Suicide Prevention and Mental Health

Delve into the latest research on suicide and its causes in this conversation on veterinary mental health with experts from the AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). Learn strategies to promote mental health, prevent suicide, and intervene in a mental health crisis. Come away knowing individual and community risk and protective factors, get guidance on mental health crisis warning signs, and learn how to get help for someone in crisis – vital steps in building healthy communities and supporting our colleagues and peers. A culture of caring offers help and hope to its members—and we all can play a role in building that community.
View webinar here

Becoming Antifragile

Author: Holly Sawyer, DVM, Human-Animal Bond Certified, works for GuardianVets, the only after-hours teletriage/telemedicine service to be endorsed by AAHA. The mission of GuardianVets is to keep the veterinary hospital in the center of the Human-Animal Bond while supporting the work-life balance of today’s veterinary professional.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that life can be wildly unpredictable. Veterinarians tend to be tidy, structured thinkers. That’s not to say we are all compulsive neat freaks. But our chosen profession demands that we master the art of pattern recognition. “Know your normal” becomes the mantra of every lecture and clinical rotation, and the aspiration of every new grad. So we gain expertise in “normal” and work hard to maintain it—in our patients and in our lives.

Duck and Pivot
The pandemic slammed us with a reality that was anything but “normal.” Overnight, we had to launch curbside care, rely on phone consultations and telemedicine, enact social distancing, and otherwise upend our historically stable profession. Let’s face it, a time-traveler from 1950 who walked into your clinic pre-COVID would have ogled at your pretty toys, but not the structure of the appointment, physical exam, or general administration of treatment. In a world of industry disrupters like Airbnb and Uber, consumer desire for choice and convenience is clearly king. In this moment of inertia within our profession, in which we are no longer the object at rest, but the object in motion, let us stay in motion. Just as the fighter in the boxing ring will fare better with quick feet and nimble reactions, we too can capitalize on the left hook that threw us off balance and now pivot into an upper cut that transfers all of that energy against the status quo.

Change Your Perspective, Change the World
What am I talking about here? You could call it a fundamental change in thinking, a mental model that embraces stressors and unpredictability as a catalyst toward improvement instead of detriment. I am talking about becoming Antifragile. This term, coined by risk analyst Nassim Taleb[1], has been applied to systems as varied as bacterial resistance and human psychology. To understand it, we must first look at the other end of the spectrum.

Fragile systems are brittle. They have very little margin for error because they maximize efficiency of time and resources to achieve optimal outcomes. Our modern, globalized society has steadily pushed us toward this ideal. We benefit from cheap food, medical advances, and technological gadgets that rely on tight tolerances of sourcing, shipping, supply, and demand. Enter COVID, and suddenly dairy farmers are dumping milk at huge economic loss because restaurants and schools are closed, while pig farmers face euthanizing pigs before they can be sold due to meat packing plant shutdowns. In our imperfect world, even small stressors can break a system, like a porcelain plate that shatters when dropped.

Resilient (or Robust) systems have built-in redundancies to survive stress. They are the plastic food containers that bounce on the floor. The system survives in its original form despite unpredictable events, but even resilient systems will reach a failure point. NASA’s Space Shuttle Program has learned that the hard way. Twice. Antifragile systems get better with stress and volatility. They are the Hydra of Greek mythology. Lop off one head, two grow in its place. Expose a population of staphylococcus to methicillin, and soon you will have a thriving infection of superbugs. Bad for us, great for them. Likewise, the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” describes the mechanism by which we ourselves become antifragile. When we succeed in the face of overwhelming odds, we tend to achieve greater feats the next time around. The opposite viewpoint “Avoid all risk at all cost”—in turn makes for a very brittle population that fears unpredictability because it doesn’t know what it can overcome. [2]

Choose Your Own Adventure
Veterinary Medicine is at a pivot point in the boxing ring right now. Instead of resisting change, let us grow through it to become better than we were before. It will take energy, patience, creativity, and a willingness to fail small in order to succeed big. Happily, our clients are particularly forgiving of experimentation right now, especially when it is for their benefit. We can establish a new and better normal if we provide our clients the care they want, how they want, when they want it, while reclaiming some work-life balance for ourselves. Offer a digital patient portal, an easy pipeline for communication to bond the client to your clinic, so you remain at the forefront of healthcare decisions before entrepreneurs with far less training fill that space. Schedule differently, cross-train staff to new tasks, and leverage your RVTs and CVTs to legally fill needs previously provided by DVMs. Treat life as an adventure instead of a race to perfection, and don’t panic when you don’t recognize the pattern ahead. That which you fear may become a game-changing opportunity.

[1] Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. New York: Random House, 2012.
[2] Lukianoff, Greg, and Jonathan Haidt. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. New York: Penguin, 2018.

