We cover a great deal of extraordinary individuals here at 3DPrint.com. Among the ingenious makers and clever businesspeople are those who truly have a vision for what they want to bring to the table in this quickly growing industry, highlighting the true benefits to some of society’s most deserving. Stories covering the goodness that can arise from and for vets certainly touch my heart–and here I mean two difficult to confuse yet similarly abbreviated persons: veterans and veterinarians. As both a pet owner and the daughter of a Vietnam veteran (and sister-in-law and friend to many more who have served), vets hold a special place to me personally, in both senses of the word–and it was truly a joy for me to discover the launch of VetsIn3D.
Bringing together the seemingly disparate uses of “vet” is Michigan-based Dr. Turnera Croom, who is both a veterinarian and a veteran of the US Army Veterinary Corps, and yesterday–November 11, Veterans Day–launched her new site, VetsIn3D. Along with CEO Dr. Turnera Croom (Public Health Veterinarian with USDA), the VetsIn3D team includes Gelasia Croom (Public Relations; Senior Media Relations, The Nature Conservancy), Frank Camuglia (Web Design and Social Media Manager), and Imani Jenkins (Bookkeper, Lead 3D Print Trimmer–and Dr. Croom’s daughter and a “trumpet extraordinaire”).
“I’ve always believed that with me, you get more than you expected and at VetsIn3D, you get two Vets for the price of one. After graduating vet school, I immediately joined the Army Veterinary Corps and right there the vet to vet connection was born,” Dr. Croom told 3DPrint.com.
While VetsIn3D does include a store offering Dr. Croom’s great designs for dog tags (for both soldiers and dogs!), business cards, and jewelry, that isn’t the long-term goal. Rather, Dr. Croom’s vision extends beyond retail into the more altruistic, community-driven realm, including a focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) education as well as entrepreneurship.
Noting the strength of her entrepreneurial spirit as well as the seriousness with which she took her veterinary oath in 2001 at Tuskegee School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Croom set about to bring 3D printing to contribute in this field–strengthening her resolve upon realizing that 3D printed animal skeletons and other medical models could cut back on the need for veterinary students’ training using live animals. Beyond simply providing models, Dr. Croom seeks to empower the VetsIn3D community to create their own.
“I will also offer visitors to the site access to 3D Vet Vlogs that show exactly what 3D printing is all about,” she told me. “They will see their 3D animal models printed out, and can learn which design programs they can use to create a custom 3D piece. There is a members only section of the site which I am still orchestrating.”
In that spirit of empowerment, Dr. Croom’s service offering to veterans is truly inspiring. Serving as not just a business owner, but a role model to others seeking to get on their feet with their own enterprises, Dr. Croom’s vision includes the creation of a veteran-owned home-based business model, expanding to training and the creations of sustainable businesses–all starting with getting a veteran a 3D printer. Dr. Croom prefers the MakerGear M2 3D printer.
With many veterans finding difficulties (to put it mildly) acclimating to the civilian workforce following their service, this type of business model could allow for the creation of thriving personal businesses that focus on their own talents and skills.
“U.S. Veterans have given so much, but with the economy the way it is now, veterans and non-veterans alike are suffering. It’s well known how beneficial the 3D printing industry has become for creating prosthetics, and other avenues of alternative access for disabled veterans, but what about what Veterans can do for 3D printing? For those Veterans re-acclimating to working on domestic soil, or coping with injuries that are often unseen to the naked eye, going back to work with large work groups can be daunting,” Dr. Croom explained to me. “I’d like to move forward with a project that, if funded, will allow me train the next Veteran on her own 3D printer, and help her create a sustainable business, in whatever niche she may love. Then she would pay it forward and train the next Vet. This would mean that VetsIn3D would be creating home based businesses for veterans where they can be as creative as they want and still earn a living. 3D Printers, as you know are becoming much more affordable, and potential investors will see immediate and tangible products. And hopefully the Veterans will feel immediate positive effects.”
Having seen first-hand the difficulties veterans with invisible injuries have with finding and maintaining steady work in civilian life, I can’t help but applaud this vision. We’ve also seen definite benefits of 3D printing directly to veterans with more visible injuries, including the creation of 3D printed prostheses, the VA-sponsored makeathon, other thoughts on training veterans in 3D printing jobs, and even the therapeutic use of 3D printing to recreate a wounding bullet.
While it seems silly already to call the veterinary/veteran business model a narrow focus, Dr. Croom’s vision expands beyond even these two initial launch points. She has great hopes for future proposals, including ‘Dr. Croom’s Pocket Pet Pavilion,’ which would provide an immersive habitat for small exotic animals (e.g., ferrets, sugar gliders, box turtles) where a licensed veterinarian would be able to assist veterans in learning about and playing with these animals–a tactic proven to relieve symptoms of mental illnesses such as PTSD, including stress and depression. (In middle and high school, I had a pet sugar glider–two thumbs up for therapy with these darling creatures!)
“Hopefully my veteran-, woman-, and minority-owned small business designations will propel me into making this dual sanctuary a reality,” Dr. Croom told me. “I would make the first of these Pavilions in the Kalamazoo, MI area.”
Not stopping even there, Dr. Croom hopes to continue giving back to the community, particularly in her local Kalamazoo area. By teaching the basics of 3D printing in hands-on workshops, with either a veterinary or veteran theme to the topics, Dr. Croom proposes to provide students with practice and experience in this up-and-coming field. She hopes to engage interest in the STEAM fields, particularly for girls, and with “great care…taken to include students in communities where paying for a class like this might be impossible.”
“I propose to do this by working with local student-centered organizations in the Kalamazoo area,” Dr. Croom said, “like Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo or The Kalamazoo Promise, which just celebrated the 10th anniversary of their history-making program, assisting Kalamazoo county kids who otherwise might not be able to attend Michigan colleges. With their assistance and funding, we can get VetsIn3D into Kalamazoo schools before school year 2016!”
From schools to sales to sanctuaries to STEAM, Dr. Croom’s all-encompassing views provide a thorough and well-thought-out look at how 3D printing can provide incredible benefits for numerous facets of society. By encouraging not only entrepreneurship but leadership, and providing the hands-on knowledge and tools to expand the VetsIn3D vision, Dr. Croom and her team certainly have their work cut out for them. I am absolutely looking forward to keeping tabs on VetsIn3D as the future seems bright for vets and all those associated with them, as well as students in Kalamazoo–and even Tuskegee Vet School (for which Dr. Croom is involved in an in-the-works GoFundMe campaign with the aim to get the school its own 3D printer to make their own models).
In the here and now, VetsIn3D has started out with a launch offering to veterans, offering free military dog tags 3D printed to say “Thank You For Your Service” and set on a 27″ ball chain. Originally intended to be a Veterans Day giveaway from November 11-13 (and still available on the site, just enter your info!) for the first 20 veterans to respond, Dr. Croom has since decided to expand these dog tags, with the decision helped along by 3DPrint.com.
These tags will now also be offered as prizes in 3D design competitions, which will be held on VetsIn3D to create veteran-themed designs. Winning designs will be printed out and posted on the site–“Let the good-natured ribbing amongst the branches begin!”–with the winners presented with free dog tags and prints of the top design.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this story in the 3D Printing for Vets forum thread on 3DPB.com.