What is an identity? Is it the thing that makes you an individual, or does it make you identical to others? Which one is it for an equine veterinarian? As the number of veterinary schools and new graduates increases, the latter definition of identity generates like-minded, cookie-cutter professionals focused on themselves rather than the people they serve.
Yes, after today’s farm visits, I’m a bit angry. I talk about it on this podcast, knowing that some veterinarians may not like what they hear. I hope you hear my passion and don’t call me names like “old school.” But too many horse owners spend their time with me complaining about the veterinary care available to them. These complaints range from no veterinary care offered in their area to new vets afraid of horses to high prices with poor outcomes.
Only 1.4% of graduates in the United States become horse vets (56 total in 2022), and half quit within five years (28). Why? Could the vet schools be training students to look inward for satisfaction rather than outward at who they serve? If veterinarians forgot about work-life balance, inclusion, equality, and salary and focused on serving people as an honor and a privilege, being grateful for every opportunity to do what we only dreamed about before graduating, there would be less quitting and more happiness. However, in every professional journal, much attention is spent on making the veterinarian happy through social programs and money.
The solution is simple. Veterinarians serve the person asking for help through their animal. Thinking about this may take a moment, but passion develops by serving the owners through their horses. Passion drives you to do more than is expected, and gratefulness is the reward that is addicting. While this applies to all vets and other professionals, large animal vets (horse, cattle, swine, poultry, small ruminants) are unique because they must work in harsh environments and risk their lives driving and working in uncertain environments with large animals. I wouldn’t want it any other way.