to MentorVet in the community,” she said. “One thing we are looking forward to is expanding awareness that this program is available and it is an option for people. A lot of early career vets are still unaware this is a resource to them, so I think this will help build that awareness.”
MentorVet launched a five-month cohort in February with the goal of getting 200 veterinarians to participate in the program. Another cohort will launch in August, and Dr. Reinhard is hoping that will double.
“We want to expand the capacity so we can meet the demand and the need of our early career veterinarians,” she said. “Part of that growth is identifying individuals who want to help support this cause. So, we are always looking for mentors to help serve in that one-on-one role.”
And there is more on the horizon.
“We know that veterinary medicine is stressful, not just for our vets but also our support staff, so we do have plans to establish a veterinary technician support program,” Dr. Reinhard said. “We hope to have a pilot of that program in 2023.”
Dr. Reinhard knows that she wouldn’t be where she is now without her own mentors.
“Starting a new company and doing a new thing that’s never happened before is sometimes really hard and really stressful, so having individuals in my life to help support me in growing this program has been very important,” she said. “My mentors have been so supportive of me throughout this journey.”
To become a mentor or for more information about MentorVet, visit mentorvet.net.