Here at PVMA, it’s that time of year where we honor some of our best and brightest with a PVMA member award. They come with many names – distinguished veterinary service, veterinarian of the year, lifetime achievement – but it all boils down to the same thing: honoring someone who went above and beyond the call of duty. Historically, the job of veterinarian has been ranked as one of the most respected and trusted in the country. Lately, with the evolution of big box stores and online alternatives, that seems to be changing. To counteract this, I thought I’d mention a few of the reasons I think we should – literally or figuratively – thank a veterinarian.
A lot of times, the perception can be that veterinarians are doctors, therefore they must charge too much and they make lots of money. It’s true, they are doctors, but their extensive education to learn about many species, not just one, comes at a price. Most veterinarians graduate with upwards of $300,000 in education loans, and jobs in the field pay nothing like jobs do in human medicine. It’s like having a mortgage without a house. Why do they do it? They love animals.
Taking your pet to the veterinarian’s office can be stressful if your dog or cat isn’t too happy (or way too happy!) to see the other animals in the waiting room, let alone the staff. You see the waiting room and the exam rooms filled with other pet parents and their offspring getting check ups, vaccinations, and other routine items. But what about the animals who don’t have a family? The ones that get hit by a car or are found in the bushes, sick or injured, and are brought to a veterinarian. They treat those animals too, often without payment. They won’t tell you that. They don’t get credit for that. Why do they do it? They love animals.
Our member awards make me think not only of our 2013 recipients but of recipients from years past whose deeds are still relevant and noteworthy. I think of the veterinary practice who not only treated a K9 officer injured in the line of duty but gave his owner free veterinary care for life after his police partner passed away. I think of the veterinarian who mentored a neighborhood kid in his practice. They started out cleaning kennels, but he infused in them such a love for the profession and each animal that they went on to graduate from veterinary school.
Then there’s the doctor who went to a fundraiser in his own town to benefit Native Americans and casually inquired about what type of access to veterinary care Native Americans had who live on reservations. Upon hearing the answer ‘little to none,’ he started his own program of volunteers which still travels twice a year to multiple Native American reservations to provide veterinary care for free.
I’m reminded of the veterinary student who was so moved by the poor veterinary standards in Haiti that – as a student – she began a volunteer group to educate locals and provide veterinary care to those who live on the island.
So despite the white coat, veterinarians are people just like you and me. Owning a pet is very rewarding but can come with its share of hassles. Veterinary check ups, purchasing licenses, pet food, flea and tick prevention, etc. But next time your veterinarian recommends something to you or challenges your way of thinking, just listen. They do what they do because they love animals.