World Veterinary Day Interview: Strengthening Veterinary Resilience

World Veterinary Day Interview: Strengthening Veterinary Resilience

Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and toughness-- there are both physical and psychological resilience. Both have been severely tested these last few years with the pandemic, the current war, national divisions, etc. and have really affected veterinarians in the world at large.

We are honored to share an interview featuring Dr .Mona Rosenberg, DVM Diplomate ACVIM (Oncology). In this candid and hopeful conversation, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gerry Post talks with Mona about her definition of resilience and how she's incorporated the theme of never giving up in her own life as a practice owner and leader.

Dr. Gerry Post:

I am excited today to introduce a very, very dear and close friend of mine, Dr. Mona Rosenberg, to FidoCure's interview. We are interviewing Mona because we are celebrating the World Veterinary Day and the theme this year is strengthening veterinary resilience. And I cannot think of a better person to interview about out this topic than Mona. Mona is currently the National Specialty Director of Oncology and the Director of Innovation in Clinical Oncology at Thrive Pet Healthcare, one of the largest networks of veterinary providers in the country. Indeed, Thrive has done over 450 cases with FidoCure® and Mona herself has done 27 cases with FidoCure® over the past couple of years.

Dr. Gerry Post:

Without further ado, welcome to our interview, Mona, and in celebrating World Veterinary Day, which is fantastic. And the topic again this year is strengthening veterinary resilience. And resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and toughness. And there are both physical and emotional and psychological resilience. And both, I think have been severely tested these last few years/ the pandemic, the current war, and both have really affected veterinarians in the world at large. And so I'd love to hear your thoughts on your experience with resilience in veterinary practice.

Dr. Mona Rosenberg:

Well, first of all, Gerry, thank you. It's great to be with you. We do go back a very long ways and I'm honored that you chose me to interview today. My experience with resilience, really, I think when I consider what that word means to me is that it centers around the theme of never giving up. Whether it's a challenging patient and the desire, need to dig deep, to find a solution for the best outcome, reaching out to colleagues in the literature and really even the whole approach of one health and what might be done on the human side that we can then apply to a particular patient that we have. I think that's one of the experiences that I've had that shows that resilience is a thing. We can have a challenging pet parent.

Dr. Mona Rosenberg:

And I think the realization and remembering that we don't always know what's going on in the lives of others that we have to interact with that could be creating their emotions or their challenging behavior. And then the other challenge is certainly with staff interaction, which always comes down to communication and working towards solutions by communicating with each other in respectful, honest, and caring ways. We've always prided ourself in living by the core values that live on the wall at Veterinary Cancer Group and bringing them into the practice and that really all, again, circles around communication. I think to be resilient, you can't give up and you need to push forward no matter what challenges are put in your way.

Dr. Gerry Post:

I smile because it's so like you to think of the broadest of definitions for resilience, rather than just focusing on the medical. And I think not only are you a national director right now, but you also started the largest veterinary cancer group that was privately owned in the country and built it from the ground, which certainly I know took resilience, but you also built resilience into your practice, which we'll get to in a second. Do you think that the last year, especially COVID, was the toughest challenge for your veterinary practice or have there been even harder challenges over the years?

Dr. Mona Rosenberg:

Well, I think for veterinary practices in general, there's no question that the pandemic has created new challenges that none of us have ever dealt with before. I think when I look at what was the toughest, for me it depends on the decade. With COVID, we're all facing an increase in caseload. And the fact that we cleared the shelters during COVID was just phenomenal. That requires more patient visits, which requires more staff, et cetera. I think COVID also presented challenges for us in the fact that this is a relationship business and the lack of face to face interactions created some difficulties, both on the veterinary staff side, as well as the pet parent side. That coupled with staff shortages, both of veterinarians, technical staff, front desk people all fed into the difficulties.

Dr. Mona Rosenberg:

And it's not just the staff shortages as an industry, but even from practice to practice, the stressors that put on individuals within the practice, I think were huge, but I would say that, for me in my practice life of 30 years, the Great Recession was probably a bigger challenge and taught me that if you power through and yet make sure that you pay attention to those around you who are also suffering significant hardships that we can get through anything. It required creative solutions. And I'm quite proud of the fact that we through the Great Recession, never had to lay anybody off or cut anybody and benefits. And a big part of that though, was also a testament to my people who were willing to work shorter hours in order to keep their jobs and keep their coworkers working. I think that was, for me, actually a harder period of time to get through because through COVID, I at least knew that I was responsible for providing livelihood for a lot of people. And through the recession, that was really challenging, even though we were able to achieve it.

