It is estimated that medical knowledge doubles every five years. Doubles! With the rapid pace of medical discovery and improvement of technology, veterinarians must continue learning if they are going to keep up with the latest tests and treatments.
As part of my ongoing education, I currently receive six monthly veterinary magazines and visit a couple of high-tech veterinary Web sites on a regular basis.
So, like most veterinarians, my spare time is spent looking for pearls of wisdom in the latest journals.
Last month, I took a few days "off" from the clinic and went to conference in Southern California. The conference attracted more than 1,500 veterinarians as well as dozens of cutting edge speakers from around the nation. Nearly as important, there were also many vendors present to demonstrate (and sell) the newest technology, books and equipment.
For three days, I sat in on seminars ranging from "back pain in dogs" to "ear infections in pets" to "videotaping pets to diagnose muscle and joint disorders." In back-to-back sessions, I went from a course on "communication skills" to another on "feline tips and tricks" from a noted cat expert.
The variety of speakers and subjects reminds me of the diversity of the veterinary profession -- veterinary clinics are the "one-stop shop" for your pet's surgery, dental work, treatment for infections, skin diseases, allergies, broken bones, etc.
Some of my favorite seminars weren't about medical problems at all. Instead, I learned a great deal in a series of lectures delivered by noted behaviorist (and veterinarian) Dr. Ian Dunbar. Dr. Dunbar wrote the book on puppy training and developed the first classes for teaching puppies with treats and rewards.
As luck would have it, Dr. Dunbar didn't have any dinner plans that night.
So, over the course of a terrific meal, we continued to discuss what decades of dog training had taught him. The conference had already been a success to that point, but the personal tutoring was fantastic.
By the end of those three days, my brain was full of new ideas to process and put to work in the clinic -- so much for resting during my days off.
Veterinarians use the phrase "lifelong learning" to remind us that practicing medicine is just that -- something that you keep practicing and improving for the benefit of your patient.
Even after 15 years in clinical practice, I still look forward to the next time I can take a few days "off" and learn some more.
Dr. Jon Klingborg is a Merced veterinarian with Valley Animal Hospital. He can be reached at 209-384-7387 and firstname.lastname@example.org.