Dec 12 2013

Babies and Bottom Lines




I thought I would start this post with a fun announcement, as well as a reason I have been blogless for the past two weeks.  About three weeks ago, my wife and I had our second child.  Yippee!!!  She is a little girl, weighing in just over 6lbs13oz and has been loads of fun.  We are more than thrilled and I am relieved that everything went ok with the birth and delivery.

I also wanted to process through something that you may have seen in the news about three weeks ago as well.  About the same time as our little girl was coming into the world, a news story aired from 20/20 about veterinarians and their charges.  Maybe it was the raw emotions from the delivery, or the sleep deprivation that comes with all babies, or maybe it was because I had worked so hard at Briarcliff before taking time off to be with my family…but for whatever reason this rubbed me the wrong way.  Essentially, it involved a “whistleblower” sort of veterinarian and a “undercover dog” who went around to many veterinary clinics to see what they recommended and to expose them for upselling unnecessary services and running up costs with no medical reason.  A transcript at the beginning of the report says:

 We’re sending this brave 5-year old pooch undercover into a place dogs fear the most — the veterinary clinic. We wanted to find out if what this man says about the veterinary business is true — that some vets, out to make a buck, sell unnecessary shots, tests and procedures to unsuspecting pet owners.

“I’m clearly not making friends within the veterinarian industry. But I feel I’m saying things that need to be said that aren’t being said.” Reporter: Andrew Jones worked as a vet for 17 years until he quit the industry after a dispute with his medical board over marketing issues.

Quite frankly, I’m not sure where to begin in relaying my thoughts about this episode to you.  Maybe its the sheer amount of time and effort it took to become a veterinarian.  Maybe its how many of my classmates are between $100,000-200,000 (or more) in debt driving used cars and trying to make ends meet with a mediocre salary.  Maybe its how hard I work to treat each client and patient like I want to be treated.  Maybe its how much a 36 hour stay at the hospital for the birth of our little girl cost – lets just say I could have gotten a new car instead – before insurance.  It hurts a little to be given a huge bill from the human side of things almost the same day as your profession is accused of “upselling” unnecessary services to make a profit.

Now, I understand that no one wants to have anything recommended medically just for the sake of profit -me neither- and I know that some (some) veterinarians (and doctors and plumbers and electricians and car salesmen and every other salesmen) do this.  I didn’t start this as a debate against the report.  Instead, I wanted this blog to show a little of my family life and my heart about veterinary medicine’s “dark side” – the dreaded “P” word – profit.  I have been wanting to share this for a long time, but haven’t found the right time or circumstances to put my view out there without (hopefully) offending anyone too much.

It costs money to perform veterinary medicine – diagnostics, treatments, staff, buildings etc… – and we have to make money to feed our families at the end of the day.  I do this by recommending necessary treatments and top quality services at a fair price in order to enhance the quality of animals’ lives and in turn help the families who love them.  My goal as a veterinarian is to meet needs profitably – no gouging, guilt trips, or games- I would imagine all of you have that goal in your profession.  I care deeply about the reputation of my profession and I know plenty of veterinarians who work hard and love what they do – not for how much they make.

Bottom Line:  For most of us, we want to help animals and people through veterinary medicine – we don’t charge because we want to, we charge because we have to.

I know I don’t have to explain myself, but there it is anyway.  I am extremely grateful to have a loving (and growing!) family, great clients who love their animals and care for them with compassion, and to be in a great profession.

…and my new daughter is stinkin’ cute!  🙂

– Doc Cleland

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One response to “Babies and Bottom Lines”

  1. Karolina says:

    Dr. Cleland,
    First of all, congratulations on the delivery of your baby girl, she is precious.
    Second of all, thank you for this post, I greatly appreciate your undeniable dedication and love for the profession, I have seen it first hand working with you at Briarcliff. I hope one day I will be half the veterinarian you are…you are truly a role model. Thank you!


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