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Throughout history, families in a chosen line of work have passed down their skills, knowledge and dedication from one generation to the next. The tradition makes sense in many ways, especially if the journey of the parents and grandparents was inspiring.
What follows are stories about veterinary families that passed the proverbial baton to the next of kin, not always intentionally. We had the privilege of speaking to veterinarians from coast to coast about being part of a family where the mission to help animals was at the core. Fathers and sons. Mothers and daughters. Husbands, wives and kids. Great-grandparents and later generations.
The common denominator? The older generation instilled a work ethic, passion and purpose in caring for pets that were so moving that the next generation felt the calling to heal.
We hope you enjoy learning about these dedicated extraordinary families as much as we did.
A Natural Progression
A love for animals was cultivated early in Drs. Benji and Claudia Alldredge. Benji grew up on a West Texas ranch and began riding horses at 18 months of age, strapped into a saddle. Claudia was a city girl who frequented her family’s ranch on weekends, riding her horse Cocoa every chance she got.
That early passion for animals fueled their desire to forge a career out of helping creatures great and small, and each applied to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. There they met and married, graduating in 1981. After several years of veterinary practice, they opened a clinic in Fort Worth, Texas. Then they shifted gears and moved to a small town to raise their family. In 1996, they opened Alldredge Veterinary Services, a mixed animal practice in Comfort, Texas.
One of their three children, Katie, also acquired a penchant for veterinary medicine. Growing up, her pets included dogs, cats, horses and turtles, and she worked in her parents’ clinic, cleaning kennels, assisting with surgeries, holding animals — whatever she could do to help. She attended Texas A&M for both her undergraduate and veterinary education, earning her DVM in 2018.
The newly minted Dr. Katie Alldredge practiced for four years at a small animal clinic in San Antonio. Then, in October 2022, she returned home to join the family business.
“We three run the clinic, bringing together years of experience with fresh knowledge and ideas, which ultimately benefits our town and surrounding communities,” Benji said. “We have this unique opportunity to share both life and career with the next generation, and the case consults across the dinner table are endless, much to the dislike of our other family members.”
For Katie, seeing familiar faces and reconnecting with classmates and friends who stayed local was exciting. And while being in practice with her parents wasn’t part of her initial career plan, it’s been a good fit for everyone.
“Our goals are to continue to grow the practice, which Dr. Katie will eventually run,” Claudia said.
“Let’s be honest; it’s hard for veterinarians to fully retire. But until then, our team of Alldredges will continue running a family-owned and operated veterinary clinic.”
A Legacy of Care
Dr. Jerry Paul Shank was raised on an Ohio dairy farm and graduated in 1970 from the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“He grew up caring for animals and continued to do so through his life as a companion animal veterinarian,” said his daughter, Dr. Stephanie Correa, a board-certified veterinary oncologist and the owner of Animal Care Cancer Clinic in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Being a veterinarian was part of his DNA, passed down through generations of farmers caring for animals, just as it’s been passed to me as a legacy of care.”
Sadly, Jerry died this past summer.
Stephanie grew up working in her father’s practice, Shank Animal Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. In college, she majored in English literature to try to separate herself from veterinary medicine. However, she soon felt as if part of her life was absent.
“I missed the animals, the unpredictability of working with them, and the connection between people and animals,” Stephanie said. “So I switched gears and graduated from veterinary school 25 years after my dad.
“As I see patients and clients, I can hear my dad’s voice reminding me to allow my clients time to ‘tell their story first’ before giving my diagnosis or advice,” she said. “There’s a need for the veterinarian to understand the deep connection between the person and the animal to be an effective caretaker.”There are funny reminders, too.
“To this day, I only use half a sheet of paper towel to dry my hands, keeping the other half for later use,” she said. “I also always give clients something to do. My dad said that if a client was given a detailed set of instructions for cleaning a dog’s ear or making a special diet, they’d be much less likely to call back later.”
Stephanie, a University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine graduate, appreciates entrepreneurship.
