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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Trying to exit honorably

In a prior blog post, I mentioned pursuing a new job opportunity, with more of a management role along with continuing my small animal ER clinical duties. Last week, I gave my notice to my employer, who shall remain nameless. After advice from many friends and professionals, I decided to focus on pursuing the management opportunity as my reason for leaving, and not mention the other issues I was having with the company. Be diplomatic, and don't burn my bridge.

I nervously but confidently, walked in and when asked when I would leave I replied that I would honor my 45 days notice stipulated in my contract. He asked if I could stay on an extra 10 days, since covering shifts can be difficult, and I happily agreed and my new employer was flexible. The next day a company email went out (which I was conveniently left off of) asking to cover my shifts effective immediately and to not let me know.  It even stated that this was because I was going to a competing clinic. I have no proprietary information, and I would have been flexible if he had told me that when we met. He still has not told me of his plan, and feel this behavior was unprofessional and underhanded.

I am sharing this knowledge because sometimes you can do the right thing and it does not matter. My bridge is burned, an ego is bruised, but in the end I am all the better for it.  As for my reaction, I have reneged on my agreement to stay the extra 10 days, but have requested in email for confirmation of my last day as my 45th day since giving notice. Again, the honorable and professional way. No underhanded emails or scare tactics. If I am asked to leave early, well, so be it.

When in doubt, be professional and do the right thing. This profession is small and I am confident that people are taking notice of the right and wrong way to exit honorably.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Future of Veterinary Mentorship

As you will note in my Veterinary Internships Part 1 post, many veterinary students are seeking internships to gain mentorship and more experience after veterinary school. The big question is, is this economically and professionally the best option?

Another question to ponder is, what defines a mentorship? This question is being heavily researched by the AVMA, AAHA, and other trade organizations. AAHA has devised mentorship guidelines between an employer/mentor and the new graduate/mentee, and a plan or agreement to enforce the relationship. These tools are amazing and useful, however, sometimes new graduates feel comfortable discussing certain topics with a mentor outside of their organization.

As a new graduate myself, I value the importance of having mentors and having mentees. I am enrolled in the mentor program through my state veterinary association, but I feel a disconnect to my mentee. I have never met her and only spoken with her over email twice, mainly to introduce myself. I have been at a loss as to how to offer my support. As a mentee in school, my mentor was approachable and nice, but again we stumbled to find topics of discussion and did not meet very often.

So mentorships are improtant and there are outlets to provide them, so why aren't they living up to their potential.  A new program by the AVMA seems to provide some solution. In late 2012, the AVMA introduced the Compass Mentoring Program in Connecticut. This program has funding and support from the state veterinary association and Zoetis. The funding allows for newsletters and functions. But it is not just money that has led to the success of the program, it is the organization. The organizers send out a newsletter to the participants with useful information, such as communication tools, as well as discussion topics. The mentees feel it is a nice forum to discuss weaknesses, career paths, etc outside of their work environments.  The goal of the program is to have the pair meet up monthly, in-person and the relationship is followed up with participation surveys every 3 months.  Accountability and topics for discussion are likely the keys to the success of this program thus far.

It is wonderful and vital to have a veterinarian you work with there for mentorship as you being to practice.  It is also wonderful to have contacts outside of your hospital to create a more open forum, free of judgement.  For example, what if you are unsure you are in the right practice and you want to discuss it with someone who has more experience and objectivity?

I hope that the Compass program will be expanded through the AVMA, and/or that more state veterinary associations will adopt a more formal approach to their already existing mentorship programs; our new and old graduates only stand to benefit.

Please see for AAHA mentorship guidelines.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Veterinary marijuana- Taboo or to do?

