Views from the Secretary

Views from the Secretary
The Country Doctor

Country doctors are not a thing of the past, but I have not seen much publicity about these unsung heroes of rural America.

Most of the world probably thinks there are no doctors who still make houses call in the middle of the night, do what needs doing and send you a reasonable bill at the end of the month.

They don't come out of medical school with the normal six figure income of most doctors. Many begin their careers in jobs that pay about $50,000 a year.�Their mean salary is about $75,000 a year.

They don't fit the rich doctor stereotype, partly because they can't afford it. They don't live in mansions, just a normal house. They don't drive a Mercedes, just a pickup truck (and quite often one with a lot of dents in it). They don't care about that stuff anyway.

Quite often they are the most highly educated person in a small town, but they normally don't become president of the social clubs or school boards.�They are too busy making those emergency calls for routine fees.

They don't have the same prestige as a country club pediatrician, nor even the same dress and mannerisms in most cases. You rarely see their picture in the paper, but fame is not their goal anyway.

Maybe all this is related to the oath they are required to take:�

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

When you think about it, it is really quite amazing that these people invest close to $100,000 and 20 years in an education and move to rural America. There are only 27 veterinary medical schools in the United States. It is more difficult to get into one of them than it is to get into a normal medical school.

Yet, after all their struggle, work and time invested, they still come to the middle of the prairie to be a country vet.�Many are known simply as "Doc."

The next time you see "Doc," you might want to let him (or her) know just how much we appreciate what they passed up just to share life with us on the prairies of Dakota.

They could have chosen the money in medicine, but they chose a life instead of a lifestyle.

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