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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

Make an Impact!

i recently attended the Heartland Veterinary Conference in Columbus, Ohio. Mr. Clarke Price, former President of the Ohio Society of CPA's thoughtfully presented perspectives of volunteer leadership in organizations such as the Wisconsin VMA. His most impactful thought? "Cultivate leaders to follow you", what a concept!


We have a wealth of knowledge, experience, expertise and professional connections and networks within the WVMA membership. How can this incredible resource be leveraged to benefit the WVMA, to benefit Wisconsin's veterinarians? Mr. Price contends, the current WVMA leadership should cultivate our successors with inquiry and encouragement.

As summer passes by, the time of year for the WVMA to fill officer and board vacancies rolls around, sounds like the time to cultivate! Yes, serving in a leadership role is a significant time commitment, however I encourage you to have fun in a leadership role. Yes, there are challenges, but there is also prestige and personal growth.

My top ten list to be an effective volunteer leader -

1. Commit yourself to make a difference.
2. Don't avoid controversy and risk.
3. Don't drive your agenda, use your platform to drive your vision.
4. Don't underestimate resistance to change.
5. Don't waste time.
6. Be consistent.
7. Ask questions.
8. Come to meetings prepared.
9. Have a plan of priorities and actions.
10. Engage and maintain open communication with leaders up and down the line.

When leadership opportunities come calling, I encourage you to answer with enthusiasm, answer with passion, and answer to make the commitment! Volunteer leadership is a vehicle to have fun, to connect with the profession, to make an impact. I encourage you to have the attitude; we're going to try new things, we're going to innovate, realizing not everything is going to work. Remember, even Monopoly has a get out of jail free card!

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