A ‘Critter Fixer’ convention
Story and photos by Malinda Larkin
Published August 1, 2022
Dr. Vernard Hodges can single out one thing that has been an important factor in his success: who he hooked his wagon up to.
Dr. Hodges and Dr. Terrence Ferguson met each other at Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine in the ’90s. They spoke to veterinary students ahead of the Student AVMA House of Delegates meeting on Sunday morning. The two veterinarians star in the Nat Geo Wild series “Critter Fixers: Country Vets,” which follows them as they practice veterinary medicine at their Critter Fixer Veterinary Hospitals, located 100 miles south of Atlanta, which they own together.
“We can bounce ideas off each other,” Dr. Hodges said. “Things are going to go wrong. You’re going to have adversity, but you need that person who understands. It makes a difference. I would not be successful without him and vice versa.”
Their show, which debuted in March 2020, has been renewed for a fourth season that begins in October. Drs. Hodges and Ferguson made appearances at a number of events during AVMA Convention 2022 in Philadelphia, starting with the first part of their Vet for a Day event taking place at Walter B. Saul High School, a magnet school that specializes in agricultural education. They return today for the second part of the program, during which they will provide hands-on learning opportunities to participating students as they perform mastitis tests, among other things. The event is sponsored by the Zoetis Foundation and Banfield Pet Hospital.
On Sunday, Drs. Hodges and Ferguson also participated in a Q&A during a Meet the Experts talk at the Digital District in the exhibit hall. They were interviewed by the co-chairs of the AVMA–American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges Commission for a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Veterinary Profession: Dr. Ruby L. Perry, dean of Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Christine Jenkins, Zoetis chief medical officer and vice president of veterinary medical services and outcomes research of U.S. operations.
Dr. Hodges and Dr. Ferguson talked about how their Vet for a Day program started from informal mentoring of students in their clinic to going national thanks to the Zoetis Foundation’s sponsorship and networking with fellow veterinarians. They have already done events in Houston, Las Vegas, St. Louis, and elsewhere.
Dr. Ferguson said he was interested in mentorship because he remembers as a kid that he was interested in the veterinary profession, and his mom encouraged him, but she didn’t know how to help him on that career path. He recently co-authored a book, “C is for Critter Fixer,” which is about Terry, a Black boy who dreams of being a veterinarian. He signed copies of the book in the exhibit hall on Sunday.
Dr. Ferguson had an important reminder for students: You are important.
“It’s the best profession there is because we have a unique opportunity to not only take care of animals, but also people, too,” he said. “I’ve never seen an animal walk in without a client. Haven’t seen it yet.
“When an animal gets better, you know who else gets better? The owner, too.”