First up: Thank you all for the encouragement on kicking the habit-which-shall-not-be-named. Next: Apologies for the rare lapse in my daily posting schedule and the tardiness of this Saturday entry...

...but I’ve been working. Mostly, anyway. Today, I spent 3.5 hours lecturing (again, sort of) on issues surrounding new graduate integration into the work force. It was really more like a discussion, only...

  1. I had to organize some talking points,
  2. come up with some stats,
  3. conjure up a PowerPoint presentation,
  4. practice some introductory comments,
  5. add a couple of jokes, 
  6. get up early,
  7. get dressed up, and
  8. spend almost four hours coaxing along a discussion on the merits and pitfalls of how we currently treat new graduates, why it matters and how we can better meet their needs where we fail. (And as it turns out, we fail often.)

All this for the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association's Fall Leadership Conference. In Denver. (Which is a far piece and about 50 degrees away from my home in Miami.)

I don’t know about your profession, but ours is one for which the nest-leaving step can feel like a perilous fall. That’s because the trials of the cold, cruel world come on fast and furiously when no internship or residency cushions the divide between it and the warm embrace of academia. It’s worse, still, when new grad debt load averages over $130 K.

Sure, that’s no less than what a physician or a dentist owes after eight to twelve years of education (actually, for an MD it’s about $200 K due to the bucks an internship and residency can rack up), but when a physician gets her first job, she’s making about twice what her college buddy vet friend makes––despite the fact that her vet friend’s been practicing for about five years now.

No complaints here. Just the facts: We carry high loads of debt with comparably few resources available to manage it. We’re widely expected to enter practice with a modest arsenal of clinical skills. Sometimes we’re asked to do so without opportunities for mentorship. It’s a white knuckle trial-by-fire for more than a few. Which is bad for us. Which is bad for our patients.

Q: So what’s a profession to do once it belatedly begins to realize it’s not taking adequate care of its own precious resources?

A: Move on it––fast!

Which is what our little discussion was all about: Creating conditions by which veterinarians could reasonably expect to improve their young colleagues’ lot via peer-to-peer mentorship programs, new grad friendly practice accreditation, one-on-one debt management counseling pre and post graduation, etc.

We came up with a decent array of solutions. Bad news: All of which cost money or require some serious administrative ingenuity. Good news: It seems as if much of the latter is already in evidence in Colorado.

Tired as I am after four hours wearing heels I had no business packing, worn out as I am from the stress that preceded the presentation (performance anxiety, you know?) and truly just craving a cigarette as I currently am, I can honestly say it went well. At least now I can breathe a little easier and enjoy the rest of my weekend here (as it snows, and snows, and snows...).

PS: The pic above is of Mills Lake, a hiking spot in Rocky Mountain National Park that looked just like this yesterday. Beautiful. Too bad four inches of snow means frigid long underwear should you manage to fall on your butt as much as I did.