Lap of Love’s founder, Dr. Dani McVety will give you insights into how she came up with an idea that has changed the face of the veterinary end of life care, how she studies best, and interview tips! This interview is a must read if you are thinking about starting your own veterinary practice after school.
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Name, veterinary school attended, and year that you started.
Dani McVety, DVM, (founder of Lap of Love) University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2009 (started in 2004)
Who are the animals that you currently share your life with?
Secco (12-year-old American Hairless Terrier), Blitzen (1-year-old Boston Terrier mix), and Lucy (10-year-old Quarter Horse)
How did you and Dr. Gardner come up with the idea to start Lap of Love?
I was about 2 months out of veterinary school when the idea came to me. After school, I was doing ER work and loving it. I also found myself tapping into my human hospice volunteer work I did during college. Human hospice is absolutely amazing; they are truly consumer-focused and care more about the person than they do about combating the disease. It’s a fascinating thing to watch, filled with incredible people. (FYI, I started Lap of Love, Dr. Mary joined me a little over a year later.)
A little more about getting started:
While preparing a family for a euthanasia late one night at the emergency clinic, a client looked up at me, her little dog wrapped in a blanket in her arms, and said “Please, can you leave her on my lap? I don’t want her on that cold sterile table, I want her right here with me.” That wasn’t what I was supposed to do, though. Only 2 months out of veterinary school at this point, I had been taught that it was best to take her little dog to the back of the clinic, behind closed doors, to begin the process. But her request was too powerful, too meaningful. And it’s exactly what I would have asked if I was her.
I said ‘of course,’ and delicately ensured the experience was as perfect as it could be. When she left our clinic, her pet was wrapped in the same blanket she was brought to me in. I knew at that moment that’s what every pet deserved, to be in the one place they are most comfortable in; their parent’s lap.
Weeks later, Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice was born and quickly flourished. About a year later I called Mary and asked her to help me put together a software system to run the Lap of Love practice and eventually scale the business. At first, she thought it was “depressing,” but soon started to see the value of what I was doing. We started to record processes and procedures for everything Lap of Love does, which allowed us to scale in the coming years. Trust me, we never set out to change the face of the veterinary end of life care! But apparently, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
When you first started Lap of Love, were you also working as a veterinarian somewhere else? (Was this a side project?)
I was doing emergency work, just months out of school. LOV (Lap of Love) was a side-thing I was doing for a while to help pay back student loans, I never thought it would grow this large! And at every step, I had a choice, push forward and grow, or don’t push forward and stay the same size. I always decided to push forward.
How long did it take to go from 1 Lap of Love in Florida, to now over 30 spread out all over the US?
From conception to now: Currently, we have 117 doctors working with us around the country! We also have an amazing team of 40 Support Center Care Coordinators that help answer the calls of over 2500 families per week, and a growing leadership team of 8 amazing individuals.
Where did you attend undergrad and what was your major?
The University of Florida, Microbiology was my major
Did you attend grad school?
Did you apply for vet school after, or during your Bachelor’s education?
I applied my first year as a junior but did not get an interview at UF, where I had applied. I then applied my senior year to 5 schools, received 2 interviews, was waitlisted at KSU, then finally accepted to UF.
At what age did you first apply to vet school?
Do you remember any specifically challenging interview questions?
Mostly about animal activism / moral / ethics. I didn’t know what they wanted me to say, so I just kept talking through it. I hadn’t yet realized that that’s the point – they don’t want you to know what to say, and instead want to see HOW you handle the feeling of “I don’t know.” Now, being on the academic admissions board for UF for 4 years, it all makes sense!
What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?
How many extracurricular activities did you list on your application?
A LOT – I was heavily involved with animals my whole life, so there was a lot I listed.
Did you have exotic, large and small animal experience prior to applying to veterinary school?
Mostly small animal and laboratory animal experience.
What types of paying jobs did you have before going to veterinary school?
Server (very important to learn customer service!), Laboratory animal medicine OR technician, Racing Lab technician (tested urine and blood of animals that raced in the state of FL, very cool)
Did you volunteer? If so, where?
Yes, a lot. Mostly at animal shelters and for human hospice
How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?
No one, I want to do my best, re-read it myself many times, then send. I don’t want a lot of outside opinions.
When did you decide to become a vet?
When I was about 8 years old.
Did you interview any vets before starting the application process? If so how did you approach them?
No, I just observed and asked questions. But I wanted to be a vet, hands down. I wasn’t open to being assuaged otherwise.
Were you a member of any clubs at your undergraduate school? If so, which ones?
Just the pre-vet club, but I rarely went. They weren’t very active and I was more focused on getting things done to get into school than actually talking about getting into school.
Did you join student clubs in your DVM program? If so, which ones? Were any helpful towards developing Lap of Love?
Yes, they were invaluable. My time as VBMA chapter president helped me learn some of the most important lessons in my entire career. I suggest ANYONE wanting to own a business in vet med to get involved and lead a club, regardless of what kind.
Who gave you your letters of recommendation? Did you know them well?
