March 01, 2001


 Recent graduates probe mentoring, leadership issues

Posted Feb. 15, 2001

Fifty-two recent graduates representing organizations in the AVMA House of Delegates collected their thoughts about mentoring and leadership issues during a working session at the Veterinary Leadership Conference. The compilation (by recent Illinois graduate, Dr. Lydia Miller) is being shared with AVMA entities to help guide them in planning services and programs. Dr. Darin Gilpin moderated.

The first area discussed was increasing recent graduate involvement in organized veterinary medicine. Being a member of an organization doesn't mean you're involved, one attendee said, adding that the AABP has made a point of including a recent graduate on each of its committees. Among the other suggestions: provide opportunities for association involvement initiatives beginning with the fourth year of veterinary college, invite recent graduates to work with veterinary students, and extend personal invitations to recent graduates to serve on committees.

What makes a mentoring program effective? Mentors must be committed and take the lead in developing the relationship, introducing recent graduates to peers and taking them to meetings. One attendee noted the distinction between mentoring veterinarians in their career and mentoring effective leaders. Another called for pairing veterinarians who specialize in a discipline or species with students and recent graduates. Several recent graduates admitted they are intimidated by the idea of asking for help from someone assigned as their mentor from a veterinary school or association. Many liked the idea of creating an online chat room on the AVMA Web site, because it's less structured than a formal mentorship.

The group discussed implications of the gender shift and new generational attitudes about work and family. Also, clients have access to information—and misinformation—on the Internet, and perhaps the AVMA could promote desirable sites. Another concern: foreign countries with different stances on animal welfare issues, which will affect the United States as a global exporter. Economic worries are high on recent graduates' list and include the need to shift away from vaccination income and product sales, and the economic decline in the agricultural sector.

Many of their suggestions for ways their associations could be more helpful were simple: provide more online learning opportunities; raise awareness of association activities; reduce fees for students, residents, and graduate students. Offer activities with more family involvement, they said—and incorporate more fun at meetings.