You could say that Dr. Ben Buchanan was born into the world of veterinary medicine. As a kid, he spent his time scrubbing floors, cleaning stalls, and mowing the lawn at his father’s practice. But Dr. Ben was also an outlier in the world of horses. He didn’t show horses growing up, as we so often see with other equine veterinarians. In fact, his move into medicine was less about the horses and more about the people.
Dr. Ben will be the first person to tell you that he is an unlikely veterinarian. His choice to move into medicine came from his desire to help out the family business, and his love for the people associated with it. As he says, “I didn’t know what else to do because my whole life I worked in the clinic. Instead of being a horse person who decided to become a veterinarian, I was a veterinarian grunt who enjoyed being around all the people.”
That love for the people and a desire to help the business compelled Dr. Ben to pursue his DVM from Texas A&M. But as anyone in veterinary medicine will tell you, there’s nothing easy about it. Unfortunately, that also includes making it to class on time. “I woke up at nine o’clock on the first day of school. So I missed the first class on the first day and I never caught up.” The classwork side of veterinary school never did catch Dr. Ben’s attention the way that the clinic side did. “I didn’t go to class. I would skip class and go to the clinic. I’d wander around and talk to the techs, the students, and the residents all day.”
Dr. Ben eventually found surgical life to be tedious and sometimes boring. His interests aligned more with physiology and internal medicine. This new direction brought him close to Dr. Noah Cohen, who Dr. Ben aptly describes as “the world-class internal medicine guy.” Dr. Cohen became “kind of an inspiration and a mentor” to Dr. Ben during his time as a student.
That mentorship paid off, and Dr. Ben found his calling. After his graduation in 2001, he moved on to the University of Tennessee to pursue his specialization in internal medicine. He developed a fascination with neonatal medicine, gastric ulcer, and endocrine research.
This three year, 80-hour week program wouldn’t allow most people time to focus on anything else, but Dr. Ben wasn’t satisfied with a single focus, so he used his “spare” time to also pursue a specialization in emergency and critical care. “It’s a combination of medicine and surgery. It’s not straight internal medicine. That sounded kind of fun. Not knowing any better, it’s easy enough to say two’s easy enough to do’.” So during his time off in the internal medicine residency, he would drive to New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania from Knoxville in order to do a second residency in emergency and critical care. In 2006, Dr. Ben became one of the first 15 people to achieve Board Certification in both Large Animal Internal Medicine and Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.
Dr. Ben joined the Navasota office of Brazos Valley Equine Hospitals in 2005. He will be the first to tell you that there is no such thing as a “normal day” in the world of equine medicine. The only thing that is the same from day to day is the order in which he sees and treats his patients. Dr. Ben will start his rounds with the hospitalized patients, from most critical to least critical. He then focuses on consulting for local veterinarians who also have hospitalized patients. His primary areas of interest these days are horses that have respiratory and vision problems, but his true passion lies in working with critically ill neonatal foals.
“It gets fun seeing them because I’ve now been here long enough that I see them come back as racehorses or performance horses.”
Even still, with a busy schedule full of horses that need his help, Dr. Ben’s focus is on the people. “It took me about ten years before I understood exactly what the business is about. It’s not about treating horses, it’s about taking care of people. It just so happens that we all pick horses as the medium.”
That attitude comes as much from Dr. Ben himself as it does from his dad, T-Bone, founder of Brazos Valley Equine Hospital. “His philosophy has always been to just work harder and take care of people. Calling people back and taking care of people is how the practice got built.” According to Dr. Ben, the simple act of answering the phone or calling people back is what sets a practice apart and helps to build generational loyalty.
“My belief is that equine veterinary medicine is different than other parts of the profession. The balance of social needs and the ability to make a difference is part of the business.” This goes hand in hand with that generational loyalty that Dr. Ben described above.
In the Navasota office, there’s a picture of one of his high school classmates riding barrels at ten years old. Right beside that, there’s a picture of that classmate’s nine-year-old daughter also riding barrels. As Dr. Ben notes, “the clinic has been working on that family’s horses for three generations. You get to know the horse, and you get to know the people on a completely different level than you would in a small animal practice.”
Dr. Ben gets lost, he says, when people talk about work-life balance. “They see their profession as a 9 to 5 job. He doesn’t. Our profession, our social life, our balance is people. The people that we like and want to be around are the ones who care about horses.”
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