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Finding comfort in caring about veterinary medicine
Though the burdens are heavy, the veterinary profession cares, and thats what keeps Dr. Brock going.
Do you ever wonder why somebody becomes a veterinarian? Sometimes I do. What moves a person to spend $300,000 and eight or nine years of their life to take care of the health needs of animals?
I've been a veterinarian for 25 years, and just this morning I was considering that very question. It's been a trying few weeks and the pressures of the job have taken a bit of a toll on me. I've been dealing with some of the bad things that come with veterinary medicine: animals dying under anesthesia, horses that are worth millions of dollars but are still just horses and no one knows it, employees who don't care if things turn out well, clients who expect me to work on their animals for free, clients who don't do what they've been instructed and then wonder why their pets are worse, rising medication prices and sometimes total lack of drug availability.
I've spent hours on the telephone with insurance companies. I've watched little kids cry because their horse died from a necrotic small intestine. I've lain awake at night trying to remember what an important role my team and I play in many lives.
All those negative things certainly weigh heavy on me. But as I considered them a little deeper, it dawned on me: None of them would matter a bit if I didn't care.
Veterinarians may be a bit of a different breed. They spend all that money and time training to tend to sick critters because something within them moves them to master an art that's beyond materialism and reward.
Consider this: When I graduated from veterinary school in 1990, the average debt load for a graduating student was somewhere around $25,000. Some had more; some had less, but that was pretty average. When I graduated, I took a job that paid $24,000 a year, which meant I was making in one year just a touch less than the average debt load.
Today, students graduate with debt of up to $300,000 and the average starting salary is somewhere around $70,000. This means some students will carry a debt load of three to four times their annual salary . It will take them 20 to 30 years to pay back at a rate of $18,000 to $20,000 dollars per year.
This monetary burden comes with a price. Some of the best and brightest young people of our day have chosen other paths simply because of the money. Some young veterinarians who graduated and started practicing have been horribly frustrated because the burden of their student loans keeps them working a huge number of hours per week-and they're unable to buy a house or even a car.
Here's where I find comfort in the midst of all this: Veterinarians play an important role in the lives of many people. We do it because we love the human-animal bond on many levels, not because it makes us rich. We appreciate the effects of animals on the lives of people and we appreciate the people who find a smile from a critter.
A huge financial burden is certainly a challenge, but one good thing that results from such a burden is this: We're doing what we do for the right reason- we love our clients and patients, and all the rest is just a means to get us there.