A Graduation Gift From A Globe-trotting Veterinarian

Over 2,000 graduating veterinary students are in line to receive a copy of a book featuring tips from over 100 veterinarians.

Thanks to the vision and tenacity of Richard Nap, about 2,200 graduating U.S. veterinary students will receive a complimentary copy of “VetCoach: Career Reflections of Veterinary Professionals,” a book co-written by more than 100 veterinarians from 26 countries.

In the book, distributed by VCA Animal Hospitals, veterinarians share their most useful tips with students and new graduates. (Full disclosure: I was kindly invited to write for the book.)

Its goal is to encourage young veterinarians to try new things and explore new avenues by stepping out of their comfort zones. The mission of VetCoach, a not-for-profit organization, is “to inspire and motivate students by sharing professional career reflections from one generation to the next.”

“The current generation has much of the experience that the new one entering the profession is lacking,” Dr. Nap explains. “Students typically have a limited network and no or little international exposure. 

“Students tend to stick to the comfort of what and who they know: family, friends, city and school. The challenge was to create a platform available to graduating students.”

Courtesy of Richard Nap, DVM

‘If only I had known…’
The whole idea of the “VetCoach” book is to answer the question: “What would you have liked to know when you first started your career?” There are a few recurrent themes in the book, despite the variety of contributors:
• “Follow your dream. Being a vet is just the beginning.”
• “Excellent communication is vital to your survival.”
• “Find yourself a mentor.”
• “Learning is a never-ending process.”
• “Rely on your hands and knowledge more than on machines.”
• “Plan and save for retirement early in your career.”
• “Find a balance between life and work.”

Each quote or concept is then explained in more detail by the author.

Started in 2009, the “VetCoach” book already has four previous editions in Europe (English and Spanish) and in Latin America. Well over 11,000 books have been published so far.

Nap is recruiting contributors for future editions in Italian, German, French and Polish. Each new book will have a panel of contributing veterinarians that represents the target country. New editions are in preparation for Brazil and India.

“This has been a fascinating experience, as publishing a book in different countries or more generally, executing the same project in different countries, may require a radically different approach,” Nap says.

How has the book been received? A survey of students in 10 countries (including the U.S.) implies a raging success: 98 percent of students consider the book a valuable resource and expect to still have their copy of the book five years from now. Almost 90 percent of respondents said that “they cannot think of a better gift at graduation.” 

On several occasions, the book was actually distributed at graduation, along with the diploma. 

In the U.S., Nap says, the book received a great initial welcome, and VCA Animal Hospitals is already considering a 2012 edition.

Richard Nap is the incarnation of diversification. Trained as a veterinary surgeon at the Utrecht veterinary school in the Netherlands, from which he graduated in 1979, Nap is double boarded. He is a diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Surgeons and the European College of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition.

A common denominator of several of Nap’s endeavors is helping young colleagues entering the profession. This passion for students is based on 13 years spent in academia (over the years, ambulatory clinic, large- and small animal surgery) and 11 years with Procter & Gamble’s  Iams and Eukanuba in the European academic affairs division. 

He realized that a lot of progress can be made by sharing experience, whether it is between industry and academia, between veterinarians, between countries or between generations. He is also a consultant, speaker and entrepreneur. In 2005, he started his own consulting company, Uppertunity Consultants.

Born in the Netherlands, Nap splits his time between his homeland, Argentina and Uruguay.

“I just cannot think of myself working in one place all year,” he says. “Despite the occasional discomfort and inconveniences of flying, I enjoy the freedom of traveling, meeting with different people, different cultures and the changing climates, enjoying two springs and summers per year.”

For more information:
• The VetCoach project: www.vetcoach.info
• The VetStart project: www.vetstart.org
• Uppertunity Consultants:
www.uppertunity.com
• VPN readers who have a story to share may email info@uppertunity.com.

“It makes you a better person,” he says of the frequent changes.

Another project Nap has initiated is VetStart, also designed to help vet students transition into “the real world.”

Through VetStart, more than 3,800 members, all new graduates from around the world, have access to a library of articles on management and medical topics, with various discounts and networking opportunities.

The website, VetStart.org, creates a world-wide community that helps connect students and young practitioners. VetStart cooperates closely with the International Veterinary Student Association.

Nap is also writing a book on management; helping organize the Southern European Veterinary Conference (a co-project of NAVC, to be held in October in Barcelona, Spain); speaking internationally for the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, the International Elbow Working Group and the Mark Morris Foundation) and training colleagues in Uruguay.

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