Seriously 20/20?

Although we do have main challenges looming on the forefront of our life, I am always a veterinarian.  And as a doctor, I will inevitably put my patients and clients first.  I will evaluate, reevaluate, and dream about cases.  I will critically analyze my judgements on all difficult cases.  I will study and complete endless amounts of CE on an endless amount of topics.  My life is, and always will be, controlled by the needs of those pets (and owners!!) that I love.  But I will never suggest or encourage a procedure or test that I feel will not benefit my patients.  I will never alter my treatment protocol to increase the bottom line of any estimate.  I will always offer the best line of treatment first, and address alternative methods as uniquely needed in each situation, with each patient. 

These are the same sentiments shared by the vast majority of our veterinary colleagues.  Which, given a number of facts, makes logical sense:

Fact 1. Many of us owe an astronomical amount of student debt.  And by debt, I don’t mean 50 grand.  And I sure don’t mean 125 grand.  Bottom line is many of us, actually the vast majority of us, owe upwards of $150,000.  In some areas of the country, one could use that sum to turn around and purchase a house. 

Fact 2. Average starting salary is around $45 – $55, 000.  Wait. What? Yup and this $55,000 must cover that student debt of over $150,000.  Let me put that into perspective.  That means that IF there was no such thing as taxes, it would take at least 3 years of my ENTIRE salary to pay off just the principle.  Now, consider this.  If I choose to pay a reasonable thousand bucks a month, versus the 10-year 2 thousand dolla payment plan, I will end up paying over $300,000 when all is said and done. 

Fact 3. Veterinarians have the highest reports of compassion fatique, addictions, and suicides in comparison to other professionals.  These statistics are not only fueled by the type A, perfectionist type of individual who enters our career, they are also driven by the very nature of our profession.  We often have to consider a variety of medical, surgical, and emergency situations and reasonably look at the prognosis and suffering that will be experienced by our patients.  Then we have to turn around and relay these realities to our clients.  Our clients who love their pets, for whom their pets are not only important but also part of the family.  Unfortunately when the stress and demands of our jobs become too much, many of our colleagues can use this same reasoning to justify decisions to commit suicide or to become highly addictive to any drug or alcohol cocktail. 

So clearly no individual with any sense of what is a reasonable investment would be able to justify entering the veterinary career field.  And certainly not a large population of people who have questionable ethics used to make big bucks off of our clients.  Enter ABC News’ 20/20.  Where not only is one DVM vehemently stating that any practitioner can push and encourage treatments in order to fluff the bottom line, but this same segment is aired with information on car thieves, shady moving companies, bartenders, and long haul truckers.  Seriously? And the icing on the cake is that this same interviewed DVM has actually had several licensing complaints based on ethics in Canada and ADMITS that he previously represented that very unethical character that he was trying to bring to our attention.  I think I would trust this guy’s opinion.  False. Oh, and funny little tidbit, apparently this same man has a website where he is offering a free product, which also has a stipulation that customers will subsequently experience a $10 monthly charge.  Ironically true to character, huh?

It goes without saying that this attack on the profession that I have sacrificed so much for and that I love so dearly, hurts my heart.  But my hope is that our veterinary community will continue to buck up and passionately defend our practice.  And that the American public will choose to seek the recommendations set forth by reputable veterinarians. 

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