OK so let me say this at the outset: IMHO it’s an icky way to make some extra cash. Taking one’s clothes off for general consumption in a sex-themed magazine is not a moneymaking activity I’d choose for myself.

That said, I once posed in the nude for a polite audience of MIT photography students while I was in college. I was a little uncomfortable and chose not to do it again. But it was good money ($150 for a two hour sitting) and helped me get through my sophomore year of college when I was dead broke.

So when I read about a young veterinarian who posed for Playboy to help pay for her student loans (I’m sure they paid her more than $150) I was not among the scandalized. However the large majority of vets who wrote to various veterinary trade publications were not as blasé, to put it mildly.

Veterinarians are great as individuals but act a little funny as a group. We take a very protective approach towards our profession and act accordingly when faced with any issue that potentially denigrates our standing in the community. It’s a reasonable reaction for professionals who put so much of themselves into their work.

Unprofessional, tasteless, disgraceful and disgusting were a few of the nicer adjectives leveled against the Playmate. Oh well, I thought, she’s earned the wrath of the veterinary community along with her $10,000. Perhaps it’s a small price to pay for a big city girl with a lot going for her. Yet with a debt of $150K, $10K can only help so much.

Yes, $150,000. The real disgrace is not a mature, professional woman’s willingness to pose for a tawdry sex rag. I find it far more disgraceful that graduates leave vet school with $50K starting salaries (typically for slaves hours) only to face $2K monthly loan payments. The math is simple. This salary won’t fund a mortgage for years at that rate. How can you start a family, buy a practice, or afford to live in a city like Miami?

It’s especially disheartening when those of us dedicated to our careers feel pressured to take on extra work in other fields, work unbelievably long hours, or abandon the profession altogether mid-stream. How many future vets do we lose to the medical, legal, or business-related professions as a result of the high debt to income ratios endemic to our profession?

When my clients joke that they’re helping me make my BMW payments I want to point to the twelve-year-old car parked out back. Right now, my finances are all about my student loans and the astronomical mortgage payments on my Miami home (thankfully purchased before our area’s housing boom and subsequently refinanced to—you guessed it—help me make my student loan payments). Vacations? Try boyfriend-assisted conferences and family-funded trips to NYC for the holidays. Sad? Not so much. But vets younger than me have it much worse.

This month’s Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association presents the results of a study on veterinary graduate indebtedness. Over 50% of graduates are saddled with over $100,000 in student loan debt. This does not include personal debt in the form of credit cards, a sizable chunk of change if my experience is in any way exemplary (my MasterCard finally maxxed out at about $25K). Now that’s indecent exposure.

So why is it important for you to hear about the issues that matter to vets? Because you’ll eventually pay for them, too. Soon, you’ll be doling out more for your veterinary services than ever before. It’s inevitable. The pressures on the coming generation are not those of older vets. New vets taking over will have to struggle much harder to make payments on practices they buy. The prices you pay will reflect this.

I feel for the Playmate who’s garnered the enmity of the profession. I’d venture to guess her younger colleagues understand her rationale better than most. I don’t think they’re the ones writing letters to trade publications. They’re far too busy working their sixty-hour weeks to notice.