032: From Cage-Cleaner To Director Of Anesthesiology w/ Dr. Jon Congdon


If you want to get to the top of any niche in the veterinary world, you probably know it's going to be a tough slog at times. You might not realize, however, the impact of our career pursuits on other areas of our lives. Dr. Jon Congdon shares his insight into how to navigate your way to the top of a specialized field while maintaining your relationships, and sanity. 

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Show Notes: 

Dr. Congdon started from the bottom cleaning cages and worked his way up to being Director of Anesthesiology at one of the top 3 schools in the country, NC State Veterinary.  He is one of only 230 board-certified veterinary anesthesiologists in the country, one of my former classmates and a personal friend.

Recorded live on location at the 2018 AVMA Convention in Denver Colorado, we discuss the progression of veterinary medicine, the highs and lows of being a specialist, and how to accept vulnerability in your knowledge. Dr. Congdon lays out his pragmatic practical approach to how to make everybody’s veterinary experience better with anesthesia.

Getting into the meat of his veterinary story, the struggle of residency and the toll his career had on his relationships, Dr. Congdon relays his advice for those starting out on their journey and anyone interested in anesthesia. Putting importance on learning to think for yourself, searching for information and being prepared, Dr. Congdon brings a no judgment attitude to the field of anesthesiology.

In this episode:

  • An overview of the path to becoming an anesthesiologist
  • Take home tidbits from Jon’s AVMA 2018 Lecture
  • Making the veterinarian experience better for fractious cats
  • The 4 major mechanisms for low blood pressure
  • Relationship advice for anyone going into a residency
  • Being satisfied without recognition


“You go to a conference and how much of it is really applicable? How much can you take home and use the next day? And that’s really the probably driving idea behind lectures that I do, is what do they really want to know, I mean I’m guessing but you know, and what might they take home tomorrow and actually do something with?” (6:40)

“We get so worked up about our little niches, but there is a bigger world out there. And as I have heard many many times at NC State, believe in good intentions, take faith that people have the best of intentions. And they may make mistakes and it may look bad from the outside, but it's not like any of us are trying to make mistakes or are trying to be lazy, we're just busy. And cases come to us that we think are straightforward and then they are not and we have to adapt on the fly. This idea of community and this podcast is a huge part of that.” (40:46)

“Anesthesia is super cool for me because I can identify a problem, I can administer a treatment, and I get to fix it right away. Anesthesia, it’s real-time physiology.” (1:04:54)

“You will never get the credit. You will never be at the forefront of the story. But it shouldn't matter. We are not here to get accolades, we're here to get them through. We're not here to judge if they should be anesthetized, we're here to get them through. Other doctors are having those conversations with the clients, it's not our role to judge. If they need us we should be here, we are service specialists, we are here to serve the other doctors.” (1:17:50)


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