Most veterinarians never get involved in industry groups such as AAHA, AVMA, AAEP and AAFP. Consequently, they never reap
the many rewards such involvement can bring. Through these groups, you can find career and business mentorship, develop as
a leader, make connections to people who share your interests and goals, and keep informed of career opportunities both in
practice and in industry. Organized medicine can be your platform to call attention to a problem and your soapbox to elicit
the changes you believe our profession needs. It can be your creative outlet, your source of energy and encouragement in pursuit
of your passions, your leverage for creating better educational opportunities and your medium for improving the way we all
Finding work-life balance is tough. Associates don't have the flexibility in their schedules that practice owners do. (JULIA
CHRISTE /GETTY IMAGES)
However, it's also important to note that organized medicine can suck up a lot of your time, bog your ambitions down in bureaucracy,
put you in an airport every weekend you have off, and generally make you wonder why you ever volunteered to pick up extra
work for free. Managing your involvement and participating on your own terms is thus critical to leveraging organized medicine
to advance your career and increase your happiness in our profession. I have seen great success stories among associates who
took the initiative to seek organizations and positions that most inspired them while largely avoiding these common drawbacks.
These veterinarians are currently improving their own careers, reaping the rewards of connecting and surrounding themselves
with people who share their interests, enjoying life outside of practice, and actively making veterinary medicine a better
place for us all. You can benefit from organized medicine, too, by following these simple guidelines:
Grab the reins yourself
Don't wait for a position that requires a veterinarian with your exact talents. It's not likely to fall into your lap. Instead,
find a contact who shares your interests and let him or her know you'd like to get involved. Every month, DVM Newsmagazine and
http://dvm360.com/ present dozens of articles on different initiatives that others in our industry. The people named in these articles are great
points of contact. Just Google their names along with the associated organization, and you are well on your way to having
their email addresses.
Alternatively, you can often contact an organization, search for specific people to contact or look for volunteer opportunities
directly through the organization's webpage. You can also approach groups at conferences through their convention exhibit
hall booths and ask them whom to contact. Finally, don't ever overlook your own network of friends and connections. If you
know someone involved in the organization that interests you, contact that person and ask for direction. Even if your friend
doesn't know the right person, he or she probably knows someone who does.
Get specific about how you can help
Once you have made contact with a person who is working in your area of interest, ask, "Is there a specific project that I
can help you with?" This phrase is vital because the answer will provide you with a goal. It also will help prevent frustration
on both sides by setting clear expectations about your level of involvement. Getting specific helps you set an end point so
you can avoid entering into an endless commitment. That way, you can evaluate both the topic and the organization to see if
you have found the right fit before entering into a long-term relationship.
Do not get frustrated if an organization is not currently working on one of your personal passions. Let your contact there
know your interests in case the organization pursues them in the future. Additionally, ask if your contact knows of any other
organizations that are working on your topic of interest. Then move on to a different group to pursue what most excites you.