Thursday, January 1, 2015

An urban Scourge: Stray dogs and Rabies

This is an article by Mr. Theodore Baskaran, an author, film historian and retired civil service member of India. The article was turned down by 'The Hindu' [a leading newspaper] in India and subsequently published in 'Madras Musings' a few years ago.   I reprint it here with permission from Mr. Baskaran. Those among us who are taught to accept the position of dog as man's best friend and have never questioned our value system may find it difficult to read a differing viewpoint, but it is valuable to understand all sides of an issue.  There is a socioeconomic component to dog bites and dog fatal attacks. Non-affluent sections of societies may be disproportionately overburdened by dog-bite related injuries than affluent sections. This is why the affluent section of the population, which invariably sets policies especially in developing countries needs to have a better understanding of all of the ramifications of the dog - human interaction.

The action of some well-meaning, over-enthusiastic supporters could ruin a good cause and trigger a backlash. This has happened in quite a few fronts in India; wildlife conservation for instance. The problem seems to be lack of adequate information on the subject and the temptation to muster support by emotionalizing the issue. The latest is animal rights and the issue of stray dogs.

Consider the facts. Rabies or hydrophobia, the deadliest of all infectious diseases and a major public health hazard, claims 35,000 lives in India each year, that is 81% of all the rabies deaths in the world. This lethal virus is passed on to human mostly by stray dogs. (There is no stray dog in Lakshadeep and no rabies either). Each year in India, about one million get bitten by rabid dogs and go in for anti-rabies shots. Most of the victims are poor and 40% are children. I have seen a 5-year old son of a dear friend of mine die of rabies. He was bitten on the head and even immediate shots could not save him. I have had anti-rabies shots twice - 14 pokes around the navel in those years - and for twenty days attended office in a loosely tied dhothi.

A virus that attacks the central nervous system and kills the victim in a few days through convulsive seizures causes rabies. Once infected, death is certain. The trouble is a rabid dog, appears perfectly normal in the initial few days and gets close to humans as usual. Often, you would realize that a dog had been rabid only after the damage is done. So how do you deal with the problem of stray dogs? Can we prevent them from being carriers of rabies by castrating them or hysterectomising them?

What do we do with rats in a plague epidemic? Do we catch them, neuter them and hope to eradicate plague? No. You fumigate. Or is it feasible at all to administer anti-rabies vaccine (Rs.80 per shot) to all stray dogs? Even if we manage to do, how do we ensure booster doses?

Remember in India we have 25 million stray dogs, the highest in the world, not just in absolute numbers but highest in proportion to human population. In our cities there is a stray dog for every 35 humans. A survey reveals that in Hyderabad and Secunderabad at any give time there are 12000 rabid dogs spreading pain and death. India, along with Bolivia and El Salvador, is one of the eleven nations where the risk of contracting rabies is highest in the world. You see warning posters to this effect stuck on notice boards of travel agencies in Europe.

Is it possible to contain the population of stray dogs by neutering them? The Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Hyderabad had done a census of stray dogs in the twin city and the figures show that spaying is a pointless exercise. A pair of dogs can produce 400 dogs in three years and 7000 in seven years. Unless you operate all the dogs, male and female in one go, it is impossible. While you operate a few, a thousand others are littering away. As the Tamil proverb goes, you cannot jump across half the well. For certain problems there is no partial solution. In Australia, dingoes were preying on farm lambs and posing a threat to wool industry. As one of the solution, the Animal Rights groups suggested catching the dingoes, castrating them and leaving them off. A bewildered farmer exclaimed "Sir! The dingoes are eating the lambs; not mating with them".

Moreover, it is not just the strays that add on to the population of ownerless dogs. In an act of utter irresponsible dog-ownership, some abandon pups in public places. In Bangalore, during littering season, it is common sight to see dozens of pups abandoned in Lalbagh and Cubbon parks. The ones that survive join the packs. So what is the point in neutering a few? One may be satisfied for having done something good. That is all. Look at the cost. It costs R.300 to remove the uterus from a bitch, postoperative care not counted. Who takes care of them after the surgery? A veterinarian friend tells me that 50% of the strays that are operated die due to lack of postoperative care.

