Tag Archives: American Veterinary Medical Association

The “Vet- School” Scam


As a veterinarian passionate about practical veterinary education and student debt, I have supported the brand new Midwestern University’s Veterinary College that opened this Fall in my backyard of Glendale, AZ. A piece of me, however, is apprehensive about the future of this student class (annual tuition is $52, 400 excluding living expenses) and this new generation of practitioners, as we try to navigate the seas of exorbitant student debt coupled with stagnant salaries. Even scarier, is that these challenges could be heightened by research that indicates we may not need an ever-increasing number of veterinarians.

In Atlantic’s September 2014 Education Issue, “The Law School Scam, examines the crisis in legal graduate education. My jaw dropped as I read this article and realized that this is not a veterinary or law school issue; this is a graduate education in America issue. However, if the legal profession (where I wrongly assumed everyone makes six figures) is burdened, where does that leave veterinary medicine, the lowest paid health profession? Continue reading The “Vet- School” Scam

My First Veterinary Management Year: A Retrospective

SLC-Circle-3There have been many changes and challenges over the last few weeks at my clinic. Possibly the most important one is that after 22 years my clinic supervisor and partner in crime decided to pursue a different veterinary opportunity.  He was loved by the team and extremely knowledgeable and helpful. His decision came as a shock to the staff, doctors, and the entire company.

When he told me, I was speechless. I kept wondering if I can lead this team on my own. Who will make the schedule, helped monitor controlled drugs, and the list went on.

We were also due for a quarterly team meeting. I decided to have the meeting without him, leading our clinic all by myself.

Of course, my manager wanted to observe the meeting and then meet with me. Nervous and frazzled, as I am before every team meeting (no matter how much I prepare), the meeting was a success. Multiple people noted the dynamic change in staff morale and enthusiasm. Employee engagement and clinic pride is at an all time high. I feel liked, trusted, and respected. After the meeting some of the staff mentioned what a nice meeting it was, even without my cohort, their chief, as he was nicknamed.

I stopped dead in my tracks and  wondered how did I accomplish this? Continue reading My First Veterinary Management Year: A Retrospective

Veterinary marijuana- Taboo or to do?

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.

Veterinary Internships Part 1- To sacrifice or not to sacrifice

Many current veterinary students have to face the looming question of whether or not to pursue an internship after graduation. Wait a second I have my DVM degree, can’t I just start practicing? Indeed you can, but internships have become more popular for clinics and students. For the graduating new veterinarian an internship has pros and cons that need to be weighed before making this major decision. In this post, I will break the answer down from simplest to most complicated situation. In a follow-up post, I will discuss what an internship is like, based upon my actual experience.

Scenario 1: If as a student you know for certain that you want to specialize and embark on the journey to become a veterinary surgeon or oncologist, etc. this is your only option.  There is no need to read any further.

Scenario 2: If you think you may want to specialize, but you are not 100% sure, you should probably complete an internship. Once you practice full-time, regressing to an intern salary will prove more difficult, as will being a student vs. practitioner. Some internships, many in fact, allow you to be your own practitioner with guidance as needed. However, there is always some hazing/unfairness in being an intern and not an associate. Completing an internship may also provide the information you need to make your next career move. Many internships rotate through the specialities and have elective time. These opportunities would give you a chance to decide if you want to specialize. These opportunities may also provide good references and potential mentorship opportunities for your future specialization. It may even open a door to a specialization internship- the new wave in the long road to a veterinary specialty.

Scenario 3: I want to go to into emergency medicine. The simple answer used to be: complete a small animal internship. This is the path that I chose. I chose this path because I exclusively wanted to work in emergency and most of the larger small animal emergency hospitals n major metropolitan areas only hire internship-trained veterinarians, and occasionally will hire seasoned general practitioners. I was not taking any chances. I also have toyed with the idea of doing a critical care residency (see scenario 2).  My experience was difficult, but worthwhile. When it came time to apply for a job in a new state, I was a very competitive candidiate because of my internship experience.

The flip side to this story is that at least 3 of my classmates found positions with good mentoring in emergency clinics as their first or second job. They also have now received more surgical experience then I have. The risk you take is the question of good mentorship, I am not a risk taker, but if you are and are willing to weigh your options, completing an internship is not a requirement for a position in small animal emergency.  It does provide a competitive advantage in a tight job market. You must also consider I made a 1/3rd of my current salary during my internship year, so there is an opportunity cost.

Scenario 4: I want more mentorship and experience prior to becoming an associate. This is where the question becomes harder and will be different for every person. For many graduating students, jumping into practice is scary and they do not feel they are ready.  You are more ready than you think, however the first 3-6 months is tough with or without an internship.

The cons of doing an internship in this situation are:

  • opportunity cost, less earning potential your first year
    • There is little evidence to support you will make more money as an associate after completing an internship, but depending on your field and the job market you may have a competitive advantage.
  • spending time doing emergency medicine if you don’t like it- this can be brutal
  • longer hours
  • more learning/research based, especially if you are at a university
  • less surgical experience
  • One more year at the bottom of the veterinary food chain- ego’s can take a beating
The pros of doing an internship in this situation are:
  • Depending on your field and the job market you may have a competitive advantage upon completion. Some practice owners prefer non-internship trained students, so they can be modled. Others prefer internship trained and find the associates more seasoned, stronger medically, and more efficient.
  • Keeps the door open for a specialty.
  • Guaranteed mentorship, although this will differ in style by program.
  • The first few months may be tougher, but you will edge up the learning curve faster than your peers. This is important to some people but in no way a requirement.
  • More time to explore specialized interests in veterinary medicine.
This debate rages on, as more students have been selecting internships post-graduation. The AVMA’s 2011 survey found that, of about 1,540 graduates who had accepted employment offers, 700 had accepted internships, according to JAVMA. The 2009 survey indicated that, of 1,525 graduates who had accepted a position, 600 had accepted internships.
Source: American Association of Veterinary Clinicians
Based on AVMA data, the average internship salary is $25,000 annually versus $65,000 mean starting salary for all veterinary employment types. 
In conclusion, there is no black and white answer for scenario 4. My best advice is to know yourself and do your research. Consider the financial and career implications in order to make the best decision.