Passion for pets

Women’s Humane Society Veterinary Hospital promotes Michele Dickey to medical director

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Paw promotion: Michele Dickey, a former staff veterinarian, was recently promoted to the role of medical director at the Women’s Humane Society in Bensalem. Source: Women’s Humane Society

Oftentimes in life, the thing we’re most passionate about — our calling — reveals itself at a young age. But never in our wildest dreams do we think it can be translated into a viable career path. It’s just a hobby, something enjoyable to pass the time when we’re not doing “real” work at our 9 to 5.

Michele Dickey, who was recently promoted to the role of medical director at Women’s Humane Society in Bensalem, understands this sentiment all too well.

Despite a lifelong love for animals and fantasy of one day working as a veterinarian, she became a professional architect, following what she considered to be a more practical interest in floor plans. Dickey flourished in this industry, working on a number of buildings throughout Bensalem Township. Still, she never strayed far from her furry friends, volunteering much of her spare time at an animal shelter in Philadelphia.

“I found these long, grueling days exciting,” she said.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Dickey received the clarity needed to follow those initial dreams. That year, she explained the stock market took a massive dive. Nearly 50 percent of the architecture industry was negatively affected and her hours were severely cut. Rather than brood, she realized this was her chance to make a change.

Over the next three years, Dickey attended the University of Pennsylvania, earning a doctorate of veterinary medicine and gold level certification in veterinary business management. Dickey spent countless hours honing her surgery skills so she could one day be there for the sick pets in her community.

“My passion was helping those animals, especially ones without owners,” she said.

By her last semester, Dickey was ready to enter the field. There was just one issue — she had yet to start interviewing for post-graduation jobs. In what she called a “serendipitous” chain of events, one of her professors informed her a staff veterinarian position had opened at the Women’s Humane Society, where her class would be visiting that week as part of its final rotation. For half an hour, Dickey separated from her peers for an on-site interview, which went better than she ever could’ve predicted.

“I was incredibly impressed,” she said of WHS. “I found a place that met all of my needs that I couldn’t articulate.”

Dickey was offered the position and has thrived as a staff veterinarian ever since, taking on so many new tasks and challenges, she’s basically been performing the role of “medical director” all along — WHS simply made it official earlier this summer.

“The job description reads like they followed me around and wrote down what I do every day,” she laughed.

So what does the day-to-day schedule of a medical director look like? For Dickey, each morning begins with a walk through the shelter to check on all of the animals. If a cat is sneezing or a dog is limping, she’ll immediately step in to diagnose the issue. Next are her clinic appointments, which she said always bring surprises, good and bad. When she can find the time, Dickey sneaks in extra duties such as training shelter technicians and spending quality moments with the animals before leaving for the evening.

Though the hours can be long and the days stressful, Dickey wouldn’t trade any of it for the world, something WHS staff has taken notice of.

“Dr. Michele Dickey has demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to excellence since joining the medical team at the Women’s Humane Society,” said hospital director Courtney Werner. “Her exceptional skills as a surgeon and shelter veterinarian, combined with her innate leadership abilities, have built a level of prestige to our hospital that has positively impacted our mission, patients and community.”

When Dickey first came on board as a staff veterinarian, one of her first orders of business was to get surgery up to speed. This has since been accomplished, with the WHS Veterinary Hospital receiving accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association in December 2016. According to Dickey, she and her staff can now perform 40 surgeries on any given day, including wellness exams, vaccinations, spaying/neutering, x-rays, blood work, dental procedures, advanced laser surgeries and more.

AAHA accreditation confirms the hospital meets the highest standards of excellence, and places WHS among only 12 percent of veterinary hospitals and 5 percent of humane societies nationally to bear this status. It also means that families in need throughout the region aren’t forced to sacrifice quality pet care for lack of funds. All proceeds raised through veterinary service fees are invested right back into supporting the shelter.

Under her new title, Dickey said she plans to work on improving shelter protocol to ideally manage more animal health conditions.

“Since joining WHS, I have been continually impressed by this team, with its commitment to positive change and the best medicine and service we can provide,” she said. “In this position, I am excited to bring our clients a dedication to medical excellence, with a compassionate, caring approach to every pet.” ••

Women’s Humane Society, founded in 1869 as the first animal shelter and adoptions program in America, is located at 3839 Richlieu Road in Bensalem. For more information, visit womenshumanesociety.org or call 215–750–3100.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com