Different ways of building up successful reputations - Veterinary Practice
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Different ways of building up successful reputations

IT came as a huge shock to everyone, not least the great lady herself. It was commented on by various worthies on Radio 4’s flagship political debate programme Any Questions? and featured prominently on every news website one happened to stumble across on the web.

We were all asking the same question: “How on earth could the Americans fail to love and worship Britain’s first lady of celebrity, Cheryl Cole?”

Looked at rationally in the cold light of day, it is all blindingly obvious. Ms Cole is a rather pretty Geordie lass who can dance and sing a bit, especially when the auto tune is switched on. But Barbara Streisand or Madonna she is not.

She married a famous footballer, and, by all the publicly-known accounts at least, got a fairly raw deal out of it. She was “rescued” by the kind and philanthropic Simon Cowell who made space for her on the judge’s panel of Britain’s X Factor, thereby ensuring a considerable amount of prime-time exposure to a huge section of the British public.

Glamorous and encouraging

On the X Factor she has invariably looked glamorous, encouraging, and has been too easily (for my sensibilities) moved to tears when breaking good or bad news in equal measure to the hopeful participants.

Young girls love her because they aspire to be like her; young men (and not so young men) love her for … well I will leave that to your imagination. Realistically though, will anybody be buying or even humming Cheryl Cole songs in 20 or even 10 years time? One suspects not.

So, when she turns up in a land where, thanks to
the marvel of cosmetic dentistry and surgery, beauty is there to purchase for a mere few thousand dollars, well I suppose no one could see what all the fuss was about. She wasn’t famous over there, she had no discernible talent and, it was rumoured, could barely be understood.

Not that failing to understand her should have created any lasting problem. On the odd occasions I have been persuaded to watch X Factor, none of the judges has ever said anything that was not entirely predictable.

All the same old stock phrases were regularly pedalled out, the over-used superlatives occasionally changed or merely given greater emphasis; all lapped up by the poor old contestants who, if only they had realised, were just a few thousand phone calls away from being voted off and not becoming “the next big boy band” so beloved of Louis Walsh.

The well-orchestrated and choreographed spats between the judges have become of equal or greater importance than the contestants themselves in the show’s appeal. It is a game show, nothing more and nothing less, with little in the way of real substance.

True, the occasional contestant turns out to be quite talented and makes a reasonable (or in some cases, damned good) living out of it, and hey, good luck to them. I for one would not wish to deny them their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of fame and fortune.

However, Ms Cole’s slap in the face in the good old US of A is a stark reminder that fame built on nothing more than hype and spin does not necessarily travel well.

If no one knows you are famous or understands why you are famous, you can’t expect them just to take it on trust. You have to demonstrate your talent through hard work and sheer grit and if it’s not there … well we have seen the result.

Members of the veterinary profession, or any profession for that matter, are just as susceptible to being judged by members of the public, in the same way that Ms Cole was judged, albeit on a smaller scale. There are some whose reputations have been built not necessarily by how talented they are as veterinary surgeons but because of how well they have marketed themselves and their service. Such self-promotion is perfectly acceptable, particularly in this day and age, but peer recognition is far harder to court in this way. Peer recognition requires real substance.

Inspired those around him

The recent death of Professor Barrie Edwards brought home to me the truth of such a notion. I hadn’t seen or spoken to Professor Edwards for more years than I care to remember since leaving vet school.

But I still remember being taught by him as a student and the quiet and patient way in which he tried to inspire all those around him, even during the undoubtedly stressful moments he must have endured when operating on acute equine colic cases in the middle of the night. This at a time when colic surgery was really only in its infancy.

Then, of course, there were his wonderful drawings of anatomy and surgical techniques and, although time can play tricks on the mind, I still think I can remember him on the rugby field playing scrum half in a staff versus student rugby match.

When one reads the obituaries written about him and sees the body of pioneering work that he carried out, one realises what a quiet and unassuming man he was because he was rarely in the limelight.

He had no need of self-promotion, instead letting his actions and his clinical success do the talking for him.

There will be thousands of students around the world who have been inspired early in their careers by the man, and who will remember things they have heard him say or seen him do. That is the mark of real talent and it is something that we should all perhaps try to emulate in our own working lives with the same sense of humility.

The veterinary profession has been greatly enhanced by his contribution and is immeasurably poorer for his passing.

All those of us who were taught by him were privileged indeed.

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