President’s Message

2017 IVMA President Dr. Maria Cooper
2017 maria cooper

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the Wellness Issue of the Hoosier Veterinarian! The IVMA Executive team along with our Health and Wellness Committee felt that an issue of the Hoosier Veterinarian dedicated uniquely to wellness in our profession would be a simple way to share the message of its value and significance.  This installment features articles and information of value, we hope, to committing, or re-committing, to our own wellness.

Defining wellness or wellbeing isn’t easy, and yet we know viscerally, deep in our gut and heart when it’s gone. People in our field are often deep-feeling, amazingly empathetic, compassionate, and caring souls. And it’s killing us, figuratively, and sadly, literally in too many cases. It is no secret that 2/3rds of veterinarians suffer from clinical depression or that we’re 4 times more likely to commit suicide than individuals in any other profession. These statistics are double that of our human physician colleagues. Helping to feed the world, assuring animal welfare, and healing man’s best friend doesn’t come without a price.

In many ways, the wellbeing of Indiana’s veterinary professionals has been at the forefront of what IVMA has done for decades. The IVMA tagline could not be better stated; we are the human side of animal health. Some of the issues we face as veterinary professionals today are exclusive from those we faced a generation or more ago. Take cyber-bulling, for instance, or the exorbitant debt-to-income ratio of new graduates, just to name a couple. Other issues include the same demons we and others have fought for years: compassion fatigue, burn out, depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol dependence.

In 2009, the IVMA created the Veterinary Well-being Program to assist veterinarians experiencing difficulties with substance abuse. The program was developed in collaboration with the Indiana Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners to provide access to treatment during disciplinary cases brought before the Board. However, veterinarians may also self-report if they need treatment, counseling, and monitoring within the confines of the program. Currently, there are 9 Indiana veterinarians in the 5-year, contracted program which aims to establish and maintain sobriety. Two veterinarians have successfully completed the program. If you, or a veterinarian you know, needs assistance, you can contact Candace Backer confidentially at 317-627-0290 or at veterinarywellbeing@invma.org. In the absence of substance misuse or dependency, Candace will still gladly refer you to professional resources in your area to help tackle any number of mental health maladies.

Fast forward to the 2017 Annual Meeting in March where IVMA featured a health and wellness room complete with massage chairs, a wall of gratitude, CE topics on meditation, and activities to promote mental, physical, and spiritual well-being among our colleagues. The feedback regarding this new element of the annual meeting was compelling and tremendously positive. The IVMA’s Health and Wellness Committee, chaired by Dr. Kristi Graham, continues to explore new ways to provide wellness information, education, and tools to our members. Stay tuned as new resources are added to our website, featured in upcoming newsletters, and integrated into continuing education opportunities and other IVMA events. (Sneak Preview: Think CE in conjunction with some relaxing horseback riding this fall and a private, veterinarians only, Facebook group for exchanging ideas and chatting with colleagues about all things wellness!)

If you have resources or ideas to enhance the wellbeing of Indiana’s veterinarians, please write me at mcooper1@boah.in.gov.

Here’s to taking care of ourselves and one another!

Dr. Maria Cooper, DVM