Growing up on a farm in north central Wisconsin, I had a natural affinity to animals. My first passion was horses; my Dad used draft horses in the woods for making maple syrup. Later I became enamored with cows, and enrolled in 4-H and showed them at the county fair for many years. This innate preference for animals was no doubt a significant factor that contributed to my career choice of a veterinarian.
As a 12-year-old boy, I was amazed at the abilities and insights of our veterinarian as he attended to our animals. I was amazed at his ability to determine the pregnancy status of our cows by rectal examination. Given the challenges of artificial insemination, the rectal examination results were sort of a “report card” so to speak of our efforts. I always eagerly awaited the diagnosis, and when the cow was not pregnant appreciated advice and/or treatment to help achieve that goal. Additionally, I valued his ability to solve problems. From sorting out why a cow was sick and how to make her better, to delivering a “stuck” calf, the veterinarian left the farm in better shape than when he came. While this type of practice is considered “fire engine” practice, it was the norm back then. The preventive health programs that are common today were just being developed at that time. The notion of helping people with their animals appealed to me.
My curiosity in veterinary medicine lead me to seek job shadowing opportunities while I was in high school and college. Our veterinarian graciously allowed me to ride along several times. I learned quickly what a large animal veterinarian’s day was like and decided to pursue that career.
Aside from my affinity to animals, my job shadowing experience ranks as the next most important factor that focused my efforts to become a veterinarian. Recognizing the importance of job shadowing, I have returned the favor to many youths considering veterinary medicine as a career. The majority of those that rode with me while I practiced were high school or undergraduate college students. I always discussed the wide spectrum of opportunities that exists in veterinary medicine with them and enjoyed their conversation.
School organized Career Days are another venue to tell young people about the opportunities in veterinary medicine. My practice associates and I have participated in many of these programs at our local high schools over the years.
At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had great fun going into kindergarten classes to share some of the things I did as a cow doctor. I always got loud gasps when I showed them a cow aspirin and a hoof nipper, the bovine version of a fingernail clipper. Young children are fascinated with animals, and frequently rank veterinary doctor as what they want to be when they grow up.
I encourage you to embrace the opportunities to nurture young people’s interest in veterinary medicine. We have to plant the seeds that will grow into the next generation of veterinarians.
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.Last modified on