Sunday, December 23, 2012

You should be worried

It's almost 2013, which means that this year's NDAA is currently making the rounds through the senate and congress.  It's the big National Defense Authorization Act that conveniently slipped in a little line last year about being able to detain anybody without a trial.  It's an evil piece of legislation that urinates on the constitution.  I wrote about it here last year.

A group of senators tried to attach an amendment stripping the unconstitutional police-state powers from the bill.  Another group lead by John McCain stripped that protective amendment from the bill, so now it has passed the senate in it's current form.  It just needs to pass through congress and the white house to say goodbye to habeas corpus for another year.

But if you're a normal citizen, and never would associate with any terrorist groups, why would you even have to worry about a law like this?  Surely, it's not meant to go after normal people, or peaceful protestors.

Oh.  Right.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It starts all over again

Others focused on a concern that the COE has relaxed its standards to allow subpar programs to earn accreditation. Western U was given as an example, with Marshak noting that unlike in most other programs, veterinary students there are expected to develop their clinical acumen by rotating through private practices rather than a traditional veterinary medical teaching hospital. 
Given that Western U contracts with upwards of 700 private practices, it’s impossible for academicians to monitor what students are learning, if anything, Marshak said. What’s more, now that building an expensive teaching hospital no longer is required for accreditation, several new Western-like programs are emerging across the United States.  
By accrediting Western U, the COE “ensnared themselves in a trap,” Marshak testified. “How do you turn down the next crummy school without being sued?” 

 Now, these quotes come from the same Dr. Marshak I wrote about last November.  I don't want to be too redundant, but the argument comes down to the fact that we do our rotations outside of an official teaching hospital, so there's no standardization of what we're learning, therefore WesternU doesn't deserve to be accredited.  That and PBL is new and scary, therefore ineffective.  I think what these people forget is that the teaching hospital standard may not be effective either - case loads are variable, students don't see primary level cases, and students are at the whim of faculty at teaching hospitals - some students may get hands on experience, while others may be stuck doing scut work.  Same with lectures - students may listen during lectures, yet never open a textbook, they may skip class and teach themselves, or they may skim friend's notes and manage to stay afloat that way.  Yet we all pass the National Boards, and most of us, no matter which school we go to will be competent veterinarians.

But I don't believe that the new uproar over over school accreditation really revolves around veterinarians being worried that WesternU's not churning out good veterinarians.  I think this all comes from a place of fear. A place of fear that I understand 100%, but I plan to be flexible about, and I plan on adapting to a new direction of the profession.  What fear is that?

First, veterinarians were used to an easy source of income - flea and tick products.  Most of these were sold ONLY through vet's offices, and vets came to rely on the income they produced.  Then various "greymarket" sources started carrying them - websites, and now supermarket pharmacies and pet stores.

Then the big pharmacies - Target, Walmart, Walgreens, Costco and others started pushing programs advertising that they were now carrying pet prescriptions.  Legislation is in the works trying to force veterinarians to write a prescription, whether or not their clients want to buy their medications from the veterinary hospital.  Veterinarians have traditionally structured their business plan to where their pharmacies subsidized the care of patients - basically drug sales through a vet's office allowed vets to keep other costs low.  This is now being chipped away at.

Here's where WesternU comes in - We were the first new school to open in decades.  (I'm not going to look up the exact span of years right now.)  It's a private school.  It's not attached to a landgrant university.  And the school accepted a partnership with Banfield (which I think was a massive PR mistake, but nobody asked me.)  We were different.  A lawsuit was involved to even get the COE to consider accrediting the school.  Since then, the COE has accredited several Caribbean schools, a Mexican school, and there's news articles about new vet schools potentially opening up in Arizona, Utah and New York.  Which means more veterinarians coming into the job market every year. Which scares vets shitless in an already shaky economy.  Fingers get pointed at Western because it's seen that we started a trend of new accreditations.  Vets are afraid of too many clinics, too much competition in a field where we're already extremely underpaid for the number of hours we work, and the level of education we've attained.  They look to law schools, and see the horrific unemployment statistics among lawyers and fear that we're next.

So they pick targets like the COE, WesternU, and any foreign schools that seek accreditation.  I get it.  We make convenient scapegoats.  And higher education is fucked up.  As long as dumb-ass students like me can continue to get federal loans, and as long as the feds are willing to dish out money (that can't be discharged in bankruptcy,) new schools will open up, or existing schools will increase class size.  I've read so many economists that talk about how student loans will be the next economic bubble to burst, because the rate at which tuition increases is completely unsustainable.  Existing vets worry about increased competition, and newly graduating vets are terrified about the loan burden we signed on for.  I know when I got accepted into vet school, I did the math, and decided that the loan burden was doable.  But it's only doable if I can find a job.  Otherwise, I'm fucked, and I'm sure as the economy continues to tank, more and more of us will be fucked.

There's this current of fear in every industry, and people see the good times get farther and farther out of our grasp.  The federal reserve will continue to print money with impunity, and bail out the richest people who don't deserve to be bailed out.  (Google 43 trillion dollar lawsuit if you want to shit your pants.)  Our salaries will remain stagnant, while inflation continues, making us the working poor.

