AVA President's report from Warwick Vale - October 2021

07 Oct 2021

This month is Mental Health month, and I am excited. Excited because of the feeling, and the feedback that I am receiving from my colleagues, and from the AVA team – the feeling that tells me we are on the cusp of instituting a comprehensive Veterinary Wellness Strategy that will lead the profession toward better mental health and workforce sustainability. As I browse the Facebook groups and online forums, I increasingly see colleagues actively discussing mental health and workforce attrition, and supporting and mentoring one another. I see peers of the profession, like Emeritus Prof Trevor Heath OAM, venturing boldly for the first time into ‘Facebook land’ to counsel colleagues with his advice and knowledge. I note the ongoing media interest in the health of our profession, and the sustained focus they have on creating debate and informing the public about the challenges we face.

Over the past week, I have been reviewing the newly completed Superfriend/Australian Veterinary Association Veterinary Wellness Research final report. After months of research and engagement with the profession, the AVA now has its hands on the findings and recommendations of this pivotal project. The AVA Board and management team are currently analysing this report, and its findings will be presented to AVA members and the wider profession via a webinar on the 26th of October 2021.

Without spoiling the upcoming presentation, what I can say to members at this early stage, is that the report gives us a great deal of hope for a better future in mental wellness for the profession. It details and describes opportunities for both the AVA, and the profession to embrace, to work towards achieving the BHAG I have set for the profession over the next 4 years. The report is both positive and enlightening, and it challenges the AVA to deliver on the leadership that is needed to improve mental health and reduce suicide within our profession. The high-level recommendations reaffirm to us that the pathway to success is through an integrated response – preventing harm, promoting the positive, and managing illness.

The week before last, the ABC published a disgraceful article on the affordability of veterinary fees and the euthanasia of pets. These types of articles are written in ways that are designed to create attention, - internet ‘clicks’ and cyclical argument/rage. It’s the current model of getting cut through for media stories. Its content was false, distasteful, creates harm, and is not worthy of engagement by the AVA or its members. Personally, I am disappointed to see some of my colleagues quoted and participating in ‘feeding’ the falsehood and misinformation in articles such as this one. My thoughts are with colleagues and their team members that were adversely affected by this story, and I want you know that the AVA supports and appreciates your valuable role at the coal face of emergency and critical veterinary care.

You might ask, how do we promote the positive when we are often targets of media beat ups about high fees and the affordability of our services.? What I feel we must do is live our best professional lives and careers proudly, loudly and strongly. We mustn’t dwell on the negatives, rather, we must shift our focus toward the great things we do, the lives we save, the fun and reward we get from our daily lives. We have a thriving profession that is excelling in patient care and outcomes. We have expanding opportunities to create good for ourselves, and for the community. We have great role models and mentors that we can all call upon for support and inspiration, and we have networks to support and engage with each other. This is what the AVA provides for the profession. The AVA is the source of these support avenues and activities. AVA membership provides access to all that is required to thrive and prosper in the profession, at all levels. The AVA is pivoting toward a future where members and the profession will be more respected and valued by the community. The AVA will provide the platform for the voices that champion what we do as veterinarians, and will showcase the heroes and role models of our profession for all to see.

Register for the AVA Veterinary Wellness Project – Research findings and next steps webinar here.