Posts Tagged ‘veterinarian’

Mayo Clinic – Book Review

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic – Inside One of the World’s Most Admired Service Organizations


Leonard L. Berry, PhD.


Kent D. Seltman, PhD.

Five Stars!


This is a really good book about Mayo Clinic, an organization I previously knew nothing about.  And THAT is my favorite thing about it – learning so much about <Mayo Clinic>.  I love to learn.

The cover isn’t awesome.  It is red, white, blue and yellow, but I have not been wearing my fuzzy red mittens in this warm spring weather, so I did not need something to coordinate with them.  I was going to say “Look how much I have matured over this year, no longer judging a book by its cover…” but I just spent an entire paragraph on the cover, so I will not say that.  Maybe next year…

Dr. Berry is a marketing professor and author, and Dr. Seltman was the director of marketing at Mayo Clinic from 1992 to 2006, so they know that of which they write.  They keep the book professional and structured in such a way that even those in fields other than healthcare can extract leadership lessons from the book.  However, the best parts of the book (as is often true) are the stories and pictures.  Even in their strict professionalism, they capture well the love doctors, nurses, support staff, patients and families have for Mayo Clinic, and I loved reading about that.

The history of Mayo Clinic is fascinating.  (Yes!  New thing!  I’m a history buff.)  Dr. Mayo and his two sons started the clinic over a century ago on a solid, medically and ethically sound foundation from which the clinic, now on three campuses and associated with all sorts of other health care partnerships and health care websites, has seemed to stay very true, which is super impressive.

I also loved learning about the excellence of the present-day doctors of Mayo Clinic.  They have to be team players to make it.  Very persuasive cases were made for the validity of standardized procedures and evidence-based medicine, which are big parts of Mayo Clinic.  The typical Mayo doctor is truly on the cutting edge of medicine.  Many of them lead within the organization and research and teach.  That is the part of the book that was most challenging to me as a veterinarian and that will stay with me the longest I would guess.  We as veterinarians have much to learn from our human MD friends, and as often as I can put my scruff down and accept that, I come away a better doctor.


This fits nowhere in a professional book review, as is a subpoint of a subpoint in the book, so I will put it here anyways, because it is too awesome not to mention, and it was one of the first things to really cheer me up during this sad season of Finch pet loss…

As you know, I am unhealthfully obsessed with the show Scrubs.  In one particularly tasteless gag, J.D. tells a family their grandfather has passed away while he is dressed as a clown.

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That really happened in Real Life!  It is in the book!

It was casual Friday…It was Halloween…A doctor was celebrating, as was the rest of the hospital…I will apologize now to the grown grandchildren to whom this happened and who are now dealing with more severe clown phobias than the rest of us, but I am still laughing, and I read that section a month ago.  It is just too horrible to take seriously, and not, as the book authors propose, a valid argument against casual Fridays.  I am quite sure it has never happened before or since.


I honestly can say I agree with the rest of the book and will read it again to find more parallels to my veterinary life.  Whether you are in an entirely different profession, are a veterinarian, or are a realhumanmedical doctor, What in the world are we supposed to call you guys?? …um…you will enjoy and learn from this book.

(B&G Tasty Foods kept a couple of these clown oil paintings from the original restaurant and let me take a picture for my 24 clock project of Blogathon 2010.  In the original post, I cropped the clown out to protect you. I think it fits nicely with the clown paragraph of this book review, though.  The sandwiches at B&G are so good they are worth the clown night terrors you will have for weeks after.)

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Coming Soon to Riley and James…

Do Pets Mourn?  The Story of Joy the Puppy and Ebony Dog

Happy Heartworm-Free April

Happier Posts…

A friend has asked when I will return to my normal, more upbeat posts here…I am working on it Georgia Little Pea!

Summary of the 25 Veterinary Economics Leadership books – two books to finish!  Woo!  This has been such a fun project!

And Elsewhere…

I have taken a break from my monthly column at, but I do miss it.  Genius idea to name the column after a mortal pet.

The Wagging Tail

This is a collaborative blog to which I contribute about once a month.  I think it is time to get back on the ball here as well!

