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A few weeks ago I did a program with a very good friend and fantastic humorist and colleague Dr Bo Brock in which we discussed the suicide of Robin Williams and the alarming rate of suicide of veterinary professionals relative to that in the general population. This past month, my colleague Dr Patty Khuly authored an article in a publication I received discussing the same topic, and while the holiday season brings fun and joy to many, it also brings heightened stress, depression, and anxiety to others. In one of her final paragraphs, Dr Khuly opines, ” …we should worry more about ensuring that all our colleagues have a nurturing, supportive, and judgment-free profession to work in.”

Profound words of wisdom, especially the final half-dozen words. In a profession where each and every day we as veterinarians are immersed in the beauty of nature, the scent of puppy breath, the elegance of the equine and the wisdom and perseverance of the senior pet, is it this external judgment that creates the vision of hopelessness rather than the appreciation of the environment and opportunities we are blessed to experience? Judgement from colleagues, teachers, employers, owners, family members, spouses and possibly most significantly from ourselves? Without rules, guidelines and standards, any profession would risk becoming a free for all centered on self-interest, losing, eventually, the purpose of service through one’s extensive education and experience which should be the motivation and the character of the profession. That said, I would suggest that the peace of mind so vital to staving off the vulture of depression can be achieved by being true to oneself, over and beyond the pleasing of others, yet with an attitude of service to others and reverence for the standards and rules within which one is expected to perform. This can present a true challenge for those in the service professions in that there can be conflicting thoughts and applications of theories, and the building of one’s clientele, the business to provide for oneself and family, is dependent on “the satisfied client or customer”. But what is the gain to gain the wealth of the world yet lose one’s own self and values? (Someone much wiser and more famous than I has previously pontificated this). While it is established human nature, and I would contend healthy, and debatably even Biblical, to strive for more, to continue to work to get better, to enhance our value and grow our wealth, WHEN WE FAIL TO BE STILL FOR JUST A MOMENT AND BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT WE HAVE, our focus and perspective are blurred to the point of self compromise either physically, spiritually, emotionally, socially or some combination of these. Our perception of an outcome or influence of events, actions, or situations based upon external expectations can limit us in accepting the actuality of the situation and seeking resolution acceptable to our self, alone, without thought for the judgement of others.

Life is a competitive situation. You are not going to win every game, every argument, every job, every bid, every case, and eventually every ailment, disease or malady. BE GRATEFUL you have the opportunity to compete. BE GRATEFUL you have the ability to grow and learn from the situation, not only about the situation, more importantly about your SELF!

I’ve read several commentaries from frustrated veterinarians, have experienced the feeling myself, frustrated with owners who elect euthanasia over treatment, abandonment over responsibility. I’ve learned to step back and be grateful for the owners who make the choice to be responsible and who allow me to pursue treatment. Rather than fret and stress over the person and animal NOT in the exam room, focus on those that are. Rather than stress over the equipment I don’t have, be grateful for that which I DO have. I look at my business management and ask MYSELF if I am doing everything I can to make treatment options as available and affordable as possible. Frankly, I became involved in a networking business because it provided an extremely simple way to allow people to earn more money if they wanted to be able to afford to care for their animals (drbruce.vemma.com- drink your product, get two other people to do the same, repeat, get paid on everything that everyone else drinks, How simple is that?). Am I the only one that walks into a hospital that looks like a 5 star luxury resort and question THAT as why healthcare costs are where they are? ( I digress) But that was someone’s choice, not mine. I can only control my thoughts, my feelings, and my choices. As can you. And when I accept that reality, I CAN do my part in creating a nurturing, supportive, and judgement-free world in which to live and work.

There is not a day I awake that I am not thankful for my health, the ability and opportunity to work in the service of my fellow-man and animal, and for living in what is still the greatest country in the world. What do you have that you are most thankful for this season and what advice do you have for listeners who may be seeing the cloud rather than the silver lining this time of year? Happy holidays, and THANKS for stopping by!

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