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.
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!Last modified on