How a shared title (properly pronounced) can nurture the pride of belonging

January 6, 2023 (published)
By Paul Pion

VIN photo
Dr. Paul Pion is a board-certified veterinary cardiologist and co-founder of the Veterinary Information Network, an online professional community and parent of the VIN News Service.

The following is a letter sent this week by the co-founder and president of the Veterinary Information Network to some 80,000 VIN members around the world. It has been lightly edited.

VIN was born in 1991. For 32 years, VIN has been, as our trademarked motto says, "for veterinarians, by veterinarians."

Outside of VIN, we are bombarded with an unending stream of news and chatter emphasizing political and philosophical divisions. More and more, the data show that social media and news outlets shower us with negative and divisive messages because negative messages generate more clicks and keep us more engaged than positive, bonding messages.

But that does not need to define, or even impact, our relationship with each other. It's important to remember that VINners, and all of our veterinary colleagues, share a common bond.

We VINners are (99.9%) veterinarians or veterinary students. We put in the work and paid the financial, emotional and biological costs to earn the title "veterinarian." Our veterinary diplomas and licenses document society's recognition of us as medical caretakers for a vast spectrum of nonhuman animal life. And the 0.1% of VINners who aren't veterinarians, but support VIN and veterinary medicine with all their heart, are right there with us.

On Jan. 1, 2009, I wrote a community letter encouraging all to reach out to colleagues and rediscover our common bond; to recognize we have much in common.

What I wrote is as relevant now as it was then. And along with encouraging reaching out, today I'm encouraging a simple exercise — call it a goal — we can work on together.

Let's strive within our ranks and all around us say our collective title — our name — with pride.

We are veterinarians.

There are six syllables: vet-er-i-nar-i-an. For sure, the word is not easy for everyone to pronounce. And although different online dictionaries don't fully agree, they all agree there are six syllables.

Want to hear a recording pronouncing "veterinarian"? Click here.

Now say it out loud.

You might ask, "Why is Paul making this the topic of a community letter? Is it a joke?"

No joke. I am serious. Over the past few years, I've noted that colleagues all around the world, in all segments of the profession, whether students, new graduates, seasoned practitioners, academics, leaders in organized veterinary medicine, industry representatives and more, mispronounce our name.

Listen as you go through the next month, and you'll hear several incorrect pronunciations. Some of the more common are:

  • vetinarian
  • vetrinarian
  • vetenarian

I encourage you to pay attention to how you and all those around you say our name. Gently spread the word amongst your friends, family, staff, clients and community (of course, being understanding of and kind to anyone who, due to their native tongue or a speech disability, struggles with the pronunciation).

Simple, yes.

Strange, perhaps.

But maybe not so strange for a guy who grew up with the name Pion (pronounced like "Lion" with a P) that many have pronounced "Pee-on" — and the kids on the playground would sing: "Peon, don't pee on me!"

Truth is, I didn't know how to pronounce my last name properly until I was 12! My father and I were in a hardware store, and the clerk asked my name. I responded by pronouncing my name as Paul Pie-on.

My father looked at me and said, "That's not your name." Shocked, I wondered if he was about to tell me I'd been switched at the hospital and belonged in another family, with a different last name. That's when I learned, "It's Pion, like Lion, with a P." And to this day, that's how I teach others to pronounce my last name.

Recently, I thought about what bonds individuals into groups. My answer was commonalities:

  • Shared history
  • Shared visions
  • Shared goals
  • Shared beliefs
  • Shared tasks
  • Shared missions
  • Shared enemies (eh, let's skip that one)

My goal for this year's letter is the same as it was in 2009: to remind you, and everyone in the profession, that we are strongly bonded by all that we have in common as veterinarians.

So, wherever you are, and whether you call yourself a veterinarian, veterinary surgeon, veterinaria, vétérinaire, dokter hewan, طبيب بيطري, veterinārārsts, ветеринарний лікар or any other word(s) meaning veterinarian — or veterinary technician or veterinary assistant — let's all remember we share a strong bond and are more alike than different. Be cognizant of how we say our name.

But no matter how you say it or how your views differ from others, be proud of and nurture your connection to all colleagues in our noble healing profession.

Here's wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2023!

Dr. Paul Pion earned a DVM from Cornell University in 1983 and completed a residency in cardiology at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine in 1987. Among his many accomplishments, he is credited with discovering the cause, cure and prevention of feline dilated cardiomyopathy secondary to taurine deficiency.

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