All mentors. And yes, I knew them well, I worked with all of them for at least 2 years, almost full time. It’s SO important to have good, quality letters in an entrance packet. It’s one of the most important parts of getting to know a candidate.
Did you find the application process stressful? Why or why not?
No, not stressful. I looked at is as completely necessary.
Are you happy that you chose this career and started Lap of Love? What makes you most happy about this career choice?
I am completely, 100%, and wholly happy with my career choice. Not because I don’t have student debt (I do), not because this job isn’t stressful (yes, stress is part of it), and not because it has the perfect quality of life balance (what job does?!). I’m happy because I choose to be that way. I choose to see the good in my career, and to not be satisfied with “ok.” And when I felt inspired to go outside of my comfort zone and start a company that everyone assumed wouldn’t grow, I did it anyway. And now, 9 years later, I look back at my path am so proud of myself for taking the chances that I did (and I’m not done yet!!). I’m proud of trying harder, always looking for a better way to do something, and for keeping safe and comfortable boundaries around myself and my family so that I rarely feel drained. That’s what it takes to be happy.
Do you have any advice for students, once accepted?
Get involved!! And unless you’re trying to go onto residency (not just an internship), then give up needing to be at the top of the class. The development of your leadership, rapport building, and relationships forged will be 100 times more valuable to you in your career than any grade you will receive. When you’re in practice, a client cares more about whether or not they can trust you than how many letters you have after your name.
Any study tips? What was your favorite method for studying?
My only tip is to figure out your study habits FAST. I studied best on the silent floor of the library, in a cubicle, with earplugs. I needed complete concentration. Study groups did nothing for me because I had to study at my pace, not someone else’s. But study groups were essential for some of my classmates! They needed color coded excel spreadsheets and 18 different highlighters. I needed one highlighter and a textbook, that’s how I studied best! So find your type and stick with it.
Were there any classes, within your DVM program that were especially relatable to your current position?
Honestly, just the few business classes we received. They were invaluable.
What was the most challenging class, in your DVM program?
Neurology!! I probably got the lowest grade on all tests.
As a student, did you have to take out loans for your education? If so, are you concerned about the amount of debt or how to pay it back?
Yes, I did. And they will be paid off this year, 10 years later. I was never concerned because I took out the smallest amount possible (instate tuition). I didn’t overspend, and usually had money left over after the semester was done. Some of my classmates bought big screen TV’s and took long trips… I didn’t, I was conservative.
Was there anything in particular about your DVM program or the school itself that you liked?
UF puts their students into clinics right when you become juniors, then for one last semester as a senior. I really enjoyed breaking that up, it was incredibly helpful for learning “why / how” you study case pathologies.
As a Doctor, have there been any cases that stand out as a favorite?
SOOOO many. ☺
How many different places have you worked for after vet school? Was it difficult finding a job that was the right fit for you?
My first job wasn’t great, that’s a normal story though… those jobs are usually found by new grads because they have such high turn over. Then, months later, the new doctor realizes why there’s so much turn over and leaves because it’s not a good place / boss / location / business, etc. I had 2 jobs at 2 separate ER’s before I started LOV, and they taught me so much about how good businesses are fun. It’s not hard to find the right fit if you keep focused on what you want instead of what you don’t want. Oh, and remember that no one is going to be perfect. Deal with imperfections gracefully and don’t complain.
Was public speaking something you actively pursued, (how did you get into it)?
I never actively sought public speaking. With a background on-stage as a ballroom dancer, I was always comfortable being in front of a lot of people. So when I was asked by my vet school to come to speak about my first year out, I took on the challenge with great excitement. It went amazingly well, and school after school started asking me to come to speak. I love it, I still do. I would rather speak for 50 vet students than 1000 veterinarians, mainly because students are incredibly engaged and so very excited about what lies ahead. They still have a love and passion for their education that can sometimes (not always of course) feel lost from DVM’s.
What does a typical working day/week look like for you?
Typically, I get up around 5-5:30 am, check email for an hour, then get my kids up. My husband and I will cook breakfast, sit down, and then drive them to school together. After, I head to the office and my husband heads to our new Aquatory building (a water-based cremation company we have just started). My days are 80% meetings and phone calls. The rest is spent talking with our team, directing projects, and listening to our team. My husband or I will pick up the kids from school in the afternoon and take them to their sports events… or just come home for homework. At least 3 weekdays we aim to have a sit-down dinner, all together.
Have you read or listened to anything worth sharing?
Yes, I read anything I can about communication and body language (and by ‘read’, I mean I listen to them on Audible.com!). I also LOVE reading about business and how companies grow. “The Secret Language of Leadership” is a recent favorite, as is “Tribe of Mentors.”
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
For budding entrepreneurs, you must realize that starting is the first thing you must do. You cannot spend years researching and never actually start a business. That’s just called “research”! So stop talking about your “great idea” and actually do it.
How can people find you?
Facebook: Dr. Dani McVety
Linked In: Dani McVety DVM
Pretty easy to get in touch with me. ☺