I think I began seriously considering being a physician in high school. Perhaps I'd thrown around the idea at some earlier point, but as far as really, truly wrapping my mind around doing it? That didn't happen until later.
But it wasn't like that for my brother.
For as long as I can remember, Will, my brother, knew that he not only wanted to be--but that he would be--a veterinarian. When we were little kids drawing on that cornbread paper that rips easily, his pictures were always of him taking care of dogs and cats--as a veterinarian. Okay. Maybe I don't fully remember him doing that part but the being a vet part? I absolutely do. The way he stuck to that narrative eventually became so strong that we all stuck to it, too.
No question. Will would be a veterinarian. Period, end of story.
The other day I was visiting with one of my fellow Grady doctor BFFs Lesley. It was a gorgeous morning that we both happened to have off. We're neighbors so I popped over to her place that day and I got to meet her family's newest addition--"Huddy", a (super adorable) German Shorthair Pointer puppy. And, even better, I got to join her to take him on a walk.
Anyways. Lesley's been taking pets to Will's veterinary practice for years. She knows first hand what it's like to see my brother living his dream. And so. We zig-zagged along (as one does when walking a super-energetic puppy) and talked about how Will became the veterinarian that he is.
"So. . .was he just always an animal person?" Lesley asked. "Like, did you guys have tons of pets?"
I squinted at the bright sun and answered. "I think he always loved animals. But especially the idea of taking care of them." I thought for a moment before going on. "Yeah. It's like, I don't ever remember a time where he didn't say that he was going to be a veterinarian."
"Yeah. Probably before he could even spell the word 'veterinarian'. And what's even more interesting is that he not only said he'd be a veterinarian--he always said he'd go to Tuskegee to become a vet. Always."
"That's pretty amazing," she said. "What about the pet part? Did you guys have any growing up?"
"Now that's one of the weird parts. I mean. . .we sort of had pets. Like cats mostly and, I think, once a dog for a while. And I know that he probably wanted a dog when we didn't have one. But we weren't a major pet family per se."
"Huddy! Don't bite that!" Lesley reached down and pried a random glove from the puppy's mouth. "So he just sort of knew he'd be a vet."
"Yep. And when he finished high school no one ever wondered where he'd go. We all knew that he was going to Tuskegee as a Pre-Vet with plans to go straight to Vet Med school once he finished undergrad. In fact, he got early entry after his third year of college. And no one was the least bit surprised."
"Yeah. Kind of awesome, right?"
"Very. Huddy! Don't chase that chicken!"
"What's a chicken doing in the middle of the suburbs?"
"Urban farm, I guess."
"Hmmm. I don't think Will's practice sees chickens. But then again, I'm not sure. I'll have to inquire about that one."
|*nothing against chickens|
Well. The story of my brother the veterinarian gets better. He indeed achieved that dream and, while in vet school at Tuskegee, met the love of his life. He married my sister-in-law Fran--also a life-long destined-to-be-a-vet person, and ultimately went into practice with her.
After becoming a vet and working for someone for a while, Will began having a new vision. That vision? Owning a practice--the kind he believed all pets and clients should have. He started speaking into existence his idea of a pet-centered, client-centered veterinary hospital unlike any in which he'd worked. He wanted to assemble a team of empathic animal lovers who knew how to treat not only their furry patients but their owners, too. He spoke of a highly professional environment where corners weren't cut and where service was paramount. Will imagined a tender place for families whose pets were nearing the end of life and a joyful environment for welcoming new pets like Huddy and educating their families along the way. And the even crazier part? He wanted to build it from the ground up.
|Grand opening of "The Village Vets of Decatur", 2008|
And so. He did just that. He put in the work and strengthened relationships. Essentially, he followed the mantra uttered in one of his favorite movies, "Field of Dreams."
"If you build it, they will come."
He built it. And you know what? They came. The best veterinarians. The best technicians and staff. And, of course, the people with their prized pets and their loyalty. They trusted Will and his team with their precious Huddys. And he hasn't let them down.
Because they all know that, with his vision and his team's care, little guys like Huddy become big guys like this:
Now. What's inspiring all of this? I'll tell you. Gladly, I will.
Best in Show. . . .
This weekend, my brother and his beautiful, brilliant life partner-wife are in New York City. They are flanked by a few of their closest colleagues and even a few of their closest Vet School classmates from out of town. They've all come there to witness my brother, the little boy who always wanted to be a veterinarian since before he could spell the word, receive a national award as "VETERINARIAN OF THE YEAR."
No. Not just for Atlanta. Or even for Georgia. But for the entire United States of America.
Yes. He got this award this year in the midst of all of the Westminster Dog Show hullaballoo. Which is just my way of letting you know that this acknowledgement is a part of that weekend and is also a HUGE deal. Or, as the medical students say, a totally "legit" one that he "legit" earned.
I saw that picture and cried immediately. First, because it made me acutely proud. Or rather acute-on-chronically proud. Second because I knew my parents were likely blasting off into outer space from seeing their little boy standing on that stage. I could already imagine Poopdeck's leaky eyes and Tounces' big ol' smile. I love that image of them. I so very do.
But lastly I cried again because I know how much this would have meant to Deanna. She knew him longer than any of us siblings and was likely the first to witness him prophesying about his future as the vet that would conquer the world.
|She was so proud of these ginormous scissor for the ribbon cutting. LOL!|
So my brother? He's an absolute inspiration. To his community, to his field, to his family and now, hopefully to you. This is what happens when you dream big and go hard. His life is a living, breathing "vision board" realized. And I am so, so proud of him.
We all are.
And so. Here's the question:
What are your dreams? I mean . . .the big ones? What are you building? And do you believe in yourself enough to know that if you keep on building that they will come?
Know that this can mean a lot of things. It can be your dream of how you'll raise your children. Of the kind of impact you'll have as a grandparent. The kind of spouse you'll be, friend you'll be, servant you'll be and inspiration you'll be. Of how you'll give back to your community. And yes, even what kind of impact you can have professionally. Because it all runs together, doesn't it?
At least, that's what I think.
I'm thinking about all of that this morning. All inspired by my brother and what he has built in his own field of dreams. Makes me ponder what I wish to build in mine.
Lastly, let me share with you a quote I heard on a recent podcast I was listening to while running last week:
"The success of a life is best measured in how much of it is given away."
And if you knew my brother's story like I do? I mean if you knew the story behind all of this glory? You'd know. That his life? Yeah, I'd say he's winning by that measure. He legit is.
So join me giving this standing ovation:
Warmest congratulations to my brother, Dr. Will Draper on his well deserved acknowledgement as "Veterinarian of the Year." And also congratulations to my sister, Dr. Francoise Tyler Draper and every single veterinarian, technician and staff member at The Village Vets of Decatur, Buckhead, and Lilburn. Thanks for giving us all acute-on-chronic pride!
Happy Sunday. And if you've got pets anywhere in Atlanta? You need to be taking them to The Village Vets.
Oh. But I still have to check on the urban chicken thing.
He built it and they came. . . . one of our favorite movie scenes. . . . how I imagine my brother thinking about building The Village Vets of Decatur.
And here's Will in a PSA for The City of Decatur. Love that he shouted out a beer pub. Ha.