March 29, 2016
It was near the end of four years of vet school and we were feeling pretty tough. With Board exams behind us, jobs or vacations all set, my classmates and I were just wrapping up the final pieces. Among other things this included looking into health insurance now that campus charity would not be there to cushion us.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA, at that time offered a group insurance plan for veterinarians. Enticingly, full coverage was extended to everyone, no exclusions or waivers, as long as you signed up before actually graduating (this was in 1982). And they brought it right to our doorstep, holding a meeting in a classroom setting. Their plan was offered by one insurance company. We had the choice of one insurance agent, who handled the Sacramento area and probably made a bundle in June commissions before we scattered far and wide into others’ territories. If female and interested in maternity coverage you had the choice of one plan. The decision being out of my hands I was only mildly interested in what the man had to say. The charts and overlays flipped past. Plans A, B, and C. Daily hospital rates. Deductibles. Don’t die in San Francisco if you’re trying to save money.
Then came the part that was just for us, customized care for the lucky veterinarian. Rabies coverage. Disability coverage, strongly recommended for the solo practitioner. Hunh? Before I could take in the implications of “disability”, he threw out “dismemberment”. Enthusiastically the presenting agent gave a few examples, vividly sharing several gory stories. Hot stuff. I sat up straight. Dismemberment? DisMEMberment? What kind of profession was I going into? What would my mother say? I personally was going forth to save lives, perform miracle surgeries, educate the world about the wonders of modern veterinary medicine………….and someone was suggesting that an ungrateful little wretch of an animal might try to chew my face up and tear me limb from limb? Unheard of! Monstrous! I had been bitten, kicked and had my nose broken all in the line of duty but it had never crossed my mind that I might come way eyeless or armless. Too startled to absorb this information quickly I was still on “indignant” and barely registered when he got to “death”. Disability, dismemberment and death. Satisfied that he’d covered the fine print the insurance agent moved on. I never heard another word of his presentation.
I’m happy to report that the above never happened. Not that some pretty good efforts haven’t been made by some less-than-pleased patients. The danger of a pet attacking you is slight, but everyone should keep in mind a saying that a veterinarian once passed on to me, “ALL dogs bite”. In March, 2015 the AVMA published a study, available to view on-line “Dog Bite Risk and Prevention : The Role of The Breed”. If you peruse the article and lists of breeds you will note that popular breeds are higher on the list, perhaps incorrectly black-listed simply because there are a LOT more of them. You are certainly more likely to be bitten by a Chihuahua in Merced than a Briard. Be cautious around stray dogs. Don’t tolerate mouthing by your own pet. Don’t give your dog bones when children are near. In short, never let your dog think that it’s alright to bite you or anyone that you have introduced to your dog. Including (smile!) your veterinarian.
Christine B. McFadden, DVM