Determined to be a Veterinary Dentist
There was this vet school class Dr. Mary Krakowski Volker distinctly remembers.
And she should, because that class and its speaker decided her career path.
“It was called ‘Vet and Society’ and the course explored the different career options you could have as a veterinarian,” Volker recalled. “I thought it was fabulous to be exposed to all these different routes you could take.”
But one career path stood out.
“A board-certified veterinary dentist lectured during one class period,” Volker said. “Right then and there, I knew that’s what I was going to do.”
The only problem was at the time, Iowa State didn’t have a dentist on faculty. No two-week dentistry rotation, no opportunity to be mentored.
That didn’t stop Volker. In her fourth year, she did two dentistry externships, preparing to apply for a rotating small animal internship after graduation. Her requirement – it had to be an exceptional internship that had a veterinary dentist on staff.
The next problem – there were very few internships available across the country that had veterinary dentists employed at their hospital.
Again, that didn’t deter Volker one little bit.
“I was going to get one of those internships and then a residency,” she said. “I went out to meet people in the field. I went to conferences. I worked really hard. I made sure people knew this was what I was interested in.”
And she was selected. She completed her rotating small animal internship at VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver. She then interviewed and accepted a veterinary dentistry and oral surgery residency at the Animal Dental Center in Maryland.
Today she is a board-certified veterinary dentist and oral surgeon and a partner at Animal Dental Center, which has four offices in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Volker, who now also serves as the co-director of the Animal Dental Center’s residency training program, works primarily at the Annapolis, Maryland, office location.
“Most everything we do in veterinary dentistry can fix an animal’s issues,” Volker said. “It’s incredibly satisfying.”
Volker’s professional interests are varied and include endodontics and restorative dentistry. Almost all of the Animal Dental Center’s patients are dogs and cats, although the practice does see some pocket pets and has performed surgery at local zoos and aquariums.
“Veterinary dentistry and oral surgery is really fulfilling work,” she said. “I perform procedures every day on patients that come in with horrible oral and maxillofacial disease and after we’re done, they leave immediately better, their quality of life markedly improved.
“The clients are pleased and the patients are happy.”