President’s Message – July, 2015
Some wise person once noted that, for most people, a sense of their own mortality comes upon them at about age fifty. Maybe because I’m a veterinarian (and, with the short lifespans of most of our patients combined with a conflict between our realist and idealist selves, we tend to be a bit fatalistic) or, more likely, because fifty is not that many years off, I already look at my own mortality with more urgency now. I think it has given me a greater appreciation of, among other things, the four seasons that are so well-represented here in Indiana, of their diversity and brevity, and of their consistency. In way of that last thought, I know roughly when I’ll mulch my shrubs, and rake leaves, and always look like a genius when that atopic dog comes in within a week of his visit for the same darn thing last year, and I know just what to do to help him out. Some of the pleasures of my childhood now can be seen in the joyful experiences of my kids as they celebrate the seasons, especially in summertime. Even if they don’t love the experiences like I did (and those examples become more numerous with each passing year), I can shut out their grumbles with my own happy recollections. That which is consistent now provides me more comfort than ever.
But we all know it is never a good thing to fall in love with the consistent. Relationships change as people move away or move on in their careers. That favorite restaurant will go out of business. Good health will inevitably give way to the ravages of aging bodies. Culture and technology will increasingly leave behind things in which I find significance and solace. The way I practice medicine cannot be the same way I practiced yesterday or today, and there is a twinge of grief that accompanies that.
But it is summertime, and that always makes me optimistic. At this writing, I will represent Indiana at the AVMA Annual Meeting in Boston (where I’m told the snow has finally melted) next week. One afternoon will be spent in sessions called “The Future of Veterinary Medicine.” I honestly don’t know what will be discussed there, but I do know that this profession will be different in five years, ten years, twenty years. You and I will have to navigate changes that are wonderful (like new technologies that help our patients and improve our capabilities) and some less wonderful (like increasing numbers of resistant bacteria, pharmaceutical backorders, and financial threats from entities we couldn’t have anticipated ten or twenty years ago). Change is exciting, but often exciting in the way a stormy sea is…thrilling until you get the sense that you could actually drown.
In reality, IVMA exists, I think, to allow veterinarians in Indiana to navigate those seas together, and to create a way, not just to avoid drowning, but to actually flourish in the midst of change. Some of that means we will win legislative battles. Sometimes, like in the case of the equine massage bill, we will just keep a law from being “less bad” (and to get a little kicker codified limiting the administration of such biologics as Bordetella vaccines to practicing veterinarians!). Sometimes, it means we will find ways to collectively navigate the “new normal” in the best ways we can. And when a crisis comes up, we can find an ability to work together with a strength greater than we could muster as individuals.
The threat of Avian Influenza, discussed elsewhere in this issue, is an example. It’s a particularly salient one, as county fairs across Indiana this summer must, sadly, exclude the chickens, turkeys, and ducks that have been there before, but it has nonetheless demonstrated veterinary medicine in our state at its best. Governmental agencies, particularly the Board of Animal Health, and diagnostic facilities, like Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, along with numerous veterinarians in clinical practice, have worked hard, and worked effectively thus far, to protect the vital poultry industry in Indiana. IVMA has been a part of this effort, educating the public and our own veterinarians, and at work in the public relations arena as well. When something is working, and a profession is working together, it should be applauded. The “Letter to the Editor” that we include in this issue is one way. The situation could change quickly, but I’m confident that IVMA will be nimble and effective in the unique role we play, even as things change.
The Animal Welfare committee met in late June, and reaffirmed a commitment to ethical and scientifically sound practices for animal welfare for all species in Indiana. Another part of the committee’s task is sharing information about animal welfare across the diverse species and practice types in Indiana. The oath we all take as veterinarians requires us to be reasonably cogent in issues that impact the wide sweep of veterinary medicine, as an obligation to animal welfare and public health. The articles that committee members share in the Hoosier Veterinarian are designed to do just that…keep us all informed of what we should know as animal welfare advocates and guardians of public health . And, additionally, part of what the committee does is to convey the significance of the issues of animal welfare as it relates to human welfare. Those are the “One Welfare” initiative we’ve started, primarily through the awards we give that celebrate a dedication to animal welfare and the human-animal bond. Please consider submitting names for the appropriate awards that you’ll see elsewhere in this issue. They really offer an opportunity to “toot our own horns” while recognizing the strong connection we have with others who also care deeply about human and animal welfare in Indiana.
One of the things I have thoroughly enjoyed already this year is meeting veterinarians at district meetings across Indiana. Here I see people I consider “giants of the profession,” people who practiced long hours through challenging times to establish the profession as we know it today, and who led IVMA through the challenges of their own day. It’s really refreshing to see how collegial they remain.
At the same meetings, I see young veterinarians who also work hard and hold to visions of what the profession will become. IVMA’s groundbreaking “Power of Ten” leadership program will launch its next installment with ten enthusiastic recent graduate veterinarians this August. (Disclaimer: My young associate is one of the members of this impressive new group. I’m kinda proud.) This is the incubator for our new leaders, the generation that will fulfill the call of IVMA to navigate the often-stormy seas of change to come. Yes, the seasons are consistent in themselves, but they also remind me that change is the most consistent fact of life. I think I’m in the “late summer” of my career, with autumn approaching, and know that there will be pleasant and difficult change ahead. I hope we all can find enjoyment in this actual summer season, even as we look with anticipation to navigating the changes ahead together.
Dr. Jerry Risser