Dr. Mary McDonald is a veterinarian, international aid worker, spiritual director, deacon, speaker, wife, mother, and author of the best-selling book Starting and Running Your Own Horse Business. Her latest book is entitled The Magnet: A Large Animal Veterinarian’s Journey. The book is a page turner from the very beginning, opening with several engaging stories from her life as a large animal veterinarian in Virginia, and then tracing a winding path from her troubled childhood to running a cattle ranch in Texas to her first work as a missionary to her acceptance into the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999, where she served as President of the Christian Veterinary Fellowship from 2000 to 2002. Dr. McDonald is currently employed with the Society for Anglican Missionaries (SAMs), and runs her own business called Spend Yourselves, LLC where she teaches a course called FARM, which stands for Farm Animal Refresher for Missions. FARM helps prepare people who are interested in helping others in developing countries by teaching basic farm animal handling, nutrition, health care, vaccination, deworming, and foot trimming, as well as cross-cultural and evangelism training.
In the past, Dr. McDonald was an Adjunct Professor at Va Tech where she taught an Introduction to the Equine Industry class to undergraduate students. From 2009 to 2012, while employed with the Christian Veterinary Mission, she spoke at national and regional conferences and veterinary schools including UPenn, Tufts, Cornell, Va/Md, NC State, UTN, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois
Ross, and St. Kitts. led short term mission trips for both students and veterinarians to Bolivia, Uganda and Nicaragua, and was a Professor at the Rene Morales Veterinary Schools in Bolivia. Dr. McDonald lives with her husband and two children on a historic farm in Virginia.
During our talk, we discuss:
- What it was like to start veterinary school at the age of 40
- Being a mother and wife during veterinary school
- The support, sense of community and hands on experience she benefited from as a member of the Christian Veterinary Fellowship
- The course she teaches in Virginia called Farm Animal Refresher for Missions (FARM)
- Her missionary veterinary work and the importance of creating sustainable programs for maximum impact and long lasting effect
- Her book, The Magnet: A Large Animal Veterinarian’s Journey and how traumatic reticuloperitonitis can be likened to the defenses we build around our own hearts
- The metaphorical magnet that healed her heart
- How difficult childhood experiences might contribute to the hyper-vigilance and perfectionism that plague so many of us in veterinary medicine
- How her faith enables her to relinquish the illusion of control and to use the trauma of her past to help others
If you’d like to thank Dr. McDonald for her generous time and advice, please consider making a donation to support Dr. McDonald’s missionary work with the Society for Anglican Missionaries and Senders (SAMS).
To get in contact with Dr. McDonald, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Personal note to listeners: While Dr. McDonald is religious, I am not. I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe in eternal life. When I say there are many paths to finding peace and happiness, I’m talking about finding peace and happiness in this life. A few years ago, I would have read Dr. McDonald’s book and rejected everything because, as a secular humanist, her book includes some things I disagree with. But what I’m starting to recognize is that rejecting people because I don’t believe everything they believe or because I disagree with anything about their world view isn’t helpful to me – nor is it helpful to the rest of the world. I see this tendency as contributing to the political, cultural and religious polarization that seems to be growing progressively worse in the world, and I don’t believe we have any chance of solving the problems we face until we learn to have civil and respectful discussions with each other despite our differences.
I’m currently reading a book entitled Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown and it directly addresses this issue. Brown urges in this book that we should cultivate the courage to “brave the wilderness” – that is, to venture outside of our comfort zones where the only people we’re willing to engage with are those who think what we think. When my father was still alive, I struggled a lot with having to take care of him because he could be a very difficult person. Then I stumbled across a book called Battlefield of the Mind written by a Christian minister by the name of Joyce Meyers. Despite the fact the book contained some ideas I vehemently disagreed with (such as the idea that meditation is evil) I still gained genuine wisdom from that book to help me with my father, such as the idea that God isn’t impressed when we’re nice to nice people – it’s when we’re nice to difficult people that we demonstrate good character.
I didn’t need to believe in God in order to benefit from Meyer’s book, and I don’t need to believe in God in order to appreciate Dr. McDonald’s stories and advice. If you’re a Christian, you’re sure to enjoy the interview with Dr. McDonald. If you’re not, she may say things you disagree with – but I urge you to listen anyway. Accept the gifts she offers, and accept her generosity and compassion. We don’t need to be alike in order to get along, and we don’t need to agree about everything in order to learn from and enjoy each other – and I very much enjoyed my conversation with Dr. McDonald.
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