“I remember my dad posting financial charts with colored bar graphs on the walls of his office to track monthly growth,” she said. “I do this now with Excel spreadsheets. My dad was the first veterinarian in Florida to open an in-hospital laboratory in 1979. The lab was a novel idea at the time, in the same way that opening specialized veterinary cancer hospitals was a novel idea for my time.
“Through two generations, veterinary medicine has provided not only a profession but a way of living with care and compassion for animals and the people who love them. I’m not sure if there will be a third generation of veterinarians in our family. However, I know now that this is not a profession you choose; it chooses you because it’s part of your fiber, your being, your DNA.”
Like Mother, Like Daughter
Dr. Raeanna Tisdell-Covington’s interest in veterinary medicine started at age 9 as she grew up on her parents’ dairy farm in rural Minnesota.
“Her father’s encouragement and profound passion for animals planted the seed for a vocation that she nurtured with hard work and dedication,” said her daughter, Dr. Ciarrin Covington-Sailer.
Ciarrin’s interest began even earlier, at 5 years old.
“I sat in the back of my mom’s truck as we rushed to town to meet a client whose dog was having difficulty whelping,” she recalled. “Little did I know, the experience would change my life forever. The excitement of being up late was quickly overshadowed by the thrill of suctioning the lungs of a puppy and feeling it sputter to life in my hands.”
From then on, Ciarrin spent time at the clinic her mother founded and still operates, All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Perham, Minnesota.
“Fast-forward 23 years, and I now find myself practicing my childhood dream as a real-life associate doctor and aspiring future owner, working side by side with my mom,” said Ciarrin, a 2021 graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, Raeanna’s alma mater. “Together, we pride ourselves on how we prioritize family and treat our staff, clients and patients.
“This endeavor provides the intellectual challenge of solving many diverse problems by applying science and the hands-on art of the veterinarian. It fulfills in the most complete way the professional and personal goals I’ve set for myself, all the while working alongside an amazing support staff.”
The team includes her younger brother Gareth, who works part time as a veterinary assistant while he completes his undergraduate degree. He aspires to be a veterinarian, too.
“My mother, that hurried trip to the clinic and that spunky newborn puppy planted the seed for my vocation,” Ciarrin said. “Now I can now devote my life to the noble cause of being a veterinarian for a community that has always been our family.”
Inspiring the Next Generation
Like many aspiring veterinarians, Dr. Janet Donlin knew at an early age that she wanted a career helping animals.
“I absolutely loved animals and, growing up, we had pet chickens, rabbits, dogs, horses and cats,” she said. “I encountered so many veterinarians for my own animals, plus my grandfather was a sheep rancher and other relatives raised cattle, so getting to know those veterinarians was an inspiration to me.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in medical technology from the University of Minnesota, Janet became a certified veterinary technician and went on to earn her DVM from Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1981. She initially worked in private practice, then served as an educator for almost 10 years at the veterinary technician school from which she had graduated. In 1991, she transitioned to working for the American Veterinary Medical Association. She served in progressively more senior positions and eventually was named the AVMA’s chief executive officer in 2016.
Her commitment to the profession has inspired countless next-generation veterinarians, including her daughter, Nicole Dalzell.
“I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was a little kid due to my mom’s love for animals growing up,” Nicole said. “Then, when I attended my first AVMA convention as a child and she received the President’s Award, it was so inspiring to see her up on that stage. My mom cares more about veterinarians and this profession than anyone I know.”
Nicole earned her DVM degree in 2017 from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine and “was lucky enough to have my mom give me my hood at my graduation ceremony.”
Janet had the foresight to save a piece of artwork that Nicole made in first grade. It read, “When I grow up, I want to be a dancer and a veterinarian.”
“I was never cut out to be a dancer, but I did accomplish my goal of becoming a veterinarian,” Nicole said. “My mom framed it and gave it to me after I graduated veterinary school.”
Today, Nicole practices in Algonquin, Illinois, at a small animal clinic where her family took their pets.
“The veterinarians there took me under their wing and have mentored me every step of the way throughout my career,” she said. “And now my mom brings her pets to see me.”
Their roles within the veterinary profession are different but decidedly complementary.
