February 15, 2003


 Officers on the road

Posted Feb. 1, 2003
Officers on the road is a monthly feature of the JAVMA News, designed to let AVMA members know about the issues their leadership is addressing.

Officers on the road

Howell: On mentoring

Mentoring already exists in the profession, so why did the Executive Board recently create a Model Mentoring Program Task Force?

Dr. Joe M. Howell,
AVMA president

We've had mentoring, but it wasn't always by the right people, and in some cases, it was negative mentoring. This initiative sets forth a finite focus for the task force-develop a model program that clearly identifies how to select, how to train, and how to make mentors accessible. State, local, regional, and allied groups could utilize this model.

Everywhere I travel, our students and members talk about the need for a proper, accessible mentoring program. And literally every veterinary event I attend that has to do with the future of veterinary medicine—whether it's related to economics or veterinarians' role in bioterrorism preparedness—always comes to the conclusion that good mentoring is the ultimate solution.

Who will benefit?

The model will be designed for people in the preveterinary years and for veterinary students and new graduates who are one to seven years out of school. A lot of veterinarians in midcareer reach burnout, so that's also a time when they need positive mentoring to stay with their career path or make an appropriate selection for change.
Finally, some veterinarians need mentoring at the end of their career. And of course, the mentors themselves are enriched by the relationship.

What is mentoring?

I define mentoring as having the right person—someone who's properly trained, possesses good communication skills, and has had success in an area of veterinary medicine—impart positive messages to another person who is interested or involved in that area. A mentor is part counselor and must care about another person's future and be willing to accept the obligations of mentoring. Mentees must enter the relationship with the proper mindset and commitment to their responsibilities.

What are your mentoring experiences?

My career mentor is my former partner, Dr. Lee Holden, who is seeing patients for me while I travel as AVMA president. He raised my image of veterinary medicine and my vision of what you can be as a professional. I've been a role model to him about what you can accomplish if you stay involved in organized veterinary medicine.

As far as leadership mentoring, I have been the beneficiary of AVMA past president Dr. Jim Nave's mentoring. It was Dr. Nave who approached me about being AVMA president. His encouragement that I was the right person for the right job for the right time gave me the courage to seek office. It would be rewarding for him to think I have been doing a good job as president-elect and president, and that it reflects positively on him. Incidentally, it was his vision for a mentoring program that brought us to this point of getting it accomplished.