Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald: Be a better you


In the veterinary world, integrity is everything.

My grandmother used to say, “All that you have is your reputation.” At the time, I never totally grasped her meaning, but as I've aged, her words have really hit home. The vast majority of us carry out our lives and careers quietly and without fanfare. Our actions, accomplishments, failures, and interactions with others are, for the most part, “under the radar.” Things that seem so important and pressing in our daily lives make little difference in the “big scheme” of things. The fate of the Western world doesn't hang in the balance over what we do daily as veterinarians and as people. I think we'd all agree that most people don't know what a veterinarian's day really entails.

But is this really true? As stewards of animal health, we come into contact with a large cross section of our communities. Veterinarians encounter children in exam rooms, career days, and at science fairs; we deal directly with the animal-owning American public; we work with other health professionals in instances of zoonotic threats; we conduct research; we are educators. The footprint that veterinarians leave and the impact that we make upon society every day is huge. Veterinarians touch lives in many ways that we may never know or comprehend. That is why our reputations are so important.

I'd change my grandmother's saying from “All you have is your reputation” to “All you have is your integrity.” In dealing with clients, co-workers, and colleagues, we must never forget this. For better or worse, our profession causes us to live in glass houses. More people in our communities know who we are than we realize. We must lead by example, always. We must be accountable. We must be honest. We must maintain our integrity. We must develop a set of principles that we adhere to no matter what the situation. We must not cut corners.

It doesn't matter that most of us will never be veterinarian of the year, win the Nobel Peace prize, or be on Oprah. If we always show the world the same side-forged from strong principles-and we're always honest, accountable, and competent, then we'll make a difference. If we never compromise our integrity and unfailingly stick to a sound ethical blueprint, then our reputations will remain intact. There's no way to measure the value of a solid reputation or the peace of mind that it creates. Our lives and our profession do make a difference. Even if we only make our little side of the street better, our actions matter.

Make a difference today. Lead by example and always be the same. Be positive, honest, accountable, and proactive. Chin up.

See you next week, Kev

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