Cultivating our next generation of veterinary leaders

President’s Column: Dr. Mike Topper

As an ROTC student at the University of Georgia many years ago, my fellow cadets and I occasionally traveled to Fort Benning, Ga., home of the U.S. Army Infantry Center, for training. It was there I first learned of a principle of Army leadership I still practice to this day.

That principle is: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

When I was an officer in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, I also learned that a successful leader takes care of his or her troops. This conviction has guided me throughout my career as both a paid professional and a volunteer.

With these lessons in mind, one of my missions as your AVMA president is to help our members acquire the skills necessary to become successful leaders. We believe that these skills are beneficial in all aspects of your career—not only in your everyday work, but also as a leader in your community. And expanding the leadership skills of the next generation will help ensure a bright future for the veterinary profession.

The AVMA offers a variety of opportunities for members to continue building their leadership skills. One of those is by serving on our Early Career Development Committee. Comprised mainly of members within their first 15 years out of veterinary school, the committee helps us guide young professionals to develop the skills to become successful veterinarians and leaders in their community.

Dr. Kristin Wuellner, an associate veterinarian and the current committee chair, sums up her experience on the committee: “The ECDC is passionate about helping recent graduates find their way in their careers by providing support through wellness, financial tools, and dealing with work-related stress,” she says. “The energy of my fellow committee members gives me hope for the future of the profession and organized veterinary medicine. Serving as chair of the ECDC, I’m learning how to mediate and redirect conversations, align a group around common goals, and make sure that everyone on the committee feels heard and appreciated. The ECDC has been a great way for me to enhance my leadership skills, which will benefit me throughout my career.”

Our annual meetings also offer opportunities for leadership development. Last month’s AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference offered networking and workshop opportunities, and brought together veterinary professionals from across the spectrum who wanted to learn more about leadership and team building.

Are you early in your personal development and looking for an exciting yearlong program to help bolster your leadership and problem-solving skills? Then you should consider applying for the AVMA Future Leaders Program. The Future Leaders Program will help you develop your strengths and talents and promote your leadership skills for the benefit of the workplace, society as a whole, and the veterinary profession.

Take it from Dr. Libby Todd, a small-animal practitioner and an AVMA Future Leaders alum. For its group project, her Future Leaders class created a toolkit to help hone personal leadership skills and guide veterinarians to start taking a leadership role in the workplace, in society, and in organized veterinary medicine.

“As a member of the inaugural class of the AVMA Future Leaders Program, I learned a lot about leadership and the characteristics and skills that are common to leaders,” she shares. “When I say I learned a lot about leadership, I mean A LOT. I learned how to recognize good leadership and how to improve my own leadership skills. I learned that leadership comes in all shapes and sizes, can appear in a variety of circumstances, and is often quiet, but powerful. I honestly believe that creation of the Future Leaders Program is one of the AVMA’s greatest achievements. Besides positively shaping my personal leadership development, I have watched the program impact many of my colleagues in the same positive way.”

The AVMA recognizes how important it is to have the leadership skills necessary to meet whatever challenges tomorrow may bring. That’s why you can be assured of the AVMA’s continued commitment to helping you learn, grow and acquire the leadership skills that are so important to the future of veterinary medicine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *