Speech at Western Veterinary School, Just Fantastic
I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful the speech was at Western University of Health Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine. It was fun, it was great, they listened, they ‘heard’ about the other side of pet food! It was just fantastic.
Before I get to all the details, two thank you’s. One is to all of you out there in Pet Owner world. Your support made this a fantastic trip. Your support got me there and got my hotel. Thank you. The next thank you is to Lisa Lippman, my student contact at Western AND the entire Holistic Vet Med team Tonya, Blaire, Yesinia, Pat, Jane. Lisa is an amazing young woman that will become a tremendous caring veterinarian one day. Thank you Lisa for being such a gracious host and thanks to all of the Holistic Vet team for putting together the opportunity for students to hear the ‘truth about pet food’.
Ok…here’s the details of my whirlwind trip to southern California…
I arrived in Ontario, CA Tuesday afternoon; the hotel was right around the corner from the airport. I wasn’t nervous, just excited. Couldn’t believe I was there – that this was actually happening. Lisa and her boyfriend met me for dinner Tuesday evening. It was like we were old friends (I was the older sister-type friend…yikes) and within an hour/hour and a half we seemed to talk about everything pet related. Matt, Lisa’s adorable boyfriend (I can say ‘adorable’ – I’m the older sister-type) patiently allowed us to go on and on about animals. Pet food, rabies vaccines, you name it – we talked about it. Before I knew it, the evening was over and arrangements were made for Lisa to pick me up at 9 AM the next morning.
Wednesday…the day! I was ready; still no nerves. Lisa gave me a quick tour of the campus – it was beautiful. Mountains on one side, sun and palm trees everywhere. The campus was pristine, comfortable yet serious. There was a Banfield sponsored animal clinic and it was shared that Purina and Science Diet were high profile yet I saw no ‘signs’ of their presence except for the Science Diet foods in the clinic.
Lisa shared that the university encourages students to think for themselves; learning here is more hands on versus lecture based. We walked through several buildings, met several students and several professors. Everyone was gracious and welcoming. I sat in on one class, the beginning of a new 8 week segment on agriculture. During this eight week segment the students will be viewing Food, Inc. and hearing from several agriculture industry representatives including Dr. Patti Khuly DVM (the veterinarian that publically denounced Science Diet pet food on her blog). http://www.truthaboutpetfood.com/articles/one-vet%E2%80%99s-stand-on-science-diet-pet-food.html
Lisa and I left the class a few minutes early to head to the lunch presentation destination. Still no nerves.
And then we walked into the room. Whoa!
It was HUGE! Stadium seating. Two GIANT jumbo-tron screens (no kidding – GIANT! Each screen was at least 8 foot high by 15 foot long) that will display my power point presentation. Toto…we’re not in Kansas anymore. Ok…now I was nervous. Right at this point, in the flurry of getting my computer hooked to the jumbo-tron set up I met another new friend Melanie of Bark Avenue Los Angeles. Melanie and I had communicated via email and I’ve communicated with Melanie’s husband about pet food via email for years; Melanie drove over from Los Angeles to view the presentation and meet up with me after. Melanie jumped in and took over responsibility of turning on the video camera for me (I’ll be putting that up soon), but…my brain was overwhelmed. Holy Toledo Batman…this room, those screens! And then I remembered Chester.
During my tour of campus, Lisa was explaining the case studies of animals student groups are provided. The particular case study she showed me was for a ten year old dog, over weight, suffering from arthritis. This dogs’ name was Chester. Chester was my Dad’s name. As many of you know, I lost my Dad almost a month ago (it was one day shy of exactly one month on this day). When I saw the dogs name (there aren’t many Chester’s out there) I knew everything was going to be ok.
Seeing Chester’s name reminded me of who was with me. My Dad of course, but just as important, I knew the spirits of thousands of pets were with me in that room. No wonder the room was so big and those jumbo-trons were there – there was a lot of ‘soul’ that needed to be seen and heard.
Lisa had ordered 150 lunches for students. They began filing in and finding their seats. Plastic lunch containers being opened, casual conversation between students; the noise level in the room was getting louder and louder. Lisa informed me all of the lunches had been given out and more students were still in line to come in.
And then, we began. Lisa began with an introduction; and she had to talk loud to gain everyone’s attention. You should know that Lisa is a little thing; good wind and she’ll be blown down the street. But her small stature has a loud voice and she took control of the noisy room. The introduction was over, the room was quiet, and I began with…
“I want all of you to know that Pet Owners got me here. Pet Owners provided my airplane ticket and my hotel. Pet Owners want you to know the other side of pet food. Pet Owners want their veterinarians to understand what they know about pet food and want their vets to help make pet food safer. You guys have the power to change the future of pet food – you really do!”
A few minutes in, it was like I was on auto-pilot. I was quickly moving from the introductory part to the beginning of regulations and then I realized something. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. Moments ago the noise of crumpled plastic and conversation was deafening. But once I got started, no kidding – you could have heard a pin drop.
They were listening. There were hearing what we’ve all so desperately wanted vets to hear. I’m confident they were blown away at what they learned. Two of the biggest – well received points were my robbing the bank example and the personal story of what got me started sharing the ‘truth’.
I gave an analogy to what the FDA does for pet food. I asked the students what they would do if Federal agencies developed a ‘policy’ that would allow them to rob a bank, steal millions of dollars penalty free. Even though robbing a bank is a Federal crime, I asked them if Federal agencies told them if vet students at Western robbed a bank “it would not be actionable”, would they rob the bank? My closing statement asked “ok, now with what you know about the pet food industry, the question I leave you with is this…Do you think some pet food steals their non-punishment millions at the cost of the health of millions of pets?”
The other big moment was when I was explaining my personal connection with the chemical preservative ethoxyquin. I shared…that 20 some years ago my 8 year old dog – my best friend and business partner (I taught dog obedience classes with her – she was the best demo dog ever) suddenly had a mass on her pelvic bone. My vet at the time, who knew much more than most vets about pet food, told me her cancer was more than likely due to the chemical preservative ethoxyquin in her pet food. I fed the leading pet food at the time, still in the top five in the world in sales. My vet explained that ‘e’ was added to pet food to extend the shelf life. I didn’t really understand what shelf life was back then, but I still couldn’t believe a pet food would add something that would kill my dog. So, I called the pet food company. I asked “what is the shelf life of XXX dog food?” They told me 25 years. I heard gasps from the students with this story.
Long story short, it was a fantastic event. The students were eager and open to learn this information. I’m confident I left the students with an awareness of pet food they never had before. Lisa has already shared (I just got home late last night) tremendous feedback with me from the students and we’ve briefly talked about setting up some Skype meetings to talk more. Which I definitely hope will happen. My 40-45 minute talk just scrapped the surface yet they deserve to know so much more.
If you think about it, regardless of what type of medicine all of these students will practice, regardless of where in the country or the world (I met one lovely young woman from the Bahamas that will practice medicine in the Bahamas in the future) they will practice veterinary medicine in the future, the one thing common to all of the patients they will see is food. Regardless if their future patient is a ten year old overweight dog with arthritis or a young cat suffering from kidney stones, the one commonality to every patient is pet food.
Sadly, I learned nutrition/pet food is one area that is briefly covered in their years at school. I hope to change the lack of pet food education provided to all students of veterinary medicine. It started with these wonderful students at Western, but I don’t intend to let it stop there.
My thanks again to everyone. It was fantastic. It was a beginning. More certainly will follow. I’ll post the video of the presentation I gave at Western soon (by the way, the students have already asked about it too – they want to see it again!).
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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