Mind Over Miller: Dr. Pol, please get up-to-date

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Mar 01, 2013

I have been carefully watching National Geographic's series The Incredible Dr. Pol, a reality show about Dr. Jan Pol's mixed-animal practice in Michigan. Dr. Pol is obviously a hard-working veterinarian. He has a loyal clientele and a busy practice. He is diligent—he and his associates make farm calls under all kinds of conditions and are always available. He has a good sense of humor and boundless energy for a man of 70, and he is dedicated to his family.

All of the above help to present a favorable image of our profession to the general public. But I have some negative impressions, too.

First, there is nothing "incredible" about Dr. Pol. Tens of thousands of rural practitioners all over the planet are doing exactly what Dr. Pol is doing. I did what Dr. Pol does throughout my practice career—treating every conceivable species with every conceivable medical challenge. But I always tried my best to offer state-of-the-art technology, and if I was unable to, I explained it to my clientele and, whenever possible, offered them the choice of a referral to a facility that could do state-of-the-art service.

That's not what I see in Dr. Pol's practice, and that's not what millions of viewers of this popular TV show see as a representation of modern-day veterinary medicine. Here are a few examples:
> I wore a cap, mask, and gown for major surgery, not just gloves as I've seen Dr. Pol do. Thus, I used aseptic technique rather than relying on postoperative antibiotics to avoid infection.
> I've seen Dr. Pol radiograph a dog while not wearing an x-ray apron or gloves.
> Sometimes we have no choice but to give an intramuscular injection without aspirating first. But I have seen Dr. Pol give many intramuscular injections in the TV series and never aspirate first.
> Numerous bovine dystocias are seen in the series, with admittedly difficult or forced extractions. But I would have liked a Caesarean section to have at least been mentioned to inform the urban public that we do such things.
> Although many of the cases presented involved patients with neoplasia, including small animals and horses, only once was biopsy mentioned.
> And only once have I heard culture and sensitivity mentioned when an infection or abscess was diagnosed.

I am uncomfortable to have to criticize an obviously decent and hard-working colleague. But I am even more uncomfortable knowing that millions of viewers are being presented with an archaic, albeit dramatic, view of the science of veterinary medicine.

So I urge Dr. Pol and his associates to get updated. It isn't fair to your colleagues to present an outdated and obsolete view of the 21st century American veterinary practice to the public. We have made tremendous strides since I entered this profession in 1956. We are proud of them and want the public to know it.


Dr. Robert M. Miller
Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his website at http://robertmmiller.com/.