In August, I addressed the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2021 during orientation. Thirty years previous, nearly to the day, I was in that seat for orientation of the Class of 1991. This opportunity gave me pause; reflecting my point of reference regarding veterinary medicine, a message to share once more.
The profession is challenged on numerous fronts, moving us ever closer to disruptive change; high cost of education, large student debt, small starting salaries, legislative challenges to veterinary practice acts, telemedicine, veterinary practice aggregation; to name a few. Our profession needs the vision and the passion to develop opportunity from these challenges.
Private practices must generate profit adequate to compensate recent graduates for escalating educational costs and student debt. Good medicine is good business and good business supports good medicine. Practice owners are responsible for managing practices with high degrees of business acumen.
Strategies to increase veterinary practice relevancy must be implemented, after all we’re the animal experts; we need to own this space! Fragmentation within practices and within the profession, hinders our ability to effectively overcome the profession’s challenges. Set aside differences, identify common ground and leverage the opportunities.
Our profession experiences far higher than average levels of psychological distress, depression, suicidal ideation and substance abuse. We have the knowledge, we have the resources, we have to take action assisting veterinary profession members suffering from emotional distress and substance abuse.
Increase our legislative engagement; the Wisconsin legislature’s actions directly affects many WVMA members’ professional and business activities. Participate on the WVMA Legislative Committee, financially support both the WVMA and the AVMA PAC’s.
Access to veterinary medical care is receiving growing focus nationwide; 23,000,000 pets are estimated to have no access to veterinary medical healthcare. Let’s seize this opportunity. Get creative and devise business models to turn this need into profitable demand for veterinary services.
Take control of animal welfare; once again, we need to own this, we’re the animal experts. Our role is to be informed and educated regarding the process to successfully assist law enforcement and humane organizations in relieving animal abuse and neglect. Our role is to be vigilant, our role is to not make excuses, our role is to not look the other way. Err on the side of the animal and have the courage to take action on behalf of the helpless.
To our recent graduates and those commencing their veterinary education and careers – You’re smart, you’re hardworking, you’re motivated, you’re accomplished. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The profession needs you to be proud, walk tall, look people squarely in the eye, shake their hand firmly and confidently and most importantly; smile! Urgently pursue your dreams and your vision. Hone your medical and surgical skill, strive to be kind, caring, highly skilled clinicians, develop your mentoring and business management repertoires.
To everyone in the profession – Ladies and Gentlemen, the profession needs you. There is a lot of work to be done and the work is good. Please know, you can make a difference!