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Paws for Japan

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Dr. V has a Brody Signal – it is a picture of her super cute pup that she puts over a flashlight and shines into the night.  Other pet lovers the world over see the signal, get the message and join her in her mission to make the world a better place.*

Today’s Mission:

“A Virtual Fundraiser to Aid Animal Relief Efforts via World Vets”

I do not think we even know how bad this tsunami and earthquake disaster in Japan is yet.  Not everyone is found.  The nuclear scare is not over.  I cling to stories of individuals because the big picture is just too much.  Everyone seems to be two degrees from loved ones in Japan.  Or one.  Or zero.  World Vets is in Japan, helping with relief efforts.

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Sometimes people rescuers need to focus on finding and rescuing people and need pet rescuers to come along side of them to rescue the pets.

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Sometimes pet owners need to know they are loved, and we understand how awful it is to be be seperated from and even lose loved ones.

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Sometimes communities need to know that we care and that we long for a concrete way to show that and that we would do anything to make the situation better, even though we cannot fix it.

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Sometimes people cannot take in the horror of an entire country in pain and need to hear one encouraging account of a rescue…a reuniting…a hopeless situation that ended happily.

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Pray for Japan

Reach out

Support World Vets

“Rejoice with those who rejoice.

Mourn with those who mourn.”**

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*Dr. V does not have a Brody Signal.  *sigh*  I wish she did.  But her super awesome blog Pawcurious works just fine when pet lovers need to be gathered for a common goal.  I think she should do both.

**Romans 12:15 (New International Version of the Bible)

March 18, 2011 Veterinary Practice News Article:  Vets, Animal Groups Rally to Help in Japan Relief Efforts

More Great Veterinary Blogs

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

While I wait for life to get less sad, I have been writing considerably less than usual.  After Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats and Piggy the guinea pig passed away, I could see where this season was heading, and put a few Very Favorite Writing Projects on hold (The Wagging Tail Blog and ) and cut down my writing here to a much slower pace.  My Carefresh Ask-a-Vet project is still full speed, but that one is Q&A – much easier, and a good respite from the sadness.  Good call on the slowing down thing, though.

best personal essays

 Ebony Dog and Princess Gerbil passed away soon after.  Russ has gotten me “I’m a winner” stickers that I wear every day I get out of bed since Ebony died.

100% success so far.  I am a winner.  75% success staying out of bed.  I am STILL a winner.  I still get a freaking sticker.  (Yes I really wear them.  Unless we just met, and even then, really, it should be obvious what a dork I am.  I LOVE the stickers.)

Anyway, that is all my prelude to my Super Awesome List I have for you.  Until I can get back to writing more regularly (and even then), here are some MORE great veterinary blogs I found thanks to veterinarians on my first list of great veterinary blogs. If there are more veterinary blogs you love, let me know! Yes, this is getting out of hand – I love it!  And yes, we should be out saving and preserving lives.  We take turns.  You know, as a worldwide veterinary community.  Save-write-sleep-repeat.

More Great Veterinary Blogs

Also, I included a few blogs from human medicine, because they are just awesome.

can’t spell, dvm

CantSpell, DVM

Funny Vet

Dr. Scott

The Real Housecats of Orange County

Dr. Kelly Wright

The Story Behind the Pictures

Dr. Leslie Brown Sheridan


Toronto Vet

A Vet’s Guide to Life

Dr. Chris Bern

Vogue Vet

Vogue Vet

The Weird Veterinary World

C. Todd Dolen, DVM

and 2 people blogs…

Dr. Grumpy in the House

Dr. Grumpy, MD, Neurologist

33 Charts

Bryan Vartabedian, MD, Pediatric Gastroenterologist

And, of course, remember to visit the wonderful pet bloggers in the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop…

Coming Soon on Riley and James (and quite a few other blogs, I have a feeling…)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Adopt the Internet!

Happy 15th Birthday Petfinder!

Thank you Pet Savers everywhere for all you do to help pets!!

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Tomorrow Will Worry About Itself

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Our herd is down from eight to three, 37.5% of capacity, and we are not repopulating.  Fortunately, Max the Cat, Noodle the Poodle and Joy the Puppy all tolerate hugs*, because they have been put on Grief Duty.  I find myself asking “Who’s next?” and waking the poor things up if they are sleeping too comfortably.  Noodle has been known to sleep with all four paws up on occasion.  He has been the recipient of the rudest awakenings.