“I share stories about day-to-day struggles that veterinarians in the clinic face so that my mom can relate and help make the profession better,” Nicole said.
“During COVID-19, at AVMA we wanted to provide the best information possible so practices could keep operating,” Janet recalled. “The fact that my daughter was on the front lines in her practice made it very personal to me.
“As a veterinary mom, I’m so proud of her.”
To Work Together Is the Greatest Gift
Dr. Brendan Furlong grew up on a farm in rural Ireland and always wanted to be a veterinarian. He graduated from the Veterinary College of Ireland in 1976, arrived in the United States for a two-year internship the next year and never left. In 1982, he established an equine practice in Oldwick, New Jersey. Today, B.W. Furlong & Associates is among the nation’s premier equine clinics, with nearly 20 veterinarians and 50-plus staff members.
In 1983, Brendan married equine veterinarian Dr. Wendy Leich, and they bought a farm in rural New Jersey and bred horses, sheep and cattle. Their sons Adam and Jonathan came along in 1987 and 1991. Eldest son Adam didn’t like the sciences in school, so he pursued business, becoming Furlong & Associates’ business manager.
Jonathan wasn’t too keen on the idea of being a veterinarian, either.
“I studied exercise physiology with some loose plan of maybe going to medical school,” he said. “But I spent time with an orthopedic surgeon — a doctor at the absolute pinnacle of sports medicine. My main takeaway was that my dad had a much more interesting job.”
After graduating from veterinary school in Australia, Jonathan completed an extended internship at Peterson Smith Equine Hospital in Florida. He joined the family practice in 2019.
“I spent most of that first year working directly under my dad,” Jonathan said. “He’s mentored a bunch of great veterinarians over the years, so I tried to absorb as much as possible.
“Right now, I’m able to focus on being a veterinarian, not trying to run a business,” he added, acknowledging that he’s fortunate to have his brother to help with that side of things. “Moving forward, the goal will be to continue developing the business in the same way my parents built it: working together with great people, all committed to practicing good medicine.”
Said Brendan: “To work with my entire family daily is very special, and I feel truly blessed. It’s the greatest gift I could ask for.”
Sharing a Love of the Profession
Born and raised on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, Dr. Craig Nishimoto dreamed of becoming a dentist. Then, when he was a junior in high school, his family adopted their first dog, Poco, and Craig read James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small.” That’s when he decided to venture out to the rolling wheat fields of the Palouse to attend Washington State University, where he earned undergraduate degrees in veterinary science as well as bacteriology and public health before obtaining his DVM in 1984.
Credentials in hand, Craig returned to Hawaii and established Paradise Animal Clinic in 1989, providing primary and emergency care on the west side of Kauai.
His daughter, Dr. Christine Nishimoto, wanted to become a veterinarian since she was 4 years old.
“My passion for the profession started when he’d bring home patients for overnight care, and he’d allow me to assist during after-hours emergency calls,” she said. “I have fond memories of watching him provide compassionate care to patients, and I saw the unique position that a small-town veterinarian has in the community.”
Now, as a Washington State graduate like her dad (Class of 2022), Christine is practicing alongside him.
“Like many other clinics, we’ve been quite busy, so that proverbial baton wasn’t just passed but practically thrown to me during my first few weeks in practice,” she said. “But even being fresh out of veterinary school, with a steep learning curve in a high-volume clinic, I always know that my dad is in my corner, ready to come to my aid if I need it.
“Frankly, I don’t think I’d have this kind of mentoring and backup at any other practice.”
Her father said he’s “extremely fortunate” to work with Christine.
“I appreciate her enthusiasm, which makes me feel energized,” Craig said.
“And it’s so rewarding that I can share my love for the veterinary profession with Christine and see her grow and thrive.”
Blessed with Four Generations of Veterinarians
In 1934, Dr. George F. Reid and his wife, Nell, packed up their three boys in Irene, South Dakota, and headed west to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, settling in the small town of Albany. As a young veterinarian, George treated all sorts of four-legged creatures out of the home basement until his practice outgrew the space. In 1944, he opened Reid Veterinary Hospital on the site where it remains to this day.
