KNOXVILLE — Maggie Wilson never let go of her dream of being a veterinarian. Now she’s returning to the town where her dream began.
Wilson will take over the Knoxville Veterinary Clinic, 1600 S. Lincoln, on March 2 when its veteran vet, Dr. Craig Burk, retires.
Folks knew her as Maggie Aleff when she grew up on a farm southeast of Knoxville. She loved animals, showing sheep, horses, rabbits and dogs at the county fair as a member of the County Crusaders 4-H club. In high school, she discovered she loves science, too.
“Becoming a veterinarian was a good meld of those two passions,” said Wilson, a 2001 Knoxville High graduate. “This is what I wanted to my whole life. I’m very happy that I chose this career.”
The same goes for the guy she’s replacing.
“I always wanted to be a vet since I was a little kid and I was blessed enough to see that dream come true,” Burk said. “I love the people. I love the pets. I love surgery. I love all of it.”
He’s also a big fan of Wilson. She worked with Burk for a year after graduating from Iowa State’s vet school in 2009, and he is thrilled to turn KVC over to her, he said.
“It’s the best of all possible outcomes,” Burk said.
“Dr. Wilson is a terrific person and a gifted veterinarian. She’s kind and gentle. She will carry on what I’ve been trying to do, being good and kind to our staff and clients and patients. She’ll do a better job than me ‘cuz she’s younger and smarter.”
Wilson is enthusiastic about fear-free vet care, which aims to make pets’ visits to the vet less stressful. It starts with how clients interact with pets before the visit, she said. The clinic staff finds friendlier ways to restrain pets, and Wilson provides anti-anxiety medications and lots of treats to calm pets down, she said.
“Each time they come in, it’s a better visit than what they had before,” she said.
Burk has few regrets as he hangs up his smock after 41 years, but he’ll miss the puppies and the kittens, he said.
“They’re a happy part of your day,” he said. “Now, if I never had to trim another set of nails or do another anal gland expression, that would be just fine,” he chuckles.
Asked to explain the latter procedure, he describes something that makes his retirement understandable. After a retirement party at 4 p.m. March 11 at Dyer-Hudson Hall at the Marion County Fairgrounds, Burk plans to ride his bike, read books, and travel to visit his grandchildren, he said. But he also looks forward to filling in for Wilson now and then, he said.
Wilson, who is moving back to Knoxville with her husband, Jeff, their two kids and pets, is eager to meet her new clients and patients.
“I love helping people maintain that human-animal bond. It’s really rewarding,” she said.
“If you just focus on what you’re good at and run your own race instead of worrying about what everybody else is doing, you’ll be successful. That’s my plan.”