Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Dr. Jennifer Lavender knew what she wanted to do when she was still playing with stuffed animals, performing surgery on her toys, foreshadowing her career as a veterinarian. Over the years, she’s worked every job there is in a practice, from shoveling poop in kennels when she was a teenager to owning three locations of Metro Paws today. In her free time, this mother of two spends her weekends in front of hundreds of cheering fans as her alter ego “velVET Lavender,” the captain of the High Seas Hotties roller derby team. The Lakewood native ducks, dips and dodges the other team as she racks up points, but she isn’t afraid of a little contact. 

How she got into roller derby: I went to this party, a fundraiser for a Fort Worth Avenue development group with a 70s theme. I dressed up as roller derby skater and wore skates. Someone said they thought I really did that, and I kind of started thinking, “Why don’t I do it?” I had coffee with an experienced roller derby friend, and tryouts were that weekend. I literally took the tags off my gear right before tryouts. I thought I was a good skater until I saw these girls. Before I understood the rules of the game, I was drafted to a team. 

Her motivation: When my sister passed away in an accident in Italy two years ago, I became very committed, maybe obsessive, with physical fitness. Every single day that we wake up and get out of our beds, we have been given an amazing gift. I feel like part of how I honor her is to never forget that.

Before I understood the rules of the game, I was drafted to a team.

Favorite neighborhood moment: I lived across the street from Lakewood Park on Williamson. It is anchored in my memory: Driving down Williamson with the trees that all hang over. 

Accomplishment she is most proud of: I am a general practitioner that does orthopedic surgery. It is what I enjoy doing the most. If your dog broke its leg, your vet probably doesn’t do surgery, but I have a special interest in orthopedics and had some unique opportunities early in my career. 

Her daily regimen: I am very disciplined. I have a diet and exercise regimen, and I never deviate from that. I have been a vegetarian since I was 14. I just decided I didn’t want to eat meat. I run, play racquetball and swim laps each week. I go to Pilates 10 times a week. I did two classes this morning before I came to work. 

Her greatest influence: I hate to admit it, but it’s my mother. She is a very strong woman, and I do think my belief that I can’t fail at anything comes from her. Part of that commitment is that I am also a recovering alcoholic. I have been sober for seven years now. 

Her experience with gender discrimination: Where I have seen gender bias in my field has been with clients. There are still societal thoughts that the doctor is the man, and at times I had to really prove myself with clients. “Is the doctor going to come in?” they would ask. I changed the design on my shirt so they could see the “Doctor.” 

In her spare time:  I volunteer with the Spay Neuter Network, and I ended up going to Saipan to spay and neuter 250 animals in five days. We were in an open-air pavilion with hot, gusting winds. Individuals brought their animals, and others would drive the streets to bring them in.

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