Dr. Mahr’s School of Veterinary Medicine White Coat Ceremony Keynote Address


Congratulations as you enter the veterinary medical profession!

As a student at St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine, and as you now receive your white coat, you are a part of the veterinary medical profession.

It is indeed a privilege for me to bring greetings and congratulations on your achievement from the 75,000 members of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In a few short years you will be stating the following words: “I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society”. 

Those words are part of the Veterinarian’s Oath, and you will repeat those words as you receive the value of a lifetime…the value of your veterinary medical diploma.No other profession, I believe, has a comparable value to society.

No other profession for sure has as much impact on the health of both animals and people.

Acquiring that value and entering the veterinary medical profession is a great privilege. 

You are indeed privileged. 

With each privilege…and with each value… comes responsibility.

This evening as I welcome you into the veterinary medical profession, I would like to share with you a quote which has formed the basis for my outlook on life, and in particular my career in veterinary medicine.  It is by a philosopher named Huston Smith, and he states:

“Infinite gratitude towards all things past;
Infinite service towards all things present;
Infinite responsibility towards all things future.”

“Infinite gratitude towards all things past”.

As colleagues, you and I can be justly proud of our rich heritage.   

Think about your past, your achievements, and your experiences that have led to this day.

I am grateful for my roots growing up on a dairy farm and for those life experiences that I had prior to becoming a veterinary medical student at Iowa State University.
 
Like most of you I sought to become a veterinarian because of an early human-animal connection.
 
My first bonding was with a Guernsey calf.  I still recall the thrill of participating in my first pet parade.  With a bottle of milk replacer, I proudly led my calf around the hometown square with a sign on my back, “June is Dairy Month, We Drink Milk”.

I know each of you have stories that you can share as well…Experiences that have brought you to this achievement of becoming a student of veterinary medicine. 

As fitting as it is to reflect on our past and express our gratitude, I believe that it is more important to look to the future, knowing that our past will always be a part of our future.As we look to the future of the veterinary medical profession, the necessity for unity of our profession is apparent.

Veterinary medicine is a small profession with great responsibilities and vast opportunities.Companion animal practice, food supply veterinary medicine, public health, and biomedical research are only a few of the career opportunities that will be open to you. 

It is this diversity of expertise combined with a commitment to working together that defines our veterinary medical profession.

The AVMA is that unified voice and unifying voice of our profession. 

We are all partners in striving to fulfill the AVMA Mission, “Improving Animal and Human Health, Advancing the Veterinary Medical Profession”.

“Infinite Service towards all things present”.

Your first and primary service now is to make the most of your educational opportunities here at St. George’s University. 

Utilize your excellent resources, including your professional educators and facilities, to develop your knowledge and skills.

I encourage you to become involved with your student organizations, and specifically invite you to become actively involved with the Student AVMA, to help shape the future of our profession.  Serve your profession now by joining together with your colleagues, fellow students and veterinarians alike.

Your education provides you with the knowledge necessary to become a veterinarian.  But lifelong friendships and relationships built through Student AVMA and AVMA activities, and other organizations, will also provide an unlimited source of knowledge as well as professional strength and satisfaction.

“Infinite responsibility towards all things future”.

You are the future leaders of the veterinary medical profession.

The AVMA recognizes and values your role in the future of the veterinary medical profession as a leader. 

The AVMA strives to nourish that leadership development by supporting Student AVMA activities and having students serve in the AVMA House of Delegates and as valuable members of several AVMA committees.Your voice is needed to address the important issues facing our profession now and in the future. 

It was my privilege to have served last year with Dr. Kara Tassone who graduated this year from St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine.  Kara served as president of the Student AVMA. 

As SAVMA president Kara served in the AVMA House of Delegates, served on the AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee, and attended all AVMA Executive Board Meetings.
Leadership from the veterinary medical profession is critical to the future well being of our global society.

Consider these facts:

  • 75% of all emerging diseases in people in the past 25 years are zoonotic

 

  • 21 billion animals were produced for food and fiber throughout the world last year alone
  • 38,000 animals cross the US borders every day

 

Animal health and public health are truly at a crossroads.

The convergence of animal, human, and ecosystem health dictates that the One World One Health One Medicine concept must be embraced.  Avian influenza, tuberculosis, HIV, West Nile Virus, monkey pox and many more certainly underscore the one health concept. 

As veterinarians, and as veterinary medical students, collaborating and cooperating with our colleagues in human medicine, public health, and the environmental sciences is imperative. 

Together we can accomplish more to improve health worldwide than we can alone…and we, as the veterinary medical profession have the responsibility to assume a major leadership role in that effort.

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend the White Coat Ceremony for the School of Medicine.  In a short time they too will acquire the value of their lifetime…the value of their medical diploma.I encourage you to collaborate, cooperate and communicate with the other health science professional students here at St. George’s University. 

I would further encourage you to take the leadership initiative to enhance that relationship.  In closing, let me return to where I started… Value…Privilege…Responsibility

I challenge you to periodically ask yourself the question…What is my value and responsibility as a veterinary medial professional?

It is my fervent hope and vision, that we as veterinary medical professionals, together with our other health science professional colleagues, will assume our collaborative responsibility…to protect and promote our immeasurable value, to utilize that value to its fullest, and to make sure that our future is a promising future…a future of even greater value.

Congratulations again, as you embark on your professional career in veterinary medicine!

Published 10/2/2007