In the eyes of many, becoming a veterinarian is a dream career. We have a vision of a rural veterinarian grabbing their medical bag and driving through the picturesque countryside as the sun comes up. He or she arrives on a family farm to deliver a newborn calf, stitch up a wounded horse, or attend to a sick dog. While this may be a reality to some vets, on some days, modern veterinary medicine is much more.
As veterinarians we are often asked about our careers and education. Attaining a veterinary degree requires academic excellence, animal experience, personal fortitude, technical and problem solving skills. Vets are known as “animal lovers” but vets thrive on connections with all living things, not the least of which are people. We serve our communities, people and animals as counselors, detectives and healers. Whether in research, public health or private practice, vets are scientists interested in all creatures and their environment, with a passion for the health of all species.
Veterinary medicine has evolved to a complex discipline with many high tech tools available. As in human health, “a dose of penicillin” is not always the best or only option. The basis of modern veterinary medicine is still an examination of the animal(s) along with owner communication. Diagnostic options may include blood work, infectious agent identification, x-rays, ultrasound, endoscopy, and even specialized imaging such as CT scans and MRI’s in referral centers. Treatment options may include nutritional therapy, behavior modification, surgery, holistic medicine, acupuncture, drug therapy and much more. After interpreting the available information, vets become the animal’s advocate, partnering with the animal owner to select the best medical options. Depending on the species, veterinarians need to assess different aspects. For companion animals and agricultural species the goals of treatment may be different, but ultimately the animal’s optimal health and well being is the common denominator.
Vets work with many species including dogs, cats, horses, cattle, sheep, zoo animals, wildlife, and exotics. They may work in research, public health, private practice, food safety, academia, or on humanitarian projects in developing communities. Veterinarians may provide expertise in global health issues such as antimicrobial resistance and development of epidemic control measures such as in a flu outbreak. We are privileged to have so many ways to contribute to many aspects of health care in many different species and environments.
So go for it, become a vet! But not just because of your love for animals. Do it because you care about animals, people and the health of all species. Do it for the “one health” of families, communities, countries and the planet.
Dr. Corinne Spitzer is an owner and director of North Peace Veterinary Clinic Ltd. with her life and veterinary partner, Dr. Perry Spitzer.