The only way to check rabies is to eliminate stray dogs. Period. This debate had run its course many times and most of the countries see the strength of this argument. In June 1997, following incidence of rabies in Taiwan, the government organized the largest ever in history, mass extermination of stray dogs. 7 lakhs of them were destroyed in a matter of days. Countries that have traditionally set the standards for dog care, like the United Kingdom, destroy strays. If a dog is not claimed in two days, an inspector of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals puts the canine to sleep.

This insight, that destroying stay dog is the only way out, is nothing new. Decades earlier, the municipalities were authorized through an act to destroy strays. Section 218 (The Destruction of Stray Pigs, Stray dogs and Monkeys) of The Madras City Municipal Corporation Act of 1919 authorized catching and killing them. One of my childhood memories is my visit to the municipal office in my home town to get license tags for our dogs. The dog unit was an essential part of all municipalities and unlicensed dogs were rounded up . In any old municipal office building you could still see the gas chamber in the backyard. In the early seventies, the number of stray dogs destroyed by the Madras Corporation was so high, that the Central Leather Research Institute, Chennai designed products- such as neckties and wallets- made from dog skins. But the dog license regulation, like many other civic rules that made our lives safer in the olden days, had fallen into disuse. Remember the days when you cannot ride a bicycle in the night without a light?

Professor M.K. Sudarshan of the Rabies Epidemiology Unit, Kempegowda Institute of Medical sciences, Bangalore, speaking at the Second Commonwealth Veterinary Conference in Bangalore in February 2000 pointed out that most of the rabies victims are the poorest of the poor who have no access to anti-rabies vaccine. Workers who return home late, people who live in dimly lit streets and children who walk to school. India's estimated need of anti-rabies vaccine for humans is 1500 litters per year. Since all vaccine produced in the 12 centres in India falls short of our requirement, we resort to import of the vaccine, from France and Germany. He pleaded that public must be educated first about stray dogs and about this dreadful disease.

Rabies is not the only threat from stray dogs. Last year in Hyderabad, a 4-year old girl Swapna, daughter of a labourer was ripped apart by a pack of stray dogs even as people watched. Instances of newborn babes being snatched away by strays from one of our crowded government hospitals are reported periodically. Strays are also the source of a disease that is transmitted to humans from the feces of dogs. Add to this the number of road accidents caused by stay dogs. In October this year, former principal of Christian Medical College, Vellore, Dr.Bhushanam, died in a road accident near Pondicherry caused by a stray dog. These dogs are not the pets one associates with homes. Stray dogs are urban dingoes. So, some local administration resort to desperate measures and a storm is raised. Panaji Corporation had on its payroll a sharp shooter who set out in his van every morning, with his .22 rifle and a box of cartridges. Tourism was being affected by the presence of strays there.

The question often raised against eradication of stray dogs is an ethical one. Can you kill a dog, or a bandicoot or a rat? When the choice is between the life of a poor child and a street dog, I have no problem deciding.

- S.Theodore Baskaran

To read more on somewhat similar and rarely discussed themes, follow the links below.

...Deepak Kumar, 6, had an angry slash across his back from a dog that charged into his family’s shack.
“We finally closed the gates to our colony and beat the dog to death,” said Deepak’s father, Rajinder.
No country has as many stray dogs as India, and no country suffers as much from them. Free-roaming dogs number in the tens of millions and bite millions of people annually, including vast numbers of children. An estimated 20,000 people die every year from rabies infections — more than a third of the global rabies toll.
Packs of strays lurk in public parks, guard alleyways and street corners and howl nightly in neighborhoods and villages. Joggers carry bamboo rods to beat them away, and bicyclists fill their pockets with stones to throw at chasers. Walking a pet dog here can be akin to swimming with sharks.
A 2001 law forbade the killing of dogs, and the stray population has increased so much that officials across the country have expressed alarm...

