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Oyen Interviews Dr Foo and Dr Tan: Thirteen years as pets' heroes

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Pet owners often worry about the health and well-being of their pets. They almost always seek a veterinarian’s assistance with their cutie’s medical complications. However, have they ever thought of the journey of those who help their pets? In all honesty, we never truly comprehend the experiences of our pets' heroes.

In today’s story, we are joined by Dr Foo (right) and Dr Tan (left) as they share their thirteen-year-long experiences and thoughts as veterinarians in Malaysia.

Dr Tan: I’m Dr Tan and I graduated from UPM in 2009. I joined small animal clinic when I finished school which means it has been thirteen years. 

Dr Foo: Hi, I’m Dr Foo but you can also call me Dr Sandra. I started working in a small animal clinic for the first two years of my career. I then moved to corporate for a few years, specifically small animal nutrition before I went back to join the small animal clinic. I’ve also been a vet for thirteen years.

Oyen: Can you perhaps talk about how your clinics were founded?

Dr Tan: Our first clinic was founded in 2011 so, Essential Clinics have been around for eleven years. As of now, we have nine clinics. We moved to a bigger premise last year, so we are able to do quite a lot. We changed the concept from a vet clinic to a veterinary centre. We are able to deal with more advanced cases like surgeries. It has been quite a fulfilling journey because we are able to see how the industry has allowed us to grow.

Oyen: What made you two decide to work together?

Dr Tan: You didn’t know? She’s actually my wife. I started KD Vet first and then we came to a stage whereby we needed more vets, that’s when she decided to join.

Oyen: I wasn’t aware! That’s really cool. Since both of you have been in this industry for over a decade, I'm really curious to know what being a vet means to you. Can you perhaps share a bit about that?

Dr Tan from Vet Essential Services

Dr Tan: I think for me it's pretty straightforward. I knew since I was thirteen that I wanted to become a vet. The journey to becoming a vet and doing what I'm doing now has always been clear to me. I'm simply doing what I feel like doing. I would say being a vet is fun, I enjoy it a lot but of course, it has some downsides just like any other profession or job.

Overall, I think the passion is still there. If you love what you are doing, if you love taking care of patients and seeing them recover, I think the years go by really quickly. So, when I told to you that I’ve been in this industry for thirteen years, I was also quite surprised. It’s been that many years but it doesn’t feel like it because I still feel really happy treating animals in need.

Oyen: Can you tell us an experience you’ve had as a vet that you find rewarding?

Dr Foo: I think the most rewarding experience I’ve had as a vet is divided into two parts. The first is being in a small animal practice. It’s rewarding when I see my patients recover and become healthy again because of the treatments I gave them. I also worked in a small animal nutrition company, I think that is a bit different but it was still rewarding for me because I was able to convey knowledge and raise awareness of nutrition for small animals, the knowledge is conveyed to vets and pet owners.  

Dr Tan: IN my case, I cannot pinpoint a single experience that I find rewarding but I would say that I find it fulfilling that I can share and show a lot of youngsters that being a vet is not entirely difficult, I can show the positive parts of being a vet. There are of course various inputs from various people in the industry. There were cases whereby students would come in to see me and say that they would like to do veterinary medicine but their families are against it. I would tell them to come again to gain experience. 

Some ended up speaking to their parents and they’d say that even if their parents don’t support them, they’d still want to stick to their decision. A lot of these younger potential vets got their inspiration to pursue their dreams. I think when we compare veterinary medicine with human medicine or other occupations, if you don’t have the heart for this industry, you can’t really see why one would want to become a vet. We don’t blame anyone because a lot of parents and family members won’t understand. The same goes for my parents back then, in the end, they supported me.

Oyen: How do you usually deal with distressed pet owners? 

Dr Foo/Sandra from Vet Essential Services

Dr Foo: In a small animal practice, we do get some angry customers, especially if their request is not fulfilled. I always try to understand and communicate properly. I would calm them down before providing options for their ill/injured pets. I don’t think there’s a point in getting worked up when you want to explain what’s wrong with their pets, it’s all about sympathy and putting yourself in their shoes. 

I don’t think I’ve rejected any clients before but there were times I had to tell pet owners that they were coming for treatments pretty late and the vet is closing. Instead, we would suggest that they go to other vets that are still operating. Other than that, I don’t think I’ve ever rejected clients because of their behaviour. I’m sure there is a reason why they get emotional. I’ll make sure to place myself in their position as a customer and figure out what I can do to work things out.

Dr Tan: It’s impossible to please everyone and find companies that have perfect online reviews. As long as you do a good job then you will be just fine. We mainly focus on doing what we do. We have our fair share of good and bad reviews; we don’t ask our customers to give us feedback and we don’t actually reply to them. The reason why is that when we receive negative reviews, we believe that we should respect people as they have the right to their opinions. We would never tell them to remove or edit their reviews, customers have every right to feel the way they feel. We just wouldn’t reply. Funnily enough, a lot of customers who have received treatments for their pets from us would defend us instead. 

Oyen: Since both of you have been in this industry for over ten years, is there an event you think left a lasting impact on you? 

Dr Foo: We’ve come across so many cases and experienced so many things as vets. It’s difficult to pick just one case but I think along the way, we do have a few cases that have caused more impact on our entire experience as vets. I can tell you that as a fresh graduate when I first started working, there was a puppy that had a fatal illness that came from a breeder. The poor puppy passed away due to the severity of the illness and that left a scar on me. From then on, I would try my absolute best to help every patient I get but sometimes things just don’t go the way we want. Certain illnesses and cases are just too fatal that we are left with no way out. 

Oyen: When it comes to vets, I take it as handling two customers. One is the actual patient and the other is the owner. As for the latter, it is as if you are their therapist. A lot of vets I’ve interviewed agreed with this statement, what about both of you? Do you perhaps agree or do you think otherwise? 

Dr Foo/Sandra from Vet Essential Services

Dr Foo: I think I agree with that because it seems like we deal with two patients rather than just one. You need to provide treatments to the patients and simultaneously provide comfort to pet owners. Pet owners may come in and tell you what they’ve observed and what they think is wrong with their pets but when you do the check-up, other things come to your attention.  

Dr Tan: I think as vets you’ll always have two patients to treat, especially with clients who are hard to get through. Despite all that, everything is usually solved with genuine and good conversation.

Oyen: I’m assuming that both of you have dealt with different types of owners throughout your years of experience as a vet. Do you have any messages or advice to give to pet owners or who wish to get a pet?

Dr Tan: Get insurance! Get it from Oyen. I do believe that financial restriction is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome as pet owners, but I really believe that getting insurance from you guys is necessary. Besides adopting pets, you are entitled to your freedom of choice, I’m not against purchasing pets and just adopting because as long as you know what you are doing and you’re a responsible owner, you'll be fine. Just be a responsible pet owner and get insurance.

Dr Foo: I think for me I’d say that one would have to become a responsible pet owner. Pets also deserve a quality life and I think with insurance it can financially assist pet owners. Additionally, I do want to remind pet owners that they should always seek medical assistance for their pets right after seeing the first sign. Illnesses can quickly deteriorate a pet’s health and it would eventually become difficult for vets to help.  If you are not ready for the responsibility of providing for your pet, perhaps delay that decision to get pets. I always think that pets can be a part of one's life and family but to a pet, you are their everything.

We would love to thank Dr Foo and Dr Tan from Vet Essential Services for spending their precious time chatting with us. If you enjoyed their stories and thoughts, reach out to us and let us know!