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How do we keep veterinary medicine fun?

I just got finished up with my first interview for a new podcast I’m hosting (due later this month) with Dr Diederik Gelderman. We had a great, wide ranging chat about his very successful and unusual career. Nothing was off limits and we covered a lot of ground from his fascinating life. But this wasn't a "softball" question, rosy tinted love-in. We talked about the bad stuff too, including how a combination of poor decisions, lack of training and workplace stress plus a large dose of financial burden led to a well publicised (and, had it not been for his daughter finding him, likely successful) suicide attempt.

One of the things that really jumped out from the conversation was how much Dr Gelderman really loved his early “James Herriot” style career. And it is equally obvious just how much passion he has for what he is doing now.

So he started with fun, but built, or perhaps allowed, a version of reality to slowly drain his enthusiasm and rob him of everything he held dear - his family, wealth and (very nearly) life itself. Then, through his suicide attempt and the support he received during his subsequent recovery, Diederik courageously found a way through his pain and was, in a way, reborn into 'Life 2.0'. His second chance.

As we talked I wrote a question down for later use, "How do we keep modern veterinary medicine fun?”

It was the wrong time to ask the question because I didn’t want to steer him off the course he was on, and in the end we talked about so many other fascinating things we just ran out of time. (Perhaps Diederik will be up for a round two in the future?)

But this is an important question. I think I’ll pitch it at every podcast guest moving forward, because fun seems to be missing from a lot of people’s life who work in the veterinary sector. There are burdens and pressure stacked up everywhere: debt, knowledge, time… It’s sometimes hard to imagine why people choose this pathway anymore, but to quote War of the Worlds, "yet still, they come”.

If this resonates with you, then perhaps take some time of your day and let your brain chew on these questions:

  • Why did you get into veterinary medicine?

  • What drew you to it and what early experiences gave you joy?

  • Are you still having fun?

  • If so, why?

  • If not, why not?

  • What hypothetical changes would need to occur in order for you to be having enough fun to be enjoying yourself?

  • How do you start to create a daily life where you are having fun?

Once you have these answered honestly (which may be a hard, emotional job), write your thoughts down and you will have in your hand a crude roadmap to a better place. A simple piece of paper upon which may well be scrawled the most important 'to do' list your ever write.

We are all fully in charge of our life choices and, unless we tell ourselves otherwise, anything is possible. So all that is required is the courage to take the first step towards your new goals. What do you have to do now to begin to move, or (just as importantly) maintain, your version of reality such that fun is an integral part of your day?

We are all collectively responsible for the creation of fun in our day. In doing so we'll automatically reduce the space available in our heads for darker thoughts and actions.

So what’s your first move?

Have an awesome day. Dr D.

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