President’s Message – September, 2015
Summer---what a blur! For some of us with school-age children, summer is that eight-week window that includes the wind-down from the chaos of one school year ending to the wind-up of an all-new level of chaos in the next school year. My older two are now in middle school, heaven help me, offering new levels of academic challenge and mouthiness around our frenetic home. Though I never even made it there, some people know summer as the season of county and state fairs, and have cholesterol reports that will attest to just how much fun their culinary lives at the fairs were.
I thoroughly enjoyed four days in Boston at the AVMA Annual Convention, where I heard, saw and learned a lot. After a brief 4 days with my family in the mountains of the Eastern Townships of Quebec (tres belle!) it was back to a very busy world at home. Like many a good veterinarian, I managed to run my immune system into the ground and ended up with nine days of a fever and a diagnosis of pneumonia. And, also like a good veterinarian, I only missed a single day of work in its entirety, assuring a much slower recovery.
But the best parts of a sustained fever are the occasional hallucinations. My favorite was one where I was sitting on the deck of my (nonexistent) Michigan lake house, contemplating all the strategic planning during my career that had led to owning such a relaxing place to spend so many carefree hours. This wasn’t a malaria-kind of fever, so visions were brief and I was swung back to reality quickly, and even said to myself, “What strategic planning?” I had been convicted by a series of sessions attended at AVMA on “The Future of Veterinary Medicine,” that I have dreams and hopes for my practice, but no solid strategy of how to get there.
It was especially jarring to me because we spend so much energy at IVMA doing just that…looking at our core values, the vision of where we want to go, and then developing quantifiable ways to get there. A strategic plan. But I don’t know how many of us as veterinarians actually do that in our own professional lives. I doubt I’m alone in deficiencies there.
If anything has taught me some lessons in this time serving IVMA, it is just how important strategic thinking and planning are. The days when it is enough to ensure roaring success by being strong clinicians, hardworking, caring, and personable people is, sadly, over. Already we see practices that may be in nearly identical geographic and socioeconomic areas with wildly different levels of success. One flourishes, one struggles. I am increasingly convinced that the practices that succeed do so for reasons beyond luck (though I am always a fan of good fortune when it comes my way for no apparent reason). To succeed and thrive, veterinarians will have to constantly review their core values and assess their vision, identify and modify the strategies to get there.
A big part of membership in IVMA is collaboration in doing that. As a group, we want everyone’s work as a veterinarian in Indiana to flourish. Yes, we will remain vigilant to the threats, like the deceptively-titled “Fairness to Pet Owners Act” that continues to pick up steam in the Congress, or veterinary compounding guidelines, or the impact of not-for-profit entities and the Internet on practices. But, more than that, we know that we have to work together to develop plans for coping, and thriving, in the face of the battles we may not win. It has been a terrific exercise for me to flesh out my own vision, and to identify four or five strategic goals to get there, and to ask my staff and colleagues for objectives to get there. Ask me in a year how it goes.
I continue to be bullish on veterinary medicine…it’s a resilient profession with some of the brightest minds and people with the strongest work ethics filling its ranks. Like IVMA, we all need to have individual strategic goals to face the “new normal” future where we will all work. And IVMA will continue to develop ways to partner with its members, through continuing education and other means, to help.
One of the strategic goals IVMA has, by the way, been advocacy, particularly to protect the profession from threats that may arise from legislation or bureaucratic shenanigans. We have increasingly sought to be pro-active, looking at introducing legislation and preparing in advance for what may come our way. We got to see a shining example of what preparation can do for us when we were called before the “Jobs Creation Committee” (JCC) on August 20th. If you don’t know just what the heck that is, you’re not alone—when she saw the “JCC” note in my planner, my wife wanted to know why I had to visit the “Jewish Community Center” last week. This is, in fact, a state agency that is reviewing the necessity of licensing all professions in Indiana (about 1 in 4 of all workers are licensed currently).
The purpose of the JCC, created by Governor Pence, is to assess and determine which professions should continue to be licensed. While we all assume that veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians should remain professions for which there should be licenses and regulation, it is a presentation that we took seriously. It allowed veterinary medicine to demonstrate our value and importance in the economic and public safety landscape in Indiana. Another group of professionals, who failed to take the review seriously, were present at their second hearing just before our own and may lose licensure requirements for their profession.
Happily, between excellent preparation from our lobbying firm, The Corydon Group, a presentation developed by Lisa Perius, our Executive Director and delivered flawlessly by Dr. Pete Bill, great work in describing the landscape of veterinary medicine by the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, and excellent responses to questions posed to IVMA members in the audience, including State Veterinarian Dr. Bret Marsh, Indiana veterinary medicine acquitted itself well. There is no final decision as of this writing, but all in attendance felt good about our presentation and information. Your association, I’m glad to report, strategized and implemented well, and I, for one, am deeply appreciative.
With that pat on the back, I do hope the wind-down of summer offers all of you an opportunity for reflection on ways to plan for the future, with enthusiasm and optimism. Who knows…maybe I’ll someday be reading my Hoosier Veterinarian from that lake house in Michigan!
Dr. Jerry Risser