President’s Message – 2021 is here! Are we off to a great start?

  |   WSVMA News

The Ides of February has passed and we are well into 2021. I think it’s safe to say that most of us are delighted to have 2020 in our rear-view mirror. What a crazy year it was. We anxiously awaited the arrival of 2021 with joy and excitement, certain that the new year would be a distinct improvement over the year just passed.

Here at the WSVMA, we have been working on a number of initiatives intended to support our profession and the work accomplished by our members who serve our public every day. One of our newer initiatives is centered around the development of educational materials and/or programs to promote responsible pet ownership by the public. We hope to create materials that will help pet owners understand the investment of time, enrichment, and treasure that responsible pet ownership requires. Another important initiative is our commitment to helping our profession increase its success in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion across its ranks. Within our healthcare teams and across our base of clients and stakeholders, we welcome everyone who needs our help, regardless of their cultural backgrounds, race, religion, gender, or sexuality. As always, we continue to represent our profession’s strengths and our needs as small business operators to the legislature, and we remain vigilant for challenges by other well-intended, non-veterinary interest groups who may seek to amend our practice act and provide elements of medical care to veterinary patients. Every day, we work on creating synergies across the profession with our state and local colleagues and contribute meaningfully to the changing landscape of veterinary medicine.

Over the past six months, numerous practitioner colleagues have shared with me their dreams and plans for 2021. Some pine wistfully to return to the way it was’ pre-Covid, back in the good old days. Others look forward with optimism and excitement, thinking that practice may never be quite the same as before and wanting to take the lessons of Covid times and improve on their client service and medical care delivery strategies going forward. These are truly exciting times, times that are filled with considerable potential for our profession to flourish.

How can we make the most of it? The answer is always the same, through leadership!

In my previous messages, I shared two of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” I introduced you to the importance of being Proactive versus Reactive in our life’s work. The first step is many times, the most difficult. Proactive people take that first step! Waiting and reacting to change around us might sound safe, but it leaves us with something of a victim’s mindset, reacting to situations or changing conditions that befall us. Reactivity is a mindset of passivity, reinforced perhaps by a belief that life is happening to us and we control little to none of it. That is simply not the case. Be Proactive; seize your day!

I also visited with you about the importance of developing a thoughtful vision for your life’s work, your noble goal. Dr. Covey embodied this idea in his second habit, Begin with the End In Mind. Mark Twain is credited with the saying, “if you don’t know where you are going, any path will do.” For each of us to achieve our dream, our vision for success and fulfillment, we must invest considerable time and energy in visualizing the end we seek to achieve! It’s useful to note that both of these habits are focused on the promotion of self-efficacy and a personal paradigm shift in thinking from dependence to independence.

I would like to now introduce you to Dr. Covey’s third habit; one that also promotes self-efficacy and independence, the habit of First things First.

In life, it is so very important to have your priorities well defined and in order. Years ago, when I learned to fly, I was told at the outset of my training that rule number one was ‘Fly The Plane’.  Navigating and communicating were very important, but they were secondary to aviating. Whether flying an airplane, managing our daily lives, or pursuing our noble goals, there are many tasks that are urgent and then there are also tasks that are critically important. We must never confuse the two. A patient may urgently require surgery, but it is important that we first sedate, anesthetize, and prep the patient before we make our skin incision.

It’s truly difficult at times to not be carried away by the abundance of urgent tasks before us. The high-speed world of our personal lives, careers, and medicine powered by the internet and social media can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, it is most important that we embrace the advice of Dr. Covey who tells us that “the challenge is not to manage our time but rather, to manage ourselves.” We must recognize and focus first and foremost on our priorities. If we fail to do that, we will run out of time and energy long before we accomplish our most important work. That reality is underscored by another Covey quote: “the key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but instead, to schedule your priorities.” I know each of us lives busy lives and so many tasks carry the emotionally and physically draining burden of urgency. It is the important items that really carry the day for our patients, our clients, our practice teams, and our personal life. The good news is, there’s always time for the most important thing.  If you doubt me, pull out your to-do list and hold your breath…within the next 30-120 seconds, you will discover that there’s a compelling need to address your highest priority (breathing) regardless of the size and urgency of your to-do list. If we focused on lesser priorities and overlooked our need to breathe, our career and our very life would be acutely truncated.

Remember, always focus on first things first, relationships and results; that’s what really matters. Fill your schedule first with those most important priorities so that you are sure that appropriate time, talent, and energy have been allocated to ensure their accomplishment. Lesser priorities can usually be delegated, outsourced, redirected, or addressed later. Important tasks will not be as forgiving.

Yours for veterinary medicine,
Dr. Rick DeBowes, President


Posted February 26, 2021