mary gardner

Dr. Mary Gardner, A.B. ’94

By Katy Hennig

Dr. Mary Gardner, A.B. ’94

By Katy Hennig
From designing software to a new way to offer veterinary care, alumna takes the innovative approach.

Dr. Mary Gardner, A.B. ’94, is a small animal veterinarian, speaker, consultant, author, inventor and a proud UM graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Mary Co-founded Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, specializing in end of life care including hospice and at home euthanasia services.

Veterinary Medicine was not her first career choice; and the journey only brought perspective. After graduating from the University of Miami, Dr. Mary began working for an enterprise wide retail order management software company where she was a software designer. After 10 years in software she found herself needing something different and more meaningful and selected a career shift to become a veterinarian.

Dr. Mary completed her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and began working at a general practice in South Florida. In 2010 she left general practice and co-founded Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice with Dr. Dani McVety.

Together they have grown the company from one veterinarian in Tampa to over 100 veterinarians across the country. Dr. Mary enjoys sharing her wisdom and is a dynamic and engaging speaker, presenting at veterinary conferences, animal hospitals and professional sales meetings nationwide.

Dr. Mary is the co-editor and author of the academic textbook, “Treatment and Care of the Geriatric Veterinary Patient” which offers veterinarians a complete guide to treating and managing geriatric canine and feline patients and was voted the veterinarian to watch in 2018 by Fetch/DVM 360

Learn more about Dr. Mary's career journey in this UM Alumni Q & A:

How did your time working as a software engineer prepare you for your current career?

There are so many ways that being in the software industry prepped me for veterinary work. First, I learned how to say ‘I don’t know.'  Many vets hate to say that as they may feel a bit of a failure, but it’s okay not to know something. As I learned the software, I got more confident in my skills so the ‘I don’t knows’ were less over time. But that gave me the confidence as a doctor to be ok with that concept, go get the information and then give it back to the client. We all can’t know everything – veterinary medicine is difficult – plus your patients don’t talk and there are numerous species – I am completely fine with the concept of NOT knowing – but I do love to find the answers!

The largest skill I learned was diagnostics.  I would trouble-shoot issues in the software or figure out ways to make the software work for the situation at hand.  Medicine is about getting the list of problems and figuring out what the cause is. Then we run diagnostics and rule things out. Once we find the cause, we know how to treat it.  If one solution won’t work for a family, coming up with a good alternative is vital. In both fields, you have to be a detective. 

In my niche as a hospice veterinarian and CTO of Lap of Love – I’ve built from scratch our own practice management software that manages our call center, client records, appointments, drug logs, medical records, reporting, etc.  I also developed two other software programs for owners to use to help evaluate the quality of life for their pets.  So basically – I’m a geek!

You provide a service that helps animals and their families and is difficult to discuss. How did you realize that there was a niche that needed to be filled?

The reason I left software was after the loss of my dog. I was 30 years old and her death shattered my world. I knew I wanted to help families who loved their pets so I decided to go to vet school. I initially followed the ‘normal’ path of General Practice but I wasn’t loving that line of medicine. I started looking to work in industry to use my skills in software in some way. At that time, my vet school classmate, Dr. Dani McVety, was working as an ER vet in Tampa and also doing in home end of life care – she technically started Lap of Love in 2009 in Tampa. She was doing it for about a year when she reached out to me to see if I would help develop software for her to manage her practice but also to brainstorm on how to bring this type of service across the country. There have been house call/mobile vets for decades but exclusively doing end of life care was a relatively new niche but one that was needing to be filled.  After sitting with Dani for two days, I knew on a personal level that end of life care was ‘why’ I became a veterinarian. I understood how important the loss can be – look how it changed my world. But I also loved the opportunity to grow something and develop the processes.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?

It’s hard to say the ONE thing that is more rewarding. I really love helping families say goodbye to their pets in a dignified way. I also love providing careers for so many veterinarians (and others on our team) in this amazing niche. 

Can you share a fond memory that you cherish from your time at UM?

I’m pretty tall – 6’1” and I remember the first week of school -  I was walking down the breezeway near the lunch area – and I was being hounded by all the different teams that thought my height would benefit them. Obviously, volleyball and basketball but I was not into those sports. And then came along the coach for the crew team, and I thought ‘Hmmm – that sounds good – I get to sit down and I don’t have to run!’.  We started to practice in the small lake on campus – again thinking this wasn’t too bad. Until they moved our training to the Biscayne bay – and that was extremely hard!  So, my love of rowing started at UM and I’ve had an erg in my house ever since then.