Live and learn

…or stay stupid.  Today was the fall semi-annual meeting of the Southeast Missouri Veterinary Medical Association.  Our district of the Missouri VMA extends from the Bootheel (and me) up north to Hillsboro (which is practically St.Louis), and west over to Salem.  Our meeting was at the Dexter Barbecue restaurant, which (oddly enough) is in Cape Girardeau.  Dr. Marie Kerl spoke on kidney diseases, kidney failure and glomerulonephritis.    Dr. Kerl is a nationally reknowned internist who is on the faculty at Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine.  Fortunately for southeast Missouri veterinarians, part of the College’s mission is to bring continuing education to the hinterlands (where we live — it’s not the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from here).

There are so many great continuing education meetings available across the country that many veterinarians opt for the big conventions and skip our dinky, little local meetings.  There were a few of the real old-timers present today who noted that  attendance at district meetings fifty years ago was greater than today — greater numbers, not just greater percentages, despite the fact that there are probably five times as many veterinarians in the district now.  And yet… we have speakers of national prominence and I can think of two meetings off the top of my head that made a dramatic difference in the way I practice medicine. 

At one of our district meetings, a presentation on pain control  revolutionized the way I approach pain control in my patients.  Essentially, pain control for my patients is NOT optional.  We don’t ask you if you want it.  We don’t wait for them to cry.  Our criterion is simple: would this hurt if it were me?  Then it’s hurting that animal and we need to start preemptive pain control, and in a variety of ways.

Dr. Richard Meadows is director of clinical practice at the College’s teaching hospital.  His seminar on ear diseases was a huge eye opener.  We invested eight thousand dollars in new instrumentation to visualize and treat diseases deep in the ear canal, not to mention getting a whole new outlook on the treatment of ear conditions.  A side-benefit was the development of a relationship with Dr.Lou Gotthelf, the premier ear specialist in North American veterinary medicine.

Two enormous improvements in patient care, and they both came from our little local meetings.  When I first started attending these meetings, back in 1979, I was the "new kid", feeling my way, trying to develop collegial relationships, looking for mentors among the old-timers.  Now I’m becoming an old-timer myself.  Think how weird that feels. 

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