Veterinarian Spotlight: Nathaniel Burke
Practice: The Luray Clinic of Veterinary Medicine
Tell us about yourself. Dr. Burke is a native of Page County Virginia, where he grew up on the family farm raising swine and beef cow/calf. After graduating from Page County High School, he became a life-long Hokie, earning his B.S. in nutrition from Virginia Tech in 2005. He then completed a M.S. at Tech with a thesis focus of pasture-based beef systems for Appalachia, with special emphasis on fescue toxicosis, oxidative stress, gradual weaning strategies, and beef characteristics in conventional and forage-based finishing systems. He attended the VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine where he graduated with honors in 2011, as the class valedictorian. Nathaniel was an associate veterinarian at Applebrook Veterinary Clinic in Chester County, PA in 2011 and 2012, where he served a primarily dairy clientele in rural Lancaster and Chester Counties Pennsylvania, along with portions of Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. He is currently an associate veterinarian at the Luray Clinic of Veterinary Medicine (www.lurayvets.com) in Luray, VA, and provides in-clinic services, as well as ambulatory services to clients in Page and surrounding counties.Dr. Burke serves on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association and the Page County Farmer’s Association. He is also a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, and the veterinary honor society Phi Zeta.He is married to Dr. Sarah Krall (VMRCVM ’10) and has a son, Grayson Rudolph Burke, who was born in October, 2015. He has one sister, Dr. Casey Burke Austin (VMRCVM ’14) who is also a veterinarian. Together with his parents and brother-in-law, they help run the family cow/calf operation, Triple-R-Luray Farm, LLC.
What made you become a food animal veterinarian? Growing up on the farm, I had always been close to agriculture and enjoyed working with animals. However, I pursued my undergraduate studies with the intention of becoming a physician. Then, my senior year in undergraduate school, to fulfill an undergraduate research requirement, I became involved with Dr. Terry Swecker (VMRCVM) and some research he was doing involving selenium supplementation strategies in cattle. I soon realized that my penchant for science and zeal for agriculture made me much better suited for a career path involving the veterinary sciences, rather than the field of human medicine.
What is your favorite part of your job? The best part of the job lies in the relationships you develop with clients. It is fulfilling to help them define an issue they may be having on their operation, whether it be disease control, fertility, nutrition or general management; develop a plan, implement said plan, and then, hopefully, reap the benefits of their work. I love helping people become more efficient and produce a better product. This is all done while improving the lives of their livestock. What starts as business or work relationships often develop into stronger, bonded relationships and friendships—built on mutual respect and understanding.
What is the toughest part of your job? Being on call. I never minded this much when I was fresh out of school, but it becomes more of a drag the longer I practice. Don’t get me wrong, I do not mind an emergency call when it is a person/animal that is truly in need of emergency services—that is why I’m here. This is especially true for those clients I was speaking about in the section above. However, many after- hours calls don’t fall into this category and would more appropriately be classified as convenience calls for a client. The extra work doesn’t bother me—it is the fact that “always being available” when on call means that I cannot plan time to fully develop or enjoy other, non-vocational aspects of life.
What is your advice for those interested in pursuing a career in food animal medicine? Pursue strong mentorship, build strong networking within the profession, and be involved in organized veterinary medicine. These all are really different ways of saying the same thing. Having good mentors prior to entering the field will help you gain the experience to know that this is the correct career path for you. Once you’ve started down that path, having a good network of contacts will ensure you have the opportunities you need to be successful. Once you’ve “made it”, organized veterinary medicine helps ensure that the profession can continue to be fruitful, and be a profession of which you can be proud.