The AVMA Future Leaders inaugural group has done great things over the past year, many of which will culminate at the AVMA Convention in San Diego.  One of the ongoing initiatives is the development of an innovative mentoring program.  “Compass,” the pilot mentoring program designed to help recent graduates find their direction within the profession, will be introduced in Connecticut beginning with a kick-off event October 24, 2012.  The program was developed in collaboration with the AVMA and the state veterinary medical associations in Alabama, Connecticut, and Indiana.  The program is intended to reach out to veterinarians within 5 years of graduation. The AVMA and state veterinary medical associations realize the importance of recent graduates to the profession.  Both groups understand the unique struggles of these veterinarians and are eager to provide a valuable career development experience.

Compass is a realization of the priority organized veterinary medicine, at all levels, places on new graduates. This program will provide guidance and support to those just beginning in our profession.  There will be round-table discussions on pertinent issues such as: work-life balance, debt issues, and career paths during the initial kick-off event.  These round-table discussions are just the beginning.  Experienced veterinarians will be on-hand to meet with recent graduates.  Based on their interactions at the event, recent graduates will have the opportunity to pair up with one of the experienced veterinarians to serve as a mentor.  Once matched, the Compass program will provide ongoing support to the mentors and mentees over the next year to encourage building a strong relationship.

Metrics for success have been determined to see if this is a model that can be utilized for other programs in the future. Those involved will be surveyed regularly so that improvements can also be made to the program.  It is hoped that a successful program in Connecticut will eventually allow expansion to other states throughout the country.

6 thoughts on “Mentoring…Reinvented

  1. “Veterinary medicine is infamous for not taking notice,(The Pew National Veterinary Education study) is an excellent report, but how much has been implemented? Not very much. You’re sort of stuck with having to say the same things over and over again. I think there’s an urgency in the profession that things have to change. The downturn in the economy has brought home how vulnerable we are as a profession. ” This quote is from Dean emeritus Alan Kelly of Penn in the July 15th, 2012 JAVMA News, p. 160. Similar opinions have been stated by Dean Emeritus Peter Eyre in numerous article and letters. Some of the recommendations in the NRC report go back to the 1970s. I will be glad to send you a list of studies beginning in 1972 that I have in my research files. I have not seen appreciable progress in my twenty years or in the last 13 years since the KPMG MegaStudy and the call to action that resulted in the NCVEI which was successful?

    • Dr. Nix brings up valid points and I can see he is well versed in the studies done regarding our profession. I think it is unfair to say that there has been no progress over the past 20 years, yet I acknowledge there is always work to be done. There are many opportunities to have your voice heard within the AVMA and the veterinary profession in general. If anyone would like to share their views and solutions on an AVMA committee, council, or task force, there are numerous opportunities available. Specifically, for some of the concerns voiced here, the Veterinary Economics Strategy Committee would be an appropriate choice when an opening becomes available, as well as the new Early Career Development Committee. (Which is currently accepting applications until August 15th. Please visit for more details.) Given Dr. Nix’s concern and insight, I hope he, and any AVMA member with concerns, takes the opportunity to become involved for the betterment of our profession.

  2. @Dr G
    I know many are working hard but I feel that many are not working smarter or learning from many previous attempts to innovate that did not come to pass. After twenty years out, I myself am leaving veterinary medicine because I see many meetings but not much success. As Dean Kelly stated in the recent JAVMA news of July 15, we are left with restating the past conclusions and recommendations that just were not implemented. I know I could have achieved my goals of being in research if we would have implemented the Pew Reports recommendations immediately that would have allowed student choice of following a path built upon their strengths. However, for too long, veterinary schools, licensing and the AVMA resisted any substantive changes. The world changes, and our professions inability to abandon the old and innovate to become more relevant in the marketplace threatens our future viability. To borrow a sports analogy, we are behind in the fourth quarter of a tournament game that will determine whether the profession will advance. Time is no longer on our side.

