BLUE LAND – The search continues for someone to take over Faribault County’s only veterinary practice after the last hire pulled out.
At age 75, veterinarian and business owner Robert Bogan is ready to retire. However, finding the right person to take on the work he does every day at Makotah Vet Clinic in Blue Earth has been no easy task.
“Yes, I planned to retire before,” Bogan said. “I still love what I do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here anymore.”
Bogan announced he was offering his entire practice last summer to his replacement, including all assets used for the business such as his equipment, truck and even the office cat, Annie.
After a lengthy recruitment and interview process, in February, Bogan thought he had found the right person. Zach Adams, who graduated from vet school a year ago, drove from his North Carolina residence to Blue Earth to meet with Bogan, which was taken as a sign of strong interest in the position.
Out of five applicants, Adams was selected and began a mentorship under Bogan provided as part of the hiring process. However, five months later, the clinic announced on Facebook that the search for a Blue Earth veterinarian was once again open.
According to Amy Schaefer, community and business development specialist for Blue Earth, Adams left the practice due to a personal issue.
Schaefer, who has taken on the open position, said this time she reached out to contacts who expressed interest before Bogan hired Adams. She said there may be more traction in the fall through outreach to vet schools.
“Sometimes people, when they see my (Facebook) posts or see the stories, they think there’s a catch, but there’s really no catch,” Schaefer said. “So I think that was definitely a hurdle for us to get over, people being like, ‘yeah, right. There must be something more to it.’ But there really isn’t. He needs a successor. We need a vet.”
Bogan also has stayed in touch with past applicants, although many are still in vet school with the possibility of changing their minds after graduation, and he hopes to hire as soon as possible, he said.
“We really feel like the right person is there,” Schaefer said. “We’re just not getting the word out far enough. So that’s what we’re trying to do now.”
Despite the appeal of the offer, Bogan admits it’s a big ask for a young vet to take on the time commitment and responsibility that comes with running a small business and being the only provider of important services in the county.
Many of the clinic’s clients have large animals on farms that the new vet will have to travel to at some point to provide emergency care.
“We have trouble finding fresh graduates who want to be in a practice with one or two vets, on call quite often,” Bogan said. “If you graduate to a small animal practice, in many places they don’t work nights and they don’t work weekends. So that’s certainly better for your social life… It’s hard to find someone who wants to do that.”
The high demand for veterinarians has presented a “constant challenge” for many years, said Laura Molgaard, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota. She said students often have many options to consider when entering the field, which can make it harder for rural practices like Bogan’s to get new applicants.
Besides being ready for the other challenges of Bogan’s job, owning a business in addition to being a veterinarian can seem overwhelming to recent graduates, Molgaard said.
“Being a practice owner, the sole practitioner, running the business and being a doctor at the same time is a lot of work,” Molgaard said. “A lot of fresh graduates might think that jumping right out of school and going into it would be too daunting.”
Anyone Bogan hires will be expected to complete a three-year mentorship under him, gaining one-third control of the business after each year, allowing the new vet to ease into the role. Bogan and Schaefer assured that the opportunity to serve a warm and supportive community will make the job deeply rewarding for the right person.
“I think it’s probably a very rare opportunity for someone to be given a successful, thriving business of any kind,” Schaefer said. “And the community support here is phenomenal. It’s out of this world, really. And we just want to reach the right person and we want to support that person, whoever that person is.”
Bogan said he will not retire from the business he has invested nearly 50 years in until he finds a replacement, as long as he remains healthy. He said he still finds joy in working at Blue Earth and finds it hard to imagine not keeping the human connections he’s made caring for animals.
“I enjoy the people I work with, the staff I have here,” Bogan said. “I enjoy people who have farm animals. I’ve built relationships over the years and it’s hard to break them.”