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Home No. 34: How Can I Diplomatically Resolve a Dispute with My Attending Veterinarian?

Dec 06

No. 34: How Can I Diplomatically Resolve a Dispute with My Attending Veterinarian?

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How Can I Diplomatically Resolve a Dispute with My Attending Veterinarian?

Reader Question: : I have been doing research involving rodents for more than 20 years. The new attending veterinarian at our small institution has minimal experience with the particular species we're using in our current study. I have chosen not to follow her advice on three occasions, and I can tell that she is angry or annoyed with me. How can I diplomatically solve this dilemma?

Expert Comments:

The attending veterinarian has legal authority over the care and use of the laboratory animals in your study and the entire institution. She could take this to a higher level. Failure to repeatedly follow her recommendations could prompt her to report this to the IACUC as an animal-welfare issue. If the IACUC deemed it serious enough, your protocol could be suspended.

To avoid this, you should establish an open dialogue with her immediately and try to develop a good working relationship. Ignoring any more of her advice without explanation will only exacerbate the situation.

Communication is key. Begin by explaining why you didn't take her advice, giving details about your experience with this species and why you believe your techniques were more prudent.

Maybe a different treatment regimen was successful in the past. You can ask why she wants you to do things a certain way. Lab-animal veterinarians are used to being challenged in the research arena — new or changed variables may alter data, for instance.

As an established PI, you're used to doing things one way, but regulations and guidelines do change, and familiar techniques may have to be handled differently now. Newer therapies may be available. Veterinary medicine has advanced tremendously in the last 20 years. While your new attending vet may not have much experience with this particular species, she is a graduate veterinarian with a wealth of knowledge and is capable of learning.

Talk to her about this species. If you still believe she doesn't possess the needed level of expertise, respectfully try offering her some resources and references, including the names of veterinarians experienced with this species, and suggest she consult with them.

Be careful not to escalate things, however. I've known of cases where that happened, and it can be unpleasant for everyone, including the IACUC and even the administration.

The take-home points for you are communication and relationship-building. Researchers and veterinarians must work together for a successful animal care and use program. And your vet's legal authority cannot be overlooked or disrespected.

Expert comments by Patricia N. Coan, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACLAM, director, Office of Laboratory Animal Care, University of Tennessee.

Like this article? Get more in your FREE issue of Laboratory Animal Welfare Compliance.

Comments (2)
written by David E. Harrison, December 09, 2010
Excellent advice, especially about finding vets who ARE expert with your species. Be sure that you talk to the expert vets first - maybe they will say your new vet is correct, in which case you have to change your methods and take her advice. You have no choice but to do the new controls needed to interpret how the changes alter your experiments.

However maybe they will say you are correct. Then you have to arrange for the expert vet to talk with your new vet. Hopefully your new vet will believe other vets, especially established experts with your species. Since your vet has the power in this relationship, be very tactful at all times.

BTW IF you are using lab or wild derived mice (Mus musculus), the Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor ME has really expert vets who are very helpful, and experienced in helping other vets learn about lab mice.
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