by Timothy R. Kraabel, DVM, DABVP (Canine/Feline Practice), President of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners
Our oldest son, Geoffrey, graduated from veterinary school this month. Dr. Fritzler and I were there along with our other children, Aubrey and Nick, and our best friends, their daughter, and Geoffrey’s grandparents. Our best friends are a physician and a veterinarian and, as you might imagine, we have many friends that are veterinarians. My kids grew up thinking most families have at least one veterinarian parent.
Our son has been our ultimate mentoring experience. Veterinary medicine is weaved into every aspect of our lives. Clinic responsibilities, work stories, and talking medicine are our collective family experience. We were all in our minivan many years ago and Aubrey, who was maybe 6 years old at the time, leaned forward and interrupted Beth and I by saying, “You know that no one understands you people”. Geoffrey, Aubrey, and Nick have been watching what it is like to be a veterinarian their whole lives. We have had days when all five of us were working at the clinic. When Geoffrey was in high school, we started to talk medicine and then staffing issues and finance. He wanted to know it all. He has done many surgeries with me, worked in the exam room as my assistant, and talks management endlessly with Dr. Fritzler. Our text stream for the past 4 years was a constant banter of “They say we should be doing . . .”; “What is your differential list for . . ?”; and “How do you treat . . ?” I would counter with things like, “Well, they are wrong. . .”; “Is this for an assignment? Are you allowed to phone a friend?”; and “You know that I just did this all day. Can we talk about something else?”
Mentoring is the privilege and responsibility of the practicing healer. “Learn one, do one, teach one” is the way medicine stays on its cutting edge. The generation of veterinarians, technicians, and support staff coming towards us want community and they want their work to matter. They want to be part of something bigger and they want to live out their dream of caring for the animal kingdom. Mentors can help develop that passion if we empower and support their early experiences.
Our clinic takes fourth year veterinary students, technician students, and assistant student externs. We are a hospital focused on teaching. Ten of Geoffrey’s classmates came through our clinic this last year for month-long preceptorships. They are remarkable people and are a credit to veterinary medicine. They need us as mentors; just as we all needed our mentors when we were learning. This turn on the path of the experienced doctor’s career is paid for with sweat, toil, and years. Mentoring and giving back is a reward.
At the end of graduation, the graduates stood to recite the veterinarian’s oath. Veterinarians in attendance were asked to stand and recite it again with the new graduates. Dr. Fritzler and I stood and said the veterinarian’s oath with our son. The words caught in my throat and tears were streaming down my face. Thirty years, almost to the day, and the second Dr. Kraabel entered into the profession.. “Proud” doesn’t do the moment justice.