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Professional Wellness: Break the Dam!

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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.

Why wellness? How do you respond when confronted with a phone call from a veterinarian's spouse informing you the veterinarian is threatening suicide?

Why wellness? Does your practice have a drug testing policy?

Why wellness? Over 72 percent of survey respondents say they've worked with someone abusing substances.

Hypotheses abound regarding our profession experiencing far higher than average levels of psychological distress, depression, suicidal ideation and substance abuse. I challenge you: we need more than hypotheses, we need more than task forces; we need more than summits. Personally, I'm sick and tired of hearing of these woes affecting the profession. We have the knowledge; we have the resources. We must take action to assist those members of the veterinary profession suffering from mental illness and substance abuse.

What can be done? Educate yourself! Educate your colleagues! Can you recognize symptoms of psychological distress? How do you respond? What resources are at your disposal? Are your practice's controlled substances secure and records kept current? Does your practice have a substance testing policy in place? What resources can you offer the spouse of a veterinarian contemplating suicide?

Have you looked at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine's "Veterinary Wellness" website – http://veterinarywellness.colostate.edu?

Did you know you can access informative webinars sponsored by Pet Poison Helpline and AVMA Life – http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/veterinarians/webinars/avma-life-co-sponsored-webinars/?

Recognize the profession's paradox of extraordinary psychological distress and easy access to powerful substances. When will we do something about it? What's holding us back? Let's break the dam and implement resources already available! Break the dam and implement assistance programs! Break the dam and implement stringent drug control procedures! Break the dam and knock down stigmas associated with psychological distress!

It's time to end the suffering. It's time to end the stigmas. It's time to provide support to those afflicted with psychological distress and substance abuse, especially if related to profession stressors. Join me to Break the Dam!

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Presidents Message

The Need is Great!

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.

Here's an opportunity; a business model was devised, WisCARES (Wisconsin Companion Animal Resources, Education and Social Services). WisCARES is a UW-Madison program through the School of Veterinary Medicine in a partnership with the School of Social Work. The program's focus is the intersection of housing/homelessness and pet ownership and keeping animals and their people together and feature's veterinary medical wellness, pet food and supplies and boarding and foster for animals. The program is supported by a paid veterinary staff, veterinary volunteers and veterinary medical students in a non-profit environment.

Credit the vision of Drs. Ruthanne Chun and William Gilles for the concept genesis in 2014. The success of this program, providing veterinary medical care to an unmet demand, brings WisCARES to the threshold of expansion. This novel model works. Let's look to expand this model, let's find opportunity to employ more veterinarians. What an opportunity to leverage the human-animal bond, increasing access to pets' and humans' healthcare. This certainly is not the traditional model of veterinary practice, but a highly effective model of veterinary practice.

Once again, I challenge the WVMA membership to - seize the opportunity, get creative and devise business models maintaining these activities to benefit the profession. Support Drs. Chun and Gilles; consider the model; how can the profession leverage 23,000,000 pets without access to healthcare? The need is great!

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