What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted on your life? (Feel free to give specific brands/models).
A Match.com membership. I never planned on online dating. But, when I moved to California for my dermatology residency, I met some girls through a young professionals group and they convinced me to try it out. I was really picky and only went on one date who ended up being my husband. You never know where this crazy life will take you!
What is the funniest thing that has happened (to you or witnessed) in your job?
I diagnosed sarcoptic mange in case during my residency. When I asked the owner if she had any lesions, she lifted her ENTIRE shirt up and showed me everything. Turns out she had scabies too! She let me take some close up pictures of her lesions!
Favourite guilty pleasure after a stressful day at work?
Nothing super creative. I have two toddlers to feed, bathe and wrestle to bed every night. So, by the time that’s done, we are exhausted. Schitt’s Creek is easily a show I can put on in the background for some light hearted humor. But, my ideal guilty pleasure would be an early bedtime to catch up on sleep!
How has a failure (or apparent failure) set you up for later success? Do you have a "favourite failure" of yours?
When I applied for a dermatology residency, I didn’t match. I still remember crying in the intern bathroom after I checked my results. I started networking, emailing and ended up attending the North American Veterinary Dermatology Forum in April. I found out a residency was being offered outside of the Match. Turns out, it would have been the program I ranked first and I got offered the residency. I am still with that same company 10 years later. Things work out.
If you have a billboard for all other medical professionals out there with any message, what would it say? (It can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)
Be kind. Be empathetic. Including to yourself.
What is an unusual habit or (conventionally considered to be) absurd thing that you do/love (may or may not be related to your discipline/practice)?
This is pretty common among dermatologists. But, it is pretty absurd how excited I get to find an intact pustule. My technicians know not to touch it. I become very defensive of it so I can collect cytology or biopsy.
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behaviour or habit that has most improved your life (may or may not be related to your discipline/practice)?
Definitely starting my morning with movement. I was doing this before I had children. But, it is even more important now as a mom. The days are crazy and hectic. My husband and I get up at 5am most days to exercise in our garage before work. It is guaranteed time we have together before life gets in the way. It also sets our intention and attitude for the day.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven student? What advice should they ignore?
Know that your dreams can change. It is okay if you pivot from the path you originally thought you would be on. You may change a specialty passion or not want to go into clinical work at all. You can also change your career trajectory even after you have been working for years.
Ignore the thought that you can’t be a parent and full-time veterinarian. So many young veterinarians tell me they have been told you can’t work full-time, pursue your career and be a good mother. Yes, you can! If just depends on what works for YOU. I am a better mother when I am working. That is not true for everyone, but it is for me.
What bad recommendations do you hear in your area of expertise that you would want to correct the most?
Oh, where to start… That most owners won’t allow cytology because it is too expensive. That immunotherapy is not effective. You can’t get owners to bathe frequently. Most owners won’t do a strict diet trial. If you don’t see fleas, they’re not a problem. Food allergy testing is accurate.
In the last 5 years, what have you become better at saying "no" to? What new realizations helped?
I am naturally a people pleaser. I want to help everyone. But, in the last two years especially, I have had to learn to set boundaries and protect my sanity for myself and my family. When I am asked to consult on a particular case over social media, I redirect people to the teleconsultation services available. The great thing about teleconsulting (like VetNOW) is veterinarians can get advice from a specialist even if they don’t live near one! It allows the best case advice since documents can be uploaded and an actual conversation about the case can happen.
When you feel overwhelmed or lost focus temporarily, what do you do? (What questions do you ask yourself to get back on track?)
I have started putting my phone away from me when I am trying to get work done. Between emails, texts, social media, etc. there can be a lot of distractions. I try to time block and focus on one particular task for a set amount of time. If I am still struggling, then I ask what is most important right now? What can wait? What makes me fulfilled?
What is your best or your favourite achievement in your career so far?
Most recently, being voted to the Board of Directors for my company. It really meant a lot when I found out last year. I work for a company that values a young woman’s opinion for the future. A hot mess mom posting veterinary dermatology education on social media and through a podcast. Knowing I can open the doors for so many others who aren’t the stereotypical leader in veterinary medicine, that makes me excited and proud.
Dr. Ashley Bourgeois is a board-certified veterinary dermatologist passionate about providing practical knowledge to general practitioners to help itchy pets! She completed her bachelor’s degree at Iowa State University and graduated from the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2010. She became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology in 2014. Dr. Bourgeois moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2016 to help expand the company. She is an owner within the company and on the board of directors. She has a strong interest in autoimmune skin diseases, allergies, cytology, and otology.
In her leisure, Dr. Bourgeois enjoys outdoor activities, travelling, and watching sports. Dr. Bourgeois is passionate about educating veterinarians in dermatology and work/life integration through her podcast, lecturing, and social media presence (The Derm Vet).