Spotlight: Dr. Laura Smallwood, DVM DACVIM (SAIM) RYT-200

November is Human-Animal Bond Month and we took some time to chat with our Wellness Committee Chair, Dr. Laura Smallwood to get to know her a little better. We wanted to know more about her current work in vet med, and why wellness resources are important to provide to members. How does the human-animal bond relate to wellness? Think back to the last time you were stressed – if someone had plopped a pile of puppies or kittens in your lap, I think its safe to say your mood would be at least temporarily improved. Animals can be so beneficial to our mental wellbeing, not to mention how critical service animals can be to those with special needs. The bond between human and animal can be so strong, and how does that affect veterinary medicine? We will be discussing more about the human-animal bond in another post coming up, so stay tuned!

What is your current role in veterinary medicine?

My current role in veterinary medicine is as a mindfulness educator.  I retired from veterinary practice in 2020 and have since been working on my Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher certification while developing and teaching mindfulness-based content for the veterinary community.  My teaching focuses include mindfulness as a methodology for coping with and recovering from stress, the role that kindness and compassion practices can play in reducing compassion fatigue, and mindfulness-based communication.

What brings you joy as a veterinarian? 

In my current role, it brings me joy to help other veterinarians develop skills that can help them to better cope with the challenges inherent in the practice of veterinary medicine. 

Who has served as an inspiration in your life?

My father. He was loving, kind, creative, funny, and a lifetime learner. He adored animals and bonded with each pet that found its way into our family no matter how random the menagerie became.  He loved a challenge, especially when it afforded him the opportunity to come up with a novel solution which, in part, is why he loved his work as an electrical engineer.  My father taught me to always meet others with kindness, have a sense of humor, find joy in work, and see challenges as opportunities for creativity.

What is your proudest moment in veterinary medicine?

There is no one moment that I can point to.  I am proud just to be a veterinarian and have opportunities to do work that is both challenging and meaningful. 

What kind of wellness resources does GVMA offer and why are they important?

GVMA offers informational resources, support resources, and training resources.  Of these, I consider support and training resources as the most important.  Support resources include the Professional Health Program (PHP), Member Assistance Program (MAP), and Listeners on Call.  These resources are important because they allow members who need help to connect with another human being who can guide them.  Training resources include QPR Suicide Prevention training and Mental Health First Aid. These are important because they foster the development of peer support in the workplace. 

What has been the biggest benefit of becoming involved in organized vet med?

Being involved in organized veterinary medicine has given me opportunities to do work that matters on behalf of the veterinary profession. 

How does being a GVMA member benefit you?

In addition to the benefits provided by GVMA, being a member has allowed me to connect with veterinarians from a wide range of backgrounds and professional experience.