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.
Is Your World Flat?
At one point, people truly believed the world was flat. We all know this core belief was dramatically disrupted. Countless industries experience disruptive business model changes – the music industry transformed from vinyl disks to streaming music; newspapers from print to being available free online; travel from booking through travel agencies to a plethora of instant-booking, travel-related websites. Is disruptive change coming to veterinary medicine?
Basic veterinary practice business models have changed little in decades. The profession's educational process approximates eight years to receive the DVM degree. Most practices are open traditional business hours, five or six days a week. The profession is fragmented, with large capital investments in buildings and equipment duplicated in veterinary facilities in very close proximity to one another. Animal health suppliers experiencing extreme consolidation. Is disruptive change coming to veterinary medicine?
Can we implement strategies in private practice to ensure relevancy? If the profession fails to remain relevant, others will step into the vacuum. Opportunity abounds in animal health, yet others challenge the profession in numerous areas. Our private practice pharmacies, low-cost spay/neuter clinics, and equine dentistry are but a few examples, areas of opportunity the profession should own. After all, we're the animal experts! Seize the opportunity, get creative, and devise business models preserving these activities to the profession's benefit.
Private practices must generate profit adequate to compensate recent graduates for escalating costs of education and student loan debt. Good medicine is good business, and good business financially supports good medicine. Practice owners have responsibility to manage practices with a high degree of business acumen. The profession's profitability must increase to facilitate the management of disruptive change.
Personally commit to the profession. Approach your practice interests passionately. Always strive for excellence. We're highly trained, kind, caring, compassionate professionals. In the early stages of our careers, we hone our medical and surgical skills, becoming highly skilled clinicians. As we gain experience, we add mentoring and business management skills to our repertoires. Surround yourself with teams of highly committed professionals and devise systems to delegate tasks while maintaining responsibility.
The Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association continually positions the profession to embrace change. Numerous program offerings chart the course for the profession's future in Wisconsin. We all benefit from a tradition of visionary leadership – Food Armor®, the cutting edge platform leading the industry in veterinary-directed food safety; the OSHA alliance providing WVMA members with information and guidance to achieve OSHA compliance; the recently announced partnership with the AVMA to bring the highly regarded Practice Profitability Workshop to the state level in March of 2017, giving WVMA members access to cutting edge business management education.
We know the world is not flat; how do we know that disruptive change is not going to affect veterinary medicine? Leverage your WVMA membership to position yourself and your practice to embrace the future!Last modified on