Rural Practitioner

Dr. Amy Bandel
Mill Creek Veterinary Services
Alma, Kansas

By Audrey Hambright

Dr. Amy Bandel checking cattle.

Dr. Amy Bandel checking cattle.

Dr. Amy Bandel is no stranger to adversity. Her journey has given her the strength and experience to be a successful rural practitioner.

An alumnus of the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Bandel originally started her education with a focus on animal science and communications. Before starting at K-State, she managed the student radio station and competed on the livestock judging team at Cloud County Community College with plans to pursue a career in those fields. She always had the idea from a young age that she wanted to become a veterinarian, but it wasn’t until she was a student in Dr. Dan Upson’s A&P class that she realized how well she was doing in comparison to the pre-vet students. Her junior year, she met with her counselor to change her curriculum and cram all the required classes needed for pre-vet in her last two undergraduate semesters.

“I knew that if I didn’t at least try, I would always wonder if I could do it,” she said.

Bandel went forward fully expecting to have to apply for veterinary school a second time, but to her surprise, she was accepted on her first try.

Dr. Bandel conducts a bull test.

Dr. Bandel conducts a bull test.

After graduation in 1993, Bandel went to work for Sourk Veterinary Clinic in Scott City, Kansas. Her goal was to leave the familiarity of the Flint Hills and cow/calf production for somewhere she could see a lot of cattle and the abundance of feedlots gave her just that. From there, she went to Montana where a former colleague had started a practice. Bandel was only in Montana for six months, due to the untimely passing of her colleague, Dr. Bryan Rein. Because she was no longer covered by his license, she would need to wait and take the boards to be able to practice veterinary medicine in Montana.

Out of necessity, Bandel returned home to Wabaunsee County, Kansas, and started her mobile veterinary practice, Mill Creek Veterinary Services, now 20 years strong. Based south of Alma, her practice clientele is made up of 90 percent beef cattle operations. She’s also performs relief work for surrounding local clinics.

Even though her clinic is on wheels, she feels she’s at an advantage when it comes to creating a herd health program for her clients.

“My situation is really unique in that I’m out there first-hand and can see the environment the cattle are in,” she said. “I can walk around, look at animal and pasture conditions. This gives an advantage to determine a disease process or suggest a management change by the owner.”

Currently, she feels the recent changes to the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) have added a whole new challenge to the industry. According to Bandel, once producers and feed mill operators are following label directions and the right guidelines, it will be fine. Moreover, more producers will need to reach out to veterinarians.

Her advice for young professionals pursuing a degree or entering the workforce in veterinary medicine, is to get experience – both in extracurricular activities and in the field.

“In addition to working around animals, extracurricular activities are good reflections of work ethic and ability to get out into the public eye,” she said.

Dr. Bandel analyzes semen collected for testing.

Dr. Bandel analyzes semen collected for testing.

She also hopes new graduates will take the incentive to gain more hands-on experience before going into practice.

“It would be of good benefit [for a student] to travel with a veterinarian to gain more experience in general practice and develop instinctive diagnostic skills,” she said. “Especially in rural practices. You have to make judgements in the field and decide how to pursue treatment.”

Not only does she cover a 45-mile radius visiting clients with her mobile practice, but she makes time for her community as a fair board member, volunteering with the local county fair and staying active at her church.  She also enjoys what free time she has helping on the ranch west of Alma where she keeps her small herd of commercial cows.

Bandel’s career in veterinary medicine may have not started how she pictured it, but her challenges created new strength to make it a success.

“When adversity strikes, there’s always opportunity to overcome it,” she said. “Not overnight, but you just have to have patience and things will turn around.”