Franklin head of AAEP herd

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Interview by Trisha I. Korioth

Dr. Benjamin Franklin Jr, Miami Lakes, Fla, officially took the reins as the AAEP's 2000 president, Dec 7, during the AAEP awards luncheon.

A retired racetrack practitioner, Dr. Franklin said he is able to devote plenty of time to the AAEP. "It is a good opportunity for me to give something back to the profession, and I enjoy it! My partner in practice and former employer, Dr. M. B. Teigland, is a past president of the AAEP and has been a significant member through our many years of association."

As 1999 president-elect, Dr. Franklin was program chair of the 1999 AAEP meeting in Albuquerque, NM. He has also been involved with the AAEP as vice president, director at large, and board member. He was on numerous AAEP committees.

Dr. Franklin with Russian Don horse
Dr. Benjamin Franklin Jr meets one of only a dozen Russian Don horses living in the United States.

Originally interested in veterinary medicine because his father worked on a dairy farm caring for cattle, Dr. Franklin said he enjoyed helping nurse sick animals back to health.

"A veterinarian has to wear so many hats. You have to be a referee, a consoler, a health provider, and a little bit of an accountant, banker, and team captain. There are just so many areas you have to manage. If you think you can get by just tending to sick animals, it won't work," he said.

Once he graduated from Auburn University's School of Veterinary Medicine in 1967, Dr. Franklin had a job offer from Dr. Teigland, whose practice was primarily equine but included dairy. Dr. Franklin had little experience working with horses.

Speaking on this, Dr. Franklin said he is concerned about the profession meeting needs of new graduates — and vice versa. "Veterinarians are complaining that students come out of school having a lot of knowledge but not knowing how to apply it and having little communication skill and few people skills. Those hiring are demanding communication and business skills, but veterinary schools find it hard to incorporate nonscientific skills into a curriculum that has a high demand on science."

Just as Dr. Teigland taught Dr. Franklin about treating horses, the AAEP is trying to solve this dilemma with the Avenues Internship Program. Third- and fourth-year veterinary students who will have completed large animal or equine clinical rotations and graduated by the time an intern position begins may apply for the internship program and gain hands-on experience from an established practice.

Dr. Franklin said, "Schools are a little frustrated because the 'product' they're putting out is not meeting demands of hiring employers."

For the equine practitioner, balancing economics and educational debt is not easy, either. "Time management, practice management, life management ... our membership survey revealed the most important things members were concerned about were nonclinical things — particularly, having a formula for maintaining a decent salary so you can pay your school bills and still have a life," Dr. Franklin said.

He noted that the new generation of veterinarians is seeing practice in a different light. "There are a lot more women [who may] put fewer hours into the profession in their lifetime — not because they're less willing to work. They're the only ones who can have children. For obvious reasons, they aren't going to be able to put as much time in if they choose to have a family and a profession. With 70 percent women graduating [from veterinary schools], the importance of having a life as well as being a practitioner is going to change the way veterinary practice works," he said, adding that practices will have to adjust for this.

The AAEP is helping its members keep up with continuing education by providing opportunities throughout the year. "Providing veterinary care is so dynamic that if you just try to stay even, you'll probably lose ground in the long run. Technology is developing quickly. You need to keep up with progress as technology and the profession change. Just doing things like you always did will not keep you on the cutting edge."

This applies to how veterinarians and clients are getting information. On a regular basis, practitioners answer clients' questions, but some clients have turned to other, inaccurate sources, such as some Internet sites and laypeople, for answers.

To address this, the AAEP recently appointed Dr. Lydia Miller to its staff to address owner education issues. Dr. Franklin said. "The AAEP is trying to be the source that industry, members, and owners can come to when they want the best in veterinary information and veterinary care. We want people to know that AAEP is the place for the correct, good information."