Timothy Robinson, DVM, DACVS
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Surgeons
My journey to become a veterinarian was neither short nor direct. It has been my dream come true, however, and to further specialize as a surgeon is a wonderful way to use my skills to their utmost. I am most satisfied when I can fix things, so veterinary surgery most of the time is very satisfying in that regard. To see a pet go from a multi-trauma critical case to going home to a loving family on its way to healing is highly satisfying. I am constantly amazed at the resilience of our pet species to sustain major injuries and still wag their tails or purr.
But back to the journey. It didn’t look like I would end up becoming a veterinarian, but I was helped along the way. I would say my life’s mantra is “to be influenced by others and influence others”. My life has been punctuated by people positively effecting the direction of my life. One psychologist referred to this as “pronoia, or the delusional belief that other people are plotting your well-being, or saying nice things about you behind your back.” Whether deluded or real, my life in veterinary medicine has become a reality through my relationships with others.
My early educational experience can be best deemed as lack luster. I was likely ADHD if one needs a label. I was the classic underachieving male teenager with interests that were mainly detrimental and nonacademic. I desired to be a veterinarian early in high school but lacked the intensity and direction to achieve this pipe dream. My first two years of college were equally lackluster and my advisor told me I had no chance of being a veterinarian and as things stood he was right. By my third year in college, the reality of impending life finally struck and suddenly my interest in my education increased and I managed to graduate cum laude.
I wentto work in the Syracuse area and held several low level sales and temporary jobs, until I was able to work my way up to Subcontract Manager purchasing major computer systems for military defense radar and sonar systems at General Electric. I worked at General Electric for six years. Four years into my position and now married with one child, I would ponder on my commute about becoming a veterinarian. I finally got courageous enough to mention this to my wife and her response to me was, “I always wanted to be married to a vet”.
I applied to several veterinary schools that fall and was summarily rejected by all. I got good advice from an admissions adviser at Cornell. I dug in. Over the next year, I took a night GRE refresher course, worked at a mixed practice on the weekend, took Organic Chemistry during my lunch break, and took English and Physics at night while working full time with a young family at home. I reapplied that fall and received several acceptance letters. We sold our home and I moved my pregnant wife and young child to Ithaca and Cornell. At this point I was a highly motivated older student with no options for failure.
I worked hard and loved veterinary school. During my time there, I gained an interest in surgery and did many surgical procedures through the wildlife care service, including de-scenting a skunk outside with a makeshift airy surgical suite.
After graduation with a growing family and burgeoning debt, I took an associate veterinarian position in an Upstate New York mixed animal practice. While there I was able to do most of the surgeries, and learned from the owners what it means to own a practice. I was advised by a large animal surgeon mentor of mine to think about entering the match for a small animal surgical residency. He told me wryly, “All it costs is a postage stamp”. That fall I entered the match and the following March was selected by the University of Wisconsin into their surgical residency. We sold our house, loaded up our belongings and two young children, and moved to Madison, Wisconsin.
I trained under some of the best surgeons in veterinary medicine for three years and in my last year my closest mentor and residency advisor succumbed to ALS. I was offered his clinical position for one year which allowed me time to study and pass boards and find a private practice position. I took an associate surgeon position in Massachusetts and again moved my wife and now three children to settle in Western Massachusetts. Two years later under the threat of a corporate buyout, we decided to return to Syracuse -- our first home. After a year in a private practice an opportunity arose to purchase the local after-hours emergency clinic. This clinic led to the establishment of the Veterinary Medical Center offering both specialty and emergency care to the entire central New York area.
I love working at a facility where I can be challenged to excel and provide the best care for my patients and the Veterinary Medical Center of CNY is that place. In addition, I have the pleasure of training others and watching them develop into competent veterinarians and better people. I feel I was trained by the best veterinarians in the field and I am indebted to them for their tutelage and life’s lessons which they freely passed on to me.