The following interview is with Heidi Lobprise, DVM, DAVDC, our next Germinder + Associates 20th Anniversary Power of Pink Honoree sponsored by Goodnewsforpets. Dr. Heidi Lopbrise graciously graced our VMX booth February 4th and 5th signing complimentary copies of her Blackwell’s 5 Minute Consult Small Animal Dentistry Textbook. She also provided input into the first Winter edition of the GNFP Digital Download Series, customizable dentistry content for veterinarians.
Publisher Lea-Ann Germinder first met Dr. Heidi Lobprise during Germinder’s development of the “Pets Need Dental Care, Too” campaign with the veterinary dentistry experts, the American Veterinary Medical Association and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, who underwrote the entire campaign. They’ve kept in touch over the years and what has impressed Germinder most has been Lopbrise’s unfailing dedication not only to her specialty, but to her general kind hearted nature to help mentor and teach others.
You graduated from Texas A&M in 1983 when not as many women were entering the veterinary profession. What led you to decide to become a companion animal veterinarian?
I was one of those who knew ‘since I was 7’ that I wanted to be a veterinarian. Since neither of my parents really liked animals, I consider it my major rebellion. While I loved horses, the fit for small animal practice was best for me.
You not only became a veterinarian, but you decided to pursue a specialty in veterinary dentistry. How did that come about?
Divine guidance – After leaving a practice, I started doing relief work, including one day a week with Dr. Robert Wiggs. He became board certified a few years after I started there, and we had one of the first private practice residencies.
I first met you when you were studying with Dr. Wiggs. He was then president of the American Veterinary Dental Society. What was the biggest lesson in dentistry you learned from him?
The biggest lesson was that you can never stop learning. The second biggest was the impact that good dental care can have on the overall health and quality of life of our patients.
As president of the American Veterinary Dental Society, Dr. Wiggs was the first spokesperson for the first Pets Need Dental Care, Too public awareness campaign. Did you know then the campaign would have such an impact in growing veterinary dentistry?
I had no clue it would be as impactful as it was. Of course, there was such great opportunity, as the scope of quality dentistry in practice back then wasn’t that impressive. To this day, February is considered National Pet Dental Health Month, though we try to expand the message to say that EVERY month should be pet dental health month.
Where is veterinary dentistry today? What is the most important message the experts want to get out to general practitioners and the pet-owning public?
Veterinary dentistry is leaps and bounds over what it used to be. More practices are getting intraoral dental radiography and are getting more comfortable with general anesthesia with our older and at-risk patients, who absolutely NEED good dental care! The most important message is to provide a lifetime of good dental care, both in the practice and in the home, as many conditions, especially periodontal disease and broken teeth, are preventable in most patients.
What can you tell us about the International Veterinary Senior Care Society (IVSCS), another one of your passions?
We started the IVSCS in 2011 when it became apparent that there is no cohesive effort to coordinate and gather information about the care for senior pets. There is even a society for veterinary wound care, but there was nothing for our older patients.
Are there more opportunities now for women in veterinary medicine? What groups do you belong to that you feel are helpful to a woman veterinarian’s professional development?
The opportunities are endless for women, in private practice, in universities, in corporation and the military and government. Finding the right fit for an individual with both professional and personal goals can sometimes be a challenge, but there are many options. The Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative (WVLDI) is one of the premier efforts to help develop leaders.
On a more casual note, the Facebook group “Mom’s with a DVM – Life in the Trenches”, is an unusual support group providing a combination of safe-space venting, care during crises and some of the funniest posts I’ve ever seen! We even had a great meet up at VMX this year.
You were in private practice, went to corporate, now you are back in private practice. What learnings did you take from corporate back into private practice and what do you like about being in private practice?
My first corporate position was a teaching team with Pfizer, and I loved getting into clinics around the country to help enhance dentistry in their practices. With Virbac, I helped with scientific content, research and worked with key opinion leaders, including starting my interest in senior care.
Corporations have a completely different vocabulary than ‘regular vets’, and with numerous training opportunities for teaching, leadership skills, team building, and communication. It helped me become a more rounded person.
Coming back to private practice has brought me back to my ‘roots’ (dental pun intended). Every day I get immediate gratification in helping these patients, and at their two week rechecks, the impact we can make is reinforced daily when the owners are amazed at how much better their pets are doing.
Even though you are in private practice, you continue to speak at veterinary meetings, publish textbooks and conduct interviews. Why do you think it is so important for veterinarians to speak to the public and how do you find the time to do all of these activities? Any tips for busy women like you?
I am an extrovert, and I’ve always loved teaching (and talking). I’ve chosen to focus on dentistry and senior care. Particularly in the field of dentistry, where the university experience may not have provided much education for most practitioners, I feel that we fill an important niche in teaching about oral and dental health. In concentrating on senior health care, there is a lot of information available, but not in a cohesive, collaborative form, and I hope to help change that.
It can be very challenging to do everything you want to do. One tip would be to be selective and work in an area where you think you can have the most impact, and the area that provides you with the greatest sense of accomplishment. The other tip would be to remember to do things to take care of you!
Anything else you would like to add?
After 35 years, I still truly enjoy what I do each day, in spite of some of the challenges. My greatest wish and prayer is that each individual can manage their individual challenges and appreciate the difference we can make in our patients’ – and clients’ – lives, and to focus on these positive aspects.