 ...The Animal Welfare Board of India has reportedly spent Rs 22.5 crore on animal birth control programmes over the last decade which is the only legal method of controlling dog populations in the country. These have not worked effectively anywhere in the world, and are not working in India either. The problem is not that sterilization programmes don’t work per se, but that they have to be conducted in a sustained manner and on a large scale to have significant impact... 
'A dogged problem' in Conservation India.

...[Vickey Chauhan] came upon a neelgai (Blue bull) that was being savaged by dogs from a nearby village at the Indroda Nature Park, Gandhinagar (Gujarat). Chauhan had gone to click migratory birds when he saw the neelgai cornered in the water...There were about five dogs in the water and seven waited outside. "As reinforcements arrived, we were able to chase away the dogs. The injured neelgai staggered away but we saw the dogs had got it later and were eating it," recounts Chauhan. The dogs were habituated to killing wild animals. The park's staff, as is the case with forest officials in many other wilderness areas of India, are resigned to the dogs' predation and do little to stop this...
Stray dogs and wildlife.  Bliss of a dog's kiss. Hindustan Times.

...wild species comprise only 11 percent of a dog’s diet because people feed them and there is plenty of garbage. However, the cumulative impact of numerous dogs on wildlife can be devastating. In the nearby Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, during a good breeding season, there are six fledglings. It only takes a couple of dogs to wipe out an entire year’s breeding effort. ...
...Over the nine years that the avian influenza (H5N1) threatened public health, millions of chickens and other domestic fowl were destroyed. Its human toll was just 329 people worldwide (an average of 36 people a year). More than 18,000 are estimated to have died from the H1N1 virus over 15 months around the world, and health professionals tackled it as a medical emergency; it is now being debated whether it was ever a pandemic. Yet, our response to a virus that kills 20,000 Indians every year is extremely inadequate. While we spend millions of rupees subsidising anti-rabies vaccines, we don’t have a policy to prevent the disease from occurring in the first place. Nor do we have a wildlife management plan to curtail dogs’ access to wild ecosystems. 

The government’s current dog control policy is to vaccinate, sterilise and return them to their haunts. To be effective, more than 70% of the dogs in a population have to be sterilised within six months. Even urban centres do not have the capacity to handle such large numbers, and in rural areas, implementation is non-existent. While sterilising dogs may bring down their numbers over time, it does not prevent them from ranging over conservation areas around Nannaj and elsewhere in India. There is no doubt that the overpopulation of dogs in India has contributed to a tremendous amount of disruption and killing of wildlife.
How dogs have played a part in killing wildlife. Current Conservation.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nobody can have it all -- so why are women alone so earnestly warning other women about not having it all?

I heard with a sinking feeling that PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has added her voice to the chorus of successful, high-earning women opining that women can't have it all, but even I was not prepared for the level of incredulity felt when I actually read her interview. I struggle with her message not because I believe that women can have it all – I don't; I don't believe men can have it all either – but because I wonder why women, even successful women, are so quick to blindly reinforce that "women can't have it all." Why can't high-profile women turn around and ask the better question – the right question: why is all this angst arising in women alone?

When was the last time we heard men acknowledge and worry publicly about not having it all? Children grow up while fathers are in boardrooms, courtrooms, schoolrooms, hospitals, and city councils, yet men don't tell each other that they are missing an important part of life by working till midnight. From an early age, and over countless generations, men have swallowed, imbibed, absorbed the fact that days are made of finite hours that need to be handed over to the world of work. And the nature of work, when strategically chosen, will give back enough to take a wife who will keep house while raising babies. Men have thus always pretended they have it all.

