By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS
I just got back from the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians’ First Annual Behavior Conference at the Oquendo Center in Las Vegas. Over forty-five technicians plus a few practice managers and dog trainers made the trek to this inaugural event. It was a smashing success.
I was honored to be one of the chosen speakers, along with Monique Feyrecilde, LVT, Sherri Yschak, RVT, Ginny Price, MS, CVT, VTS (Behavior) and with labs presented by Terry Ryan and Marcia Rafter Ritchie, VTS (Behavior), CPDT.
While many of you have attended tons of veterinary or training seminars, I have to tell you that there is something a little different and calculated about the programs that the SVBT offers. Let me explain. Several months ago I got an email from Amanda Eick-Miller asking me if I would like to present four lectures at their first annual conference. I almost immediately said “yes,” because I know that any event Amanda plans will be high quality and fun. But then I noticed that two of the topics were labeled “Psychopharmacology.” I immediately thought, “Huh?!”
Anyone who knows me knows my main focus is tailoring a behavior modification plan that will work for the particular pet and the pet’s family. That means looking at the environment and seeing both how the pet responds and what the family can actually do and then making nuanced modifications that will help get the job done. As such, only a relatively small percentage of my clients start their pets on medications. So, really, I thought, “Wouldn’t any board certified veterinary behaviorist or even a second year resident be a better choice than me?”
But Amanda had me pegged for a reason. She and her SVBT cohorts always have their lecturer and topic selections plotted out carefully. They choose people they want to hear, even though they’ve been to hundreds of behavior lectures. Then they select a line-up and presentation order that they know will mesh synergistically providing for the most entertaining and educational day.
Amanda and her organizing committee chose me because they thought I could somehow keep the audience awake for two hours while making the historically complicated subject fun. They felt that somehow, despite the fact that I only prescribe a small set of drugs for patients and only on an occasional basis, I could provide the audience with a memorable experience and they would go away with the big picture.
So the pressure was on. Armed with a strong love of chemicals and receptors brought about by having majored in biochemistry and worked in a lab focused on enzyme kinetics, I got to work. Starting several months ahead, I strategized on what to cover with the help of my colleague Dr. Kelly Moffat, a veterinary behaviorist in La Mesa, Arizona. We met on iChat once a week and compared what various psychopharmacology textbooks thought. We also discussed some of our favorite or oddest psychopharmacology cases.
In order to spice things up, I simultaneously listened to a semester-long set of presentations from a psychopharmacology course taught at UC Berkeley and available on iTunes University, plus I read a general human psychopharmacology textbook since these are traditionally filled with interesting historical stories. Next, I plotted how I wanted to present the material in just two hours in a way that would be interesting even to me—a person who has a low attention span and low tolerance for mediocre teaching.
The map to success in this case meant that I needed to commission my regular graphic designers, Larry and April at www.pkcreate.com (who also created this drsophiayin.com web site) to create diagrams of the various drug pathways and chemical structures. It also meant commissioning Mark Deamer, the illustrator of my book, How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves, to develop the 20 + receptors animations. Unfortunately, that meant that it would be costing me at least three times more money to create the presentation than I would be earning at the conference. I guess everyone knows that my M.O. is to pay for whatever is needed to develop cool presentations and products and hope to make up for it later.
So how did it go? I think it went well. But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself. In the following days and weeks I will be posting portions of the presentation with some of the accompanying animations for you guys to see!
And on another note, for those of you who didn’t go and who missed the fantastic chicken training wet lab that Terry Ryan taught, please visit her site at http://www.legacycanine.com/workshops/chicken-camps.html.