It seems so distant now, but not long ago my greatest goal in life was to attend vet school. I’ve written previously about how fortunate I was to have great employers who were tremendous mentors and role models. Now as I transition to my third year, it seems like things are beginning to click. The unwritten responsibilities that I will have as a veterinarian, such as facilitating the education of future veterinarians, are beginning to take precedence in my life.
We are all struggling with something, but our battles are not always apparent to those around us. Admission to veterinary school was a challenge and one of my life’s greatest accomplishments; but I haven’t forgotten how I felt working seventy hours a week at three jobs and caring for an ailing parent. These stresses were aspects of my life that employers weren’t always aware of. They were things I took to bed every night and went to work with in the morning. Being overtired and stressed, it’s easy to see how a compassionate mentor could make all the difference in the world to a student who’s aspiring to get to the next step.
That’s the type of veterinarian, mentor, employer, and advocate I aspire to be. Helping people is my goal in life. I emphasize this deliberately because in contrast to my good fortunes, I’ve also felt underappreciated. I’ve had the experience when all I needed in life was someone to give me a little credit when things aren’t going well. I’ve felt embarrassed by condescending explanations made by doctors. I’ve felt like a nuisance because I had questions I wanted to ask. But those are not the reasons why I continued to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, though they present the opportunity to make life better for someone following a similar path.
For me, it’s simple. Veterinary medicine is, at its essence, a service to the community. With that, I believe that men and women who take the oath have a critical responsibility. We are responsible for helping those around us, whether it’s through surgery, medicine, or simply compassionate communication. As we all move forward in our endeavors, let’s always remember medicine is founded in collegiality.