“My superpower? Using humor to reduce anxiety, build teams, and create a positive work environment.”

Debbie Stoewen

Where did you earn your degree?

DVM, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, 1983; MSW, Faculty of Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University, 2005; PhD, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, 2012.

What’s your proudest career accomplishment?

The most rewarding part of my career lies not within any one particular moment or accomplishment, but the journey of being true to myself and living life from the inside out, as I colloquially call “following your heart.” There were so many challenges along the way, external voices or circumstances that pointed me away from the direction I felt moved to take, but I kept true to what I was drawn to pursue. Moreover, I was willing to take the path less trodden, as uncertain as it was, not knowing where it would take me. It’s living life with courage that counts, and trusting that whatever you do, if it comes from a good place, it will turn out well. So, perhaps I could say there is some pride in having been able to do that.

What gets you out of bed every morning?

Believing in the potential of life. Having that trust. That’s what inspires me. There is nothing else that inspires me more.

What are you known for?

My area of expertise lies in how we can make the practice of veterinary medicine a better place to be, from the human or social side of things. For me, the bottom line in life is happiness, so I am committed to championing veterinary happiness. Why does this excite me? Two reasons: First, I have a passion to support people to reach their highest potential, and second, I have a passion for the profession–all that we do and all that it stands for. That combination motivates me.

What’s your superpower?

The ability to listen and respond with empathy, or “fellow feeling.” Empathy is critical to conversations, and accordingly, the relationships that are forged, which are critical to getting things done. Ray Krznaric, author of Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It, sums it up nicely: “Empathy in the modern workplace is not just about being able to see things from another perspective. It’s the cornerstone of teamwork, good innovative design, and smart leadership. It’s about helping others feel heard and understood.” Empathy is the difference maker in all that people accomplish together.