Rural Practitioner

Drs. Craig & Jessica Iwanski
Central Veterinary Services
Stockton, Kansas

By Audrey Hambright

Iwanski-editBalancing a flourishing veterinary practice plus an active family takes a lot of teamwork, something Drs. Craig and Jessica Iwanski know a thing or two about.

Owners of Central Veterinary Services in Stockton, Kansas, the Iwanski duo met in their freshman anatomy lab at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Jessica, originally from Omaha, Nebraska, began learning the ropes of veterinary medicine at a young age. Her father was a small animal practitioner and owned his own clinic where she naturally spent much of her time.

“Whether it was intentional or not, he taught me about the practice, the business side and being immersed in it,” she said. “He was absolutely my mentor from day one.”

Craig became interested in working with animals from the time he spent on his brother-in-law’s farm and ranch near Stockton, Kansas. Without much opportunity to return to the operation, Craig decided a career as a veterinarian would allow him to remain involved with ranching.

The couple graduated with their veterinary degrees in 1996, were married shortly after and spent time at separate mixed animal practices in Nebraska and Iowa before starting the practice in Stockton in 1998. They have since added a satellite location in Hill City. The practice is made up of 65 percent large animal and 35 percent small animal clientele.

Hands-down, the couple enjoys being rural practitioners for the lifestyle and community in addition to having the opportunity to practice high quality medicine.

“Being in a smaller community, everyone knows everyone and knows my kids are playing ball and running barrels,” Jessica said. “They respect our time and we get that because they [the community] know us personally.”

Location also provides access to the things they love.

“We’re in the heart of cow/calf country, so there’s endless opportunity to help ranchers,” Craig said.

They agree one of the biggest changes in veterinary practice is the increase in preventative medicine as opposed to single animal care. According to Craig, more producers are evaluating herd health programs with more tools at their disposal such as genomics and EPDs. This has allowed their clients to significantly improve the product with little additional physical input.

“As the younger generation takes over, they are embracing preventative medicine more,” Jessica said. “The client scope has gone from a small to large vision and created a huge change in the industry.”

Even though today’s veterinary students are facing an increasing amount of debt upon graduation, the Iwanksi’s feel this is causing individuals to take a serious look at the profession. According to them, opportunities are endless for those who want to do the work. And their advice for anyone considering working in the field, is straightforward.

“I tell students who come through here the same thing. They have to love animals of course, but you also have to love people,” Jessica said. “If you like people, solving problems, are goal oriented and like to see change happen, this is definitely the field for you.”

Craig added, “what we do every day as far as private practice is just one small area of veterinary medicine. You can specialize in about anything.”

Unique is just one word they use to describe balancing the practice, an active family life plus managing 150 cows. Working as a couple, they both claim it is the very best and the very worst part of the day, but it is without question fulfilling and definitely worth it.

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