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What A Boomer Veterinarian Learned from a Millennial Veterinarian

My first encounter of a veterinary practice was in 1979.  This particular year had a huge impact on me as a future veterinarian – the year in which parvoviral enteritis was first diagnosed in veterinary medicine.  I can remember the doctor I worked for giving feline panleukopenia to puppies hoping to get some protection against this new and deadly disease.

Fast forward to 2005, when a new, graduating doctor who I had known as a kennel attendant came into my practice.  Adam was a young, eager doctor – full of energy, enthusiasm, and hope.  Thanks to Adam, 2005 would be another year that I would never forget and would change who I was as a doctor/mentor.

From new anesthetic protocols and new surgical instruments, to an entire new way of dealing with clients –  everyday something new/different was thrown at me.  But, “we’ve always done it this way” would become my refrain.  Only to hear – “yeah, time to change, big guy.”  I would see maybe 15-18 client a day – Adam would plow through 20-23 clients.  He would check his end of day report – “hey, I beat you in production, big guy.”  I heard this more times than I could count.  This young doctor would show up 15-20 minutes earlier than me for surgery day, and no one was ever earlier than me for surgery days!  “Dr. Adam added two more surgeries to the schedule, Dr. Dan – just in case you wanted to know.”  “Wait a minute, he did what?” I would ask. How dare he not ask me for my opinion!

After about 4-5 months, I realized this young doctor was not a threat, but an incredible asset.  He showed me that “my way” was one of many ways.  He showed me that clients do indeed like doctors who can articulate the “cutting” edge medicine and yes, they will pay for these services.

As the years have gone by, Adam not only moved from a new graduate doctor, but to a managing doctor, and now a trusted, senior partner in our practice.  I now go to him as much as he went to me early in his career.  He is a premier surgeon in our practice of over 20 doctors, and spends much of his time teaching and mentoring many of the young new graduates who come into our practice each year.

What this boomer learned from a millennial:  A new graduate showed me that mentoring is a two-way commitment.  As I look back in the early years of our relationship, I know that Adam taught me as much as I hopefully was able to teach him.  As I would “pontificate” about something near and dear to me, it reinforced how much I needed to lead by example.  Good mentoring isn’t always about saying and doing – but equally about listening.

Since 2005, I have had the incredible privilege of mentoring over 12 young doctors – all unique and incredibly talented.  Some more confident than others, but all united by one belief – we are always learning.  My take home message is simply this:  always be open to learning from others – young or old – we should always be learning.  What an incredible privilege to be able to learn from “old” and “young” alike.

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