Posts Tagged ‘veterinary school’

The Real Reason there are More and More Women Veterinarians

November 26, 2010

While I’m busy recovering from some back surgery, you have the good fortune of reading posts from some of my favorite doggie bloggers!  Today’s post comes from Dr. Larry McDaniel who blogs regularly at and on the PurinaCare™ Blog.   Please make him feel welcome by posting your wonderful comments.  Be back soon! 

Best wishes,

Dr. Nancy Kay

In 1960 the Veterinary profession was 98% male. Today, it’s about 50/50 and in the future it will be mostly female. Since 1984 more women have been admitted to Veterinary School and more have been graduating since 1988. Right now about 80% of the current vet students are women.



There are standard explanations, often supplied by male Deans of Veterinary Colleges or male heads of professional associations. These sage pronunciations are routinely repeated by an incurious popular press. One of the more common explanations is that men are seeking higher paying professions and women in the profession have their husband’s salaries to fall back on. That’s also one of the more patronizing explanations and, according to Dr Anne Lincoln, a sociologist from SMU, it’s simply not true.


It is true that Law and Medicine have higher average salaries than Veterinary Medicine, but in her  recently published paper; The Shifting Supply of Men and Women to Occupations: Feminization of Veterinary Medicine, that is not the primary driver of change. It turns out that decisions about cost of tuition and eventual compensation affect women and men equally. In fact, Veterinary Medicine is simply ahead of the feminization curve and the Medical and Legal professions are heading in the same direction.

Instead, Dr Lincoln cites these three primary reasons for the gender shift in Veterinary Medicine. 

First, there was landmark anti-discrimination legislation passed in 1972. Elements of Title 9 made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender for application to graduate programs. The percentage of female applicants and graduates in the 28 Veterinary Colleges around the country has been on the rise ever since.

Secondly, there are simply more women with the qualifications to be admitted to Veterinary School than men. More women are graduating from college than men. More women are applying to college, too, by the way. My wife sees this as proof of her long held tenet that women are simply smarter than men.

The final reason is the most interesting. Simply stated, men seem to prefer the company of men. That seems contrary to logic and personal experience to me. What man wouldn’t prefer to spend his time surrounded by women? Apparently most of us, according to Dr Lincoln. She states that, “The feminization of Veterinary Medicine is really the demasculinization of Veterinary Medicine, driven by men’s lower rate of college graduation and their aversion to the presence of women.


Why the aversion to the presence of women? I have my own theory on that. We men secretly realize that we have a hard time measuring up. Let’s face it. Women work harder, are better team members and possess higher emotional intelligence than men. At some level most of us men realize that we should just get out of the way if anything positive is going to happen. No wonder an aspiring male veterinary student freaks out when he visits an actual Veterinary School. Does he really want to be confronted with his basic inadequacy on a daily basis for four years?  No way.

Don’t get me wrong. I have lots of male friends. I love hanging out with them and I spend a good deal of time riding bikes with my pals. Unfortunately, these cycling interactions only seem to reinforce my conclusions. Our rides aren’t really social events where we discuss our feelings or seek emotional support or enlightenment. These “rides” most often degenerate into Darwinian bouts of survival where the goal is to punish the weak and assert one’s physical dominance. I really get into it, by the way.

These skills are very useful, of course, especially for a hunter gatherer on the Serengeti 250,000 years ago. Not so useful in the boardroom or the classroom, sad to say. In the good old days we could survive and get our props by simply being the best at chasing it and killing it. That was pretty much it though, because after that we gave it to the women and they did everything else. I guess you could say nothing really ever changes.

Dr. Larry McDaniel

Dr. Larry McDaniel has had a life long love affair with animals.  Dr. McDaniel graduated from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine and entered private practice in Northern Idaho. There weren’t any jobs available with wildlife agencies so Larry worked in a mixed animal practice working on both ranch animals and dogs and cats. Turns out this type of work suited Larry just fine and he opened his own practice in Western Montana. It was here that Dr. McDaniel developed and interest in animal nutrition.

