A veterinarian IS a medical doctor. Trained in surgery, internal medicine, diagnosis of diseases and acute injuries, administering anesthesia; an animal doctor is your best friend’s most educated and skilled expert. A veterinarian can open a living being, retrieve a swallowed sock, pair of underwear, or pieces of a shoe, sew the animal back up and send it home shortly afterwards. A veterinarian can set broken bones, diagnose and treat cancer, and look at a heart and diagnose palpitations, murmurs, enlargements and failure. A veterinarian frequently treats kidney and bladder stones, Cushings disease, cancer, diabetes and Lyme disease. A veterinarian is often the last person a pet sees before passing away.
A veterinarian has the heart-aching responsibility of ending a pet’s suffering when little hope remains of recovery. A veterinarian helps pet owning families say goodbye, often with many of the family in attendance up until the last moment, without regard to “business hours” or “appointment schedules.” A veterinarian struggles internally with many cases, between performing best medicine and performing affordable medicine. A veterinarian has a greater risk of divorce, suicide, and financial ruin than most if not all other medical doctors.
A veterinarian is one of the most popular professions that children say they want to be when they grow up. Yet, in the United States there are only 28 vet schools, less than 1 per state. States like Virginia and Maryland “share” their medical school at Virginia Tech. According to the New York Times, there is just 1 veterinarian for every 10 human-medical doctors in the United States.Many veterinarians are on the front lines of the US’s defense against contagious diseases, protecting the nation’s food supply, and are officers in the US military. There are veterinarians in Congress and some have been in the Senate. Increasingly, veterinarians are the only medical doctor in many rural towns.
A veterinarian is a small-business owner, employer, medical expert, confidant, and community icon. A veterinarian is the child who got straight-A’s throughout school, succeeded in even the most difficult subjects, could easily have gotten into human-medical schools, yet always knew from a young age that to be a veterinarian was the only road for them. However, statistically, a child is more likely to grow up and be in professional sports than be a veterinarian, both being just a sliver of the US workforce (less than 1/10 of 1%).
A veterinarian uses ultrasound, x-rays (or radiographs in medical terminology), endoscopes (the snakelike tube that lets one see inside a body without surgery), microscopes and lasers. Perhaps because veterinary medicine is predominantly pay-as-you-go, with fewer than 5% of pet-owners having pet insurance, veterinarians are forced to be on the leading edge of medical treatment methods, tracking human medical research studies, monitoring health treatment options overseas, and likely willing to treat using alternative medicine when they see convincing data of effectiveness (without the need to wait for medical insurance companies to sign-off). Veterinarians are increasingly learning acupuncture in medical school, since research has shown that in some cases it can be up to 80% effective in treating spinal paralysis compared with just 40% with surgery.
Veterinarians are increasingly becoming specialized as allergists, internists, rehabilitation therapists, ophthalmologists, neurologists, pathologists and more. Despite the increasing power and success of veterinarians and their tools to identify illness or injury in a non-talking patient, veterinarians are asked almost daily to skip diagnostic tests and/or guarantee a positive outcome from a medical treatment. Veterinarians are often challenged with questions like “Why can’t you do surgery for just $60?”, and most carefully explain why doctors don’t always require pain-blocking medicine, or pre-surgical tests to make sure a patient won’t die during surgery.
As a veterinarian, Dr. Chau carefully explains why the pet the family purchased for $50, now requires hundreds of dollars of treatment, and the circumstances of how a family “received” the pet (often a gift) has no bearing on the cost of its care. A veterinarian is a spokesperson for animals. A veterinarian, by many federal, state and local laws, is a “safe haven” for pets. They identify when a pet is suffering or ill, and can make recommendations that can greatly impact the quality and length of life. Veterinarians take their responsibilities seriously, are accountable to the state’s board of health professionals, and are sworn to uphold a high code of ethics.Veterinarians are humanitarian to their core. They demonstrate the best of human virtues by treating patients with dignity, doing no harm, and relieving suffering. As an advocate for what is right and just for an animal that a family chooses, a pet could do no better for a “best friend”.