Work experiences while going through veterinary school took Kristin Burdorf around the world.
After 10 years of postsecondary education, the Mundelein, Illinois, native began searching for a place to put her degrees to use.
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Burdorf found an opening at Brownstown Animal Hospital and started there in June 2011, working alongside owner Ron Harrison.
Harrison recently announced his retirement from clinical practice, leaving the door open for Burdorf to buy the business.
She jumped at the opportunity and since the first of the year has been the owner, changing the name to Brownstown Veterinary Clinic.
“As I started to get through vet school, I knew at some point I would like to do ownership,” the 31-year-old said. “I wasn’t really planning on ownership this early in my career, but the opportunity was presented, and it was a good opportunity. Dr. Harrison is like family, and he was very fair in the offer that he gave me, and he set it up really well for me to be able to come in and take over a successful practice.”
Burdorf now has more responsibilities, but experience gained since she started there has helped the transition be smooth.
“I’ve always liked a small-town atmosphere, and coming down here, everyone was really accepting of me from Day 1,” she said. “I think I’ve made some really good connections with the clients that we have, and I have really a good rapport with them. I think I can continue to build a successful practice here.”
Growing up in a northern suburb of Chicago, Burdorf said she developed an interest in becoming a veterinarian at an early age.
“My dad used to joke because I used to tell him I wanted to be a vegetarian because I couldn’t say veterinarian when I was really little,” she said, smiling. “It has been a passion of mine since I was really little, and I kind of explored all of the different options I could to work with animals, and veterinary medicine was kind of the best fit for me.”
Burdorf’s introduction to the field came when she worked at a small-animal practice in Chicago during high school.
After graduating from Libertyville High School in 2001, she went to Iowa State University, majoring in zoology and animal ecology and minoring in animal sciences with a focus on dairy medicine. She earned those bachelor’s degrees in 2006.
During her last two years there, she worked on a dairy farm full time during the summer. That was her first time working with large animals.
“The more diverse experience you could present on your application for vet school increased your chances of getting in, so I just started applying to different farms there,” she said. “One of the farmers was like, ‘I’ve never had a girl from Chicago before, but we’ll give it a shot.’”
Also during her undergraduate studies, she spent a summer working at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife in Sanibel Island, Florida, and she worked with a dog vaccination program in Tanzania, a country in East Africa.
In the fall of 2006, she began her studies at the University of Illinois. She earned her doctor of veterinary medicine degree in 2010, and she completed her master’s degree in public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2011.
In veterinary school, she spent a summer in South Dakota working with a large-animal veterinarian, and she also spent a month doing dairy medicine in Tulare County, California — the largest dairy county in the country.
In her last year of veterinary school, Burdorf qualified for an international dairy scholarship and spent a month in New Zealand working in the dairy industry.
After earning her DVM, she went back to Chicago to finish classwork and present research for her dissertation, while also working at a small-animal clinic.
That’s when she realized she wanted to work with small and large animals, and she wanted to find a place where she could use both of her degrees.
At the time, the Jackson County Health Department was looking for some help doing consulting work, so she came to talk to them and also interview for the job at Harrison’s clinic.
Burdorf was hired by Harrison and also was elected to the Jackson County Board of Health, which meets quarterly to discuss and address human and animal health issues. Harrison is director of that board.
The Brownstown clinic offers grooming and boarding and a spay and neuter program for small animals. They also offer a wellness package for dogs and cats that comes in different levels, where pets are brought in twice a year to receive shots and be checked for ailments.
The office also works with Red Sky Rescue owner Ruth Riley to offer discounted services, including spaying and neutering, grooming, surgery and dental work. That nonprofit dog shelter is near Medora.
“It helps her get what the pet needs at a discounted price so that hopefully, we’re producing a quality pet for somebody to adopt and bring home,” Burdorf said.
Twice in the summer, the office offers a low-priced rabies clinic. Retired veterinarian Bob Gillespie also conducts rabies clinics in the summer in local communities.
It’s a public health concern if unvaccinated dogs are running around, Burdorf said.
“It’s more important that the dog is being vaccinated so that at least from a public health perspective, if that dog would bite someone, at least we’re not having to go through all of those awful steps that those people have to go through when they get bit and the dog has to go through when they bite someone,” she said.
Behind the office, there is a large-animal facility with a full chute system for cattle to be brought in for processing, birthing or surgical procedures. Outside of that building are a pair of horse stocks. The clinic also does onsite calls at farms if people aren’t able to transport their large animals.
Burdorf also is keeping a tradition alive that Harrison started — inviting anyone age 16 or older to job shadow or do an internship at the clinic. She said that gives someone a chance to work with animals and see if it’s something they want to pursue as a career.
“That’s always been very important to Dr. Harrison and is extremely important to me,” she said. “I don’t think I would be at the level of veterinary medicine that I am right now without the experiences I had when I was younger.”
Name: Kristin Burdorf
Hometown: Mundelein, Illinois
Education: Libertyville High School (2001); Iowa State University, bachelor’s degrees in zoology and animal ecology (2006); University of Illinois, doctor of veterinary medicine degree (2010); University of Illinois at Chicago, master’s degree in public health (2011)
Employment: Became a veterinarian at Brownstown Animal Hospital in June 2011; took ownership of the practice in January of this year and changed the name to Brownstown Veterinary Clinic
Family: Parents, Walter and Cynthia Burdorf; brother, Erich Burdorf
Pets: Australian Cattle Dog, Colton; cat, Bella
Brownstown Animal Hospital was founded in 1965.
As of Jan. 1, 2015, it is known as Brownstown Veterinary Clinic.
The office is at 1328 W. Commerce St. in Brownstown.