Gator Vet Tails | October 2023

OWNER & Veterinarian

Dr. Manuel Lima

Flora Family Vet | Kissimmee, FL

Manny Lima

Dr. Manuel Lima, Class of 2017, is now a veterinarian and practice owner at Flora Family Vet in Kissimmee, FL. Although about two hours south of Gainesville, he travels up to “The Swamp” every year to speak to the UF CVM VBMA chapter about mentorship and practice ownership. This is just one of the many ways Dr. Lima gives back to the community.

What advice do you have for upcoming/new graduates just starting their careers?

I would advise them to prioritize good mentorship above all other categories when looking for their first job and to continue to have a growth/learner mindset beyond graduation. The first couple of formative years are so important in their development and will set the tone for the kind of doctor they will be in their careers. I know there’s been a lot of emphasis on work life balance which is important, but those first years may require additional studying time outside of work to get comfortable with the case load and getting a good knowledge base.

What insight do you have for current DVM students?

A lot of young grads I’m meeting are underprepared when it comes to surgeries, dentistry, and emergency work. I would encourage them to take ownership of their learning and look for extra opportunities to do surgeries and dentistry. Taking on extra externships, spay and neuter clinics, specialized rotations (i.e. advanced dentistry, emergency, etc.), and CE opportunities.

How did UF CVM prepare you to embark into “the real world” and start your DVM career?

I feel UF CVM did an incredible job preparing me for my first year of practice and the start of my career. The Veterinary Business Management Certificate created the groundwork for me to become a hospital owner just three years after graduating. The education I received during clinics, especially in the ECC and ECC Ocala rotations, allowed me to do relief shifts at our local emergency hospital within six months of graduation, which helped my confidence and knowledge base as a growing veterinarian. Today, I keep in touch with many of my professors and they still help me with cases I’m unfamiliar with or may have questions on. I’m so appreciative of them always being just a phone call away (Thank you, Uncle Mikey!).

What did you learn at UF CVM that you never thought you would benefit from?

The culture of medical excellence and giving back to the profession. All UF CVM faculty are so dedicated to their work and to our students. It has imparted in me the same passion to continue to give back to veterinary students and pay it forward so others can benefit as I did during my time there.

What is one of your fondest memories or meaningful experiences from your time at UF CVM?

One of the coolest things I did while in school was a mission trip to Ecuador with Project HEAL in which we provided free veterinary care for underserved communities in the mountains near Quito, Ecuador. It was incredible to help animals and their families in such a meaningful way and has always stayed with me.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently in veterinary school?

Halfway through my vet school career, I read a book called “Mindset” by Carol Dweck and it changed my perspective and approach to learning. It compares a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset, and how we can grow as students and people if we can embrace the growth mindset. It made me more comfortable with asking questions and taking more ownership of my learning. I wish I could have approached the first half of my vet school time with the same growth mindset and being more intentional about my learning and preparation as a veterinary student.

Is there anything in the veterinary field you would like to see change?

A concern of mine is the corporatization of Veterinary Medicine in the United States. Veterinary medicine has always been one of the last remaining medical professions where the majority of the hospitals are veterinary-owned and run. This allows veterinarians to be decision-makers when it comes to the type of medical care being practiced at their hospitals and putting patients and their families ahead of profits. It also gives veterinarians and veterinary teams access to additional revenue streams that can help support eventual exit strategies and retirement opportunities. I hope new veterinary students will continue to embrace the entrepreneurship spirit of previous generations and help keep veterinary medicine in the hands of veterinarians.

What do you enjoy most about your current position?

As the owner of my hospital, I really enjoy creating a great culture for my team and improving the type of medicine we practice so our patients can be better cared for. I love thinking of new directions for our organization to go into, new ways veterinary medicine can look, and making them a reality at our hospital. I still love being a doctor, and even though practice ownership adds levels of complexity and extra work, it is one of my favorite parts of my job.

What is the best advice you have received during your career so far?

“Always remember your why” – during our busy days, I think it is easy to forget the reason we got into veterinary medicine to begin with. Always keeping our inspiration in the back of our mind places things into perspective and always brings us back to our core purpose.  It makes even the hardest days more tolerable and keeps us young at heart so we can continue to practice veterinary medicine with passion and intentionality.

What is your favorite thing about your current place of employment?

My favorite thing about our hospital is our team. We have such an incredible group of amazing individuals who go above and beyond for our patients and their families, and it’s such a blessing to be a part of. We genuinely enjoy coming to work with each other and love getting to do things outside of work too. It’s a family environment which is one of the reasons we decided to put family in our hospital name. I may be the owner, but the hospital belongs to all of us, which is how it should be.

Do you have any career goals you are currently pursuing?

I would love to continue to grow as a business owner and entrepreneur and expand beyond the reach of our organization. I have really enjoyed coming back to speak with our UF CVM VBMA chapter every year about practice ownership and would love to be involved in the business certificate as a professor once I have more free time. I really love having extern DVM students at our hospital because teaching and giving back is one of my passions.

What is one of your fondest or meaningful experiences from you career so far?

I was honored to be invited to hood a member of the Class of 2023 at her commencement ceremony this year. It was one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had as a veterinarian and felt like a full-circle moment. I reflected on my pre-veterinary student days, and all the kind and giving people that helped me on my journey along the way. It was truly amazing and made me even more determined to continue to give back and be involved with the development of others moving forward.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

My favorite thing to do is spend time with my wife, our dog Oso, and our 9-month-old daughter Amalie. We also love to go traveling to the mountains and hike new trails. One of the goals on our bucket list is to visit all the national parks as a family.

Do you have a hidden talent?

I grew up going to an art school and playing classical guitar. I don’t play as much anymore but that would be something of a talent that most people don’t know about.

Who is someone who has inspired you?

My Mom and Dad. We moved here from Cuba in 2003 as a family and being a parent now I can only imagine how scary it must have been for them to come to a new country, not knowing the language and with very minimal resources. They worked so hard to give me and my younger brother a better future and opportunities they never had. They inspire me to always approach life and its challenges with courage and be grateful for the great opportunity to live in this amazing country.

What is one thing you couldn’t live without?

Ice cream.