Nat Geo’s Heartland Docs, DVM shows the life of veterinarians in the Midwest

Heartland Docs, DVM

Dr. Ben Schroeder and Dr. Erin Schroeder cuddle the newborn calf after a successful cesarean from a terminal mother. (National Geographic/Glass Entertainment Group)

Heartland Docs, DVM is a 6-part series premiering on Nat Geo Wild this Saturday, and it follows Drs. Erin and Ben Schroeder and their sons, Charlie and Chase, as they help tend the community’s farm animals, especially with the preservation of the nation’s food supply. They will have to overcome obstacles including blizzards and tornadoes as they care for all types of animals including cows, pigs, llamas, deer, and possum. Nerd Reactor had the chance to chat with the married veterinarians, and they discuss what the show is about and what audiences can expect.

Nerd Reactor: Please give us the spiel on the show.

Dr. Erin Schroeder: This is a show that really chronicles our lives, our veterinary lives, and really what it’s like to be veterinarians in the Midwest and really the sense of community that’s involved in being a Midwesterner, and also parents to two teenage boys. I think there are lots of parents out there, and it just shows how we handle our busy lives and take care of people and animals around us.

Dr. Ben Schroeder: The show was pitched because we take care of the animals in the heartland of America including our companion animals, cattle, and lots of animals that we use for food. And it’s pretty cool that we get to show our story in the Midwest and show how well we treat those animals and what respect we treat those animals until they’re used for what they are for a purpose, and that’s to feed America.

Nerd Reactor: Is there a balance between the focus on taking care of certain types of animals and other types, like pets?

Dr. Erin Schroeder: Yeah, absolutely. We split this 50/50. Ben and I have different areas that we are more comfortable with that we would say we always specialized with. I see a lot more of the small animals, but we really work as a team. It’s really fun because we have these families who will take care of their health cat or their kiddos’ 4-H Bunny. And then we also may take care of their herd of 300 head of cattle. And so it’s a really interesting dynamic, and it’s just so fun to see how much these animals mean to people. I think that’s just really universal. It crosses every sort of “the difference” we have as people. The one thing that really is universal is that all people really love and care for animals. And so we’re pretty fortunate we get to do that every day.

Nerd Reactor: What was having the family life like on Nat Geo?

Dr. Ben Schroeder: It’s been really great. One of our stipulations, when we got asked to do the show, was that we included our sons because I’m the son of a veterinarian. And I learned a lot from having those experiences with my father. And we’re trying to give our sons the same type of experiences, and they can do with those experiences what they want. But while they’re with us, we can teach them just how great the Midwest is, as far as how the people take care of the animals. They’re fun to teach this to because they’re just open just like sponges, and they want to learn as much as they can while they’re with us. They may act like teenage boys a lot of times. They’re silly. They kind of act like, “I’d rather be with my friends.” But then these boys are a big part of everything that we do. So we want to include them, especially in the show.

Nerd Reactor: Did you have any reservations before the show?

Dr. Erin Schroeder: I, as a mother, had every reservation I think a mom can have. I don’t want to expose my kids to all the things that can come with it like being on the internet or any of that. So it took a while to think about and we really sort of weighed the pros and cons. But after we thought about it, this was really an amazing opportunity for us and for our professions to represent a very realistic portion of our area. I don’t know that this opportunity is going to come walking into our town again, and we have a wonderful little town of 1500 people, and I feel like a high tide raises all ships and this is going to touch a lot of other people and families and hopefully the economy and all those great things. So we feel like it’s a privilege to be able to do this, and we want to make sure and represent everything very accurately and tell everybody a story.

Heartland Docs, DVM

Dr. Ben Schroeder and Dr. Erin Schroeder are interviewed after draining the calf’s abscess. (National Geographic/Glass Entertainment Group)

Nerd Reactor: What’s your community like?

Dr. Ben Schroeder: Our county doesn’t even have a stoplight in it. Definitely the animals outnumber the people by a lot. And that’s a cool place to live. You know, you drive around the countryside, and you’ll see lots and lots of different farm animals, lots of wildlife in our area.

Dr. Erin Schroeder: It’s so beautiful, and I think there’s going to be a sort of a renaissance of people wanting to get back to their roots and really unplug and kind of go back to when life was simple. And I think we’ll be able to show people that it’s okay, and it’s really amazing. It’s an amazing lifestyle and it’s a great place to live.

Nerd Reactor: Maybe people in the city will be encouraged to move into another state or small town and embrace that life.

Dr. Ben Schroeder: We keep joking that we want to keep it a secret because we love where we live, and we’d love that it’s very unpopulated. But if some people would just go with that lifestyle for a while and see what it’s really like, it is pretty cool. Technology is really consuming all of America and the world and I hope that we can kind of find a happy medium there and start unplugging a little more.

Nerd Reactor: Was there ever a challenge between technology and trying to keep things simple?

Dr. Erin Schroeder: I think we have to use that technology and keep things progressive and modern. There’s definitely that portion of it. But I think the ability for people to live in the moment and to be able to have face time with each other instead of FaceTime with a screen is really what we show a lot of in our show. We’re dealing with raw emotions, happiness, sadness, grief, and that ability to just be with people and be in that moment and hold somebody’s hand when they have to say goodbye or help people make a tough decision or welcome a new calf to the world on a snowy morning. Those are all the moments that I think can get lost to some of the technology. But on the same route, we really liked the technology that we have to help us do our job. So there’s always a balance, but that human-animal bond and that human bond, I think it’s really important to not forget about that.

Nerd Reactor: Do you ever get the feeling of being overwhelmed with emotions.

Dr. Erin Schroeder: I’m a crier. It’s hard. As veterinarians and as a general rule, we really do take on a lot of the emotions from our clients and help balance that load for people. So sometimes it gets to be a lot, but I also think that the privilege is that something that by definition we do as a group as veterinarians is to really extend that ability to share those things with our clients.

Dr. Ben Schroeder: I married Erin, who is a very wonderful, compassionate veterinarian. And I feel like she just exudes that to all of our clients and our kids and our staff. It spreads to even me. I cry too. And just going back to technology, it’s not a bad thing to be proud of your new puppies and put them on social media and have that new calf and go to the fair and take a bunch of pictures and be able to spread that story on social media and be able to communicate with somebody across the world just like that. It’s such a very awesome time that we live in. Sometimes you just have to have the line drawn with how much screen time a day. That’s what we’re trying to get across to our kids and we got to have face to face time a lot, but you guys can use your phones and use your social media skills here and there too. So just a nice balance of those things are what we’re after.

Nerd Reactor: What’s your favorite moment when doing the show that you want to share?

Dr. Ben Schroeder: There are people that love their cows in our area, just like it’s a dog or a cat or their kids even. And I feel like people are going to be surprised about that a little bit later.

Dr. Erin Schroeder: Yeah, I would say just the relationships and even our production crew when they came out after they were there for the first couple of weeks that we have no idea that this is what this was really like when living out here and being part of this, the food chain, and they just had no idea. It was completely different than what they thought. I’m excited to have people watch that and hopefully, that same conclusion will be drawn as well from others.

Heartland Docs, DVM premieres on January 25, 2020, on National Geographic Wild at 10/9c.

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John Nguyen
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