Tag: compassion (Page 1 of 2)

Resiliency as a Critical Component of Success

Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.”- Bernard Williams

Members of the Class of 2018 during their White Coat ceremony in 2014 at their induction into veterinary school.

As commencement season begins, my thoughts turn to our new graduates who will soon receive their DVM degree. Since the establishment of the school in 1948, we have been leaders in veterinary medicine by working to benefit the health of animals, people, and the environment in California and beyond. Our school, and its alumni, have shaped the field of veterinary medicine, from developing innovative education programs to discovering mechanisms of animal and human diseases. Our new graduates join this legacy.

The Class of 2018 came to us with an intense desire to gain the skills of this great profession and a passion to advance animal health. They are graduating into a world of great promise, and many challenges. Along the way, they have enriched the school’s history with their own unique characteristics that bonded them to each other and to those that trained them. The many hours of study and exams, along with the countless time spent with their animal patients, are the tip of the iceberg of the journey it took to get them to this moment. Each of them has their own unique story to tell. Each of them has overcome barriers, faced doubt from others and in themselves, or may have endured heartbreaking events that changed their path along this voyage.

Importantly, they would not be at this touchstone along their career unless they possessed a trait that is critical to anyone’s success in life—a characteristic as important as the knowledge learned in veterinary school. They had to be resilient in their own way. Resiliency is defined as the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

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Love and Compassion–Essential to Humanity

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate our love for others through gifts, flowers, or other expressions of our feelings. Daily, we may observe acts of love and compassion, but not fully appreciate how important these traits are to our feelings of fulfillment and belonging. We are fortunate to work in an environment that celebrates the human-animal bond, which at its core is a mutually beneficial relationship between animals and people, reflected in emotional, psychological, and physical interactions. Scientific research has verified the physiologic effects on both pet parents and dogs who are bonded. Anyone who has been emotionally touched by their pets understands the depths of our love for animals.

Dean Lairmore surrounded by students at the Knights Landing One Health clinic.

We extend our compassion to our community in a variety of outreach programs such as our student-run Mercer and Knights Landing Clinics. These clinics provide healthcare for pets of those in need, but who lack adequate resources. I recently visited our Knights Landing One Health Clinic on a busy Sunday morning. The clinic was a hub of activity with more than thirty students, volunteers, and clients gathered in the local community center. The compassion and dedication of our students was on full display as they interviewed clients and examined anxious pets on make-shift exam tables. Our students’ desire to serve the underserved of our society is a clear expression of their humanity.

Another form of compassion is expressed for our co-workers in their times of need. We express sympathy towards our co-workers following the loss of a family member or in times of severe stress. In addition, while less obvious, we show we care in small acts of daily kindness. The affirmative effects of kindness are experienced in the giver and to those that witness the act of kindness, spreading good feelings and positively influencing the work environment. As we envision our future, we must acknowledge the importance of compassion in solidifying the bonds between us that bring satisfaction in our work and warmth to our souls.

Compassion and love do not always extend to others, but may be just as important when inwardly directed. We must also forgive ourselves and have sympathy for our faults. We need to be aware of our own feelings to be in touch with our thoughts and moods. Self-awareness and the ability to forgive ourselves promote positive feelings and improves our resilience to life’s demands. Taking the time to pause our lives for health and wellness serves to bring self-compassion into our daily routines. When love and compassion become incorporated into our habits, we view them not as isolated gestures, but vital components to our productivity, and critical to our work satisfaction.

Welcoming a New Year With a Focus on Wellness

“Wellness is the complete integration of body, mind, and spirit – the realization that everything we do, think, feel, and believe has an effect on our state of well-being.” —Greg Anderson

Dean Lairmore with his second granddaughter, Juliette, during the winter holidays.

The new year brings a sense of renewal, a chance to begin again, perhaps in a direction that sets our life toward a new course. Holiday breaks, often spent with family and friends, help refresh our bonds with those we love and remind us of who we are in spirit or how we started our life’s journey. As we focus on the future, it is also a time to reflect on the present and to consider what is important in our lives.

Our school has two major strategic planning efforts underway to help us plot our future course. We will soon launch a new strategic plan for our veterinary hospital to gain insight into how we lead the world in veterinary medicine, transforming the lives of animals and humans through compassionate, innovative care. We are also refreshing our current strategic plan to reflect and build on our accomplishments and lessons learned over the past five years.

