Have you ever noticed that some of our strongest leadership skills emerge in times of crisis? On April 27, 2011, I awoke to the sounds of sirens and the thunder of a powerful storm. My initial feeling of fear was quickly replaced by feelings of determination and the overwhelming need to protect my family and my neighbors. On that most difficult day, the state of Alabama was ravaged by 62 tornadoes that affected 33 of our 67 counties. More than 230 Alabamians lost their lives. For me, it was a day that will never be forgotten, both because of the immense tragedy that occurred and because of the examples of leadership and resiliency that I personally witnessed. In that time of crisis, I saw that each one of us has the ability to guide others and to be a leader.
As you might expect, many veterinarians stepped forward to handle the incredible burden of treating the injured, lost, separated, and abandoned animals within this tragedy. I cannot begin to recount all of the stories of selfless giving and profound generosity of which I heard. I was completely amazed by the efforts of so many outstanding individuals that I am privileged to call my colleagues.
Of the many stories of rescue and recovery, there is one story that stands out to me. Mason, a one-year-old terrier mix was hiding in his family’s garage when a tornado destroyed his home. In the days that followed, Mason’s family searched for him and feared that their beloved family pet would never be found. Several weeks later, Mason’s family returned to the site of their home and found Mason, sitting on what remained of the family’s front porch. He was dehydrated and badly malnourished, with both front legs broken, leaving him unable to walk. Due to the generosity of several veterinarians and countless others, Mason was cared for and later had surgery to repair his badly broken legs. The procedure was successful and Mason was able to return to his family.
I have always known that veterinarians are generous people and that they possess good leadership qualities, but I saw much more than that it my little city in the center of Alabama. I saw my colleagues serving as leaders in their communities, making a difference in society. I have been honored to be a part of the AVMA Future Leaders Program during this last year. My colleagues and I have been working very hard to provide you with the tools that you need to become a leader in your community, your workplace, and the many local and national veterinary medical organizations that serve our profession. Let us help you to develop your leadership skills and to be a positive example for others.