Profiles in Practice: Dr. Mike Pownall

In this article, we allow a senior practitioner to share insights with the next generation of veterinarians.
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Dr. Mike Pownall

Dr. Mike Pownall is a sought-after speaker and business consultant as well as a practitioner.

Mike Pownall, DVM, MBA, of McKee-Pownall Equine Services, is a 2001 graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Prior to entering veterinary school, Pownall served the equine community as a farrier. 

After meeting his wife, Melissa McKee, DVM, in veterinary school, they completed internships before coming home to begin a practice together. The fledgling practice began as two doctors in the basement of a house. 

Pownall vividly remembers the first call that came through the practice, a Coggins test, and the excitement over the possibility that this big leap might just pan out. 

Four years later, they added the first of many associates to what would grow into the McKee-Pownall Equine Services of today.

Regarding the choice to start a practice rather than joining an established one, Pownall fell back on the vision that he and his wife shared. During their vet school and internship experiences, they continued to encounter three reoccurring themes. 

First, veterinarians working 24/7 was quickly becoming an outdated and unsustainable model. 

Second, they felt that the bond between clients and their horse was under appreciated, and they sought to acknowledge this bond through communication and education. 

Third, they saw highly skilled technicians and receptionists, that, while integral to the practice’s success, were barely making ends meet.

They attempted to address these three issues in what was, according to Pownall, “part audacity, part confidence in the solution.”

Outside of veterinary practice, Pownall enjoys hiking with his spouse, exploring new places and experiencing nature. One of their favorite things to do together is to take in the various arts through theater performances, visits to art galleries and expositions. Additionally, Pownall enjoys spending time traveling both through his work with Oculus Insights and personally.

Looking back on his career, what Pownall has enjoyed the most about his work is the ability to form relationships with clients and their horses as he addressed their problems. To him there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a laminitic horse improve, and the resulting improvement in the lives of both client and horse. 

These relationships did not always come easy. He first had to recognize that veterinary medicine was a people business. No matter how good you are in your medicine, the client’s perception was reality. He began drawing on veterinarians around him who were exceptional in their client communication. Once he began treating communication as a core competency, he quickly saw his relationships and client success improve.

To the young practitioner, Pownall urges them to look at themselves and their medical process through the lens of a client.

Watching young associates at his practice, he saw them struggle the most in sharing their medical knowledge. He would often see them present too many choices to a client, ultimately overwhelming the client. He recommended keeping options to a few choices, giving information that was needed to make decisions for the horse. Ultimately, he stressed the need to be concise with owners. 

Once you master that skill, and see yourself through the client’s eyes, you will find success in creating positive client interactions. 

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