Dr. Gerry Post:

Fantastic. I appreciate your openness and honesty about that. And so I guess that may answer the next question, which is what are you most proud of in terms of running the largest privately owned group of veterinary oncologists for almost three years?

Dr. Mona Rosenberg:

Yeah. I love that you asked me this because this is something that I still today have a hard time believing, but we were named the third best company in the state of California to work for. And that's not veterinary company, that's all companies of our size at the time. It was a competition, if you will, that was run by a large HR company in California. And they sent surveys out to employees of all of these businesses that were interested in participating. I, of course, did not receive one of those questionnaires, but a certain percentage of your entire payroll or number of employees had to turn back in these surveys and questionnaires. And it's from those answers that they chose who the top companies were.

Dr. Mona Rosenberg:

And so what that showed me was that the effort that I put into providing a really comfortable, nurturing workplace where people really did feel like they were making a difference in other people's lives and that they bought into our mission. That's what young people are still looking for today. They're looking for ways that they can make a difference and for companies who give back and provide that nurturing environment. And so even back in 2008, which is, I think, when we won the award, I still will always feel grateful for how much my staff recognized what I put into providing a great workplace.

Dr. Gerry Post:

That's fantastic. And so what advice would you have for practice owners, for networks right now in terms of building resilience into their practices?

Dr. Mona Rosenberg:

I think it comes down really to strong communication. That's the root of all problems, is that we just don't tend to be good communicators and it probably starts when we're children and not really learning how to treat each other with kindness and with respect. I think the strong communication is where it starts. I think, again, as I mentioned earlier, being a values based company, and now, when I came up with the core values for Veterinary Cancer Group was in the early 2000s And there weren't a lot of veterinary businesses that put value on the core values. And I'm grateful that has changed over the years and that now almost every veterinary practice looks to strengthen communication, strengthen interaction, because only when we appreciate each other within the practice, can we turn that outwards and start to treat those clients and their pets with the respect and the compassion that they deserve, but it takes a lot of resilience.

Dr. Mona Rosenberg:

It really does. And so from a standpoint of the doctors, it's about teaching them that they truly are leaders. And it's about putting systems into place that... For instance, one of the things we did at Veterinary Cancer Group, if you were  off, somebody else was there to manage your patients if they were sick or having an issue. And you could really be off. I think for the support staff, one of the things that we did was to have a monthly day of remembrance. This is oncology. Our patients pass away from their disease no matter what we do in the interim. And giving the staff a chance to talk about how they felt about a particular patient, I think, really helped to celebrate the successes and not just look at it as one more patient that we've lost

Dr. Gerry Post:

How fantastic. And how much more important per chance resilience is to veterinarian oncologists, our staff, and our patients and clients.

Parents are not really our patients, but their pets are, but they're our clients. And when pet parents come to see us as oncologists, they likely face a difficult road ahead. Is there anything that the veterinary profession can do and to help pet parents get through this really emotionally difficult time?

Dr. Mona Rosenberg:

I think we have to start by being reflective listeners. It goes back to the fact that we just don't know what's going on in their lives. But I think when we start from a place of empathy and compassion, and really try to listen to what it is that our clients are telling us and reflect back to make sure that we've heard what they are looking for, I think that's a huge first step. I think, secondly, being honest with them and really sharing hope, but honesty and the fact that ultimately for most of them, they are going to lose their pet at some point in time, but we are going to be there throughout that journey as long as they want us there. And we're going to make sure that quality of life is the most important above all else.

Dr. Gerry Post:

Fantastic. And so final question. What do you see as the biggest challenge ahead for the veterinary profession?

Dr. Mona Rosenberg:

I think the shortage of vets and staff is probably one of the biggest problems that we face. And I think as part of that, we need to ensure that we're paying a living wage, especially to the support staff who does the lion share of the work as you well know, Gerry and allowing them to be in veterinary medicine for their careers, not just as a stepping stone to something else.

Dr. Gerry Post:

Well, fantastic. It has been an unbelievable pleasure and honor to interview you for World Veterinary Day. I think the answers that you gave were not only intelligent, but things that you actually implemented in your own practice and your own life. You are a dear friend, a dear colleague, and just an inspiration to all of us. Thank you so much for spending time with us.

Dr. Mona Rosenberg:

Thank you, Gerry. It's been my pleasure.

Dr. Gerry Post

Dr. Gerry Post has been practicing veterinary medicine for over 25 years specializing in veterinary oncology. He currently serves as Chief Veterinary Officer at the One Health Company.

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