Rising to the challenge while living our Oath

As another extraordinary year draws to a close, I want to take this opportunity on behalf of the AVMA to thank all veterinary professionals and AVMA members for the exemplary work you have done under very challenging circumstances.

There is no doubt that these remain difficult times for us, both professionally and personally. We all continue to weather a storm brought on by COVID-19 that has gone on for far too long.

Through it all, you have gone above and beyond in serving your patients and clients. This desire to fulfill your responsibilities and live by the Veterinarian’s Oath has been impacted by workplace challenges, staffing issues, and appointment backlogs, all of which have been exacerbated by adjustments you have made due to COVID to keep everyone safe. We know how hard you’re working, and your AVMA volunteer leadership feels it, too.

I am a practicing veterinarian in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I, like you, have faced difficult days and have had to adjust—sometimes beyond my comfort level—to just get the job done. But it’s about more than just getting the job done, isn’t it? It’s about feeling good about what we do; about doing our utmost to serve those who rely on us; about living the Oath, and not just having it hang on the wall in a picture frame.

Your wellbeing also may have been tested. That’s why the AVMA remains dedicated to ensuring that we can provide you resources that help. I encourage you to visit avma.org/wellbeing for resources that support personal and professional wellbeing. There is also a comprehensive new study being conducted by Brakke Consulting in collaboration with AVMA that takes a close look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting workplace changes on veterinarians’ wellbeing and mental health. The study was generously underwritten by Merck Animal Health, and results of the new Merck Animal Health Veterinarian Wellbeing Study will be announced at VMX in Orlando in January. The goal of the study is to identify techniques and behaviors that can improve wellbeing and reduce burnout.

We are diverse and unique individuals shaped by our own life experiences and different cultures, and it is more important than ever that we create socially conscious educational and work environments, as well as remove barriers to equity and inclusion in the profession. Our collaborative work through the Commission for a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Veterinary Profession will help drive change that enhances diversity, equity, and inclusion in the profession. The commission is doing great work, and the AVMA Board of Directors has had extensive conversations about a strategic framework plan and is considering several initiatives to include in the 2022 overall AVMA strategic plan and budget. It is our goal to help all veterinary professionals become better allies in support of equitable treatment for all.

It is great that many of us have once again been able to meet in-person at meetings and events. These opportunities have grown as those of us who are able have been vaccinated against the virus, and as we continue to take protective precautions to ensure that we gather safely. Based on survey findings, it is estimated that approximately 90% of AVMA members are already vaccinated, which demonstrates the value that veterinarians place on preventive care and their confidence in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

We want our veterinary staff, animal owners, and our communities to be safe and healthy. To that end, the AVMA recently joined our colleagues in human medicine and science in actively promoting the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine. The effort was encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because the agency recognizes the key role veterinarians play in society and public health. We all know that veterinary medicine has a clear public health mission. All we need to do is refer back to our Oath, where we specifically commit to the “promotion of public health.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the way we live, the way we interact with others, and the way we practice veterinary medicine. While we don’t know what the future may bring, veterinarians’ commitment to a better tomorrow is unquestioned and certain. We wish you the happiest and healthiest 2022, and we look forward to achieving even more together for our profession in the year ahead.

José Arce, DVM