    • While I appreciate Dr. Nix’s comments, I disagree with his view regarding the “professions inability to abandon the old and innovate…” and that “time is no longer on our side”. On a national level, the AVMA addresses the challenges facing our profession on a daily basis. Many of the recommendations in the1988 Pew Report, that I assume you are referring to, have been and are continuing to be addressed. As you know, it takes years for substantial changes to occur. Some specific examples to points raised include:

      1. Many veterinary schools do offer mentorship programs. In developing the Compass Program, these programs were reviewed. The Compass Program builds on the knowledge learned from these current and past programs. The face-to-face interactions between mentees and mentors is invaluable, even after veterinary school graduation. Sometimes it can be hard to determine exactly what your strengths and passions are while still in veterinary school. That is where a mentor in the years immediately after graduation can be instrumental in helping find your niche in veterinary medicine.

      2. In an effort to raise awareness of alternate career paths, the AVMA hosts a series of webinars on non-traditional veterinary careers. In fact, on May 17, 2012 a webinar focusing on jobs in public and regulatory health was featured.

      3. A large variety of externships for students (including those not in traditional clinical practice) are available through the AVMA’s Externship Locator.

      4. The AVMA’s Veterinary Career Center is a great resource for veterinary jobs including those outside of clinical practice. Some non-clinical jobs currently listed include Assistant Director and Director positions at the AVMA, research scientist positions, and other jobs in corporate and public veterinary medicine, including drug and food companies, foundations, and educational institutions.

      5. In past conventions, as well as at this year’s 2012 AVMA convention in August, a full-day continuing education workshop is offered on career transition. The workshop offers tips on finding your dream job, where to find careers in non-traditional places, interview and resume writing skills, and much more. It can take years to transition from one avenue in veterinary medicine to another, but the time spent is well worth the effort when one has found their niche in veterinary medicine.

      As President of the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), I can say that on a state level we are cognizant of the challenges facing our profession. We have an active Government Affairs Committee which constantly scans the horizon for issues effecting veterinarians. Our Public relations and Technology Committee addresses the challenges of communicating with our membership and the general public in a rapidly evolving media environment. The CVMA Board of Directors has allocated resources this year to surveying all CT licensed veterinarians (both members and non-members) to determine their needs from organized veterinary medicine

      While I agree with Dr. Nix that there are challenges facing our profession and time is of the essence, I am more optimistic. As I have become more involved in volunteer leadership, I have seen all the work that both volunteer leaders and dedicated staff devote to our profession. With people like Dr. Nix vigilant in addressing the challenges facing our profession, and many people dedicated to solving those challenges, I am confident our profession will thrive in the years to come.

  3. I doubt this mentoring program will be any more successful than previous post DVM programs sponsored through the AVMA and local VMAs. It sounds like another band-aid approach for a profession that has never had a career development strategy for graduates other than a DVM degree qualifies the holder for multiple career options which is no longer true.

    The best place for a mentoring program to begin is prior to graduation in the veterinary schools themselves with mentors from in and outside the schools and from different facets of practice. It would be more effective if students could interact with their future colleagues in the areas of veterinary medicine that interest them so that they could benefit from the mentorship in planning their career once they graduate and seek either to practice clinical medicine or pursue other avenues of veterinary medicine. Students need the advice of those who are in the careers that they want to pursue themselves. This might even lead to externships in areas of student interest and then access to jobs and training opportunities post DVM. Many engineering schools have co-op educational programs for their students to actually work in their areas of interest in different companies. Students often are hired by these companies after graduation. A similar program in our veterinary schools would help students in veterinary school find their strengths, develop those strengths and pursue a career that build upon those strengths.

    Mentoring after graduation in my opinion is much less likely to be effective especially if the mentors come largely from clinical practice. They are less likely to be effective in helping a new graduate who maybe is in practice but really should be pursuing a non practice career. I do not think professional mentoring works unless it is focused and built on common career interests. A successful practice owner likely has little to offer in mentoring a veterinarian in practice interested in pursuing non practice careers but was not mentored and coached while in school in the pursuit of these goals.

    Mentoring of any form is less likely to be effective until we really innovate veterinary education for the 21st century but the recent National Academies study reiterated many previous recommended innovations that were not implemented. New graduates will become more successful when we can give them a quality, 21st century education in demand by the marketplace.

    • I want to thank Dr. Nix for his comments to my post. In reading his comments, I can tell he cares as deeply for our profession as I do myself, my fellow Future Leaders, and the AVMA. I appreciate Dr. Nix’s broad approach on the challenges facing our profession. The Compass Program is just one of many efforts organized veterinary medicine, on both the national and state levels, is taking to address the challenges facing the profession we love.