By Donald F. Smith, Cornell University
Co-authors Julie Kumble and Melena Hagstrom
It was a gutsy move. Jane Brunt, an aspiring veterinarian, decided to move from metropolitan New Jersey to agricultural Kansas to attend college. Relocating to the Sunflower State to enroll as biology major at Kansas State University would boost her chances to gaining admittance to the state veterinary college, or so she thought. Little did she know that this radical change in life style and location would also result in a fulfilling journey of personal growth along with her professional success.
Jane Brunt, DVM
Adjusting to the wide-open, wheat-strewn state where people spoke an unfamiliar accent and chewing tobacco, was very different from the populous suburban life to which Brunt was accustomed. It was also difficult, to put it mildly. Support from her family, including her father who had once aspired to become a veterinarian himself before choosing a career in psychiatry, and her own personal ambition and budding independence, were strong areas of support.
Her life began to change. “I was a pre-vet student majoring in biology, so I had to take the requisite animal science courses to fulfill the veterinary college admission requirements.”(1)
Embracing the strong agricultural presence at KSU, she worked hard during her first year of undergraduate college to prepare a Hereford heifer for participation at the University’s Little American Royal Show. For weeks, she led and groomed, fed and broke the heifer. When the day of the show arrived, her efforts paid off and she and her charge were awarded second place. Her family, who had traveled the 1,400 miles to provide their support, was unimaginably proud. For Jane, it was just the beginning of realizing her potential.
The new way of life in the state that Brunt would embrace for seven years threw a few curveballs. She recalled the story of the cowboy, the mice, and a hay bale. The man, while preparing the arena for the cattle show, unearthed a nest of young mice. Huddled under the bale of hay, Brunt considered the hairless mice to be valued, baby creatures. The cowboy, on the other hand, as he stomped on the mice and mercilessly smothered out their existence, saw them as no more than pesky vermin that spread disease. Although horrified during this incident, she came to admire the work ethic of the farmers, who loved and cared for their livestock, and who were on call for them and their sprawling fields of crops every hour of every day, from sunup to sundown.
After three years of undergraduate work, Brunt did indeed gain admittance to the veterinary college. Friends, mentors, and strong personal and professional relationships were cultivated. Many years later, in retrospection, she remarked:
I sometimes reflect on many of the 'things' that are listed on my Curriculum Vitae. Though they may seem impressive to others, to me they are really quite insignificant compared to the seven years I spent in Manhattan. The education I obtained there, and values I learned; the life friends that I made, and the many wonderful memories that I have: all that just gets one line on my CV. (2)
Today, Dr. Brunt is the executive director of the grassroots initiative called CATalyst Council. She is also owner of CHAT, a very successful feline-only clinic in Towson, Maryland. She enjoys her work as one of the pioneering feline specialists in veterinary medicine. Whether it’s her experience of going to school in a place so different from what she’d known during her formative years, or her natural warm, generous, and driven personality, Dr. Brunt knows how to bring a diverse community together.
During her many years in office at the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, this ability became clear: “I try to be a voice of reason and bring people from different backgrounds together…You have to be persistent and positive, and make everyone see what can happen for the good of the whole.”
Her Type A personality and reflective lifestyle present a winning combination, and even today Dr. Brunt finds lessons for self-improvement. One of her more recent “aha’s” has been to try and be a better listener and be mindful of her tone of voice.
I’ve learned that “tone of thought” matters a lot, and I’ve discovered if I can be mindful and empathetic in my thoughts, it will show up in my words and actions.
This is, indeed, Midwestern kindness at its finest.
(1) Brunt, Jane, telephone interview with Donald F. Smith (Cornell University) and Julie Kumble (consultant, Cornell University), March 3, 2015