HAPPY NEW YEAR! A Veterinarian’s Perspective…

It’s that time of the year again! Time where I take stock of what I’ve accomplished over the past 365 days, and, more importantly, time to hold myself accountable for what I’ve left undone.

In other words, it’s time to list my New Year’s resolutions.

2014 brought a remarkable number of changes in my life. Foremost, I took a 5-month hiatus from working — the first time I’ve had that much time off from employment since I was 14 years old.

I also made a major geographical move back to New York and currently live not to far from the town where I grew up. Along with the move, my husband and I are also first time homeowners and we’re “enjoying” all the perks that come with such responsibility.

Most recently, I commenced working at an entirely new hospital on Long Island, and am currently in the midst of learning a completely new foundation upon which I must practice my craft.

The changes I’ve endured were nowhere on my radar at this time last year, so I’m tempering my expectations for 2015 with a heaping dose of reality. I won’t attempt to predict where or what it is I’ll be doing this time next year, but it’s still important that I take the time to examine my career goals and set up a plan of action for the next 12 months.

Resolution #1

I will actively seek opportunities to promote awareness of veterinary specialty medicine.

When I’m asked what I do for a living, invariably I will answer, “I’m a veterinarian.” Most people understand what a vet does, but I know if I tack on that I’m a veterinary oncologist, I’m bound to face some perplexed stares, uninformed comments, and a general sense of unease.

However, my lack of desire to face those faces, comprehend those comments, or deal with the unease isn’t an excuse for not capitalizing on the opportunity to educate people about what it means to be a veterinary specialist.

Veterinary specialty medicine is a remarkably difficult profession to endure. Referrals don’t always come easily and specialists often have to be their biggest supporters in a competitive economy where even routine veterinary medicine is undervalued.

Though owners are becoming more and more savvy about the specialty options available for their pets, there are a staggering number of people who have no idea that we are an option for treatment. Furthermore, they can be dissuaded by fear of cost or commitment; or worse, steered away from the proper specialist by another doctor who claims to offer equal services, but who lacks comparable training.

It’s only through continued education and self-promotion that we specialists will have a chance of success.

Resolution #2

I will try to put myself on the other side of the exam table more often.

I constantly struggle with trying to explain complicated oncological topics to owners in such a way they not only comprehend their pet’s diagnosis, but are also feeling empowered to make the decisions necessary for their care.

It’s easy to forget that not everyone is familiar with medical vernacular, and even when they are, they may not be so in the same way. It’s equally easy to forget that just because an owner nods their head, or says they understand what I’m saying, that it means they truly grasp the importance of the concept I am trying to pass along.

Taking just a little extra time to check in with an owner or explain something in just a little more detail could make a huge difference in their awareness of what is truly going on with their pet.

Resolution #3

I will continue to cultivate my creative side while working in a scientific field.

OK, so maybe this is a bit of a cop out since this was one of last year’s resolutions. However, actively working on this aspect of my life was so rewarding over the past year, I would be remiss to not continue to do so in the New Year.

Medicine tends to be an exceptionally dry topic at times, and I spend so much of my time studying, researching, and translating fact-based objective theory into practice. In order to be successful, I need to blend in some creativity and mesh the art and the science of veterinary medicine into a better product.

Resolution #4

I will remain cognizant of the needs of my entire patient, not just those related to its cancer.

Each pet I meet is so much more than just his or her cancer diagnosis and co-morbidities abound in the population of animals I typically see. Though my expertise is in the area of cancer care, I still possess a working knowledge of all other areas of veterinary medicine and surgery and can use this to treat multiple issues as necessary.

Of course it’s more complicated than simply stating, “I can deal with it all.” Sometimes it’s a matter of knowing whether other issues should be addressed before (or even instead of) the pet’s cancer.This may even mean sending them to another specialist better equipped to do so.

Resolution #5

I will stop adopting cats.

OK, this one is a bit of a joke. But seriously, we are now up to four kitties in our household, and if I want to maintain a sense of sanity and happiness in my home life, I am going to have to put the brakes on adding any more felines for some time.However, now that we have the home, the square footage, and most importantly, the backyard, I’m pretty sure we will be adding a dog to our family in the upcoming year!

I wish everyone and their pets a happy and healthy New Year! I’m thankful for all of the support from friends and family and look forward to what 2015 will bring!

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