Does anyone remember the story of how penicillin was discovered? Alexander Fleming was discarding some contaminated Petri dishes in his lab and he observed that a plate culture of Staphylococcus had been contaminated by a blue-green mold and that colonies of bacteria adjacent to the mold were being dissolved. Curious, Alexander Fleming grew the mold in a pure culture and found that it produced a substance that killed a number of disease-causing bacteria. Naming the substance penicillin, Dr. Fleming in 1929 published the results of his investigations, noting that his discovery “might” have therapeutic value if it could be produced in quantity. Wow, pretty neat stuff when you consider he could have just said, “Hmmm,” and thrown them away.
So you are at work, and you have lots of appointments scheduled, drop off patients and procedures. A few are having routine survey radiographs taken. Many are having fecal exams and blood work. You take a look at a blood smear slide, everything looks o.k. What’s that little spot there? Probably nothing and we move on. Could we have missed something new? Have many of us have been seeing the same thing and disregarding it as an artifact?
There are discoveries waiting to be found everywhere. Whether it be a new drug, a disease or some as of yet unknown species of parasite, we will never find it if we don’t let ourselves be open to discovery. A mindset of “opportunity vs. monotony” can change the way we see each day and how we practice veterinary medicine.
So many of us can get into a rut that leads to professional burn out. How can we keep our practice exciting? Try not to look at each day as a day full of the “routine” vaccination appointments or the “typical” surgery. Look at each case for its unique nature and not its sameness to the rest. An attitude of discovery and opportunity can change our entire perspective in veterinary medicine.
Just when we think everything is “known under the sun,” someone finds a whole new animal species or family of bacteria, even in impossible places like boiling geysers – that discovery lead to the polymerase chain reaction! Try to find the opportunity in each day, in each case and you may be shocked at what you find.