A word to the new generation


It would be wise to seek council and advice from those who have gone before you.

It would be wise to seek council and advice from those who have gone before you.

Your view is made easier in that you stand on the shoulders of thosewho have shaped the profession in the 20th century. Some of the most wonderfulpeople that you will ever know are those who have and continue to work onbehalf of their colleagues in organized veterinary medicine.

Additionally, you should be careful not to erect a wall between generations-especially as it pertains to any type of gender issue. We are a very smallprofession. As our profession changes to a female oriented profession,it would be wise to make sure that gender is never an issue. Trying tocompletely reshape this profession with gender-related issues could be quitedestructive.

It has been my pleasure to work with so many capable women that haveassumed leadership roles over the years in this profession.

Barriers to leadership are eroding for them and everyone should embracethis. Unfortunately, there is a far greater number of the next generation,both men and women, who have divorced themselves from their colleagues andapparently are indifferent to the role organized veterinary medicine playsin the profession.

Although reaching across generations is a two way street, young veterinariansshould try to embrace the idea that colleagues are more than classmatesand favorite university professors.

I have heard comments from some younger veterinarians in this vein: "Itis time to wrestle the profession from the white-headed old men currentlydominating positions of authority." Please note that these are thevery people who have spent countless hours in service to their colleagues.Certainly abuses have occurred in the past in every profession. But thingsare changin' fast.

A word to the old men

It is time for the older practitioners to actively recruit young peopleinto leadership roles.

This will require looking at the profession of the future and takingactive measures to ensure a healthy continuity of leadership. Will therebe doors that will be slammed in your face? This is a certainty as I havefound out.

It is also time for us to realize that in many cases, organized veterinarymedicine has been overly politicized from within and that 'dry rot' in theform of 'inflexibility' and 'turf wars' exists and should be removed. Theorganizations that exist in veterinary medicine must be ever-changing tonot only meet the roles of society but also to the meet the needs of thosethey serve. This can be difficult for many who have held sway for sucha long time.

Organized veterinary medicine

To some, the above three words may be an oxymoron. Regardless, organizedveterinary medicine is all we have or can ever hope to have to protect theinterests of the entire professional body in this country. Without it ourprofession would cease to exist. It also protects the interests of the publicand society as a whole.

It may surprise many newer graduates, but the university itself has verylittle to do with the ultimate fate of the profession. Various state andfederal controlling agencies and other agencies with certain jurisdictionssanction universities' programs and private practice. Licensure and yourability to practice are, for the most part, independent of the universitysystem itself. Therefore, the outcome of who you are and what you can doin this profession is in the hands of these controlling agencies.

Consider this:

When was the last time you jumped on the phone to seek out the servicesof a tailor? If you sincerely needed the services of a real tailor, couldyou find one? This profession has all but been absorbed by changes in theretail clothing industry.

Do you think a comparison to tailors is a stretch? If you do, then youshould ask yourself these questions:

* Are there important changes in our society that could affectthe viability of this profession?

* Are there people in other professions or businesses that wouldgladly move in to take over areas of veterinary care that we have overlookedor ignored?

* Is my profession large enough to withstand the money and thelobby efforts of chiropractors, physical therapists, dentists and any andall other allied professions that would like to expand the scope of theirprofessions to include animal care?

The nature of the collegiality problem

There was a time when the profession could count on the universitiesto be an incubator for organized veterinary medicine. This arrangement produceda tremendous amount of collegiality in the profession. Many of the professorsand clinicians had been practicing.

This is no more.

Practically all staff at universities have long since moved on to specialtiesthat advocate their own membership and organization. Most have never beenin practice. Therefore, as teacher mentors to our newest generations ofveterinarians, they mostly have not advocated involvement in the professionbeyond the confines of medicine and surgery.

With many notable exceptions, most faculty do not belong to state andlocal associations and if asked, usually decline to get involved. On theother hand, the universities themselves have changed and pressures to publishand the travails of university politics have precluded a lot of "facetime" with practitioners in the private sector. This has led to a dramaticdecline in collegiality between faculty and veterinarians in the privatesector.

Others do grunt work

Additionally, those currently in private practice tend to let othersdo the grunt work.

This is harmful to the profession and to the individuals who fail toparticipate. It is common to hear concerns about the cost of belongingto organizations that promote the profession. A point to ponder: if a veterinarianpaid all applicable dues to local, regional, state and national organizationsin this profession, it would cost approximately 1 percent of what the practicepays out to drug companies on a yearly basis.

What can be done?

University faculty have to decide if they are part of the outside worldof veterinary medicine.

They should participate and advocate and embrace collegiality beyondthe walls of academia.

All faculty holding veterinary degrees should be tireless advocates forthe profession-not bury themselves in their own interests and specialties.

University administrators should incorporate mentoring programs thatconnect veterinarians in private sector to students.

The young people in this profession need to expand the scope of whatthey perceive to be their role in the profession and society

Older veterinarians should participate in mentoring programs that areavailable within their state. If one does not exist, then start one.

New blood

Veterinarians long established in organized veterinary medicine mustwelcome and mentor the 'new blood' coming into the profession. There shouldbe attempts to open the 'inner circles' and resolve to eliminate all 'turfwars' that politicize the process.

Understand that this is a small profession that needs everyone involvedin order to protect the nature of what we know to be the very essence ofwhat we do.

A post-collegiality era?

This profession is small and will always be so in relation to other medicalfields.

There is much work to do. Every person within this profession must contributein some way. This is your profession. It is yours to cultivate and carefor. Even if you are a part-time veterinarian and you have family obligations,you can still play a part in the shaping of this profession by attendinglocal meetings and lending your support to others.

Certainly it is harder to find time for the real world of family andfriends. Therefore, we have less time for most everything as we try tofit more and more into our schedules. Although we may be heading for apost-collegiality era, we should make all effort to stay connected to colleagues.

The light ahead-is it the one at the at the end of the tunnel or is itthe last flicker of collegiality? Should we let this dimming light waverand die? I hope not. Let us all be friends and resolve to rekindle thisflame and bear the torch of veterinary medicine together.

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