One of the interesting things about veterinary medicine, as opposed to human medicine, is that there is variability in the amount and capacity with which we work with the public. For instance, a general practitioner sees dozens of client throughout the day, while a surgeon will perhaps speak to clients only during consultation appointments. The type of vested interest a client has in his or her animal also informs how veterinarians interact with that particular client. For example, a general practitioner will probably chat more personally with owners of a new puppy to build rapport, while a large animal vet might keep the chit-chat to a minimum or keep it at the end of the appointment to be respectful of the dairy farmer’s busy schedule.
Then there are the animals who have no owners—stray animals and wildlife. I’ve been observing the interns and 4th-year students on rotation in the wildlife clinic for a few months now, and every time I go in I can’t help thinking that without the presence of the public, something is missing. It’s very different from the small animal clinic where I worked, where I would gather histories, explain medication regimens, and provide information on various diseases that are prevented with the common core vaccines. I grew to love being a source of information for the public and helping the veterinarian make a difference in people’s lives. I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet some wonderful people—kind, generous, fascinating people. But there were some not-so-fun aspects, too, like discussing euthanasia, navigating money issues, and serving unsatisfied clients. It will be a tough decision for me, deciding what type of public involvement I prefer, because that will influence what area of medicine I pursue. I would hate to choose an area of medicine only to find out that I would have been happier in an area that had more human-human interaction!