Young vet opens rural veterinary clinic in North Dakota
With the increasing need for vets in rural America, Dr. Erin Christ decided to open her own vet clinic in Ellendale, North Dakota.
ELLENDALE, N.D. — Rural America is currently facing an extreme shortage of veterinarians and is in desperate need of young veterinary professionals starting clinics in small, rural towns. Luckily for Ellendale, in south central North Dakota, Dr. Erin Christ did just that.
Christ has had a lifelong passion for animals and knew at a very early age that caring for them was something she wanted to do as a career.
“I had a dog when I was a kid that had a vaccine reaction after we got his vaccinations, and I just wanted to help him and I didn't know how to. So it all just kind of fell into place,” she said. “I was also the kid that was saving the sick kittens and worried about all the little animals.”
After graduating high school, Christ attended North Dakota State University for her undergraduate degree. Following graduation from NDSU, she went to veterinary school at Iowa State University. She then worked at a veterinary clinic in Wetonka, South Dakota, for four years after becoming a veterinarian.
Christ said her time there was imperative to learning the trade; however she faced some obstacles along the way. Christ was one of two veterinarians at the clinic, her co-worker being male. She found that many producers would not allow her to work on their livestock and would insist on waiting for her male counterpart to become available.
“There were certain clients that only wanted him,” Christ said. “Sometimes the community isn’t as receptive to get new young vets in there, especially women, and right now the majority of the vets coming out of vet school are women. Some are very good and they understand that that’s what you’re going to get, but there still are some that are going to push back at you.”
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Despite getting pushback, Christ persisted and decided to take the next step in her career: opening up her own clinic. A building came up for sale in Ellendale, North Dakota, and Christ knew this was the opportunity she was looking for. She opened Country Roads Veterinary Clinic in July 2021 where she treats large animals, small animals and anything in between. While she prefers working with livestock, she believes the smaller animals help fill the gaps. She also jokes that during the winter months, it’s nice to be able to stay out of the cold barnyard and in the warm office walls.
Oftentimes Christ is pulled in two opposite directions when disaster strikes on the farm.
“There’d be times where you’d get phone calls in two different directions at the same time and you just got to choose where to go first,” she said. “It definitely cuts into the second guy trying to get a live calf out of it.”
In an effort to avoid those emergency citations, Christ teaches her clients what to do in certain emergency situations. She hopes this will lessen the frequency of emergency situations on the farm where her assistance is needed, and she believes this could help save calves' lives by cutting out the waiting time of her commute.
“It’s 45 minutes: That’s the difference between a calf living and dying,” she said.
Christ is not originally from Ellendale but does have family that live in the area. She said being a part of the community is important and often attends the school’s sporting events where some of her clients have children playing. She urges fellow, young veterinarians that are just starting out to do the same.
“Be a part of your community. It helps when they all know you,” she said.