New veterinarian 'couldn't help' but follow in dad's footsteps
CONNIE JO DISCOE
McCOOK, Neb. — Brianna Watkins Teel's path to veterinary medicine may not have been traditional, but she feels now she's where she was always meant to be.
Dr. Teel hung her license on the wall at Red Willow Animal Clinic in June, starting her first practice, with her dad, Dr. Wayne Watkins. Dr. Teel says, "It's nice to see Dad's path, and to follow in his footsteps."
"I always thought I'd be a vet, since I was four years old," Dr. Teel said recently. But, growing up the daughter of a veterinarian, she was aware of the long hours, hours away from family, the time and money involved, and she said, "I didn't want to be a vet, you know?"
"But," she says now, with a grin, "I couldn't help it."
In June, the name of Dr. Brianna Teel — call her Dr. Teel, Dr. Brianna or Dr. Bri, she's not particular — appeared on the front door of Red Willow Animal Clinic, just west of McCook on Highway 6&34.
"And, no," she says, with an infectious laugh. "Dad is not retiring."
Brianna graduated from McCook Senior High in 2009, and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in cellular and molecular biology from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan., with an eye, maybe, on human medicine.
But that early vision, of being a veterinarian … that dream … just wouldn't go away.
"It was going to be a huge commitment," Bri said, not only for herself, but for her family — husband, James Teel, and their young son, a toddler named Brayden — as well.
"A veterinary practice of large and small animals in a rural setting can be very demanding," she explained. The hours are long, year-round, and there's no emergency vet clinic in or near McCook, so someone is always on call, at all times, she said.
But both her family and James' family are close by, so she and James knew they would have a huge support system in place, Brianna said. And, that persistent dream …
So, she was off to vet school through the University of Nebraska veterinary medicine program — two years at UNL and two years at Iowa State in Ames. She graduated in April 2019, and, with framed license in hand, she started working for, and with, her dad in June.
Dr. Teel says she doesn't have a preference between the large or small animals of the Red Willow clientele. "I like the variety. And I like being inside, or outside," she says. "Both sets of clients are different, but I enjoy both."
Dr. Teel knows that, as a young vet, there is so much to learn, and she's glad she's learning it from her dad. "We originally thought I should go somewhere else for my first two years," she said. "But because of Dad's commitment to his clients and his compassion for their animals, there's no better place for me to learn than with Dad."
Dr. Teel says she and her dad are developing a unique relationship that is more than a employer/employee situation and less competitive than is common among the experienced and beginning docs in similar settings. "Dad and I are a team," she says. "We talk about all of our cases every day. We both want what's best for our clients."
Dr. Teel sees daily her Dad's caring and compassion, and she has always been impressed by his ability to read animal behavior and by his skills of observation. "They're all that I hope to become, and develop," she says. "Dad loves what he does. He lives for veterinary medicine. I hope to become as dedicated."
Red Willow Animal Clinic is 1 1/4 miles west of McCook on the north side of Highway 6&34. It is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., and Saturday, from 8 a.m. until noon.
Call (308) 345-4143 during regular hours, and also for emergencies after hours. The phone is answered 24 hours a a day.