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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dr. Bern, Jr.?

My daughter is a chip off the ol' block in many ways.  She has my sarcastic sense of humor, likes the same foods that I do, and is into monsters and spooky stuff as much as I am.  But one of the biggest similarities is her interest in animals and veterinary medicine.

Nothing grosses her out.  When I was teaching Anatomy & Physiology she would come with me while I set up the labs and would be excited to put on gloves and touch sheep brains and eyes.  She sees the pictures of surgeries I put on this blog and says "cool!" while my son and wife are gagging and quickly looking away.  She loves animals and gets upset when people don't treat them right.  And she is convinced that one day she is going to be the next Dr. Bern.

In one way I love this idea.  I enjoy sharing medicine and animals with her and look forward to the day that I can let her spend a day at work with me, watching surgeries and seeing what a vet really does.  One of my vet school classmates was the daughter of a vet and planned on taking over her father's practice one day.  I've heard many stories of families who have several veterinarians in their lineage and it's something to be proud of.  There's also something that tugs at the heart about having someone follow in your footsteps.

On the other hand I see great struggles in the future of veterinary medicine.  As I've discussed a few times in the last several months, the financial prospect for new vets is increasingly difficult.  It's getting more difficult to find well-paying jobs to even survive the crushing debt load.  I know how hard it is make it into and through vet school, with much blood sweat and tears.  I don't want her to put all of that time and effort into it and then not be able to support herself.

But I shouldn't worry too much yet.  She turns 10 next month, so I have over a decade before this is a realistic option.  A lot can change in that time, from the state of the profession to her own interest.  In the meantime I'm going to enjoy having a child with whom I can share my job and interests.


  1. Dr. Bern - this is so sweet! :) I wish my husband were more understanding of some of my "gross" patients. I try and convince my pre-vet students to not go into veterinary medicine (hoping to help weed out all but the very tenacious).

    Since human population is growing, I'm sure the pet population is growing too. There is potentially going to be another vet school opening in Buffalo NY -- some people believe that there will be a future in vetmed! Let's just hope that the economy follows their expectations or we'll have even more vets and less work.

    -Katie Johnson, DVM

  2. This reminds me of me and my dad. I am the daughter of a vet as well. From the time I was 5 until I was 19 veterinary medicine was going to be my path. What happened? I took a good look at why I was going into be just like my dad who by then was no longer practicing. There were other reasons as well, but that was the biggest one.

    I would just say keep her interests broad. It's hard at 19 to create yourself with graduation looming and needing to find something to do. I went into clinical laboratory science with microbiology being my favorite subject.

    I have found other ways to use my love for animals; therapy dog work, rescue work, and I finally have my own little micro-farm with horses, goats, and chickens.

    Oh, and neither of my daughters are bothered by gross anatomy, but don't ask my oldest to pick up puppy poop! She can clean a fish with all its guts and glory, but retches over tiny puppy poo!

  3. Katie, if you look at the latest market research, the pet population is actually DECREASING, and in recent years, those clients who are spending money on their pets spend less with veterinarians and more elsewhere. That vet school in Buffalo is going to be profitable for the people who own it and the boarded people who will teach there, not for the students who will graduate with six-figure student loans. Same goes for the school in Arizona, and the new school in Tennessee.

    Wealthy parents and grandparents? Spouse is exceptionally well-paid? Sure, veterinary medicine might be a reasonable option. OTOH, I discourage all working class kids from going to veterinary school, unless they have no student loans from undergrad and a full scholarship to veterinary school.

    That student loan debt is a mortgage. Consider: my loans will be paid off in a couple of years. Even though my student loans weren't quite six figures, without those loans, I could have owned my house outright by now. Again: I, a single person, from a modest background with no inheritance, help from parents, etc., could have paid for a house all by myself, on the modest salary I earn as a solo ambulatory practitioner, in fewer than 20 years!!!!! Instead of the house, or maximizing the pitiful retirement account, I'm paying for the DVM. Not sure that was a wise choice, but I'm stuck with it.

    Before Dr. B's daughter hits college age, I hope either the veterinary market improves (see the history of the human dentistry business; they CLOSED a bunch of schools in order to start fixing their problem) or she decides on a decent career, like, well, human dentistry. There's no way I'd wish the current student loan: salary situation on a kid I liked.


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