Veterinary Leadership Conference 2020 Report

David Gans, DVM
Hawaii Kai Veterinary Clinic

This year’s Veterinary Leadership Conference (VLC) was a great experience that I would recommend to all veterinarians of any experience or position in Hawaii. The VLC is organized in a way to help “rising leaders, presiding leaders, and experienced leaders” in private practice and professional organizations such as the HVMA.

A big focus on the leadership presentations this year was on personal wellness. A growing concern that the AVMA is trying to address by spreading awareness, providing resources for outreach and management of mental health conditions/concerns, and education in techniques for prevention and risk reduction.

The HVMA’s generous support was a great experience and I would encourage any newer veterinarians to reach out for the 2021 VLC for the opportunity to attend with support. The AVMA and HVMA both are bending over backwards to support our amazing profession and it’s our role to reach out and use all of their resources.

David Gans, DVM

Veterinary Leadership Conference in 2020

We want you – Rising Leaders, Experienced Leaders, Presiding
Leaders – to attend the Veterinary Leadership Conference. This
conference, presented by your American Veterinary Medical
Association (AVMA) will help you develop, and expand your
leadership skills wherever you are in your Veterinary Career.
Continuing education (10 hours), Networking with colleagues, and
mentorship will be available in Chicago, Illinois January 9-12,
2020.

Also happening at this conference will be the Winter Session of
the AVMA House of Delegates (HOD). Interactive Sessions will
be available to breakdown Governance of the AVMA so that you
can discover ways to be involved, have your voice be heard, your
ideas shared and to make a difference in our profession.

Visit AVMA@Work to get more information about this conference and
ways that you can attend at reduced cost. Deadline for
Scholarships are October 31, 2019.


Both Carolyn Naun (Hawaii HOD Alternate Delegate) and myself
(Leianne Lee Loy – Delegate) will attend this yearly conference
and invite YOU to express, expand, gain more of your leadership
skills.

If you have any questions – please feel free to contact us via email
at contact@hawaiivetmed.org.

A Hui Hou and Aloha!
Leianne Lee Loy

HVTA Update

  • Our goal is to get as many eligible techs grandfathered in as RVTs as possible. So far only 3 have done it! This is the YEAR to get them studying. That way they can take the VTNE in 2020 and beat the 2021 cut-off. Study sessions are on the HVTA website and on the Events tab of our FB Page.
  • We have a FAQ page for anyone who might have questions about grandfathering.
  • Last, we have Clinic/Facility Membership that allows clinics and hospitals to show support for HVTA, post jobs, and we put their clinic name/logo into our newsletter.

Submitted by Sam (Craddock) Geiling, RVT, President, Hawaii Veterinary Technician Association

Other AVMA Opportunities

Volunteer with AVMA

Volunteers are now invited to serve on AVMA’s Council on Education (COE). The deadline for receipt of applications for the COE is February 15, 2019. More information on the COE and the Member Application is available here.

AVMA Fellowship Program

Shape public policy while enhancing your knowledge of the political process! The AVMA is now accepting applications for the next AVMA Fellowship Program, which runs from the end of August 2019 through August 2020. The deadline for applications is February 8, 2019. All AVMA member veterinarians are eligible to apply. Please visit AVMA’s website for more info.

AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference Report

Every year, the HVMA sponsors one of its members to attend the Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago alongside the AVMA House of Delegates Meeting. In 2019, Dr. Jenee Odani represented the HVMA. Read her experience below.

This was my first time attending the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago (held this year: Jan 10-13, 2019). There were three learning tracks: Rising Leaders, Experienced Leaders, and Presiding Leaders. I could identify with some issues in each track and I was grateful that we could register for sessions in any of the tracks. The sessions I attended included leadership and personal development, veterinary debt initiatives, virtual care, and mentoring. My favorite session was conducted by GetMotiVETed, which taught me tricks on how to be more productive with my time and reinforced my belief that we are in the GREATEST profession of all! I enjoyed conversations with seasoned veterinary leaders as well as students and recent graduates. With new perspective and knowledge, I am more excited about the future of our profession and the rewarding ways that we can contribute to its growth. It was a great experience and I strongly urge anyone interested in learning more about organized veterinary medicine to consider attending next year!

Jenee S. Odani
HVMA Secretary

Got Loans? USDA Offers Some Relief

Do you have an interest in food animal practice? Here’s an opportunity to support local farmers, protect our island community’s food supply, and help shape the future of Hawaii agriculture.

The USDA will fund two positions in Hawaii as part of their Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. Participants can receive up to $25,000 per year toward repayment of student loans in exchange for working in underserved regions of Kauai and Oahu.

The application process is expected to open in mid-April. We will post the information here when it becomes available. In the meantime, you can call with any questions:

JASON D. MONIZ, D.V.M.
Program Manager, Animal Disease Control Branch
Division of Animal Industry
Hawaii Department of Agriculture
(808) 483-7106