By Kristin Knirk, DVM
MVMA Board of Directors Representative, MVMA Membership Committee Member, Young Professionals Task Force Member
I am one of those individuals who joined organized veterinary medicine early in my career. I think it is important to be involved and the benefits of membership can be immeasurable. Membership in the MVMA allows one to take advantage of discounted continuing education, free legal help, debt relief information and wellness resources dedicated to assisting veterinarians in need. MVMA also assists with networking and mentoring in all stages of one's career. These are a few examples of why practice owners should encourage and facilitate MVMA membership for their associates and colleagues.
With the passage of continuing medical education in Michigan, the MVMA established a CE portal with over 1,000 online courses, many of which are free for members. The online portal will also track member’s hours of continuing education, even from outside sources. MVMA programs like the Small Animal Seminar Series and the new CE portal are convenient and effective resources for members to stay current in the profession.
Other valuable tools that the MVMA is committed to developing are designed to help veterinary students and new graduates reduce their debt-to-income ratio. The average student debt for 2016 was approximately $180,000 with some students exceeding $300,000. The MVMA has partnered with the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine and other national groups by providing student debt resources on their website, offering sessions for MSU CVM students and offering free financial advice for current members. The debt-to-income ratio has become a burden for both new graduates and their employers, and the MVMA is looking for ways to help new members succeed for the long-term.
During 2015-2016, MVMA had a Wellness Task Force dedicated to assisting veterinarians who were challenged with compassion fatigue, financial concerns, psychological distress, or issues around work-life balance. A recent study published by Nett, et. al. in JAVMA, (2016) reported that membership in a professional veterinary association was positively correlated with reduced mental illness and suicide. The authors found that 17.5% of veterinarians who were not association members experienced severe psychological distress at the time of the survey compared to 9.3% of veterinarians who belonged to an association. Strand, et al. (2016) noted in a Wellness Risk Factor Study that veterinary medical associations (VMAs) played a critical role by offering social support and a means for sharing information. State VMAs, along with online social communities, are important outlets for helping veterinarians across the profession find and maintain positive support systems. The MVMA Wellness Task Force was specifically created in an effort to design and develop ongoing resources for our professional community across Michigan.
Encouraging membership in the MVMA can provide numerous benefits for all. Free or reduced-cost CE is a major concern for many. Legal and financial resources for managing debt relief will continue to be important tools for helping new graduates succeed, and promoting the physical, mental and emotional wellness of our colleagues across the veterinary profession is something our association is committed to for everyone’s long-term benefit. Endorsing membership in the MVMA and assisting colleagues with costs of membership could be priceless.
Nett, R. J., Witte, T. K., Holzbauer, S. M., et. al. (2015). Risk factors for suicide, attitudes toward mental illness, and practice-related stressors among US veterinarians. Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association, 247(8), 945-955.
Strand, E., and Faust, C. (2016) Wellness Risk Factor Study Finds Positive Correlation to VMA Membership.