A Confession... and Hope

I should start by saying that I posted a rant about veterinary schools and rising tuition a few years ago. If you want to read it, go here. I should also say that I posted that and am posting this because I care deeply about my profession and I am just as deeply concerned about its future. I am worried about the new graduates of recent and future years. WHAT are they going to do with their debt load? I post because in a way, I have been there, struggling in the first years out of veterinary school - trying to learn it all (practical medicine, personal intercommunication, the ropes at the new clinic, etc.) while worried about rent and loan payments due.

Change takes time, I know, but I have a confession to make. For the past few years, I have been asked to speak at my high school’s “Career Day.” I have been grouped with the dentists, the physicians, the pharmacists, and the research PhDs. Each time, I saw the bright faces of a few students that came specifically to hear me talk, the students who had not grown out of the “I want to be a veterinarian” phase, the dedicated, serious ones, the ones that would be such an asset to our profession.

My confession is that when those students ask me about becoming a veterinarian, I tell them the party line, like how rewarding the job is, but I also tell them how hard it will be financially. I feel that it is my duty as a mentor to ask them to plan ahead for their tuition. I suggest that after careful consideration and financial figuring, if they do not think they can swing it without large loans, if they cannot maintain a reasonable quality of life after graduation, that they at least consider alternatives. I try my best to be upbeat about the profession, but it is difficult when I see the expensive clothes and jewelry on the other professional speakers at Career Day. It is not financial or material jealousy. I do not care for labels or wear much jewelry (leftover choices of necessity and practicality from practice, I suppose). It is a jealousy of knowing that they are comfortable in their decisions and their professions have treated them well.

Not that I like it one bit, but I believe I have even had a part in convincing one or 2 young people in my personal life to seriously consider other options as a profession. I am not proud of that. I want nothing more than to be a veterinary cheerleader. I want nothing more than to tell ALL of them “If you love veterinary medicine, it will love you back!” But I am satisfied with my honesty. Those personal-friend-young-people will never come back to me years later and say, “I can’t make ends meet. You should have warned me.”

Though it has taken awhile, I am thankful to see that some in our profession are finally pulling their head out of the sand and seeing that this profession is in a shambles/crisis and it will not fix itself without sustained attention and pressure. The North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium (NAVMEC) recently published “Roadmap for Veterinary Medical Education in the 21st Century: Responsive, Collaborative, Flexible.” Here is a link to download it. It is a formidable document to read, but well worth it, if you have a stake in the future of veterinary medicine. It has the potential to be a game-changer. I cannot express how important I think this could be to the future of our profession.

In a totally awesome move, the NAVMEC is asking for feedback. If you love your profession as much as I do, please read the report and contribute your feedback to them. Here is the link if you want to give yours.

Regarding future Career Days at my alma mater: if the NAVMEC recommendations get implemented, I (and those hopeful, bright, potential future veterinary medical students) just may be able to have the best of both worlds. Here’s hoping – and acting… this thing isn’t gonna fix itself, you know. So I’m off to send my $0.02 to NAVMEC and cheer them on.



  • You are not the only veterinarian who  refuses to try to get youngsters to partake of the veterinary Koolade. For too long we have had poor leadership in this profession who have refused to address and act upon the problems of curriculum, student debt and ovesupply of veterinarians. Sadly, I think we will suffer a greatly diminished profession due to this. It can be turned around but it requires quick decisive action that may lead to a smaller but necessarily healthier profession. I know of other vets who are leaving because of their declining fortunes within the profession and retraining for human healthcare jobs. We are at a critical period and survival is not guaranteed.


    josephknechtdvm, 3 years ago | Flag
Uploaded By: Heather
3 years ago

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