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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

This Animal Lover Is Inspiring a New Generation of Black Veterinarians

Dr. Jayda Spratling of Banfield Pet Hospital
Dr. Jayda Spratling, a lead veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital.
| Courtesy of Banfield Pet Hospital

Dr. Jayda Spratling was always fascinated with animals—but she didn’t always know being a veterinarian was something she could pursue as a career. When she found out, her life was forever changed.

“As I was getting ready for elementary school one day, I told my mom how much I loved animals,” Dr. Spratling recalls. “She eventually said, ‘You know there are doctors who treat animals right?’ and I said, ‘Really? Sign me up!’ At that point, I knew that I had to work very hard to achieve this goal.”

After majoring in laboratory animal science in undergrad, Dr. Spratling earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2020. As a student, she worked as a veterinary assistant at Banfield Pet Hospital before completing an externship there during her last year of vet school.

“I spent two weeks getting to understand the practice from a clinical perspective and was amazed at how much I learned within this short time period,” Dr. Spratling says. “At the end of my externship, I was offered a full-time position after graduation and was overwhelmed with so much joy!”

Here, Dr. Spratling—who is currently the lead doctor at her hospital in Charlotte, NC—shares why Banfield was a great fit, what it takes to succeed as a vet, and how she’s inspiring the next generation of Black vets.

How did you know Banfield Pet Hospital would be a good fit?

My coaching doctor made my externship a wonderful experience. Her teaching skills and guidance made the decision to work with Banfield so much easier. Banfield also offers a great and onboarding program for new graduates, who are paired with a coaching doctor for 12 weeks. Knowing that I would have the support to learn new skills and ask questions all while becoming a strong veterinarian was extremely beneficial.

Beyond medical training, what skills does it take to succeed as a vet?

The overall drive to succeed is such an important quality of being a veterinarian. There will be cases for which you may not have all of the answers and that’s OK. Perhaps you are presented with a surgery that you’ve never performed before. When this happens, I always ask myself, “Do I have the tools to perform this procedure? Do I have the support from a colleague who can assist me with it?” If both answers are “yes,” I am that much more comfortable with moving forward. And, you know what? Now I can help another pet if this type of procedure presents itself again. The new goal will be to teach someone else so that they can also be successful.

What do you love most about being a vet? And what is the biggest challenge?

I love that I have no idea what I’m going to see each day. I also love meeting new pets and talking with owners about treatment plans that I believe are most suitable for the pet to improve. Finally, trying new procedures and teaching associates about veterinary medicine, including what each of the disease processes entail, is an amazing part of my job.

The biggest challenge is work-life balance. I am a huge advocate for wellness and I believe that anything work related should be kept solely at work. Anything life related— whether it is family time, hobbies, or travel—should remain separate. If not, burnout can occur very quickly!

We understand you’re committed to developing the next generation of vets. How do you put this passion into practice?

Less than 2% of veterinarians are Black, and my goal is to make the 2% become 20%. Representation matters so much! I want students to be able to see a Black veterinarian and know that it is something they can become if they set their mind to it.

In early 2022, I started an annual Black History Month program for underrepresented minorities in middle school and high school. During the program, we tour the hospital, practice suture skills, learn how to do a physical exam, and discuss how our patients are scheduled throughout the day. I also participate in career day at different schools in Mecklenburg County, where I speak about being a vet and what it entails.

I believe that the earlier the goal of becoming a veterinarian is introduced, the more likely it is for the student to work towards it. I absolutely love working with kids and plan to continue doing it throughout my career.

What is your favorite company principle at Banfield and why?

My favorite company principle at Banfield is the strive for quality care for our patients. Quality is a huge factor for me because it means that how you treat a pet in the beginning is the same way they are continuously treated as they grow older. I always offer the best treatment for my patients while considering any financial boundaries my clients may or may not have. I come from an economic background in which I understand that the most costly financial option can’t always be done right away.

Banfield puts a big emphasis on technology. What is one way Banfield sets itself apart in the world of veterinary medicine?

Virtual visits! I started practicing veterinary medicine at the onset of the pandemic, which made it difficult to meet clients in-person. To improve the veterinary-patient-client relationship, Banfield created a platform that aided in virtual surgery rechecks, consultations, and so much more.

How would you “sell” becoming a veterinarian to someone considering it as a career?

Veterinary medicine is such a rewarding career. You are guaranteed to learn something new every day, which will make you become a stronger doctor. Think about how many lives you will change and how many skills you will learn as the years go by. You are advocating for an animal that cannot speak to you, so you are a rockstar if you treat them and make them feel better!

What challenges have you faced as a woman of color in your field and how have you overcome them?

Occasionally I have received a few stares and/or have been asked if I am the doctor or the assistant. Whenever this occurs, I keep my confidence, have a strong delivery, and just remain who I am. Regardless of thoughts that others may have, my passion for veterinary medicine and who I am will always stay the same.

Just for fun: What is your favorite animal and why?

My favorite animal is the elephant. I love that they are majestic, strong leaders, and family-oriented.