Thirty years on

It is 30 years this year since the BVSc graduating class of 1987 out of Melbourne University entered the profession.

This posting is dedicated and addressed to my graduation class as we celebrate our 30th

Happy 30th Anniversary!

We are united in our history and our profession irrespective of how we choose to live or practice and I am very grateful to belong to the Melbourne Uni class of ‘87


Dear class of ‘87,

I am choosing to write you a letter, of sorts, over other ways to communicate at this time, for two reasons.

One is, that having recently lost my Mum in a car accident and me having to go through all her stuff, I found letters I had written to her back when that is what we did. It reminded me of the simple things that we would anticipate and that brought us joy. No mobile phones or internet in 1987.

The other is that you can read this or not whenever you like. You will be spared the need to pay attention in a group gathering, one for which I also apologise, that I cannot attend.

Well, we are officially dinosaurs since the BVSc course was superceded a year or two ago. We truly do belong now to a past era but we are still here and will be for some time to come I hope.

Congratulations on surviving and thriving in a rapidly changing world and a shifting professional landscape over three decades.

To start with, consultations are now being conducted online and students no longer even need to turn up to lectures to get live stream recordings from the comfort of their own bedrooms. No more dragging oneself to the 8am lecture in a trackie over the nightie.

I shall miss the reminiscences of our bygone student times, waiting for phone calls on the sea green STD phones the size of bar fridges in the foyer of Kendall Hall or waiting for mail, yes paper letters, to be delivered, if memory serves me, to our pigeon holes adjacent to the common room. And those old vinyl 70’s lounge chairs that are probably worth a bit on ebay these days. Though I really doubt that any of you will be truly reminiscing these mundane things.

Those of us with children may be relieved that we have grown them successfully this far but also lament that so much more is required of us these days with burgeoning student debt that affects the entire family. We, ourselves, were truly blessed to study at the tail end of the Whitlam legacy. I have only recently begun to truly appreciate this as I realise I would still be paying off my student debt after thirty years if we faced the same situation as our vet graduates of 2017. Sobering thought.

I will be missing your happy memories and humorous reflections of our student days and also the snippets of lives lived over many years in practice, catching up on who of us is now famous or doing ground breaking research or leading government. I have to say that we all deserve to give ourselves a pat on the back for having survived many things over thirty years. Bad things like the corporate takeover of our profession, the disavowing of our intelligence, integrity and skills as big business determines what we sell, to whom, how and when, for a vast majority of us in private practice in 2018.

I will be missing the conversations you will be having about how much harder it is these days to get paid what we are worth as veterinarians when, for many of us, it is these businesses themselves that are skimming our practice profits, creating a lot of the discontent our clients blame on us and arguably potentiating many of the chronic diseases we are battling in small animals. I encourage you to recall and reflect upon the difference between idiopathic and iatrogenic disease.

Those of us in academia or with specialist skills may be less aware of the plight of the average vet in private practice and I am sorry to miss the conversations with experienced vets such as yourselves about what we need to do to shift the focus in private practice back to valuing skills, expertise and common sense over largely unnecessary merchandising. I am embarrassed that many modern veterinary clinic waiting areas and drug storage areas look more like a products aisle at a local supermarket than a professional animal health care service.

We are an extremely fortunate group of professionals who largely have autonomy in the way we practice and I think it is up to our generation to remind our successors that being a good vet is not necessarily about just knowing the dose rates, reading the labels or believing everything we are told by those with vested interests.

How many of us, I wonder, saw the writing on the wall back in the 80’s when our small animal nutrition lectures and the bulk of our information on this subject were presented to us by a dog food company and a trip up the Hume to Uncle Bens. I see it is far worse nowadays rather than better.

I realise that to many of you this may sound like a grizzle of “back in my day” but it is a true representation, from my point of view, of the changes we have encountered over our three decades and a worrying trend for the future of veterinary medicine.

No matter how truly grateful I am to be your colleague and to have had the privilege of being a vet student at a leading university, I do believe that we are the ones who ought to be determining our future direction as veterinarians and not the companies who have decided that they own us.

This is what I do for a living. I write blogs to help people find out about stuff they may be confused about regarding animal health. I treat and cure animals largely and incidentally without prescribing any pharmaceuticals at all and I teach people how to feed their dogs and cats species appropriate diets.

You will have noticed that there are links throughout this letter blog if you are interested to know more.

I give lectures, talks and interviews, write articles for papers and magazines and manage to find time to enjoy keeping myself fit and healthy with home grown foods and home made produce.

Like many of you I have the joys and responsibilities of young adult children still at home and who require much more from me than I had ever imagined. I am still involved in vet practice. Having attained my Membership of the London Faculty of Homeopathy by examination in 2012, I continue to provide veterinary services through my private consultancy, Paws to Heal in Geelong.

Life is good. I hope you all have a very happy reunion with many happy returns of the five or so years we all spent together all that time ago.

See you for our 40th in 2027.

With love, Saranyu


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