Market watch: Understanding the ripple effect


The smallest act of support and encouragement can change your veterinary colleague's life.

Some years ago I attended a conference in Washington, D.C., that focused on the value of the profession and the impact it has on those whom we serve. I was surprised to see an old friend there. It seems he was becoming somewhat disenchanted with the demands of practice—you know, demanding clients, annoying phone calls, high-maintenance staff and the feeling that he was being consumed. His practice manager, Kathy, insisted he come to the conference, but it was proving to be an exercise in futility, he said. On our lunch break he told me that he was going to leave early and go back home to California.

That instant one of the presenters, Dr. Bob Brown, a solo practitioner in Virginia, reached out, grabbed him by the neck and changed all that. With humility, Bob spoke of his love of the profession, his fulfillment in the daily service to his clients and patients—the honor of what we do. He spoke, heavy with emotion, about how lucky we all are to be veterinarians. Bob's appeal clearly connected with my friend, whose eyes welled up as he sat back down and began to not only listen but also to process and formulate a new vision for his life.

Reinventing the vision

Dr. Vince Pedroia was a veterinary neurologist practicing in Santa Rosa, Calif. While I was lucky enough to know Vince, I did not at the time fully appreciate what a special person he was. I have spoken at length to his practice manager who dragged him to the meeting and to friends who knew him well. Everyone commented on the immediacy and the depth of change that occurred at that conference lunch break. Kathy told me that from the time they got on the plane home all he could do was talk about his renewed vision.

Vince's practice back home was in the process of transition. Vince led the charge toward reinventing the vision of the practice, from the ground up. He made it clear that nothing short of total dedication would be acceptable and that together, he, his partners and colleagues would build the finest facility and the best practice in Northern California. I am sure it wasn't easy, but the dream became a commitment, the commitment became a passion and the passion became reality. The hospital that emerged was a showroom of care, service and technology.

Honoring a memory

Sadly, Vince was diagnosed with cancer not long after his dream became reality. In spite of his illness, he persisted and maintained his role of leadership right to the end. He was one of the most available, dedicated veterinary specialists I have ever worked with and he and his colleagues changed the level of veterinary care in the region. Vince's vision changed the community and the lives of those who knew him.

My point, though, is not to explain how great Vince was. If you knew him, you already know the measure of a great man and if you didn't know him, nothing I can say will tell you enough. If you are ever near Santa Rosa, Calif., stop by and see VCA Animal Care Center of Sonoma County—the fruit of his dream.

What I'd like to show is that great things can't always be predicted. The smallest act of encouragement and support can have results unforeseen but that last for years. This is a story of how one man impacted a colleague he didn't even know and the ripple effect that impact had on hundreds of veterinary team members, a community of thousands of clients and tens of thousands of pets.

I'll always admire Vince and honor his memory. But perhaps the real (albeit accidental) hero of this story is Dr. Bob Brown for renewing Vince's enthusiasm in such a meaningful way. Recently I connected with Bob to see if he could even recall the impact he had on Vince some 20 years ago. He couldn't remember if he had met Vince and certainly had no idea of the influence he had had on him both as a veterinarian and as a man. This all because he spoke of his own passion and without knowing it sparked a flame in a fire that had all but burned out.

Vince is gone, and Bob and I are older than we care to admit. But a whole new generation of veterinarians, pet owners and pets will benefit for years to come as the ripples of unrealized good deeds pass by.

As veterinarians dealing with the day-to-day business of our lives and the near frenetic pace of our practices, we often lose sight of "the little things." Still, it's those little things that have unforeseeable results on those around us. I know as veterinarians we all would want to be like Vince Pedroia—but I am just as proud to know Bob Brown, as the one who lit the fuse.

Dr. Michael Paul is a nationally known speaker and columnist and the principal of Magpie Veterinary Consulting. He lives in Anguilla in the British West Indies. Follow him on Twitter at @mikepauldvm.

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