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Leading the Way to the Future of Veterinary Medicine

“Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality.”– Malala Yousafzai

Dr. Claudia Sonder leads a mini horse to safety in the aftermath of recent fires near Napa.

As a community, I know we all grieve the loss and devastation associated with the multitude of fires in northern California that our regional neighbors are experiencing. In times of natural disaster, we stand ready to assist the animal victims and their owners caught in the path of these fires. We have a number of activities already underway and resources available to respond to official county and state requests. We provide our assistance to address regional needs as we have always done in times of necessity.

A rendering of the exterior of the future Equine Performance Center.

This week we launch a new beginning for our school as we “lead the way” toward the future of veterinary medicine. Our plans and dreams for a new Veterinary Medical Center build upon the legacy of our past and the vision of our future. The need for these improvements has been amplified with this week’s fire disasters, as our facilities harbor those animals in need of our care and offer relief for our neighbors through our outreach programs. We seek to create the future, by building on the accomplishments and dreams of those that have come before us, building new trails in research discoveries that advance the health of animals, people, and our environment.

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Celebrate the Act of Giving

“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” -Napoleon Hill

Students at the 2016 Evening of Gratitude.

We celebrate the act of giving to others and creating dreams during our annual “Evening of Gratitude.” This is a special night and one that I look forward to each year. Our school’s 2017 scholarship and grant program provided $6.7 million in total support for our students this year! We are deeply grateful for the generous support of our individual, association and corporate scholarship donors who make these new and continuing awards possible.

Dr. Anjolie Daryani with her service dog, Ebony, who accompanied her to classes and events, including commencement.

An example of new investments in our students included the “Ebony Compassionate Care Scholarship Fund” created by Dr. Dustin Noack (DVM, 2014), our first Evening of Gratitude speaker, and Dr. Anjolie Daryani (DVM, 2015) for a student who demonstrates exceptional compassionate care for animals. Their compassion will pay forward to benefit the next generation of veterinarians from UC Davis.

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Do What is Necessary to Achieve the Impossible

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Francis of Assisi

As a society, we face many challenges in our ever-changing world. The tumultuous events of this past year have changed many people’s perspective on the future. Our planet is threatened by climate change and human-made toxins that threaten us and the animals that share our environment. Closer to home, we are confronted with increasing pressures to provide high quality education for the next generation of scientists and veterinarians, while the state and federal resources for higher education are under siege. On a daily basis, our staff and faculty strive for excellence, but face challenges ranging from the intense competition for grant funding to crowded exam rooms. Our students struggle to find time for their own wellness, while under the stress of an intense curriculum and the cost of paying back their student loans. We all have our burdens to bear, which can seem impossible to overcome, especially during a holiday season that may inadvertently add the pressure to feel happy when we may not feel like rejoicing. 

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A Season of Gratitude

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” Henry Van Dyke

Students at the 2016 Evening of Gratitude to honor donors and recipients of our scholarship and fellowship awards. Photo by Don Preisler/UCDavis © 2016 UC Regents

Students at the 2016 Evening of Gratitude to honor donors and recipients of our scholarship and fellowship awards. Photo by Don Preisler/UCDavis
© 2016 UC Regents

I am very thankful in this season of gratitude for all the people who comprise our school and come to work each day bringing their talent and passion to advance the health of animals, people and our planet. Our students’ energy drives us to accomplish our educational mission, bringing light to our days as they inspire and challenge us. Our donors show their appreciation of our students through scholarships that help them reach their dreams of becoming veterinarians and scientists. I am proud of the many ways we have been able to increase financial aid and scholarship support, reducing our students’ financial burden. These efforts have allowed us to hold the line on tuition and fees since 2011, which have only increased slightly in the past six years to keep pace with inflation.

Hannah Laurence (on right) explains her research at the American Society of Clinical Investigators (ASCI) Joint Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. Photo credit: Randy Belice for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Hannah Laurence (on right) explains her research at the American Society of Clinical Investigators (ASCI) Joint Meeting in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo credit: Randy Belice for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

This support for our students is rewarded back to us through their good deeds and accomplishments for our society. A recent example was Hannah Laurence, a third year veterinary student. Hannah was brave enough to take time out of her veterinary program to accept a prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellowship to perform research at the University of Colorado. Her research data revealed a new mechanism of how Zika virus modifies cells to accomplish replication and was recently published in Science magazine. Her example reveals how rewarding it is for us to attract such talented students to our program and for the support they receive to advance their career opportunities.