I am not saying that the ways of men are in anyway superior to the ways that have been handed to, and meekly embraced by, middle- and upper-class women. I am saying that my writer-husband, who is the stay-at-home father and primary care-giving parent, who wrote minimally in the last 12 years while appreciating the opportunity to raise three young children, knows better than to turn around and tell other men that they aren't having it all or that I, as a woman, am not having it all.

My husband's day-to-day routine is very different from those of other men, but his decision to take over for me gives us both some peace and calm. There is some angst on his part on devoting less time to his writing and the consequences for his lifelong earning potential, but he figures that something will work out when the time is right. Most importantly, my husband knows better than to accept snide, put-us-down comments from other people (men and women alike, including an occasional friend or relative) as justifications for why we cannot dream of a different life than the ones expected from both sexes.  

It is frustrating that even powerful women like Indra Nooyi refuse to see the forest for the trees; refuse to question the system; refuse to acknowledge that some of our most vicious and powerful and inadvertent detractors are other women around us. Sometimes, these women live in our homes or hearts and subtly and effectively undermine the confidence and dignity we have managed to earn gradually over the years. Yes, I am alluding to Nooyi's now-famous milk-buying episode that has several women gushing with awe that even the most powerful, corporate woman that India has ever produced meekly went out to buy milk on the day she was appointed president of PepsiCo.

As a good Indian daughter, Nooyi takes her mother's words at face value.  But I am distressed that she actually used it to justify the glib idea that women, and women alone, cannot have it all. In my view, the episode inside her home was unfair and discriminatory towards her. Perhaps her mother was having a bad day, but if Indra Nooyi were a man, I am convinced that her mother would not have taken it out on her in such a manner.

Here are the facts as she recounted during the recent Aspen Ideas Festival: Her husband was home at 8 p.m. but her mother accepted that he was tired. They had a couple of people at home who were hired domestic help, but her mother apparently forgot that they existed. Nooyi came home at 10 p.m. with news that only one in a billion women has the privilege to announce – that she had just been promoted to president of a multinational corporation – but her mother dismissed it like so much spoilt milk. Worse, even after Nooyi finally told her, her mother did not soften up or give in; did not congratulate her or apologize for having been preoccupied with an everyday detail. Instead, she justified putting her and her accomplishments down. Now imagine if she were a son, instead of a daughter. This is how her mother's words would sound: 

Let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you're the wife husband, you're the daughter son, you're the daughter-in-law son-in-law, you're the mother father. You're all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don't bring it into the house. 

The question is not whether anybody else could have taken her place; the question is whether she was treated reasonably well even under her own roof. Why does Nooyi internalize this and recount this as a story about her gender? Why not blame it on her mother's gender, disposition, generation and upbringing? Maybe the fixed values and expectations of our culture need to shoulder some blame.
More depressing is Nooyi's implied acceptance of this personal incident as an anecdote to support the theme that even women in her stature can't have it all. What is the moral of this story to middle- and working-class women? What are women like me supposed to take out of it in our quest to better juggle our work and family?

Ms. Nooyi, if ever your PR folks stumble upon this blog post, here is my humble list of 'dos and don'ts' requests to you: 

  • Please don't make it easy for naysayers of either sex by doing their facile job for them. Think about the power of your utterances.
  • Talk to us about how to recognize sabotaging and undermining, at work and at home. Keep the progressive people's collective morale up by highlighting the unusual strides in parenting that pockets of men and women have quietly achieved with and without the help of their spouses, family, friends, and bosses.
  • Give us solid, usable advice about how to "develop mechanisms with…secretaries,…extended office,…everybody around [us]" to practice "seamless parenting" when most of us don't bring in billions for our companies; when most of us cannot reasonably expect to "train people at work" to be our extended family.
  • Tell us what policies you and your company have implemented to ensure that even your receptionists and secretaries can hope to co-opt men and women around them to support them in their parenting responsibilities.
  • Help the younger generation understand which job sectors and industries, which companies, genuinely care, and at what levels of pay, about their employees' commitments as parents, caregivers, and socially responsible people.
  • Ask why only women have begun to tell each other that they cannot manage to balance it all. Are male spouses the elephants in the family room that everybody ignores? Do women allow their husbands to 'lean back' and not 'lean in' at family meetings?

