The code of ethics of the medical, dental, and legal professions was stringent when I graduated from veterinary school. Shot
down by the Federal Trade Commission in the 1970s, the code in the 1950s allowed no advertising of any kind and provided strict
guidelines for business cards, office signs, and telephone book listings.
Robert M. Miller
To the day I retired, I never departed from the 1950s code of ethics for veterinarians, but I used a lot of ingenuity in what
I call "ethical advertising."
For example, I had only one exam room in my little clinic. It had an x-ray illuminator in it, and I always kept the light
on and a radiograph on it. This elicited comments such as "Oh, do you have an x-ray machine?" (Not everybody did back then.)
In the exam room, I kept a glass case with dental instruments. "Oh, do you do dentistry in dogs?" This gave me the opportunity
to launch into a brief discussion of dental care.
Oscar Scotellaro/Getty Images
I was in a rural mixed-animal practice, and in my reception area we hung several pictures of cattle and horses. This elicited
questions such as "Do you treat large animals, too?"
Conversely, on large-animal calls when the inevitable farm or ranch dog came out to greet me, I might say, "Gosh, he looks
a lot like the Border collie I treated last week for a fractured leg."
I joined the Lions Club, and soon the community leaders knew me. One of them edited the town's weekly newspaper and asked
me to write a column for it. I gladly complied.
But the most important practice builder of all was absolute integrity. Here's my advice on how to practice with integrity:
- Treat every client the way you would like to be treated.
- Constantly improve your knowledge and skills, and refer cases you think would be better served elsewhere.
- Avoid being arrogant or pompous. Apologize if you keep a client waiting, take interest in that person, and show concern and
affection for the patient. Always refer to a pet by its name—never as "your dog" or "this cat." These pets are family members.
That's why their owners are willing to spend money on them, even in hard economic times.
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/.