The problem with the veterinary field isn't the schools, or the new grads - although they sure as hell aren't helping matters.  Parts of the problem are the AVMA being so far up the asses of big agriculture, willingly giving up veterinary services to laypeople, and refusing to take a stand for animal welfare in the face of cruel factory farming practices.  We've lost veterinary jobs there.  As a profession, instead of lobbying for the public to value their animal's health, we've been freaking out about the possibility as pets being seen as more than property - even though that's the basic principle that we earn our money on.  On one hand, vets want owners to see their pets as valuable family members, and pay for that dental cleaning or TPLO, while on the other hand, vets freak at the aspect of being sued for those "family members" when something goes badly.  We can't have it both ways.  The veterinary field is it's own worst enemy, looking to point fingers instead of adapting to a changing societal and economic reality.

But that only begins to scratch the surface.  See, we think we're special.  We think we deserve so much better than other professions, and we've historically been a group of hardheaded non-conformists. (I say that affectionately.)  When human health care was getting ruined by health insurance, we watched their mistakes and learned from them.  Now if you ask physicians if they would recommend their kids become doctors, the answer is more often than not a resounding "NO."  Lawyers are hurting.  Dentists are hurting.  Mechanics are hurting.  Tattoo artists are hurting.  The tech industry is hurting.  All of the money is getting funneled away from the average working American, into the banks and the investors.  Our economy is broken, and no talk of bailouts, or fixing the fiscal cliff, or tweaking tax rates, or reducing spending will fix a damn thing, because the entire system is designed to self-implode, leaving the average person starving, and the 147 companies that own everything with all the resources and power.  As it stands, the Federal reserve is more powerful than the president, more powerful than congress, and it's completely unregulated, no transparency, no accountability.  And it's fucking all of us.  And it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

So point fingers at WesternU.  Yes, they play the system that makes education so profitable of a venture, that supplies jobs for a shitload of amazing professors, and gives hundreds of students hope for a future where they can make a dent in the world, and in the lives of multiple animals and their owners.  But they're a small symptom of a much bigger societal problem.  And the problem isn't that the school I love is doing a bad job educating veterinarians.  Because they're not.  The problem isn't that there's too many vet students - that's one symptom of a system that's much bigger than any of us, that I don't know if any of us can fix.  Because we're at the bottom of the pyramid scheme, and we have no way of disentangling ourselves.

And now I sound crazy.

Wrapping up the semester

I finished my food and feed safety class Friday, and all I have left this semester is a day of practice management, and a class-wide meeting with the dean.  Small animal rotations start in January.

I was going to post earlier this week, but everything I typed was pretty incoherent or too rage-filled.  The stray cat that always visited my porch, got killed earlier in the week.  Tyler and I were watching tv inside, and we heard a cat-fight noise.  I ran outside, to find a pitbull shaking her, and the pitbull's owner standing across the street watching.  (What kind of sociopath just watches as their dog attacks another animal?)  I chased the dog away from the kitty, and screamed at the owner to put his dog on a leash.  He got his dog, and ran away, while I tried to get a paralyzed cat into a carrier without stressing her out.  She died on the way to the emergency clinic.

I feel guilty as hell for thinking she'd be better off as a stray with some protections than in our high-euth-rate local shelter.  Obviously, I chose wrong, and she paid the price.  The other stray (white kitty) was taken to the shelter by my neighbor about 2 or 3 weeks ago.  Even though he's one of the prettiest and friendliest cats I've ever met, he still hasn't been adopted.  I'm feeling like I've failed both cats.

I guess there is no good solution here.  It's the culture of this place.  The culture that makes people think its ok to let their animals run free, to not spay/neuter, to be a useless piece-of-shit lowlife that watches your dog attack another animal.  It's Pomona.  It's broken, and I doubt any amount of activism will ever fix these people.  They're horrible wastes of human flesh.  I cannot wait to move away from them.

If you have a kitty, go hug them for me.  If you have space for one, there's an incredibly sweet one at the Upland shelter that needs a home.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I am so freaking relieved.

My 3rd year presentation is done and over with.  I will never be an eloquent public speaker, because for some reason, talking to people is scary (I think I should stick to writing).  But I survived, I didn't pass out, or trip and fall on my face, or forget everything I know about bats, so I'll consider it a win.  And I had 2 of my great friends show up for support, even though it's the week before finals for them, and that meant a lot.  I also saw our avian/wildlife vet come in the back partway through my talk, so hopefully he wasn't disappointed.  But most importantly I'm done!   Wheeee!!!

I have about a week and a half left until Christmas break.   We're done with food and feed safety next Friday, then there's just a couple days the next week of Practice Management and meetings.  Where has the time gone?  I swear that vet school is some sort of crazy time vortex.

I'm waiting for my loan disbursement next semester, when I'm going to buy a new iphone.  I've been using my 3gs since my junior year of undergrad, and there's nothing wrong with it, I just want a new shiny one.  I've been wanting an iphone 5, but is it bad that the fact that the iphone ecg monitor only clips onto the 4 and 4s might sway me to an older model?  Like I even need my own personal ECG, but damnit, if I had one, I would stick it to the sides of my critters constantly.  Especially Skwissgaar with his crazy oversized heart.

Speaking of oversized hearts, I was watching the Grinch the other day.  It got to the line about "and his heart grew 3 sizes that day."  I yelled at the TV, "Nooo, that's pathologic!  Somebody take him to a doctor!"  Tyler looked at me, muttered "dork," and rolled his eyes.  Apparently husbands aren't too worried about Grinch pathology.