For John King, being around animals is like breathing.
Having grown up on a farm, watching his father treat animals as a veterinarian and joining the practice himself soon after completing his veterinary degree, caring for animals comes as naturally to King as chickens laying eggs.
So when he received the Outstanding Service Award from the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine in April, King was deeply humbled.
“To be recognized by the college I graduated from was a real honor,” said King.
“It’s one of our most prestigious honors,” said Cindy Irons, the executive assistant to the dean at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “It is given to an individual who embodies the essence of our mission of research, teaching and service to the community.”
Ever since he was a young boy, King has been completely engulfed in the world of veterinary medicine.
“My father was a veterinarian and a sole practitioner,” said King. “So I was aware of both the good and the bad sides of being a veterinarian.”
Though animal emergencies often drew his father away from the house, where his absence was felt on birthdays and holidays, King knew that veterinary medicine was the path for him.
After completing four years of undergraduate study, King was accepted to the College of Veterinary Medicine. Four years later he was working alongside his father treating both farm and companion animals in and around Le Sueur.
King worked as a full-time veterinarian for 12 years, helping grow his father’s practice from two veterinarians to four and a half and establishing clinics in both Le Sueur and Belle Plaine.
But in 2002, King decided to take the next step in his career and explore one of his many academic interests, accepting the position of executive director of the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine and delving into the world of public policy.
“I really like dealing with public policy,” said King. “It’s intriguing, mentally stimulating and you’re always learning.”
While serving on the board, he worked to make it mandatory that all faculty working on animals be licensed, mentored veterinary students, taught ethics and the legal obligations of the practice of veterinary medicine and even brought university students out to his family’s farm. University students have the chance to do some work with animals on campus, but King’s flock of sheep allowed each student to practice drawing blood and even conducting ultrasounds.
“[King] has done so much for us while on the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine,” said Irons.
After 10 years of providing incredible educational opportunities for students and working to promote the field of veterinary medicine, King stepped down as executive director at the beginning of this year to explore another realm of public policy, as a Le Sueur County commissioner.
But even though he is no longer as directly involved with the College of Veterinary Medicine or veterinary policy, King still gets his fill of animals. When he isn’t attending to county business, King runs an ambulatory veterinary medical business and still goes out to the farm every day to take care of 35 ewes, three horses, three miniature donkeys, one llama, one dairy cow, two house cats, two dogs, and of course peacocks, chickens and ducks.
“They’re therapy for me,” said King. “Each animal has unique traits and personalities and you just can’t help but smile.”
Reach reporter Erin O’Neill at 931-8576, or follow her on Twitter.com @LNHeoneill.
Reach reporter Erin O'Neill at 931-8576, or follow her on Twitter.com @LNHeoneill.