making a difference: Charles Robinson III, DVM
Charles Robinson III, DVM, a veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital in Newnan, GA, knew he wanted to be a vet as far back as middle school, and his path became even more clear in high school. As a volunteer, he shadowed Dr. Leland McLaughlin, one of the standout African American veterinarians at Banfield, and got a real first-hand look at the veterinary profession.
Dr. “Mac” became a lifelong mentor, offering support and encouragement throughout Dr. Robinson’s journey. We were thrilled to speak with Dr. Robinson about his inspiration, education, career, and the importance of diversity in veterinary practice. Great person, great conversation. Enjoy!
Volunteer for two weeks, meet a lifelong mentor
In high school, I was part of a health class in which, whatever we aspired to be – a nurse, a doctor, whatever – we had to shadow at a hospital for two weeks to be exposed to the profession. I called around, saying “Hi, I’m Charles, I’m a high school student, I’m hoping to be a vet one day, I was wondering if I could shadow you all for two weeks.” A very enthusiastic, high-energy guy – Dr. Mac – said “Oh, absolutely, come on down, we’d love to have you.”
So I shadowed for two weeks and had a blast. Of course, as a volunteer, you can’t put your hands on anything, but I guess Dr. Mac saw how engaged I was. On the last day of my volunteer experience, he said “Hey, you want a job?” And he gave me a job on the spot as a kennel assistant. Since then, I’ve worked my way up, from kennel assistant to veterinary assistant, then through veterinary school, and all the way to being a veterinarian.
Dr. Mac didn’t just serve me as a mentor in the clinic – he has served as a life mentor, like a big brother, like a dad. He was there for me when I was trying to get into vet school. My journey was a little untraditional – I didn’t get in the first time I applied. During those growing moments, he was there to support and encourage me, and help me see my way. He always taught me to just trust the process. You know, everything is a process, just start things with the end in mind. And when I got in to school, he was one of the first people I called, and we celebrated together on the phone – he was so excited for me.
A great way to spend the summer
In my first year at Tuskegee University, Banfield hosted a lunch-and-learn session about the Banfield Summer Jobs Program. It’s an opportunity for vet students to work at Banfield Pet Hospital during the summer and apply what they’ve learned in the classroom in a real-life atmosphere, and learn about the company. I was already very familiar with Banfield, and the summer program was a great chance for me to continue my journey.
Only about two percent of the entire veterinary profession is African American. The fact that I'm able to represent a small portion of that population, it just gives me that much more hunger and drive, to give fantastic customer service for people of all backgrounds, and show my commitment and passion for serving pets. I think it's paramount for people to see that African Americans are here and that we’re putting our stamp on the profession.
Banfield definitely supports diversity, and encourages team-building, comradery, that “family” feeling. I really appreciate working for a company where I can be myself.
You lift as you climb
I truly love my job. All the hard work, the sacrifice, the tears – it was worth it. It’s really cool. I can look myself in the mirror and say, “hey, now I'm a doctor, I'm making a difference.”
And yes, it’s hard to get into this profession. And most importantly, it's hard when you first start out; sometimes you feel like you're on an island. So it's always, always essential to have that person who can serve you as a mentor, as a confidante, a friend. So I definitely want to be there for young people, to help them along, as a mentor. There’s a quote from Booker T. Washington – he said “success always leaves footprints.”