Nooyi has more influence than most people in this world, men or women. She has the power to think, talk and act in ways that can bring about some change in this world. Yet, when she too casually reinforces the idea that the problem is in women's expectations, we have to wonder if and how the system benefits from all this visible hand-wringing by women.  If she really cannot see how far she has come, then we might as well all give up here and now, as her interview has already been described as the "interview of the year." 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What do we call people who think they can make narcissists care? Naive narcissists?

I wrote the title of this blog post with some degree of jest, of course, but it is puzzling to think that such claims are being made without the right kind of data. 

The Atlantic Monthly reported on a new study titled, 'How to make the narcissist in your life a little nicer.'  

Hepper thinks that eventually, this research could help shape therapeutic interventions aimed at narcissists. Teachers or human resources representatives could use such tools to try to get their resident egomaniacs to be more charitable.
Perhaps one day we can banish all the world’s narcissists to a desert island littered with tanning beds and TV cameras. Until that day, this type of compassion training might be the best weapon we have against the self-absorbed. As Hepper said, maybe it can help make the world “a nicer, more prosocial place.”

The reporter is pushing a study that is based on 'volunteers' -- i.e., a self-select population, which for whatever reason believes it has narcissistic tendencies and is willing to be introspective, to be taught, and to undergo interventions. The outcomes evaluated sound different from the original objectives and original outcome definitions. The numbers reported also don't mean anything to me because I do not know how to compare them to positive and negative controls. (I bet each one of us has some degree of narcissism; otherwise it would be impossible to look out for ourselves and our progeny. How we keep our degree of narcissism under check and in balance is probably reflective of our ability to be introspective and self-critical.) 

True narcissists will not believe or declare themselves to be narcissists. They are smooth-operating sociopaths. My experience has been that the only way to make them all 'nicer' is just to run away from them.  Far, far away from them.

I don't know whether media people are naive or subject matter experts/academics oversell themselves and inflate the significance of their studies with a finality most studies don't deserve.  But as I learned from my pit bull study experience, if a scientist tries to elaborate with care and with equal degree of attention to the strengths as well as the limitations of their study, the study will be used to support both sides of the argument even if there was considerable emphasis on what the findings mean given the context of the study environment.        

In the context of narcissism, has anyone ever considered this: Is it really possible to make narcissists nicer?  And if we believe we can do exactly that, is it at all possible that we too may be full of delusions about our own abilities to change this world?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Access and Opportunity in Higher Education

Three insightful and expressively-written articles/essays on access to higher education, in general, and not necessarily, veterinary medicine.  But I thought the underlying issues affecting access are well-expressed.
'On Privilege and the Ph.D.' by Kate Bahn.

Liz Riggs writes about mentoring programs for first generation college-goers who can easily find the experience isolating and alienating. 

Andrew Simmons asks whether college offers earning potential or social mobility or intellectual awareness or possibly all three. 

And a fourth, for those who appreciate creative-writing pieces with a personal touch, author Anne Raeff makes us all aware of how hopelessness can systematically and almost irreversibly breed despair already in the minds and souls of children and teens.  

“You have to live as if you believe that something will change and you will be able to go to college.” I explained, but they just shook their heads. “Nothing’s going to change,” they said.

--in Seeing the Snow by Anne Raeff

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Do the "magical" nutritional, cure-all properties of honey work on the virus responsible for foot-and-mouth disease?