After working their way through veterinary school, George’s sons Bob and Richard practiced with their father until his retirement. Bob headed large animal care and Richard focused on small animals.
Richard’s son, Tim, was the third generation to join the family business when, in 1988, he earned his DVM from the shared Oregon State/Washington State veterinary program. Tim practiced alongside his dad and Uncle Bob until their retirements in 2008 and 2004, respectively.
Tim and his wife, Allison, had four sons (Richard, Spencer, Harrison and Sawyer), each of whom was encouraged to pursue a fulfilling career path. While Richard works in the agricultural sector and Spencer in human medicine, Harrison and Sawyer gravitated to veterinary medicine and earned their DVMs from Oregon State University.
Harrison returned to his hometown in 2018 with his wife, Jaclyn, who also practices at Reid Veterinary Hospital. Sawyer joined them three years later.
“Their love for veterinary medicine was born watching their great uncle, grandpa and dad perform C-sections at 2 a.m.,” Tim said. “It was forged cleaning kennels after baseball practice and watching a sick dog’s eyes light up when it got another fresh bowl of food.”
He credited an additional factor for the hospital’s longevity.
“We feel the true success of a practice lies in its commitment to the well-being of its patients, clients, staff and community,” Tim said. “The honor of being a part of this, the greatest profession, is paled only by the opportunity to work with, laugh with and learn from your family day in and day out.”
A Proud and Strong Work Ethic
“My father practiced for 62 years before retiring,” Dr. Terri Gibson said about her dad, Dr. Thomas L. Gibson. “As a young girl, I remember spending time at our family veterinary hospitals. I enjoyed watching my father interact with clients, treat their pets and perform surgery. I’d ask questions, and he’d teach me.”
Like many other veterinarians, Thomas’ career choice was influenced by his lifelong love of animals.
“He always had pets, and one was killed by a car when he was young,” his daughter said. “That incident made quite an impact and piqued his interest in veterinary medicine.”
Thomas left Greenville, Mississippi, to attend college in Memphis, Tennessee, where he studied chemistry. When the college president asked about his post-graduation plans. Thomas said he’d love to attend veterinary school if he could afford it. The president got him a partial scholarship to Tuskegee.
After earning his DVM, Thomas worked as a USDA meat inspector in Oregon for a year, followed by a stint as a poultry inspector for California’s Department of Agriculture. After two years, he and his wife purchased Alameda Animal Hospital in Compton, California. Five years later, they bought a second clinic, Gibson Dog and Cat Hospital, and Chamberlain’s Pet Center, a boarding, grooming and pet supply retailer in Los Angeles.
“I knew at age 13 that I wanted to be a doctor and specialize in ophthalmology,” Terri said.
“I followed in my father’s footsteps and attended the Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine,” she said. “At my graduation, which was his 35th class reunion, he was so very proud of me.”
After completing an internship in small animal medicine at the Michigan State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Terri joined her father’s practice as a general practitioner.
“We were able to teach each other through the years, especially after I became a veterinary ophthalmologist,” she said.
Today, she is an investigator with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Working with my father was a very rewarding experience,” Terri said. “He was a great role model and mentor, and I am proud to be his daughter.”
Passing on the Purpose, Passion and Confidence
Drs. Diane Craig and Rich Pankowski met during surgical residencies at Cornell University. They moved to California in 1987 and married in 1988. Diane bought into Veterinary Surgical Specialists of Orange County in the early ’90s and moved it to nearby Tustin in 2000, becoming the sole owner. Rich joined her in 2001 after 16 years in equine practice. They also became parents to a son, John, and two daughters, Alison and Annie.
“All three kids spent time around our surgical practice during childhood,” Diane recalled. “Our son would accompany Rich to the racetrack for weekend rounds but didn’t catch the veterinary profession bug. Alison and Annie did, however. They were exposed to myriad rescued dogs and cats that I’d brought home to foster, and they observed my involvement in organized veterinary medicine.
“Both girls also excelled in sports and played Division 1 collegiate ice hockey — Alison at Princeton and Annie at the University of Wisconsin.”
