By Jill Fox
Dr. Jeffrey Sands made his career choice at six-years-old when he decided then that one day he would become a veterinarian.
Now, almost 40 years into his practice, he wants to share that knowledge with other children who have his same passion.
A native Floridian, Sands was raised in Sunrise and attended Piper High School and the University of Florida. After completing veterinary school overseas, he returned to Broward County to practice and started the Future Veterinarians of Broward County in 1994, with nearly 200 young participants.
“It has always been my desire to teach and mentor kids to care for animals and make veterinary medicine their life’s mission,” said Dr. Sands, who moved to Parkland in 1999 and owns Parkland Animal Clinic in Parkland Commons.
He said children and their pets would often visit his Parkland office and expressed an interest in becoming veterinarians. This gave him the idea to restart the club, this time at Westglades Middle School, where his son Mason attends seventh grade. He has another son, Zach, in college.
The Future Veterinarians club, once comprised of about 30 students, met every Wednesday after school and was well-received by the students.
“It wasn’t so much about puppies and kittens as it was about the importance of school and what requirements it takes to become a veterinarian,” he said.
Now in its second year, close to 50 students meet on the second Wednesday of every month and learn about everything from dentistry to surgery, with behind the scenes tools and discussions on why veterinarians resemble private investigators, and how animals communicate.
Sands has high hopes for the club. He plans to have guest speakers and go on field trips. The students will even have a pet show-and-tell, where they will make presentations about their own animals. Next month’s topic is exotic animals and medicine.
“We expose the kids to a lot of really cool parts of veterinary medicine,” said Sands, who said his vested interest in the students comes from the fact that he both lives and practices in Parkland.
“When a bunch of sixth and seventh graders are in a room, and they are all quiet, and listening to you, you know you’re reaching them,” he said.
The Future Veterinarians club runs through the end of the year, and it’s not just for middle school. Students any age, from any school in Parkland, can attend with a parent.
“I mentor kids and young veterinarians as well,” said Sands, who added that he enjoys working with his community.
When young children visit the office, he pulls out little scrubs and stethoscopes for them to wear.
“They could be five or six-years-old, and I am introducing them to veterinary medicine,” he said.
The students in the club that exhibit the most drive will be offered internships at Sands’ new facility, opening in December. Named “Big Bear Pet Lodge,” the business will focus on senior pet care and boarding, and is the first of its kind in the country.
“Just like an older person, senior dogs need extra care, and we’ll be able to handle those animals and the special needs they have,” said Sands, “It will be really special.”
For additional information about the Future Veterinarians club, call Mrs. Hughes at 954-757-9990.
- Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She has worked on the public relations side as well as the television side of marketing for NBC Universal. A true Floridian, Fox grew up in Ormond Beach and now resides in Parkland with her husband, Brian and their two children, Madden, 10 and Randi, 7.