MVMA Member Gives Back Through Care of Magical Creatures

Dr. Coniferous Forest Green found himself in awe while having a conversation with a 9-year-old girl who not only dreams of being a veterinarian someday, but already has her whole veterinary career plan mapped out.

“She told me that she’s going to go to Iowa State to get her degree in veterinary medicine. Then move to Georgia and work for Critter Creatures of Love because she likes the way they practice,” Dr. Green said. “She’s only nine and has this all laid out.”

Oh by the way, you may actually know Dr. Green as MVMA member Dr. Nikko Grossapoulos or simply as Dr. G. One week a year he combines his bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts and his veterinary career at a role-play immersive theater and wizard camp called Frogwarts, originally inspired by the Harry Potter series. He is the Care of Magical Creatures teacher and trains young wizards in dragon scale repair, suturing techniques, owl pellet dissection and more.

Dr. G is well established in the Midwest veterinary community traveling for Zoetis as a Senior Professional Services Veterinarian. His career path, as you might have been able to tell by the Theater Arts undergraduate degree, has had a few twists and turns along the way. While his dreams weren’t as well organized as that 9-year-old girl he met at Frogwarts camp, he did always want to be a veterinarian when he was growing up. Despite those aspirations, he didn’t pursue them initially.

“My high school experience wasn’t always great,” Dr. G explained. “In the 90’s it wasn’t a safe space for me to be myself, so I wasn’t necessarily out as a gay man, but that didn’t stop my classmates from bullying me for being gay on a daily basis. During that time I found my community with the high school theater department. I fell into my initial theater career path because I felt safe.”

Three and a half years into his theater arts degree, Dr. G found that the sense of safety and security he was looking for was within himself and was built around self-confidence and pride in who he was. He also felt himself being called to his original passions, veterinary medicine, so he began simultaneously earning his biology degree. He graduated with a dual major in theater arts and biology sciences, but before he could pursue his DVM degree, his path took another prolonged detour. While building his resume for vet school, he built connections at an emergency clinic and began walking dogs on the side for extra cash. Ten years later and that “side hustle” ended up growing into the top pet care company on the north shore of Chicago, catering to over 2,000 customers and providing jobs to nearly 20 employees.

Eventually he decided to sell his successful company to get back onto the path of veterinary medicine. Now with two kids under the age of two, he was accepted at the University of Minnesota where he completed his DVM degree. After working in the Twin Cities area for five years, he landed at Zoetis and is very active in the veterinary community. He is currently on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Foundation, is part of the MVMF Scholarship Committee, the MVMA MOVE Task Force, has done mentorship for students at the CVM and is on the Alumni Board at the college. Dr. G said it’s the sense of community that keeps him involved.

“Living in the larger Twin Cities environment, yet feeling like I’m part of something that is a small neighborhood community, is what I love about being involved,” said Dr. G.

While his busy schedule prevents him from being involved in much theater anymore these days, the Frogwarts camp provides a way to combine his passions. Amy Ressler who founded and runs the camp used to be Dr. G’s theater professor. When his daughter went to attend the camp last year, it provided an opportunity for him to get involved.

Every year the curriculum changes at the camp to keep it fresh for campers who often attend year-to-year. The classes are usually centered around a wizard theme, but all have a core in science. Every detail of the camp has been well thought out to create an immersive theater experience.

Dr. G said the kids are kept active from morning to night and he doesn’t know any of their real names as they all go by their wizard names. This year, Dr. G called upon the community he has built in his veterinary career for inspiration in his teaching.

“People were so generous when I told them what I was doing,” Dr. G said.

From donated stuffed owls, to needle drivers and actual suture kits, Dr. G had a full Care of Magical Creatures setup.

“After seeing kids really get excited about learning how to suture and being able to show them the veterinary connections into the muggle world, it made me want to shape my courses in the future to inspire kids to want to be more involved in veterinary medicine,” Dr. G said.

Towards the end of the camp this year, Dr. G found himself in another inspiring conversation with that 9-year-old girl. She told him her plans to come back to the camp because of the way it helps to bring out her creativity. If you ask Dr. G, the creativity that drives Frogwarts camp is important in the veterinary profession as well.

“Veterinary medicine is one of our strong science fields but it’s also a field that needs to be carried by people with creativity and imagination,” Dr. G explained. “A lot of the things we use to help cure animals are based in science, but yet we often have to use out of the box thinking to diagnosis, treat and cure our patients. We also work in high stress environments and have to engage our veterinary teams in fun and creative ways.”

That’s why Dr. G believes the most important thing veterinary professionals can do is stay curious. That curiosity has been the driver of his unconventional yet rewarding life path.

“Always stay excited in learning, don’t be afraid to try something new, even if it’s later in life,” Dr. G said. “If you are in your 40s and 50s and not sure if you want to open your own hospital, you can still do that. Stay curious in your education, your career and your life path.”