How responsible is it for authorities in India to advise farmers to feed their cattle ragi (finger millet; Eleusine coracana) porridge and honey to prevent spread of foot and mouth disease? Honey? Are there any papers on its effectiveness? -- a quick search did not yield any for me. I don't see how it can be practical for farmers in India to feed honey to their cattle.  Plus, if already infected, how do you get animals suffering from foot-and-mouth disease to eat anything?  They will be depressed, exhibit no signs of appetite, and will have likely stopped eating.
If by household bleach, they mean sodium hypochlorite for a disinfectant, isn't this substance unstable in warm and sunny conditions?
Here is a handbook of best practices to prevent spread of foot-and-mouth disease in animals from Iowa State University. 
UpdateAfter my initial and acute sense of incredulousness, I came to, what I thought of as, the only logical and sane explanation for the information in this major newspaper: somebody mixed up concepts of foot and mouth disease in cloven-footed animals with hand-foot-and-mouth disease in people. And hopefully, that somebody was none other than a news intern.
However, my wishful thinking that it must have been a news intern's mistake is not going to hold.
Some online acquaintances helped me connect with some well-respected senior local vets.  I have now become aware that local herbal treatments and homeopathic remedies are still being used for diseases such as FAMD and bluetongue, and trained vets, while emphasizing vaccinations and restriction of movement and NOT actively prescribing local treatments, pass no judgement on local medicine and practices (perhaps it is a politically-wise necessity). I've also learned that there is a department of ethno veterinary medicine in a state veterinary university.  
As I am very much a product of eastern Europe's production animal medicine and America's veterinary epidemiology, I do not know what to do with my new-found information. Still processing...  This on the same day that I became aware that the respected ecologist Allan Savory, who is advocating more livestock rearing to reverse the desertification of the world regretfully confesses to being partly responsible for the organized killing of 40,000 elephants* in Africa to prevent desertification.  
So I guess everyone, whether from north or south, east or west, is allowed the opportunity to make one major mistake in the pursuit of knowledge.   
40,000 elephants shot -- I can't get over that number. I know it is is a different time and different consequences, but the sense of mourning as well as outrage to news that 650 elephants were massacred by local poachers in Chad in 2012 {WARNING: Graphic images.} was so heavy and contagious...I doubt if interventions of that magnitude can be attempted these days.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Veterinary Medicine -- The much loved, but underappreciated cousin in the STEM family

On LinkedIn, some fantastic veterinarians and thought leaders are discussing a really interesting topic -- how to increase diversity in veterinary medicine.  Among other active interventions, it was suggested that we increase the exposure that the profession gets among under-represented minorities in the United States in an effort to help them come through the pipeline. Some unique programs in this direction have already taken off.  Check out what they do at Purdue University and at People, Animals, Love

While principally in agreement with this strategy and appreciative of programs as well-planned as the two linked above, I am not always sure that this is the most efficient, universal, long-term strategy to guarantee inclusiveness in our profession.  Sure, I worry about the lone, racial minority or ethnic vet-wannabe kid growing up isolated, suffocating and trapped in a culture that values a degree in medicine, dentistry, law, pharmacy, engineering, business administration, accounting (yes, even accounting!)  before it values a degree in veterinary medicine, -- in other words a redux of my teen years -- but I worry that too many localized resources invested towards a distant outcome with an unknown probability may not be necessarily defensible (if using public funding) or self-sustaining (if not using public funding).  (How precarious funding can get is something I have picked up from my days studying environmental education programs.)  In lean times, the best we can hope for, and strategize, is to join hands with other groups working towards increasing minority representation in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects and streamline efforts.    
However, in this post I necessarily step away from the good work of leading, avant-garde local efforts, and attempt to raise questions on the profession's (abysmal) publicity in the larger, over-arching society -- i.e., exposure outside of targeted, localized efforts to attract and retain exceptional individuals from minority backgrounds; exposure that can guide exceptional individuals with leadership qualities from all backgrounds at all stages of a career in veterinary medicine.  More precisely, I have been thinking about why it is that we don't seem to receive, and benefit from, mainstream media attention the same way that mainstream professions get exposure.  Leaders and high-profile people from other professions -- politicians, doctors, researchers, lawyers, writers, economists, investment advisors -- manage to become household names and get more and more exposure with each passing day.  This must surely have some dampening effect on exceptional incoming cohorts of future students as well as on those of us who have already chosen this profession? 

