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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

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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