Just ask alumna Dr. Andrea Dattellas, who runs the Fulton Animal Hospital in Fulton, New York, just five years after graduating from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. “I live at work,” she admits with a laugh.
Dr. Dattellas’ commitment to her work hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Fulton Animal Hospital was honored with a 2016 Small Business Excellence Award, which recognizes businesses based on their longevity, innovation, sales growth, increased employment, ability to overcome adversity or community contributions.
Dr. Dattellas is so dedicated to her practice that she doesn’t just live at work—her work lives with her, too.
“I set up an ICU in my basement so I can take patients home and monitor them,” she says. “Last week I had a Rottweiler with severe renal failure living in my laundry room. She started doing much better, so I sent her home a couple days ago with some medications.”
Because Dr. Dattellas owns the animal hospital, it’s easier for her to make these kinds of decisions and get owners’ permission to keep animals overnight. The pet owners are “incredibly thankful,” she says. They get the benefit of more frequent updates on their animal’s condition from Dr. Dattellas, and they also avoid having to transfer their pets to a kennel over spans of time when the office is closed.
These guests have become part of the daily routine. “I set up the cages, get the IV pole out, and so on,” Dr. Dattellas says. “My husband is becoming very fluent in veterinary medicine now, too!”
Dr. Dattellas has always found it difficult to turn away any animal in need of care. In addition to accepting a range of small animals as patients—including chickens, reptiles and birds—she doesn’t charge for wildlife.
“If someone brings in a seagull, goose, fawn, bunny, squirrel, etc. that they found… I’ll treat them myself at no charge,” she says. “Most people would just call a wildlife rehabilitator, but it’s rewarding for me to help them and then let them go.”
“The Most Rewarding Career I Could Have”
Dr. Dattellas has wanted to be a vet for as long as she can remember. As an undergraduate student at the State University of New York (SUNY) Oswego, she began shadowing a vet at a local clinic—Fulton Animal Hospital, her future workplace. She was a zoology major who found out about RUSVM, researched the institution, and liked what she saw. It was the only veterinary school she applied to.
“I liked the fact that it was an accelerated program, and I felt that I was a competitive applicant,” she says. “I knew some absolutely brilliant, qualified people who had gotten waitlisted at other programs, and I just didn’t want to mess around with that uncertainty. So I applied to Ross and prayed!”
For Dr. Dattellas, RUSVM was exactly what she had been looking for.
“It was the best time of my life,” Dr. Dattellas says. “You meet so many different people from different places, and there was so much camaraderie. It felt like a family because no one knew anyone on the island but each other.”
When it came time for her clinical year, which she completed at the University of Florida in Gainesville, she felt confident that RUSVM had prepared her well. “Working with students from other veterinary schools, I felt more prepared than it seemed many of them were,” she says. “The Ross curriculum helps you develop a great work ethic.”
After graduation, she headed back to Fulton Animal Hospital, where she already had relationships with the staff and clientele from volunteering and interning there. Once Dr. Dattellas was on board, she began working with the SUNY Oswego Small Business Development Center to buy the animal hospital once the original owner retired.
Now, Dr. Dattellas is the sole veterinarian at the practice, where she’s hired additional staff and expanded the services.
“It can be stressful at times,” she says. “But I could never have a desk job. This is the most rewarding career I could have.”
It’s clear that the hard work, stress and discipline required to become a successful veterinarian were a small price to pay for living her dream. And her advice for aspiring veterinarians speaks to those who couldn’t imagine a different career path either.
“Tough it out because it’s what you love,” she says. “Push through it because you’ll be rewarded a hundredfold.”