Though the United States continues to urbanize, some residents choose a quieter locale to live and work, including Citizen Potawatomi tribal member Amy Sunday. She currently lives in the small city of Holton, Kansas, near her hometown of Netawaka. The Martin family descendant graduated from Jackson Heights High School outside Holton before getting a degree in veterinary medicine at Kansas State University. The Hownikan recently spoke with Dr. Sunday, owner of Heartland Veterinary Health Center, about her background, career and decision to work in a rural setting.
Why did you decide to pursue an education in veterinary medicine at Kansas State?
“I always enjoyed animals from a young age. I would always be outside on our farm playing with anything that would let me hold it. As I became older, I became interested in the dual aspect of science and animal care of veterinary medicine, and so I set my sights on it.”
While you manage the medicinal and surgical cases on an individual basis, you also focus on herd health. What does a veterinarian do in that specific area?
“Herd health is the medical management of farm production animals such as cattle, goats, sheep and pigs. We manage their overall health profile. This involves a heavy focus on preventative medicine, which is a combination of vaccinations, genetics, nutrition and environmental management of farm animals to keep them as healthy as possible. We do this in the hopes that we can prevent as much sickness as possible in the herd. We work closely with our producers to develop a plan that works the best for their situation.”
You returned to your hometown area to provide veterinary services. Why did you feel the need to return there as opposed to heading to a bigger city?
“I have always enjoyed the small-town vibe. There is something unique about knowing your neighbors and being able to say hi to each other at the grocery store, at dinner or feeling safe letting your kids walk to school. I also am very close to my family, so being able to see them on a regular basis is a great bonus.
“Holton is a rural community as well, so I am able to get the mixture of working with clients’ dogs and cats, but also their farm animals.”
What are the components of managing those responsibilities and running the business side of things?
“It was definitely an adjustment taking over the business. We are taught how to be veterinarians in school but not how to be business owners. It was a bumpy road, but we are fast learners and surrounded ourselves with individuals who did receive educations in business to consult with. It is hard to go from working up a medical case to then having to shift gears and manage employees or inventory problems, etc. I enjoy the challenge, however, and don’t regret it.”
What are your favorite animals to treat, in terms of either the biggest challenge or the reactions you get from their owners?
“My favorite animals to work with are felines. I have also been a cat lover, so I feel like I understand them more than most individuals. I enjoy them so much that I pursued the added effort to make my practice a certified Cat Friendly Practice through the American Association of Feline Practitioners.
“This certification required us to study feline behavior and handling techniques in-depth; have special cat boarding and exam room facilities; and feline specific medical instruments. I truly enjoy working with the ‘scary’ cats that others just don’t understand. If you use the techniques I was trained to use with this program, they can actually be great animals to care for.”
To learn more about Dr. Amy Sunday and her practice at Heartland Veterinary Health Center, please visit heartlandvetholton.com.