Dr. Robin Simpkins is medical director and co-owner of Cherokee Hospital for Animals in Johnson City.

The Birmingham, Alabama, native realized her dream of becoming a veterinarian at 22 after graduating from Auburn University in 1999.

When she’s not working with animals, practicing yoga or running half-marathons, Simpkins likes to spend time with her daughter, Marin.

“She is 14, and is always entertaining,” Simpkins said. “I enjoy every minute.”

Fast Facts

Favorite dessert: “Ice cream, preferably chocolate.”

Hobbies: “Running. I love being outdoors and exercise, so running provides the best of both. It is a great stress relief for me.”

Ideal getaway: “Anywhere with a beach. I love Destin, and try to go several times a year.”

WHAT LED YOU TO BECOME A VETERINARIAN?

I have always loved helping people and animals, so it was my first choice. I remember making the decision at age 8. I never changed my mind.

I loved volunteering and later working with our family vet. I had the opportunity to be a part of healing, and could see the impact it made on the animals and their human families. I was hooked!

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR PROFESSION?

There are several things, so it’s difficult to choose. My favorite thing from the beginning of my career has been being a part of the human-animal bond, and watching the special relationship that develops between people and their pets. It’s amazing and priceless.

I love helping an animal recover from a serious illness or injury despite the odds. Nothing is better.

Getting to the bottom of a diagnosis, figuring out what is wrong and then making the pet better is very rewarding.

However, I have to say my favorite thing is my clients. I have had several over the years that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and caring for their multiple pets, and seeing them through a lot of ups and downs. It’s great to be a part of such a wonderful community.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS LOOKING TO BEGIN A CAREER IN PET HEALTH CARE?

It’s really more about people than animals. If you are not a people person, it’s going to be difficult.

Financial constraints make it difficult in some cases to provide the care the animals need.

Be prepared to make adjustments to your expectations.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES THAT YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES HAVE FACED DURING THE PANDEMIC?

Of all the challenges I thought I would face in my career, this was not one of them.

Like most small businesses, we have had to adjust our business plan in order to keep our employees and clients safe, while staying open and available to serve our community. We are considered an essential business, so we were allowed to stay open during the initial lockdown.

However, we have gone to only curbside service to reduce the risk of exposure to our staff and our clients. We have been fortunate that our clients have been very understanding of these changes. Surprisingly, most pets are more relaxed in the clinic without their owner present. They do not feel the need to protect their owner.

They still get all the love and treats from us, but without the extra stress.

It’s much quieter in the clinic without all the rooms full. Being curbside has created exponentially more phone calls, so we did have to upgrade our phone system and are hiring an additional receptionist to accommodate the volume of calls.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN IN DEALING WITH STRESS?

An older veterinary colleague once told me to always have something outside of work that I love to do, that makes me happy, and always find time in your day for that.

For me that’s spending time with my family, and running or exercising when I can.

During the pandemic, the changes in my routine and my family’s routine have been the hardest and most stressful for me. I have found what has helped me more than anything is taking at least 15 minutes each day in a quiet place to unwind without a phone, computer or TV. It really helps me to relax.