In an attempt to back off from this dangerous path, I am making the conscious decision to appreciate my pets on a day-to-day basis and enjoy the time I have with them.  Yes, approximately 67% of the remaining herd is oldie-old, but they are also all healthy, and probably tired of being included in my late night panics.  So hold me accountable.  There is much grieving yet to do, but I do not want to miss out on today.

I can’t really pull myself out of this of course, even with all of your wonderful support (And you ARE wonderful – thank you so much for walking through this with us) – This is going to take the power of God Himself.  While I hope you are in a happier season, this next quote is a good reminder to us all, and then a word of “encouragement” from my very favorite singer ever, Rich Mullins.  And then, I will come visit the blogs of other pet blogger friends on the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop.  And then…I am going to go hug my cat.

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“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”


“It’s hard to be like Jesus.”

-Rich Mullins

*Note:  Hugging most dogs is ill-advised.  Normal dogs do not like hugs.  Hugging most cats is just asking for it.  Our pets are all sorts of special.  Do not attempt this at home unless you are a Trained Pet Hugger.  I am not.  I just have really tolerant pets.

Articles Originally Written for Veterinarians – Table of Contents

Monday, February 28th, 2011


Overcoming Team Conflict


Building a Best of the Best Clientele


A Dramatic Wellness Exam


Recommending a High Level Standard of Care


Effective Communication Stratagies


Self Evaluation


Changing Times


Twitter for Veterinarians


Year in Review:  2010 in Veterinary Medicine


Conflict Resolution

Click on the article title to get to the article itself.  I know it would be cooler if I did not actually mention this and just let people find this out for themselves, but I never claimed to be cool (quite the opposite)…

Every one of the ten articles has a Scrubs link in it that pertains to the article.


Building a Best of the Best Clientele

Monday, February 28th, 2011

This was my second article published in print. I feel safe putting this one out there, because those of you who read Riley and James and are clients ARE the Best of the Best.  I used to put the following on every blog post, I dunno why I quit.  It is still true…

You are awesome, and I love my career because of you.

Thank you.

This article could be helpful to anyone in a service business I suppose, not just veterinarians.  And it could be an interesting peek into my views on clients.  I realize I have a rosy glasses sort of view sometimes, but I am telling you, my clients really are this great.  Every time I get established at a veterinary practice (In as much as it depends on me, I am staying here.  I love where I am right now.) Anyways, every time, my team members remark on how nice the clients are on the days I work.  I was asked so often why that is true, that I tried to explain it in this article.  The short answer:  you.  The long answer…

Building a Best of the Best Clientele

by Shawn Finch, DVM

Imagine if our clientele consisted entirely of clients we love to see, clients we know well and clients whose trust we have earned.  Picture how this would transform your attitude, your day and even your career.  The majority of us probably have mostly satisfied clients.  A few clients drive us crazy.  Let’s call them “meanies.”  A few very special clients, those we would handpick if we could, we will call “best of the best.”  Starting from this assumed demographic, I believe we can shape our clientele to be almost exclusively best of the best, and that will make our careers more rewarding.

Satisfied Clients

Our interactions with these clients will make for a pleasant day for our team and for our clients, and we will meet our goal of maintaining and restoring the health of pets.  If we have a client base that consist mainly of satisfied clients, we are probably doing pretty well.

However, our colleagues at other veterinary hospitals are probably pretty good, too.  Clients may wanter off to another veterinary clinic – not because of malice toward us, or a bad experience.  They are simply sticking around until the next best thing comes along.

Perhaps we can use this window of opportunity to overwhelm them with our excellence.  This “window” may be only the length of the office visit, or we may be fortunate enough to have several months or years to earn their trust.


Clients need to be exceptional to fit into this category!  I only classify clients as meanies after severe infractions, such as cruelty to my associates or extreme rudeness or profanity.  These clients need to be either cut loose or given a chance to change their behavior.  It is never ideal to let them coast, because they are the ones whose cats will live twenty-five years due to your awesome care.  That is a quarter of a century that you and your team will have to put up with them.

