The Lack of Professionalism in Veterinary Medicine

This June marks my 15-year reunion with Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine class of '97. Amazing how fast time flies by.

Scarily, in my "short" career as a veterinary specialist, I’ve seen the field of veterinary medicine move in a negative direction. While I won’t harp on all the woes that our field is moving towards (that’s the content of at least five blogs!), I did want to discuss the growing lack of professionalism within our own field.

Two main examples ring to mind. First, my own experience "vet hunting" for care for my own cat. My 7-year-old cat had a stroke last year, which was likely due to severe hypertension from his heart disease. Rather than lug him 20 minutes away (he didn’t travel well in the car!) to the specialty clinic where I moonlight, I sought medical care two miles away at a closer veterinary clinic to spare him the car ride. This clinic had a great reputation in the Twin Cities, and I figured I was in good hands.

While my cat received decent medical care, I was frustrated by the lack of professionalism — in other words, the lack of discount. Now, I’m not asking for a lot, but throw me a bone (e.g., waive the exam fee, or throw me a ten percent discount). I mean, even senior citizens get a ten percent discount there!

When I received my bill, I initially was OK with the lack of "professional discount" because I figured it was worth the convenience. I kind of understood where the veterinarian was coming from; times are tough, and I can understand the "business model." What got me, however, was when I went back the following week to pick up a bag of dog food. Paying $82 for a bottle of prescription dog food ticked me off. My opinion: How dare a veterinarian make money off another veterinarian on dog food? It’d be the equivalent of a mechanic charging another mechanic full price. Cut me a break.

I’ve never gone back, and never recommended them again.

Take 2

I went to another veterinarian 20 miles away to get a dental for my other cat. (We don’t do that at the specialty clinic I work at). Total bill (not including blood work, which I did myself): $900. No professional discount there either.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how much I’ve learned from “old school” veterinarians. Upon talking to a few about these examples, they were appalled by the lack of veterinary professional courtesy. They would always treat another veterinarian or veterinary technician professionally and with a professional discount.

Now granted, this is my own opinion, but if you’re a veterinarian, veterinary student, or veterinary technician, pipe in and tell me if you’ve noticed any professional changes … inquiring minds want to know (and hope this problem is being recognized by others).

I know the rest of you may have no sympathy, since you’re often times paying the full cost for healthcare, but what do you think? Professional or unprofessional? Am I just being cheap here?

Dr. Justine Lee

Image: Dmitriy Shironosov / via Shutterstock

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