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.
Over the past several years, the WVMA has become acutely aware of the increasing mental health and substance abuse stresses that our professionals are experiencing. Survey studies by mental health experts have quantified the challenges facing some of our colleagues. Articles in our press have made us aware of this issue. The stresses of veterinary school and practice can combine to create depression, anxiety, and even suicide for some of our colleagues.
In a cooperative effort to provide additional resources for our profession, the WVMA worked with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and Governor Walker’s office to get authorization for the creation of a Professional Assistance Program for Veterinarians and CVTs included in the 2017-19 state biennial budget bill. The program is funded with existing license fees and will be a much-needed resource for Wisconsin veterinary professionals who are struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. This is a major victory for veterinarians in Wisconsin. The WVMA will be working with DATCP as this program is developed. We extend our thanks to DATCP and the Governor’s Office for their recognition of this need for our profession and the commitment to creating this professional assistance program.