For example, I would love to read (and pass on) career-advice columns from veterinary leaders to my friends in software and management fields the same way they casually send me article links from their worlds. I want to profile-watch people closer to my heart and profession than the mainstream ones I get accustomed to recognizing on TV, facebook, newspapers and magazines.  I would love to discuss who is the latest woman veterinary leader who says 'women can't have it all' and dissect why she is right (or wrong).  I want to get a glimpse of the early careers of the veterinary leaders and heroes I know about -- what difficulties did they encounter? What sacrifices, if any, did they make? What decisions did they take at crucial points that led them to where they are today?   

Perhaps not everyone is comfortable talking about setbacks along with their successes, but somehow there seems to be a market (speaking / talk-show circuit, book deals) for such information when they are from the banking, corporate management or tech world.  Where are the Sheryl Sandbergs/Anne-Marie Slaughters; the Arianna Huffingtons/Katrina vanden Heuvals; the Sanjay Guptas/Francis Collins of our veterinary medical world?  

Will a teen who hopes to be the first one ever to go to college in her household easily identify, idolize someone -- a contemporary, universal icon -- who has made a career out of working with/for animals?  Did I, as the first female to go to college in my family and second only to my father, recognize any veterinary public figures or know any close enough to be mentors? Answer: No.  (Just as I did a couple of decades ago growing up in India, James Herriott and Jane Goodall are the only universal ‘animal people’ names that friends' kids come up with when I quiz them now.)  This is partly the reality of our outside world -- kids believe and affirm that they love our profession, but media-industry adults with an eye on ratings don't see fit to promote us.  Perhaps, we are not captivating or charismatic enough.  But have they ever met our very own charming, gracious and articulate Dr. Karen Bradley?  Did they give a bigger chance (exposure, if you will) to Drs. Baxter Black and Kevin Fitgerald -- celebrities in their own right?  Do they know who is America's Favorite Veterinarian this year?  How do we rectify this under-appreciation, this lack of recognition, given our limited resources? 
How do we identify and promote the names and profiles of the top 100 veterinarians in global veterinary history?
How do we ensure that at least the top 10 become household names?  (Here you can find one list although it is missing other well-known namesIf you type in 'Legends' as a keyword search on the AVMA website, you will find these profiles.)
How do we ensure that at least one veterinarian is mentioned among the 'Healing, Feeding and Educating the World' category of Forbes list of 'The World's Most Powerful People?'
 And if we are successful in doing all this, will we also necessarily have to make further specific efforts to attract a diverse group of applicants as well as future leaders? (Perhaps yes, but that would be for different reasons and not for lack of exposure…) 

Yet, despite all my passionate questioning, there's a voice inside me that simultaneously wonders, 'Why must we try to be mainstream?  Why should we compete for visibility with other professions?  Isn't there a reason why veterinarians, as a distinct demographic group, and the veterinary profession are unique?'   

But those are, perhaps, questions to be answered another day.    

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Strategic serendipity or serendipitous strategy?

Here is a story of serendipity leading to strategy leading to meaningful accomplishment. 

Elizabeth Hess, author of 'Nim Chimpsky', was looking for an opportunity to write a biography of an extraordinary animal.  That animal would eventually be Nim, the chimp, who was brought up as a human baby in Manhattan (and then dumped back into a world of captive chimps where he didn't belong).  She came to know of Nim while she was working on the following story and met Dr. Stephanie LaFarge. 

Dr. LaFarge was Nim's first human "mom" who, somewhat naively, eagerly, even earnestly, took Nim from his chimp mom.