Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald: We're not in it to be famous
A recent survey among high school students asked their No. 1 goal after high school. The most frequently sampled response was "Be famous." Not competent at a job, not respected, not doing something they loved or enjoyed—not even becoming rich, which has been perennially in the top 3 answers. “Be famous.” Webster's defines fame as having "popular acclaim" and "public estimation"; it also says achieving "renown." Famous is defined as being "widely known" and obtaining "celebrity." Sadly, even the definition of famous "implies little more than the fact of being, often briefly, widely known and popular." It does not imply, for instance, being honored for achievement. This meaning falls to other words such as distinguished, eminent, and illustrious. These words imply acknowledged excellence and greater conspicuousness because of outstanding actions or qualities, not merely being widely known. These people earned their celebrity through strength of character.
It is not young people's fault that they all want to be rock stars ("Money for nothing"). Most of us have sung in the shower while imagining adoring, screaming fans. It is our society and the media that has an endless need for heroes and elevates people for even the most tenuous of reasons. Often, their ascent to fame is mercurial, and then they are forgotten just as fast as they appeared. Also, unfortunately, the fame itself can be quite toxic. Look at the glimpse into the life of Michael Jackson that the media has bombarded us with in the last few weeks or at the sad existence of Elvis Presley.
We are so privileged to do what we do in our profession. Every day we get to earn the respect of our peers and co-workers, the loyalty and appreciation of our clients, and the satisfaction that comes from an honest day's work. Every day we have the opportunity to learn and to grow as clinicians, teachers, researchers, and administrators. Every day we get to touch the lives of our patients and their human family members. Most veterinarians will never be famous, but they get to do something that makes a difference; they get to do something that matters. We might not be famous, but who would we trade with?
See you soon, Kev