I hope to see each of you soon at our annual conference at the Hilton Waikiki Beach on November 7-10, 2019. We are fortunate to host AVMA President John Howe and District 10 representative George Bishop at the conference this year. Dr. Howe’s areas of focus for his tenure as president are member needs, veterinary technicians and One Health. Please give them a warm welcome if you see them. Even if you are not attending the conference for CE be sure to join us for our annual meeting at noon on Saturday.
Mental health and wellbeing concerns for veterinary professionals have been in the national news recently. Awareness of the increased risk for burnout, substance abuse, depression and suicide ideation in our profession is hopefully a first step toward finding solutions for this crisis. The AVMA has many resources for veterinarians on personal and workplace wellness, and the HVMA has a wellness committee to assist members in need.
In 1976, Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute in the US, developed a model of wellness that included six dimensions of health: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, occupational, and social. Since then others have added three more to create the nine dimensions of wellbeing: financial, creative and environmental. Each dimension is interconnected and collectively contributes to our overall wellbeing, and when one area is lacking, the others and overall wellbeing are affected. I encourage you to follow the links to read and learn more about these areas and take a self-assessment to identify areas where you might focus your self-care.
For this message I want to focus on the social dimension. One stated purpose of the HVMA is to promote the spirit of community among members of the veterinary profession. Our annual conference is a time to get together and catch up on what is happening with one another: the success and challenges of our friends and colleagues we may not see as often as we would like to. It is also a chance to make new friends and welcome new colleagues into our community. Brené Brown, best-selling author and published researcher writes the following in the introduction to her book Daring Greatly: “the surest thing I took away from my BSW, MSW, and Ph.D. in social work is this: Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” This includes connection with colleagues in the workplace. In Dare to Lead she says this about her research: “Daring Leaders must care for and be connected to the people they lead. The data made clear that care and connection are irreducible requirements for wholehearted, productive relationships between leaders and team members.” She defines a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” As veterinarians, we are all leaders and we must strive to build connection in our work and social lives to build resiliency.
I hope you can all take a moment during the next month to talk story and build those connections with one another. By doing this we will be taking a step in the right direction to improve our well-being. Please reach out to a colleague, friend, or professional if you are suffering. We are here to help one another. And if you are interested in learning more so that you can help those at risk, visit the AVMA’s website on Question-Persuade-Refer (QPR) training. There is currently a pilot program that will provide training to learn how to identify and refer colleagues who are at risk.
Aleisha Swartz, DVM
President, Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association