Mind Over Miller: Two practices in parallel universes

Mind Over Miller: Two practices in parallel universes

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Feb 01, 2011


Robert M. Miller, DVM
At an American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) meeting in 1978, I found myself seated next to Norman Chandler, a British veterinarian.

"Do you just treat horses?" he asked.

"No," I responded. "We have a very mixed practice—about two-thirds small animal and one-third large."

"Oh," he said. "Same as our practice in Yorkshire."

Then he added, "I suppose you see mostly Quarter horses in California?"

"No, we see a lot of Quarter horses, but right now we are seeing more Arabians than any other breed."

Surprised, he said, "Same thing in my practice! I know that in America, most of you are in solo practice. We have seven in ours."

It was my turn to be surprised, so I said, "Yes, solo practices are the rule, but I'm in a seven-doctor group."

"Like me," he smiled. "Sounds like our practices are very similar. Do you have a large-animal hospital?"

"No, we have a small-animal hospital; our large-animal practice is completely ambulatory."

"Remarkable!" he said. "Six thousand miles apart, and it sounds like we have similar practices. But I know where they differ. We have a wild animal park we care for. We get to treat zebra and buffalo and bears and all sorts of diverse creatures."

"So do we!" I bellowed. "We have an extensive zoo practice. Our town is a center for circus, movie, and TV exotic animals. We see exotic species every day. We have a large zoo, a camel breeding farm, an elephant training center, bird and reptile and mammal importers, a permanent circus headquarters—we've even commuted to Los Angeles to treat sea mammals at Pacific Ocean Park. Plus, we have a nearby college with a zoo."

"Just like us!" he crowed. "Amazing! Two similar practices continents apart!"

"I've even treated a whale and a hummingbird on the same day," I challenged him.

"How old is your practice?" he asked.

"I started it 20 years ago," I said proudly.

"Ah, a difference!" he answered. "My practice is a century old!"

I visited Norman in Yorkshire the next year. We became friends and, in turn, he visited me in California a few years later.

My varied practice life eventually led to an opportunity I just couldn't pass up. In 1985, Dr. Carlos Cooper, editor and publisher of Veterinary Medicine, called and said, "You have been writing the 'Mind Over Miller' department for us for 20 years. Why don't you do a book using selected articles about your practice?"

Dr. Cooper found a publisher for me, and that led to the publication of Most of My Patients Are Animals in 1987.

That book was also published in the U.K. and in Germany, where they changed the title to The Next Lion Please.

But this was long ago, and the books have long been out of print.

So, recently, I redid the book, omitting some no longer relevant chapters and adding others, plus some new cartoons.

We changed the title, too. It's now Yes, We Treat Aardvarks. The book is available at http://robertmmiller.com/

I have never publicly thanked this journal for giving me the opportunity, more than 40 years ago, to express my thoughts, my concerns, my experiences, my cartoons, my opinions—so I do it now. Thank you, Veterinary Medicine.

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