Whenever possible, give meanies the opportunity to rise to your expectations.  Often these clients are not aware they are being rude.  They may be having a difficult day, or even a difficult season.  Having a sick or injured pet or dealing with the expense of a veterinary visit may also cause or compound anxiety that can manifest as inappropriate behavior.

Calling clients on poor behavior can actually become an opportunity to care for them.  Some of my most heart-wrenching conversations have been after some great empathetic comment on my part, such as, “Wow!  I haven’t heard that one in a while!  Where did that come from?”  Clients are then free to share what drove them to such behavior or at least apologize and start fresh.

Do not “hold on” to a meanie for the sake of avoiding a conflict, not hurting feelings or losing revenue.  Consider changing your goal from retaining every possible client to building the clientele you would love to work with for the next several decades.  You and your team are worth being treated well.  And a good client having a bad day is worth being cared for and called on for inappropriate behavior.

The Best of the Best

When I started in veterinary medicine, my best of the best consisted of my family and a few friends.  And if you have the support of those closest to you, you are well on your way to success.

If you have earned the trust of another person, remember that it is a gift someone has chosen to give you.  Value and nurture that relationship.  Treat their pet the way you hope someone would treat your pet.  Treat the client the way you would want to be treated.  If clients could be in our best of the best group, the ones who can trust us with anything, they would love that almost more than we do.

The entire team should be intentional about building new relationships and strengthening existing relationships.  Transforming satisfied clients – and even meanies – into best of the best happens on purpose.  Does an associate enjoy client communication?  Put him in charge of sending a welcome card to every new client.  Is someone especially empathetic?  Put her in charge of ensuring that clients who are grieving are well cared for.  Figure out what your team members love and do well, and let them do it.  Over time, you will see your existing clients become best of the best, and they will refer clients who also become best of the best.

Working toward an entirely best of the best clientele is a win-win-win situation for clients, pets and the entire veterinary team.

This was first published in Banfield, Achieving Success in Practice as Seeing Our Favorite Clients, November/December 2009.

Self Evaluation

Friday, February 25th, 2011
Self evaluation is important for veterinarians. We want to do the very best we can for our patients, clients, teammates and ourselves.  You probably already evaluate yourself informally, as you go through your day, and perhaps on the drive home.  Consider also periodically evaluating yourself formally, with a checklist of criteria important for success.
Feedback is always helpful when determining what is working and what needs work.  For a well-rounded, accurate assessment of yourself, consider implementing a 360 degree evaluation in your practice, in which each person is evaluated by themselves, others on the team, and possibly even clients.
S: Subjective variables that relate to success include relationship quality, communication skills and attitude.  How are your relationships with your boss, coworkers and clients?  Do you communicate well?  Do you work together as a team?  How is your attitude towards your job, towards others?  How are others’ attitudes towards you?  Are there red flags of impending conflict?
O: Objective criteria are easier to measure, but are also easier to oversimplify or misinterpret.  If the team is getting along well, and pets are well cared for but the number of patients you see a day is down from normal, have you succeeded or failed?  I would contend you are succeeding with room for improvement.  Fortunately, if subjective measures of success are positive, objective measures of success will usually reflect that.  As my Dad always says, “Practice good medicine, and the money will follow.”
So what are good objective criteria to measure and track?  A few to consider are number of patients per day and overall income for a day/week/month/year.  Just remember that each statistic only tells part of the overall story.
A: Assessment of the data is the next step.  Consider the subjective and objective data you have just gathered and determine what you are doing well and what needs improvement.  Again, using the 360 degree evaluation concept, either formally, with standardized questions prepared ahead of time, or informally, by asking others for their feedback on your performance, will help you develop a more accurate assessment.
P: Plan how you are going to improve problem areas and maintain what you are doing well.  With your assessment in front of you, this is the time for goal setting, for dreaming even.  You are back where you started-envisioning success, but now it is even better, you are envisioning success with a personalized checklist of things to restore, develop and maintain.
Recheck: If you have found that things are going pretty well, you may want to revisit your self-evaluation quarterly.  If you have problem areas that have been revealed, perhaps a weekly self-evaluation is in order until all is well.  Write out your plan and jot a note on the calendar on the date that you plan to revisit your self evaluation.
Sound familiar? I thought it’d be easier to remember that way, Doctor.
This was first published on The Wagging Tail for Veterinary Professionals on February 24, 2010.

