People often ask Tembra Gatlin, DVM and Medical Director of VCA Owasso Animal Medical Center, if she is tempted to take home all the rescue animals she sees in her work.

Her answer shows she cares deeply about not just the animals, but the people they impact with their love and companionship.

“As much as I would love to take them all home, I want others to share the love that I have when I rescue a pet,” she says. “They need to experience that too.”

As the Tulsa Humane Society Veterinarian of Record, Gatlin works to serve the 3,500 animals who receive care from the Humane Society annually. She is also on the Tulsa Humane Society’s Board of Directors.

Dr. Gatlin comes from a full house with her dogs, cats, chickens, lambs, goats, and horses. Growing up around animals and active in the Future Farmers of America, she always knew she wanted to go into veterinary medicine. She explored other avenues of the medical field and briefly considered teaching but was fascinated by the challenge of working with animals, learning what ails them, and finding solutions.

“My heart always came back to veterinary medicine,” she says. “Animals cannot speak for themselves. You have to rely on the owner and your physical exam and the knowledge and the education you have. I really enjoy that part of putting things together to find out what is wrong with a pet and be able to help them.”

Not all animals have an owner or person to advocate for them, and that is where one of Dr. Gatlin’s passions comes into play.

“I like being the voice for the animals that don’t have a voice,” she says.

Dr. Gatlin is a voice for animals in many ways in Tulsa, OK. As part of her efforts with the Tulsa Humane Society, she is working with the Hopi Reservation to spay, neuter, and vaccinate animals who were born or did not receive treatment during the height of the COVID pandemic. She also is working with the Humane Society to spay and neuter pets who come to the shelter. Dr. Gatlin works with veterinary medicine students to serve these animals and gain valuable experience – some of whom are lacking as much hands-on experience as they would have had before the pandemic. 

When it comes to Dr. Gatlin’s own time in veterinary school, she says it was a challenge for her to get into school, but she kept trying and fighting for her dream and eventually attended Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She first wanted to focus on anesthesia, but when she was not offered residency, she instead saw an opportunity with VCA. Her career took off from there. 

“VCA opened so many doors for me” she says, adding that she was one of the youngest medical directors in the region after one year at the hospital.  “Fourteen years later, there are more doors opening up for me.”

“I like being the voice for the animals that don’t have a voice,” says Dr. Gatlin.”

Now, she is married to another veterinarian with VCA, Dr. Odie McKeaigg, and they share two children and their many animals. 

Dr. Gatlin said work-life balance is the number one aspect young veterinarians should consider when looking for a job, something she has found with VCA. She also appreciates the organization of the VCA, something she says is not her strong suit. 

“I’m passionate, but I am not organized,” she says. “One of the things that really attracted me to VCA was the organization. You had a hospital manager and a medical director and the quality of medicine is extremely important. VCA showed me you don’t have to work at a university or specialty hospital to work with high-quality medicine and intelligent people.”

She is still surprised she ended up working as a surgeon with rescue animals, but she loves the purpose it gives her. 

When she is not working or spending time on her many community projects, Dr. Gatlin can be found riding horses or camping with her family. 

Dr. Gatlin has goals of expanding both the program with the Hopi Reservation and the Humane Society, advocating for both animals and veterinary students. She hopes to show students on the Hopi Reservation what life as a veterinarian is like, so she can encourage them to seek higher education and consider careers in veterinary medicine. 

Her advice to those who might consider her a mentor?

“Pursue your dreams,” she says. “Just because it doesn’t work out the first time, doesn’t mean you give up. Try a different way.”

Dr. Gatlin says she is grateful for her mentors, such as her parents, teachers, and the Future Farmers of America leaders who inspired her when she was a child.

Is veterinary medicine calling to you? A career in veterinary medicine is full of possibilities and opportunities to continue to learn and grow. Explore the vast array of opportunities in veterinary medicine by visiting the VCA Careers page.