Old school, new school: Follow the leader

Old school, new school: Follow the leader

In which Dr. Greenskin wonders if she will ever attain the mythical status of her employer and mentor.
source-image
Feb 08, 2017

Illustration by Ryan OstranderIt seems that 2017 has gotten off to a fantastic start for our two favorite veterinarians, Dr. Codger and Dr. Greenskin. Already nearing the end of the first quarter, our harmonious duo is putting up record numbers this year.

Good ol’ Doc Codger can almost smell the discounted senior matinee popcorn that awaits in retirement. Greenskin’s skills and expertise are constantly expanding. She has even managed to get a few cases out the door for under $1,000, grudgingly admitting that not every case warrants the exalted-in-every-case-ever-described-in-a-veterinary-journal “minimum” database. Clients seem to appreciate this as well, as noted by receptionists who find them more willing to take an appointment with “that new young gal I forgot her name but why can’t I just get in with the doc?

Dr. Greenskin still finds daily challenges in her new job. She certainly hasn’t chosen the easiest of careers! She keeps her mind open to new lessons every day, so that every difficult case, conversation and interaction becomes an opportunity for growth. There’s just one little issue that’s been nagging at her lately: Why do clients and staff seem to question everything that comes out of my mouth, while Dr. Codger’s word is gospel no matter the situation?

One example pops up right as Dr. Greenskin is finishing her records for the day. Reception rattles over the office speakerphone that Mr. Rawdiet’s cat is vomiting again. With only the most subtle of pauses in the scratching of his fountain pen, Dr. Codger bellows into the speaker, “Tell them to hurry in. We can give him a Reglan shot before we close.”

Greenskin is flabbergasted. Her yearning for abdominal palpation and maybe even intestinal biopsies shatters like so many poor girls’ dreams on The Bachelor.

As if the medical-knowledge inferiority complex weren’t enough, Greenskin finds herself mowed over in just about every business issue as well. Like the time their Office Lady (yes, that’s her official title) inquired about Ms. Crymeariver’s upcoming appointment and past-due balance.

Greenskin began to protest, “There’s no way I am spending another hour with that goofball for fr—” when suddenly Codger boomed, “Make sure she’s on Greenskin’s schedule. Keep her payment plan going.”

End of story. Office Lady, satisfied, headed back to her broom closet—uh, I mean, office—while Greenskin sat hopeless in her chair, wondering when anyone might actually start listening to her.

Is Dr. Codger too set in his ways to look for any outside input? Has his “my way or get outta here” management style beaten his employees into a state of learned helplessness, to the point that their work autonomy no longer exists?

Perhaps Dr. Greenskin should reflect on the long history of Dr. Codger’s toils. Maybe she needs to acknowledge that the relationships he’s formed with his staff and his clients were earned over years of tireless dedication. Of course, all veterinarians wish they could have every right answer every time, but that’s a rarity that few if any of us will achieve.

When Dr. Codger graduated from veterinary school, in a damp and candlelit dungeon, an esteemed professor extended to him a final piece of real-world advice: “Codger, you don’t know anything and you don’t know how to do anything. Be professional. Be dedicated. Show up on time. Work your ass off. You’ll be OK.”

Whether she realizes or not, Greenskin is absorbing those lessons through Dr. Codger’s example. While she is not yet a fully capable leader, she’s getting closer than she even imagines.

Dr. Jeremy Campfield works in general practice in California’s Sacramento Valley. He is an avid kiteboarder.