Veterinary marijuana?
NewStat | California veterinarian campaigning to legalize pet medical marijuana

Recently in the most prestigious veterinary journal (JAVMA) there was a news article (see links above) about the use of marijuana in veterinary medicine.  With the legalization of marijuana in 2 states and medical marijuana admitted in 16 states, it is likely to become a hot topic. In addition, our four-legged family members are living longer, and in turn, developing diseases like cancer and arthritis. Pets with these diseases could benefit from the positive effects of marijuana.

As an emergency clinician in Arizona, I have seen my fair share of marijuana toxicity cases. For the most part, animals recover with low mortality, moderate morbidity. However, signs are dose dependent and the animals do not look happy when they are "stoned." They can have seizures, cardiac changes, temperature abnormalities, blood pressure changes and tend to have a glazed look, dribble urine, and can be very sensitive to light and touch.

So if this substance is toxic to pets, how could it help. Well it would need to be at the right dose and given by the right route. There is apparently a glycerin tincture that is sold in some licensed medical marijuana dispensaries currently in California.  Testimonials from clients and some veterinarians is that it may help, in cases where more traditional pain therapies (tramadol, gabapentin, NSAIDs) did not.

Veterinarians that have seen these beneficial effects do not want to prescribe it for all cases. They do believe, however, there is a need to investigate marijuana further to determine that case reports are not seeing placebo effect results.

The problem is that pet owners are not patiently waiting for the scientific evidence, and if they have access to medical marijuana they may try to give some to their pets. Some owners are trying the drug on the pets for separation anxiety, appetite stimulant, irritable bowel syndrome, in addition to palliative pain treatment. There are testimonials that topical cannabis oil is used to treat skin tumors. Owners do not understand dosing a pet is different from humans, and that medications can affect animals differently than they affect humans.

Veterinarians who are on the forefront of this movement agree there is enough justification to study the potential effects. The problem is what companies/institutions will finance this research? Perhaps as medical marijuana becomes legal for humans, and a company capitalizes on that they will support veterinary-related research as well.  Until that time, I would urge veterinarians to become comfortable talking with clients (especially in the medical usage states) about the possible toxic effects and the lack of research. Client education is key. As a community, we need to consider developing a consensus statement and hand out to be prepared when clients ask us our thoughts; or, when they do not ask and we suspect they are treating their animals without medical advice.

Kudos to JAVMA for bringing up a controversial topic that needs a responsible medical focus going forward.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Time to Turn Another Corner

As you become older, you realize life is all about decisions- both big and small. This is probably why many children want to be older; they want to make their own decisions.  Then you grow up and wish someone could tell you what to do. Oh the irony of life.

I am Type A, as many of you are too if you are engaged in veterinary medicine. I like the timeline of life to be neat and tidy and make sense. Through the last 2 months I have realized that life does not always want to be neat and tidy and you have to throw that desire out the window and become comfortable with change.

I have recently decided to switch employers for a career opportunity to become a clinic manager in addition to the duties of an associate veterinarian. I struggled with my strong pull toward loyalty to my employer and my fear of becoming complacent in my career. In the end, I chose to further my career. The decision seems straight forward now, but at the time I was trying to make the decision based on what if scenarios. What if I start a family in the next year? What if Matt finds a job in another location? Should I switch jobs after only 1 year, will I look like a job hopper?

With some help from my friends for some perspective, I took a risk. While I have not started the new position yet, it just feels right. Since I am Type A, it's funny how I have made some of biggest decisions on "it just feels right"- my marriage, my first dog adoption (unplanned), even my decision to leave my career in finance and go to vet school (this was not always the case if you read my previous blog).

When it became time to write out the pros and cons of moving on, the decision was clear. Luckily, I had the support to move forward. I spent time at the other clinic to try to ensure it was the right fit, and I tried to negotiate the areas of my current job I was unsatisfied with. The right decision presented itself clearly after a week of deliberation.

In summary, it is important to take risks and continue moving forward with life.  Unfortunately, we all have to make decisions. Some will be wrong, even if they feel right. The best thing is to take your time, keep a level head, and make a list- the right choice will pop out at you.