A lifelong Tennessee native, Dr. Kelley Lay grew up on a family farm tucked into the hills of a small town just down the road from the one and only Jack Daniel’s Distillery. There she was surrounded by an array of beef cattle, chickens, an ever-evolving population of stray cats and dogs, the occasional lost baby animal, and some of the smoothest, gaited trail-riding horses one could ride. Taking care of those animals and growing up amidst nature instilled in her a love for the natural world, but surprisingly, veterinary medicine was not her first calling. She spent over a decade of her school years, and a couple in college, surrounded by teammates on the basketball court. Many people grow up focused on sports, but what Kelley loved more than the game, was a constant theme of camaraderie, teamwork, perseverance for a cause, and selfless leadership. Because of the fulfillment and passion for those things, she first sought a degree in Physical Therapy. However, while finishing her Bachelor’s in Biology, fate and a couple of influential people, would change her course to pursue medicine for other species. She graduated with a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Tennessee four years later. During her time at UT, she realized there was a general deficit of business knowledge and leadership skills in the curriculum, so she served in a lead capacity of several student organizations such as President of the Veterinary Business Management Association, Student Leader of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and Director of Professional Development on the AAHA Student North American Business Association’s National Leadership Team.
After graduation, Dr. Lay moved to Nashville and now calls Music City home. She has worked in numerous small animal and emergency settings, often mixing it up with relief work and finding ways to help teams all over Nashville. This has opened her eyes to different environments, enabled a vision for what works and what doesn’t, as well as solidified a belief that the culture of a practice is its greatest asset and that without the framework of a great team around us, we are all less successful than we could be. She also never lost sight of her passion to guide and encourage others. While still practicing, she joined the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association’s Power of Ten Leadership Program and Blue Heron Consulting’s team of coaching experts. Kelley is not only one of Blue Heron Consulting’s Operational Coaches but is also our Director of Student and Early Career Programs. In this role, she lectures to students and young veterinarians at schools and conferences across the U.S. Thanks to her own personal experiences, she believes passionately that the next generation should be empowered to control their destiny, navigate their career through early challenges and unknowns, find well-being and fulfillment, and pursue dreams of practice ownership. She is helping to develop more business leaders, regardless of their background or the evolution of the profession, and by doing so, believes we can form a profession of people who take care of each other even better than we take care of our clients and patients.
She and her husband, Nathaniel, share a home with their sweet pit bull mix, Cade, and a sassy tabby named Allie. From her background, it will come as no surprise that she loves fitness and nutrition, outdoor recreation, and attending an array of sporting events and concerts in her free time.