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Two Generations, One Passion

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Many children look up to their parents and dream to be just like their Mom or Dad. New dreams and life changes lead people in different directions and down other career paths. But sometimes the passion for a career can start at a young age and never burn out.

Dean-and-Ray-Pawlisch-for-webDrs. Dean and Ray Pawlisch are one father-son pair with the same passion for the veterinary medical profession. Both faced hurdles and difficulties while pursuing their doctorate in veterinary medicine. They found an area they loved to practice in, witnessed change in agriculture and veterinary medicine and both gave back to their profession by serving as president of the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA).


Growing up in North Freedom, Wis., Dr. Dean Pawlisch, always had an interest in animals and thought farmers needed help with their sick animals. Dr. Dean did not realize how hard the road to becoming a veterinarian would become. Two years of his education were interrupted while he served in the U.S. Navy during World War ll.

"The first words from my advisor, Bonner Bill Morgan, were, 'Are you sure you're willing to spend four years here at the University of Wisconsin – Madison before getting into a vet school?" says Dr. Dean. "I told him, 'whatever it took!"

There were 209 other pre-veterinary students on campus when Dr. Dean started his schooling. Only a few became veterinarians. Dr. Dean became discouraged and frustrated during his journey to veterinary school.

"After submitting letters to many colleges, Michigan State wrote back that I lacked seven credits of European history, Kansas State only took students west of the Mississippi River, Illinois was just starting and would only accept straight 'A' students. Some schools would only accept resident students," says Dr. Dean. "Finally, I was accepted by the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and graduated in 1954."

During veterinary medical school, Dr. Dean completed an internship in Waukesha, Wis., which he still greatly values.
"I learned a lot during that internship," says Dr. Dean. "I still highly recommend that students complete internships so they can get hands on experience."

Upon graduation, Dr. Dean went into partnership with a fellow veterinarian and started practicing in the Brodhead area. The practice was originally operated out of a converted chicken coop and was later moved into a three car garage. Several years later, a clinic was built.

With the diversity of animals on farms, Dr. Dean found himself treating a wide range of animals including cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pet pigeons and turtles.

"There were a lot of pigs in this dairy country and it seemed every farm had a few chickens that needed attention," says Dr. Dean.

Throughout the course of his career, Dr. Dean witnessed great changes in agriculture and the clients he served. He witnessed the first bulk milk tank and the first automatic barn cleaner. During his career, free-stall barns started to replace the traditional tie-stall barns on farms. Today, robotic milkers are starting to be more common on farms.

"There were 20 dairy farms on one road. They all raised families and made a living off those farms," says Dr. Dean. "Today, there is only one dairy left on that road."

Dr. Dean's experience and life with veterinary medicine is what inspired his son, Dr. Ray Pawlisch, to pursue his own career in veterinary medicine. Even though his father encouraged other career paths, Dr. Ray knew what he wanted to do with his life.

"The easiest way to spend time with my father was to hop in his truck," says Dr. Ray. "I witnessed first-hand all the amazing facets of veterinary medicine."

However, this is not the impact Dr. Dean meant to have on his son.

"I took pride in being a veterinarian, but I encouraged my children to consider career paths other than veterinary medicine" says Dr. Dean. "Ray obviously didn't listen to me since he came back to his home practice."

Dr. Ray graduated from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1982. Upon graduation, he returned to his hometown to practice with his father as a dairy practitioner at Brodhead Veterinary Medical Center.

When he first began practicing, Dr. Ray would make 7-10 stops a day for anything from emergency calls, sick calls, surgeries or herd health visits. There were no set hours and veterinarians worked until all the calls were done.

"The owner or a family member would be available to help, give a history of the problems and discuss treatment options," says Dr. Ray.

While some farm visits are still be similar to this, many farms now have employees or herd managers who work with the animals. The veterinarian's role on the farm has also evolved to be more collaborative with the farmer or herd manager with many animal health and dietary decisions being made together.

"The farmer is now managing, delegating and leading," says Dr. Ray. "Today's farmer is an agribusiness person who needs to sift through an incredible amount of information."

Through all the changes made in the agriculture industry, Dr. Ray believes veterinarians still maintain the role of being a trusted advisor.

"The changes of veterinary medicine include species specialization or specialization in a particular area of veterinary medicine," says Dr. Ray. "But my personal mission to promote health while providing education and encouragement to farm families remain the same."

With a combined career of 61 years, Dr. Dean and Dr. Ray have both seen tremendous growth and change within the veterinary medical profession. Neither expects the learning and evolution to stop any time soon.

"The One Health approach will continue to challenge the medical profession and technology will provide a lot of the templates," says Dr. Ray. "There are so many unanswered questions, so many problems and diseases to unravel."

As Dr. Dean enjoys retirement and Dr. Ray continues practicing at Brodhead Veterinary Medical Center, both see a bright and ever evolving future for veterinary medicine and the patients they vowed to care for.

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