Effective Communication Strategies for Veterinarians

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I have always bristled at any suggestion that males and females fit into boxes based on separate, distinct gender-specific traits.  So when I heard the suggestion that the gender pay gap between men and women may have to do with differing communication styles between the genders, of course I threw a fit.

Then I started researching…and writing.  Is it true??  It seems as though it kind of is.  But there are more variables than gender, and, I was happy to find, communication differences do NOT divide neatly between gender lines.  We are, in fact, all unique and valuable individuals who do NOT fit neatly into little boxes.  *phew*

Effective Communication Strategies for Veterinarians

Shawn Finch, DVM

Are gender-communication differences contributing to the gender-pay gap?  In the June 2008 Veterinary Economics article “Are Women Tough Enough?” Jan Miller explores the role of communication style differences in the revenue discrepancy between male and female veterinarians (20 – 30% on average according to a 2005 AVMA-Pfizer study!)  Are women and men in our profession communicating differently?  Are our differing communication styles affecting our salaries?

Donna Zajonc and David Womeldorff, in the August 2006 workshop entitled “Emerging Perspectives on Feminine and Masculine Leadership Styles-and Why We Need Both” explained that the only area in which males and females tend to consistently differ in the Myers-Briggs personality assessment is decision-making function, with two thirds of men assessed as thinking and two thirds of women assessed as feeling.

According to Zajonc and Womeldorff, “Some of the key aspects of ‘thinking’ relate to an emphasis on objectivity, logic, clarity, justice, consequences of action and being firm and fair.  Some of the key aspects of ‘feeling’ relate to an emphasis on values, interpersonal relationships, harmony, mercy, empathy and compassion.”

They assert that leaders need to be able to utilize both decision-making styles.  While I agree that we need to be able to function as both “thinkers” and “feelers,” I believe improvements in our communication abilities will be best achieved if we identify how we tend to make decisions, and focus on strengthening that tendency.

If you tend to make decisions based on thinking, you may need to consciously convey compassion, but do not try to negate your “thinking” tendencies.  Clients are confident in medical care of their pets when they know that you are absolutely sure of your recommendations and can firmly lead them through difficult decisions.

If you tend to make decisions based on feeling, nurture that tendency.  Beware of the potential of becoming emotionally over-invested in patient care, which may increase your risk of burnout.  Protect your compassionate nature, but allow it to emerge when communicating the importance of your medical recommendations.  Clients are reassured when they know that you are recommending for their pet what you would do for your own.

We are not women in a man’s career (or men in a woman’s career).  Neither is a feeling or thinking-based mode of decision making superior to the other.  We are called to the care of people and pets, and have been endowed with different yet equally valid strengths to assist us in fulfilling our calling.

As we improve our communication skills, honing our strengths and bolstering our weaknesses, client confidence will improve, which will allow our patient care to improve.  As we all approach our highest potential as communicators, perhaps the gender pay gap in our profession will begin to narrow as well.

This was first published at The Wagging Tail for Veterinary Professionals on August 3, 2010.

Recommending a High Level Standard of Care

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

The present economic climate provides a challenge for veterinarians.  We strive to provide the absolute best medical care to our patients, and we also strive be sensitive about the affordability of that care.  Kristi Reimer, the editor of Veterinary Economics, wrote an excellent piece on the matter: Affordability vs. Excellence, Do Veterinarians Have to Choose? She asks, “Is there a way to maintain excellent medical standards, charge appropriately for them, and still be a compassionate veterinarian who’s accessible to the majority of Pet owners in the community?”

The answer is “Of course!”  We need to be offering the very best we have to every client and every patient at every visit.

The veterinary team and the pet’s family have the same goal of restoring or maintaining the health of the pet.  I believe we even have the same financial goals.  We want our clients in sound financial health so they are able to return again, and they want us in sound financial health so we are here when they need us.

