Associated Veterinary Specialists - Advanced Veterinary Care - St. Louis, MO
AVS Veterinary News

An Editorial: Specialty Referral

The veterinarians in private practice are the professionals who deal with the large majority of animal illnesses and problems. Of all the animals presented to their family veterinarian because of illness, those of us in the world of specialty medicine may in my estimation only see only 5% of these cases. My point is that when you and your patients need us, they really need us and you as their primary caregiver need to be very careful and thoughtful about where you refer your cases and who you have come into your practice to provide specialty care. Those of us who have elected to become specialists have taken about 5 more years after our DVM degree to learn our specialty. We have gone through a residency program approved by the specialty board and we have taken an examination, or are eligible to do so, to prove to the board, and to you, and to the public that we are qualified to call ourselves specialists. What this means is that we are qualified to see the 5% of cases that practitioners need to refer. The question then becomes why on earth would you choose someone who has not gone through this process to care for your valuable clients and patients? Choose folks who have demonstrated the ability to be a specialist. Your choice of a referral specialist reflects on you as a practitioner and must be taken seriously. You not only have a professional responsibility to your clients and patients but you also have a legal responsibility. If unqualified people are employed by you, you are also liable for their work. The public does not know the difference between a qualified specialist and a person who attempts to perform the work. You know the difference and your clients trust you to decide who in the specialty world should be chosen for a particular case. Make sure you have fully vetted the specialists available to you to make sure they are properly qualified. Have they completed an approved residency? Have they become board certified or are they eligible to sit for the board exams? We are lucky in the St. Louis area in that there are many qualified specialists in the areas of clinical medicine and we have an excellent teaching hospital 100 miles away that we all rely upon. However, beware of individuals that purport themselves as specialists who are not. Be careful who you choose. Wayne R. Hause, DVM, DACVIM