Graduating from Veterinary School, students find themselves equipped with many volumes of knowledge regarding a wide array of species. We are taught essentially the basics of medicine and surgery, with tools to do the job in most situations, but the knowledge is somewhat restricted from a practical point of view. There is much to learn and confidence to gain over the years of clinical practice. For the majority of us, being no different from our human medical counterparts, we often find that the amount of information is so overwhelming that soon we hone our skills down to maybe one area of practice, one particular species or even more one area of focus in a specific species. What becomes obvious is that the more knowledge we acquire, the more useful we can become to our clients. We can’t possibly know it all, but we can either share what we know or we can choose to hoard it. Through working together, as professionals, and through educating others, I truly believe we can win the battle against many chronic diseases that impact us. However, we must acquire that knowledge and apply it.
I’ve been one that has craved knowledge over the years and am the one that is constantly asking questions, not just accepting what is forced down my throat from college or in meetings we attend. I want to know more and the more details I learn, the more satisfied I am, but unfortunately also, the more inquisitive I become. Realizing that no one can possibly know all of the answers, I continue to explore and seek solutions for many health concerns, often turning to others that have more expertise in certain fields in order to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together.
What I have discovered over the years is two things:
- Honesty is always best
- Through sharing knowledge we can actually work together and achieve more in our understanding and discovery.
Well, what do I mean by honesty? As I have mentioned, no one can know everything and if we admit this and acknowledge this to our clients or patients, then we can all be on the same level. If I don’t know the answer to a particular medical condition in a patient, I can choose to either mislead my client and potentially go down the wrong road or I can admit my lack of knowledge for the well being of the patient. Often, I find that by revealing to the client my lack of knowledge, we actually improve the trust between the two parties. Given my level of persistence with the pursuit of knowledge, often we then go down the road of discovery together, seeking solutions and learning in the process. If I feel I do know the answer or solution, I believe it is vital to share that knowledge with the owner or patient in order for them to fully understand the condition, treatment, prognosis and possible prevention. If we are both on the same level of understanding, then the outcome is much better and expectations are realistic. I enjoy learning, exploring, educating and sharing knowledge and I feel it is vital to our understanding of the concept of health for ourselves, our pets and our horses.
Since my partial retirement from active clinical practice, I attend several shows per year helping to spread the word regarding our Cur-OST® products, with the majority of the events being horse related. I do a fair share of educational lectures, discussing various topics on equine health. The level of interest in these lectures has increased over the years, which is a sign to me that the numbers of people demanding knowledge is increasing. I also find that not many people are familiar with our products, but that is okay from my perspective as that is the purpose of our being there. I talk with many horse owners, riders and trainers during these events and often it turns into an educational type of situation. I find enjoyment in speaking with these individuals and often the response is that they have learned more about their horse’s body and physiology in the 15 minutes of our conversation than they have in a lifetime of riding or owning one.
Many people are beginning to ask questions regarding their own health, not just taking medications as the doctors prescribe them. They are making decisions on their own behalf and seeking answers and reasons as to why they have certain health problems. Many take their health into their own hands, making changes that result in real improvement. We all have knowledge and experiences on a certain level that could be shared with others, realizing that each person and animal is an individual. Collaboration between the medical professional and the individual could result in tremendous strides for health care, bringing together the advantages of each group.
What becomes readily apparent as I interact with many people is that not many truly understand the ‘how’s and why’s’ of how their body works. Given this, when they have a health incident or even an injury, they do as they are told as they know no different. Is this okay? Not from my perspective. To me, it is much like knowing how to drive a car, but not being capable of changing the oil, inflating the tires, changing a tire or even jump starting that vehicle. These are basic concepts that we instill in our children when they first get their driver’s license because they cannot always rely on others at critical times. After all, when it comes to ourselves, we do know the basics regarding our own health. We can determine if we are running a fever. We know when our bodies have been pushed to their limits and we can usually manage a minor wound and in some cases even handle minor medical concerns.
In my opinion, as a veterinarian, I think people in general put too much trust in some medical professionals in terms of information and treatment for themselves and their animal companions. We often look to these individuals and rely on them 100% for guidance in health issues, without really digesting the information and making decisions on our own. Instead, I think we should utilize many of them as consultants putting their information together with our knowledge to arrive at the best option. The problem that comes is that often, we as the patients or owners, come to the table without information to contribute and thus end up relying on them for complete guidance.
We need to understand further that we are in control of our lives, our health and our future. If we rely too much on others to make decisions for us, then often those are the wrong decisions in the end with consequences that cannot be reversed. We do have the power to seek understanding and we should, but all too often we fail to invest the time. When we fail to seek understanding and stop seeking options, then our viewpoint becomes too narrowed to the perspective of other people. This is true for everyone, doctors included. As a doctor, we get standard treatment protocols literally pushed down our throats in text books and in meetings and even from pharmaceutical companies, so much so that we fail to realize that there are other options. When this happens, it can impact our patients as we are not utilizing all of our resources, but just those that have been dictated to us. We fail to think for ourselves, step outside of the box and consider the welfare of the patient even in end stage conditions which could really benefit from other options.
This pursuit of knowledge came as a result of my own health problems that arose out of a stressful and overloaded life. It was a wake up call for me and a time of discovery, realizing the vast amount of information that was available to me but not being put into use. I continue to seek answers for myself and my patients, putting much of what I have discovered into daily use with tremendous benefit. There is still much to learn and discover, but that is part of the fun as we should never stop learning and asking questions. There is no right or wrong in any given situation, I believe, but more so it is a question of whether or not that choice or avenue is working for you and producing results. I see and encounter so many with health related problems that are just being ‘controlled’ or managed to the best of perceived ability, but there is so much more that could be done. I encounter individuals that have spent countless amounts of money on their pets or horses or themselves, with no perceived results and just accepting the end result because they are told that all has been done that can be done.
I don’t know everything and never will, but I am not one to give up easily in any situation. To me, there is always an answer or sometimes a combination of answers for the better, somewhere, but we have to find it. That answer may not resolve the entire problem, but if we can improve it, then we are ahead of the game. I urge you to keep seeking to find answers in your lives. You are all very intelligent beings and if we work together to find understanding, then we can be one step closer to a solution.
Never stop asking questions and seeking solutions!
All my best,
Tom Schell, D.V.M.
Nouvelle Research, Inc.