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Equine November/December 2009 (Vol 4, No 9)

Editor's Desk — Practicing Compassion

by Kirk McKay, Managing Editor

    Some people think only intellect counts: knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion and empathy.

    Dean Koontz, writer

    What drew you to veterinary medicine? Was it initially the medicine or money? Was the desire to help those that can't help themselves a factor? In other words, were you motivated by compassion? You were if you experienced "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it."1

    I've always been impressed by veterinarians' ability to be both smart clinicians and compassionate caregivers. Practicing good medicine is paramount, but compassion can make the difference between a calm or recalcitrant animal—or owner. In turn, the temperament of the patient or owner can affect the manageability of the patient and whether the owner pursues treatment, which can affect the patient's health and the veterinarian's revenue.

    While compassionate care is always important, no one should expect veterinarians to feel compassionate throughout an exhausting day or week. Fortunately, feeling compassionate is not a prerequisite to acting compassionately. Veterinarians should feel good that regardless of whether they feel compassionate on a particular day, their work is compassionate by nature, improving the lives of animals and people every day. Veterinarians have put compassion into practice.

    Let's not forget the far-reaching and sometimes underrated ways in which veterinary care benefits people, most of whom have been comforted by how a veterinarian has cared for their animals. Veterinarians set an example of care for clients, inspiring them to give their animals the best care possible. In turn, the health and companionship of animals translate into economic and health benefits for people, including decreased loneliness, blood pressure, and cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as increased opportunities for exercise and socialization.2

    As managing editor of this journal, I know that editing clinical content and meeting deadlines sometimes leave little room for remembering the higher purpose behind the work—to provide information to benefit equine practitioners, their profession, and their patients. Therefore, I'm grateful to all the veterinary authors, reviewers, and editors who inspire their colleagues and me with their dedication to improving the health and comfort of equids, which are so deserving of our gratitude and care. (It could be argued that no other species have worked harder for humanity.) Thus, veterinary educators shouldn't forget that their work is also compassion-based.

    Although Compendium Equine is primarily focused on the clinical aspects of veterinary medicine, the journal's staff would like to take this opportunity to commend you for practicing compassion. Don't underestimate the difference it makes to your patients, clients, colleagues, and community.

    1. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster; 2006:253.

    2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health benefits of pets. Accessed September 2009 at www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health_benefits.htm.

    References »

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