This week I was able, for the first time, to attend the AABP 2023 Recent Grad Conference in Knoxville, Tenn. On the flight back to Minnesota, I am now reflecting on the meeting and what I learned. The first item of note was that this event, now in its 6th year, achieved a new record with 190 paid attendees, two-thirds of whom graduated in the past three years. This excellent turnout was due to the superb effort of the planning committee to create a balanced program addressing relevant topics of interest to dairy, beef and small ruminant practitioners.
Preconference seminars addressed the topics of practice management, reproductive and thoracic ultrasound, and lameness treatment. Many presentations in the main program focused on enhancing clinical or technical skills, something that newer graduates are keen to develop. But the program also offered many tools needed by participants in order to take the next steps, or move to the next level in their careers. This included personal development, developing and cementing relationships with clients, building and surrounding themselves with functional teams, considerations in starting, buying or managing a practice, or opening the door to develop new service or consulting models as practice builders. In this vein, keynote speaker Dr. Eric Rooker discussed the importance of finding your strengths, and then building teams with other individuals whose possibly different strengths will complement your own.
The importance of getting to know your clients’ values, goals and motivations was also a repeated theme, along with the idea of tempering optimism with realism and patience, and understanding that everyone periodically has failures.
The wrap-up speaker, Dr. Tera Rooney Barnhardt, used the analogy of watching the early morning sunrise (something I’m sure we all experience and enjoy) to present the idea of standing in that brief temporal place where one can simultaneously reflect on having accomplished yesterday’s job, while at the same time be looking ahead – sometimes with a bit of trepidation or even a mild case of imposter syndrome – before sucking up our courage and plunging forward to meet the challenges and opportunities of the new day ahead. All of this is possible when people have the knowledge, tools and support needed, which is, of course, what AABP strives to deliver to its members.
As I watched the interactions between participants and speakers, and as I talked with many of the participants myself, it was clear that the conference atmosphere was entirely one of positive energy, enthusiasm, optimism, and a “can do” attitude. These recent graduates were not just collecting new knowledge and skills that will allow them to succeed today, but were also building on the foundations that will carry them forward, and in particular, building and strengthening the network of friends and colleagues who will support them throughout their careers, and indeed, their lives.
As I reflect upon this, I am filled with optimism for our profession. These recent graduates are the future of our profession and our next leaders. And with what I saw, I am very confident that AABP has a healthy and very bright future ahead.I almost wish that I was back in that place myself (being a recent grad), imagining how the early years of my own career path might have been influenced by the Recent Grad conference…well…almost. But upon further reflection, I realize that the messages communicated to the participants in this week’s conference apply to all of us, regardless of how short- or long-in-the-tooth we may be.The industries we serve are changing rapidly, as are the technologies, tools and science available to our profession. All of this is to say that there will continue to be an ever-expanding number of exciting opportunities available to bovine veterinarians.
Just as these recent graduates were doing this week, we can all choose to challenge ourselves to learn new things, develop new skills, offer new services, adopt new practice models, and maybe even completely rewrite how we make our livelihoods. And we can remake ourselves in this fashion as many times as we wish throughout our careers and lives. We need only decide to do so. How lucky we are to be a member of this profession!
In July 2013, I had the good fortune to spend two weeks in rural Liberia with the U.S. Veterinarians Without Borders organization, working with ag extension educators and smallholder farmers. There I met a very wise bush farmer and extension educator, Alexander Yallah, who shared with me some very memorable words: “We gather things so that when we come to the river, we can cross it.”
I believe his words sum up perfectly what AABP is to our members: It is a purveyor of those “things” that we bovine veterinarians collect – knowledge, skills, and professional and personal networks – which allow us to continue to grow and succeed as we move forward to meet the new challenges and opportunities ahead.
Thanks for everything you do, and have a wonderful spring ahead.
Dr. Sandra Godden