Your date with destiny - DVM
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Your date with destiny
Knowing what you want out of your DVM career will help determine which opportunities to pursue


What type of practice do you want?

  • Practice species emphasis. There are numerous opportunities available to you. By the time you reach your senior year, you usually know the species of animal with which you would like to work. Even so, it is good to consider the future. Those who choose to enter companion animal practice are likely to have good opportunities for many years to come. Not only is the population growing in the United States, there is a clear trend that clients are willing to spend more on services, including veterinary medicine. For those who choose to enter large animal practice, it will be important to investigate whether the livestock population is likely to remain stable in the community where you want to practice. It is not always easy to determine animal numbers, but one can obtain information on trends. By checking the county agricultural statistics for the community where you want to practice, you can obtain data on recent trends. You also can visit with leaders of various commodity groups to seek their view on the future of livestock production in the community. For those wanting to pursue work with exotics, it is again important to determine if the exotic animal population is sufficient to support your practice. Similarly, those who want to pursue a specialty, such as behavioral medicine, will be served better by living in metropolitan areas. Those pursuing careers in equine medicine and surgery also need to explore areas where there are adequate numbers of horses to support a practice.
  • Practice legal structure. Today, you should consider the type of practice structure that you want to work in. With the advent of numerous corporate entities, you are restricted no longer to the traditional private practice. You are encouraged to explore the opportunities in each type of structure: examine the advantages and disadvantages of each. Those who are interested in practicing for a corporate entity are likely to have the opportunity to choose from many different geographical locations. If you want to join a traditional private practice, then you need to give consideration to the size of the practice, the number of doctors, and the number of support staff available. Working in a two-person practice or even a solo practice can be very rewarding and self-fulfilling. It also can be very demanding and might not leave enough time for family and personal growth. Multiple-doctor practices provide the opportunity for mentoring and for professional intellectual stimulation. These are personal decisions you will have to make. It can be helpful for you to spend time in each type of practice before making your decision.

Location, location, location

It is important to consider and involve your family when answering questions about where you want to work and what you want available in the community. There are a number of factors to consider. Do you want to work in a metropolitan, suburban or rural area? Do you want to work in a stand-alone hospital or in a shopping center clinic? Are housing and living expenses reasonable and within your budget? A visit to the chamber of commerce, extension office, or a realtor's office can provide you with good information on housing and living expenses. What are the opportunities for spousal employment? Your prospective employer might be able to assist with this information. It can also be helpful to see of the town or community has a Web page. Finally, how important is it to be reasonably close to your parents or other important family members?

What is the employer looking for in a new associate?

As you become involved in the job search, take some time to imagine yourself as the prospective employer. What is it that you would want in a new veterinary associate? What skills would you expect them to have? What traits and characteristics would you want them to have? How much would you want them to work? What would you provide for your new employee? What type of working environment would you provide? By taking time to examine the situation from the other employer's perspective, you can clarify the things that are important to you.

Dr. Draper is associate dean for academic and student affairs in Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. He is a professor of biomedical sciences and has been interim associate dean since January 2003.


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