Letters to the Editor

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A different perspective on resiliency

I read with interest the article in the May 1, 2021, issue about the AAVMC sessions highlighting student “anxiety” and the “over-valuing of resiliency.”1 Sixty-three years have passed since my interview and acceptance into the class of ‘62 at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school. I was fortunate to gain my VMD degree, and there was no lack of anxiety during those 4 years. However, a background that included a fair amount of adversity as well as resiliency, plus working on a dairy farm for 10 years, prepared me for whatever came along. Oh, yes, and a teacher mother who demanded good grades and a college education! Farm work also gave me a very good perspective of the value of animals and hard work.

There were over 300 applicants for 59 students, and we only had 44 survivors after 4 years. Anxiety every single day? Maybe. Tuition was $600 per year, so the dollars weren't missed if someone didn't return after a semester. Today, few schools are prepared to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, so students are assisted and encouraged. Actually, the fear of flunking out was palpable, but I don't recall the word suicide ever being mentioned. Most of our class had been and were leaders, experiences that really helped our well-being. I disagree with one of the researchers who stated that “resiliency may negatively impact short- and long-term health.” If you don't learn how to be resilient, you may be in the wrong profession. Animals' attitudes change with the speed of light, and a veterinarian needs to be ready to change at the drop of a hat—literally.

Two parts of the article, “becoming callous with people” and “working with people all day is really a strain on me,” really caught my eye. Someone early in the student's career decision should have informed them that ours is a people profession that includes animals, not the other way around. Animal well-being and health should always be paramount for us as veterinarians. Extending the life of any uncomfortable animal because the owner isn't ready to say goodbye is, at the very least, suspect. Without being too critical of the AAVMC, perhaps our profession is not picking the right students—just sayin'.

Lastly, corporate ownership of veterinary practices where professionals are only employees with guidelines that don't always fit what a veterinarian might want to do, or think are wrong, can cause frustration. Decisions made by a practice owner are much more satisfying (although sometimes costly). Also, ownership many times leads to more community involvement and a higher self-esteem.

I realize this is not a letter about solutions, but it gives a different perspective from an “old guy!” Yr obt svt.

J. Clyde Johnson, VMD

Spofford, NH

1. Mattson K. AAVMC sessions highlight student anxiety, the overvaluing of resiliency. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2021;258:924926.

Questioning emphasis on historicity

I found the recent JAVMA News question-and-answer article1 with Drs. Bransford and Teller interesting, particularly the headline, “HOD to decide historic AVMA election. Bransford and Teller are candidates in first women-only AVMA president-elect contest.” Although I understand that the headline is appropriate and I expected from the headline to see answers by the 2 candidates to questions about why they should be elected, I was surprised to see the emphasis in the headline that both are women.

I suppose there are 2 ways of looking at that. On the one hand, the article places emphasis on an event that has not happened before in this association. On the other hand, most practicing veterinarians are women and an overwhelming majority of veterinary students are women, so the fact that we have 2 candidates who are women appears to be rather hohum news.

It seems on some level that taking special note of the candidates' gender in this day and age suggests that it should be a big deal, almost as if it is a surprise that women are as capable as men at leading our organization. Such a notion would be silly, of course, which is why I would have expected to have seen the historicity of this election as a footnote rather than a headline.

John S. Parker, DVM, MBA

Briarpointe Veterinary Clinic Novi, Mich

1. Nolen RS. HOD to decide historic AVMA election. Bransford and Teller are candidates in first women-only AVMA president-elect contest. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2021;259:1013.

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Shaping the future

The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

—Abraham Lincoln

In 2018, the AVMA and the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) jointly established the Veterinary Futures Commission1 to “evaluate challenges and opportunities within the veterinary profession and identify priorities guided by societal needs.”

The future does not just happen; it is shaped by today's actions and inactions. As the pace of society accelerates, it becomes harder to make accurate predictions. We need a dependable process for collaborative farsighted thinking to guide the veterinary profession on a continuing basis.2 The Veterinary Futures Commissionprovides such a mechanism; I commend the AVMA and AAVMC for creating it.

In 2019, Dr. Donna Harris and colleagues eloquently described the importance of futuristic thinking within the veterinary profession.3 These authors also noted that there has been “a lack of progress associated with previous attempts at forward thinking.” Indeed, beginning in the 1970s, there were 10 comprehensive futuristic studies of veterinary medicine,4 with little or no gain. Why did so many good initiatives fall short?

All progress depends on change, and change is necessarily accompanied by disruption and risk. The veterinary profession is steeped in tradition and skeptical of change. We find it unsettling to venture “outside the box.” Inside the box is preferred because nothing risky ever happens there; that's why it's called the comfort zone!

In 2020, the Veterinary Futures Commission produced a comprehensive 18-page report,5 but—as far as can be ascertained—there was no follow-up. The AVMA/AAVMC's original plan1 was for the commission “to meet up to three times a year … as needed.” Unfortunately, a year was lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so now would be a good time for the 2 associations to reengage the Commission.

In 2021, veterinary medicine faces a number of serious challenges, not least of which is educational debt. The Veterinary Future Commission's report5 is a recipe for change: we must carefully consider its analyses and recommendations if we are to create a healthy future for the profession.

Peter Eyre, DVM&S, BVMS, BSc, PhD

Professor and Dean Emeritus Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine

Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, Va

  • 1. AVMA, AAVMC form Veterinary Futures Commission. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2018;252:1188.

  • 2. Eyre P, Cohn TJ. Thinking and working together for the common good. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015;247:591.

  • 3. Harris DL, Rosenthal K, Hines A. Thinking like a futurist could help the veterinary profession. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2019;255:523524.

  • 4. Dicks MR. A short history of veterinary workforce analyses. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2013;242:10511060.

  • 5. AVMA-AAVMC Veterinary Futures Commission. The future of veterinary medicine. VetMed Educ 2020;February 2020.

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