Larry was elected the President of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition in 1994 and continues to consult with major pet food manufacturers on therapeutic small animal nutrition. He is excited about participating in the blog and hopes to be able to offer some useful information on all issues related to the care of our family pets.


Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller. 

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Frankly Speaking

December 6, 2009

In 2001, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association stated, “Veterinarians’ responsibilities have expanded to include the mental health and well-being of their clients as well as their clients’ pets.”  For me, this came as no great surprise.  Having graduated from veterinary school in 1982, I’d already learned that if I wasn’t taking good care of my clients’ emotional needs, it was far more difficult to take good care of my patients’ health needs.  Admittedly, it took me a few years to catch on to this notion.  During my formative years, I recall thinking that good client communication would be a “slam dunk”.  After all, I fancied myself to be a good teacher and a nice person.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the “medicine part” was becoming a whole lot easier than the “client part.”

Thus began my avid interest in the art and science of client communication.  I read whatever I could get my hands on (not much in the veterinary literature at that time) and attended communication workshops. I began studying my clients, trying new tactics and techniques, and asking questions of them not necessarily directly related to their dog or cat (Kleenex consumption increased exponentially).  I founded and continue to facilitate a community Client Support Group (talk about a front row seat in terms of understanding what is going on in our clients’ minds) and have enjoyed teaching client communication skills to local and national audiences.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that few veterinary colleges provide any formal client communication training to their students- doesn’t make much sense does it?  One of the schools that doesn’t overlook this important subject is Colorado State University.  Here veterinary students receive fabulous communication training via the Argus Institute (  This organization’s stated mission is “to strengthen veterinarian-client-patient communication and support relationships between people and their companion animals.” In addition to providing formal client communication training to CSU veterinary students, the Argus Institute also makes communication training available to veterinarians.  These workshops are called FRANK (based on the notion of “frank” communication), and the emphasis is on relationship-centered care, an approach that emphasizes collaboration and shared decision-making between veterinarian and client.  Pfizer Animal Health was involved in the creation of FRANK in 2007 and continues to generously fund this program.

I just completed my first FRANK training workshop- what a fabulous experience.  I left the program feeling invigorated, renewed, and eager to apply what I had learned. The majority of the workshop time was spent in small groups within simulated exam rooms.  Professional actors played “the client,” each getting in character with their assigned emotional agendas (they were awesome and totally believable).  Everyone took turns as “the veterinarian” during these mock office visits.   The interactions were videotaped after which respectful, constructive critique was offered within the small group setting. We worked on several communication skills including delivery of empathetic statements, maintaining focus on the “common ground” (the well being of the patient), reflective listening, facilitating silent pauses (time for clients to gather their thoughts), disclosure (sharing stories of our own that might parallel what the client is emotionally experiencing), and asking open-ended questions (allows the client greater opportunity to share their stories).

A veterinarian can be a sensational surgeon or a dandy diagnostician, but such skills may wither on the vine if he or she is not a successful communicator.  More than ever before, people are becoming savvy consumers of veterinary medicine and better effective medical advocates for their pets.   My sense is that these wonderful trends will drive the awareness that client communication training for veterinarians is profoundly important.   Frankly speaking, I think it’s about time!

Wishing you and your four-legged family members a joyful and healthy holidays season.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

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Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

A Delightful Coincidence

May 30, 2009

Seung will be entering his last year of veterinary school at Colorado State University.  On top of his busy academic load, he manages to work part time as a technician at Fort Collins Veterinary Emergency Clinic. As a way of figuring out which area of specialization to pursue following graduation he decided to experience an externship in a large emergency/specialty hospital.  His wife Stephanie heard my NPR interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross and suggested that Seung consider my hospital.  Being the good husband that he is, he did exactly that- an externship was arranged.  Imagine his surprise (and mine) when Seung learned that one of his coworkers at the Emergency Clinic is none other than my 22-year-old son, Jacob!  Seung has stayed in our home and worked at my hospital this week.  He’s an exceptional student who is going to go far in the veterinary profession, and we’ve enjoyed his company enormously.  What a delightful coincidence! 

Dr. Nancy Kay

Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. SPEAKING FOR SPOT is available at, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Look for us on Twitter –

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook –

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross –