Rekindle your passion for practice


Rekindle your passion for practice

Dr. Marty Becker says it's time to do a little soul-searching.
Jan 01, 2010

A lot of you know me for my sunny disposition. I'm the Chicken Soup guy, always seeing the cup as half full. As you might imagine, I still see the glass as half full, and, in fact, for veterinarians in 2010 and beyond, I see the cup brimming over.

But I think we've arrived at a point in the evolution of our profession where we need to do a little soul-searching. We need to do exams on ourselves just like we recommend for our clients' pets.

Dr. Marty Becker, shown here with his dogs Quora (left) and Quixote, is a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member, writer, speaker, and resident veterinarian for Good Morning America. (Photos by Joel Riner)
When I first decided I wanted to be a veterinarian, back in the 1950s, the profession was primarily made up of men treating large animals. Now it's a profession of women and men—notice I didn't say men and women—treating companion animals. Veterinarians are studying day and night to become diplomates in an ever-expanding array of specialties, the likes of which we couldn't even imagine 50 years ago.

But there are also practitioners who have lost their way, who have burned out and given up the quest for joy in the practice of veterinary medicine. They're looking for that one thing, that tiny spark to get their flame going again.

Now, I don't necessarily think we need a revolution in veterinary medicine. By all measures we're doing pretty well. According to a BusinessWeek cover story in 2008, consumers spend 25 percent more money on pets—their food, grooming, and veterinary care—than on movies, music, and video games combined. Fifty-three billion dollars, or more than what's spent on candy and toys combined—that's how large this market is.

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What's more, the pet industry is projected to grow 5 percent this year, recession or no recession. So as a whole, we're doing incredibly well compared with every other industry. But I do think we need a little renewal in the profession. In the spirit of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, we need to get back to the garden. You might remember the Joni Mitchell song, but the garden I'm referring to is the garden where the seed was planted to bring you into the profession in the first place.

Let me guess. You didn't get into this profession so you could retrieve financial information from your practice management database and compare your hospital to others in areas such as fees, revenue, and expenses. You didn't get into this profession because you had a desire to work unmanageable hours, manage a bunch of people, make hiring and firing decisions that affect lives, or design the perfect hospital.

After all, if your primary concern was financial success, you'd have used your superior brain power and the drive that got you into this profession to fill cavities as a dentist, remove wrinkles as a plastic surgeon, or analyze algorithms for Google. And you'd be on vacation in the Greek isles right now instead of reading this article.

You got into this profession because you wanted to care for animals. It was a seed that was planted in most of you before the age of 10 and has caused some of you to never miss a day of work because of illness. Why? Because that passionate drive to help animals can eclipse almost every other aspect of your life.