Instead of offering “good/better/best” medical plans and “bargaining” with our client until we meet in the middle, consider offering the very best and using the treatment plan as an open dialogue.  Be transparent about what is absolutely mandatory and what is optional for your patient’s well-being and return to health and why each component is important.  You may be surprised with what your client will allow you to do when they understand why each portion of the treatment plan is important.  However, even a gazillionaire is not going to toss money at you for stuff they think you threw in just for the heck of it.

This is where your relationship with your client becomes important.  Clients who trust your integrity and medical expertise will know when you say something is mandatory or even ideal, that you really believe it and that you are probably right.

Sometimes, clients ask for help finding ways to afford the treatment their pets need.  We may have payment plan options, charity information or other helpful resources available.  However, keep in mind that our clients’ financial situations are none of our business unless they choose to make them our business.  We are no more equipped to guess about the level of care they can afford than we are to guess about the strength of the bond they have with their pet.  If we are focusing on the financial aspects of a case at the cost of focusing on patient care, we will convey that to the client whether we mean to or not.

Recommend the very best for your patient.  Explain to your client why the components of the treatment plan you propose are important.  You know your patient is getting the best care you have to offer, your client is well cared for and you are being fairly compensated.  Win-win-win situations are possible for the patient, the client and the veterinary team, and are worth striving for with every case.


This was first published on The Wagging Tail for Veterinary Professionals on December 1, 2009.

The Year in Review – Veterinary Medicine in 2010

Monday, February 21st, 2011

This was meant to be a summary of veterinary medicine in 2010 in 500ish words – ha!  I picked some highlights.  What would you have added??  If I talked about my personal year as a veterinarian, that would have been a completely different article.  This was very fun to write.

The Year in Review – Veterinary Medicine in 2010

Shawn Finch, DVM

Stem cell therapy has become fairly common, the melanoma vaccine is being used in dogs with great success, Proheart returned to the veterinary market, we were all affected by the melarsomine shortage, the balance tipped from a majority of male veterinarians to a majority of female veterinarians…2010 has been quite a year to be a veterinarian!

This year has seen exponential growth in veterinary internet involvement.  We started out dealing with the internet “defensively,” trying to undo problems created by false information.  We quickly learned to proactively add our voices as reliable authorities on animal health issues.  We have had to deal with client feedback in a more public way than ever. As disconcerting as that has been, we have handled it with the prompt attention and grace that we always have.

The increase in online interactions between pet parents and veterinarians has raised many ethical issues.  We can put all sorts of medical information onto the internet, but we still cannot diagnose or treat without a valid patient-client-doctor relationship firmly in place.  We have the ability to post patient pictures and cases onto the internet in full view of the world almost instantaneously.  We have shown tremendous restraint in doing that only when we have permission from our team leadership and clients.  Clients know that in this age of instant information, they can still trust us completely with their privacy and that of their pets.

Many of our veterinary journals have become accessible online.  As much as I have enjoyed the internet explosion and accompanying learning curve, I still request paper copies of my favorite journals.  I will probably be among the last of us to give that up.  Just admitting that makes me want to plant a tree.

We have always advocated humane breeding practices.  As restrictions on high-volume puppy sellers have tightened in the United States, international puppy sources have become more popular.  Our next battle may be assuring that the puppies imported into our country are shipped humanely and legally and enter the country free of contagious and zoonotic diseases.

A second report on veterinarians and suicide was published in England earlier this year.  The authors’ first report revealed that we are much more likely to commit suicide than people in the general population.  Their second report explored the reasons this may be true.  Everyone is an individual, and the sample size was relatively small, so we are not doomed.  Do keep a caring eye on your colleagues though and take good care of yourself.

Finally, the United States Congress recently proclaimed 2011 “World Veterinary Year” in honor of the 250th anniversary of our profession.  The resolution was introduced by the two veterinarians serving in Congress and passed with support from veterinarians across the country.  2010 was quite a year to be a veterinarian.  I am excited for what is to come, next year and beyond.

This was first published at The Wagging Tail for Veterinary Professionals on December 28, 2010 as “A Great Year for Veterinary Medicine.”