Alison initially thought veterinary medicine might be a too-comfortable career choice and opted to major in public policy at Princeton. Then she played professional hockey for a year in Switzerland. When she returned stateside, she helped her parents set up a lab at their California clinic. It reignited her interest in veterinary medicine, so she applied to veterinary school and joined the Class of 2023 at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine.
In the meantime, Annie completed her pre-veterinary requirements during undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin and played on the U.S. women’s national hockey team. She earned her DVM from Wisconsin in 2023.
Early in the daughters’ veterinary school experience, Diane started a group message post called VetFam, where she’d share interesting cases so Alison and Annie could practice their diagnostic skills. When classes went online during the pandemic, the sisters moved home so they could maintain their clinical skills at the family practice.
The home experience shed light on the challenges of transferring and reading medical records during the referral process. The sisters agreed there must be a better way. Once they returned to in-person classes at UC Davis and Wisconsin, they created a solution.
Varsity Venture Studio, a collaboration of the University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and High Alpha Innovation, issued a call for innovative startup ideas. After interviewing hundreds of veterinarians, the sisters developed a referral-management software called Transfur. Out of 150 submissions, their concept earned the top prize of $500,000, enabling them to hire a CEO and build the product, which they said will be launched soon.
The two women look forward to being in practice once they complete internships (Alison at the University of Pennsylvania and Annie at Tufts University) and residencies.
They credit athletic experiences and their parents’ support for helping shape them. “It’s taught us to handle new situations with confidence,” Alison said.
Serving Pet Owners, Judgment-Free
Dr. Emily M. Tincher was 4 when she first answered the question, “Do you want to be a veterinarian like your parents?”
“I looked up from petting Marshmallow, the overweight clinic cat, and nodded ‘yes’ with complete conviction,” she said.
Emily earned her DVM degree from Auburn University in 2016 and today is the senior director of pet health at Nationwide pet insurance. Her parents, Drs. Pat and Ruth Mysinger, inspired her choice of profession from the get-go.
“They both love the practical application of science that helps pets,” Emily said. “In their 26 years of ownership of the Scottsville Animal Hospital in rural Kentucky, they were early adopters of new technology such as in-house diagnostics, digital X-rays, and therapeutic and surgical lasers. And they remain excited to learn new techniques to implement in their current roles as part-time relief vets.”
Emily said the values she learned while watching her parents are central to who she is today as a veterinarian.
“I know the impact that embracing those values can have on people’s everyday lives,” she said. “That’s why I’ve found myself gravitating toward roles that can help educate new generations of veterinarians and the pet health industry as a whole.
“Growing up in the field of veterinary medicine has imbued me with incredible privilege and perspective, and I’m grateful to have opportunities to give back through my involvement with organizations like the Veterinary Business Management Association and the Veterinary Leadership Institute.”
It’s in the Genes
“The ongoing joke is that I have the genetic mutation,” said Dr. Eric Weiner, the third generation in his family to practice veterinary medicine. “But this is what my father and I grew up with. Once we were old enough, we worked with our dads. There was something about watching your father help people and their pets that was captivating.”
Eric’s grandfather, Dr. Benjamin Weiner, started as an army veterinarian during WWII, then became a USDA meat inspector before opening a small animal practice in Claymont, Delaware, in 1951.
“Two kids and 59 years later, he retired just shy of his 90th birthday,” Eric said. “I bet to this day, Claymont, Delawarians still remember him.”
Eric’s father, Dr. Robert Weiner, never saw himself doing anything else but practicing veterinary medicine. He worked at his father’s clinic, which was attached to the family home, from childhood. After earning his degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1980, Robert moved to New York, married and bought County Animal Hospital in Rockland. He recently celebrated 40 years at his clinic.
Eric’s earliest memories are from hanging around his father’s and grandfather’s clinics. He went on to earn his DVM from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 2015. Today he practices at Burlington Emergency and Veterinary Specialists in Vermont.
“I started in general practice and planned to one day own a clinic, but the pandemic derailed that notion,” he said.
Eric and his wife have two daughters. Will the Weiner family someday have a fourth-generation veterinarian?
Said Eric: “Stay tuned.”