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Upholding Principles of Community

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” – Cesar Chavez

Christian Munevar, Class of 2019, at last year's welcoming ceremony.

Christian Munevar, Class of 2019, at last year’s welcoming ceremony.

While the summer is in full swing, we will soon be welcoming our new veterinary student class of 2020. Our Academic and Student Programs teams are busy developing the orientation of these new students as they prepare for the week-long introduction referred to as “Prologue.” From the very beginning, our new students will be welcomed into a diverse community of learners and will hear about our commitment to supporting an environment that supports diversity and inclusion. We strive from their first days with us to impress upon them our shared values and to set a tone for their education and their involvement in our UC Davis community.

Unfortunately, our community, like so many others across our nation, has been rocked by horrific acts of violence and social injustice. The actions of police shooting unarmed African American men and the resulting public outcry are painful reminders of how far our society still needs to go to fully realize social equality and mutual trust among our disenfranchised citizens and our law enforcement community. The hatred that resulted in the killing of police officers in Dallas and Louisiana illustrate again how fringe members of our society can be triggered into violence in the midst of social unrest. Worldwide terror events remind us how fragile life can be when hate, distrust and ignorance rule the actions of a few.

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Supporting Each Other Leads to Success

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”  — Saint Francis of Assisi

CAPES surgeryIn doing our daily work we sometimes can feel overwhelmed by the pressures of our jobs, events in our lives, or the demands we place on ourselves. Our society, families, and our careers can seem to demand more from us than we are capable of delivering. For veterinarians this has been described in a variety of terms, including “compassion fatigue.” Whether you are a graduate or veterinary student, staff or faculty member, or even a dean, we all may feel overwhelmed at times.

Our ability to be resilient during times of stress may be drained by things beyond our control, leading us to feel we are alone and our tasks ahead of us impossible to complete. In our school and university, we have many resources to support the mental health and wellness of our people. New efforts have been created to bring that support in public view to be shared for the benefit of all, including the new campaign, “Each Aggie Matters.”

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Our Compassion Brings Hope for the Future

“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” – Nelson Mandela

The horrific events of mass killings in San Bernardino shocked all of us and made our world feel less safe and more uncertain. These emotions were particularly felt by our faculty, staff, and students who were at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in San Bernardino, located close to the terror event. In those frantic moments immediately following the shootings, their laboratory was on lockdown and, like others near the tragedy, they faced the fear of not knowing what was happening or if those they loved were safe or knew that they were safe.

Rachel Ferris, a third year DVM student, delivers a holiday gift basket to a client at the Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless in Sacramento. The compassion shown to clients at the clinic brings them hope in times of difficulty.

Rachel Ferris, a third year DVM student, delivers a holiday gift basket to a client at the Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless in Sacramento. The compassion shown to clients at the clinic brings them hope in times of difficulty.

When an event of that magnitude strikes close to us, we all feel less safe, and face a common reaction of fear and insecurity. A natural reaction following a senseless act of violence is hopelessness and a sense we have no power over the evil we know exists in our world. It is during times like these that we all need to move past our fears and reach out to those most affected by these tragic situations.

Our strength in the school is our ability to be compassionate and to use that emotion to guide us as healers for our animal patients and the people who are connected to those animals. The recent events in California and the world also remind us that we must also comfort those in need with a kind word, gesture, or hug, and let them know that we understand their fears and anxieties. While we may not be able to affect major changes in our society, we can control our own actions toward each other.

Our clinicians practice compassion on a daily basis in caring for animals.

Our clinicians practice compassion on a daily basis in caring for animals.

Now would be a good time to contact the people who work in the laboratory at San Bernardino and let them know that we understand their apprehension and sense of vulnerability following the terror event that occurred near them. While we are offering resources of support for those affected by the stress of the aftermath of a terror event and enhanced security measures for the laboratory, we must also understand that the human touch, an outreached hand or gesture of random kindness, goes a long ways to let people in need feel less insecure.

With our colleagues in San Bernardino, we share in the common mission of our jobs and in our reaction to tragic events. As we all face an uncertain future, we must come together to support each other and, in that moment, find new strength. Our people and their character to endure in the face of adversity must be balanced by sharing our common grief and sadness when tragedy strikes. In joining in our moment of weakness, we will find our common sense of humanity to help us understand the darkness, while keeping our faith in the future.

 

 

 

 

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