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Twenty-six years have passed since I lived the rookie season trials and tribulations as a practicing veterinarian, in many respects it seems as though it's yesterday, in other respects it seems as though a lifetime has passed.

As approximately 4,000 2017 veterinary medical school graduates enter rookie seasons, essential lessons will be learned. You're smart, you're hard-working, you're motivated, you're accomplished. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You've just completed one of the most rigorous professional curriculums, you've earned your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Congratulations!
It's time to be proud, walk tall, look people squarely in the eye, shake their hand firmly and confidently and most importantly – smile!

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Over the past few weeks the veterinary role in animal welfare has been front and center for me. I recently presided over the day long WVMA sponsored, Animal Welfare Seminar, attended by nearly 125 veterinarians, law enforcement and district attorneys. What's your role in Animal Welfare?

My role in animal welfare was framed in large part as a farm kid growing up in west-central Wisconsin. My view of animal welfare was based in animal husbandry from the agrarian point of reference. Early in my career, as a recent veterinary school graduate practicing in Rock County, I was exposed to numerous instances of animal neglect or abuse. For reasons I don't fully understand, I tended to look the other way; maybe even finding excuses for caretakers responsible for neglected animals.

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In my first President's Message published in November 2016, I challenged the WVMA membership to "Seize the opportunity, get creative and devise business models maintaining these activities to benefit the profession."

Access to veterinary medical care is a growing focus nationwide; the Humane Society of the United States estimates 23,000,000 pets in the U.S. can't access veterinary medical healthcare. Barriers are not strictly financial and include transportation, culture and language. If the profession could lower the veterinary medical care barrier these pets experience, what could the financial impact be? Basic healthcare provided to these pets, using a $200.00 per pet annual estimate, could have a $4.6 billion impact on veterinarian provided medical care. Approximately $24.6 billion is spent on veterinary services nationwide annually. Do the math, 19.6 percent of our industry's revenue is untapped in pets without access to veterinary medical care.

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November 4, 1980, I distinctly remember the first Presidential election I participated in. Yes, 1980 seems like a long time ago, because it is; 37 years is a long time. Today, 1980 seems like a different time; my point of reference has certainly changed; has the process changed? The 2016 election cycle was unlike any previously witnessed. The United States electorate has so many platforms to engage in the political process, so many voices are now being heard. The news cycle relentlessly grinds on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's easy to feel like our voices aren't heard, like we have no input, like we're irrelevant. WVMA members have a valuable platform amplifying our voices, a resource advocating on our behalf. We need to be aware of it, we need to be involved with it, we need to financially support it.

The Wisconsin Legislature's actions directly effects many WVMA members' professional and business activities. WVMA political advocacy asks the legislature to take action on behalf of Wisconsin veterinarians and veterinary practices during each session. During every election cycle, legislative candidates ask veterinarians to support campaign activities. The VetMed PAC, a state Political Action Committee, was formed by the WVMA, enabling membership to easily support candidates for Wisconsin state elective offices.

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Why wellness? Nearly 10 percent of veterinarians characterize themselves as experiencing severe psychological distress.

Why wellness? Nearly 17 percent of veterinarians have contemplated suicide since graduation.

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Presidents Message

Essential Opportunity, Essential Lessons

Twenty-six years have passed since I lived the rookie season trials and tribulations as a practicing veterinarian, in many respects it seems as though it's yesterday, in other respects it seems as though a lifetime has passed.

As approximately 4,000 2017 veterinary medical school graduates enter rookie seasons, essential lessons will be learned. You're smart, you're hard-working, you're motivated, you're accomplished. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You've just completed one of the most rigorous professional curriculums, you've earned your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Congratulations!
It's time to be proud, walk tall, look people squarely in the eye, shake their hand firmly and confidently and most importantly – smile!

You've accomplished that, which is for most veterinarians a lifelong quest. Now, the learning curve starts all over. Your knowledge of the basic principles of medicine, surgery, pathology and clinical pathology will never be greater; the new challenge? Applying these principles to the practice of veterinary medicine.

It's time to identify your opportunity; it abounds in animal health. Don't settle for the same old manner of doing things. Have the courage to say yes to opportunity. Have the courage to blaze new trails. Urgently pursue your dreams and your vision. In this instance 26 years goes by in the blink of an eye.

It's time to hone your medical and surgical skills; strive to be a kind, caring, highly skilled clinician; develop your mentoring and business management repertoires; raise your level of personal finance acumen. Be willing to be mentored. Leverage technology. Be humble, be grateful, be thankful you're part of society's most respected profession.

It's time to advance to the highest level, always seek excellence and expand your knowledge base. Visit the finest practices, associate with those you emulate, attend the premier continuing education events, find a way to just do it and do it all!

It's time to treat those complex medical cases, perform those challenging surgeries, don't think you always need to settle for referring these cases just when they become most interesting. Once a week do something professionally that makes your palms sweat and resist the temptation to embrace routine!

It's time to put your feet in the sand and dip your toes in the ocean, yes, but it's also time to roll up your sleeves and prepare to do the heavy lifting. It's easy to talk the talk, now you must walk the walk. Bring value to all you do – your life, your practice, your professional relationships, your personal relationships. Be intentional with your personal finances, take care of yourself physically and mentally. Don't hesitate to reach out for assistance. Our profession is a small one with great resources: leverage them!

Ladies and gentlemen, our profession needs you. There is a lot of good work to be done. Please know, you can make a difference. Follow your heart, determine what you truly want and go after it, the opportunity is vast. Your greatest legacy will be the lives you touch, commit to develop them to their greatest potential. Be wise, be savvy, be daring.

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Past Presidents Messages

Essential Opportunity, Essential Lessons
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20170513 124021
Animal Welfare; What’s Your Role?
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The Need is Great!
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Politics, Politics, Politics!
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Professional Wellness: Break the Dam!
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One Bite at a Time!
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Be Relevant!
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Conference Board LEI
2016 AVMA Economic Summit
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Is Your World Flat?
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