AVMA News

IN SHORT

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Dr. Emily Binversie

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 15; 10.2460/javma.260.15.1895

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Dr. Laura Constance

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 15; 10.2460/javma.260.15.1895

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Dr. Kelsey Jurek

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 15; 10.2460/javma.260.15.1895

Phi Zeta presents research awards for 2022

Phi Zeta, the international honor society of veterinary medicine, recently presented the 2022 Research Manuscript Awards. This year, Mars Veterinary Health subsidized the award amount with a donation of $5,000, allowing the society to offer $2,500 to each of the three winners, along with engraved plaques.

The award in basic sciences went to Dr. Emily Binversie (Wisconsin ’18) of the Alpha Alpha chapter of Phi Zeta at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her winning paper was “Analysis of copy number variation in dogs implicates genomic structural variation in the development of anterior cruciate ligament rupture.”

The competition for the award in clinical sciences resulted in a tie. The winners were Dr. Laura Constance (Kansas State ’21) of the Sigma chapter of Phi Zeta at Kansas State University and Dr. Kelsey Jurek (Minnesota ’17) of the Nu chapter of Phi Zeta at Oklahoma State University.

Dr. Constance's winning paper was “Gut microbiome associations with outcome following co-infection with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) and porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) in pigs immunized with a PRRS modified live virus vaccine.” Dr. Jurek's winning paper was “Effect of perfusate volume on amikacin concentrations after saphenous intravenous regional limb perfusion in standing, sedated horses.”

AVMA announces members’ annual meeting for 2023

The 2023 annual meeting of AVMA voting members will be held at 9 a.m. CST on Jan. 6, at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk, 301 E. North Water St. As determined by the AVMA Board of Directors, the meeting will be held in conjunction with the regular winter session of the AVMA House of Delegates, during the plenary session of the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference.

The meeting will include reports from the treasurer and AVMA staff, a message from the president, speeches by candidates for president-elect, and other information as determined by the House Advisory Committee.

Nominations open for 2023 AVMA awards

The nomination period is open for the AVMA Excellence Awards for 2023. The awards program recognizes contributions by veterinarians and nonveterinarians to the veterinary profession and to animal health and welfare.

The AVMA is accepting nominations for the following awards:

  • The AVMA Award

  • AVMA Advocacy Award

  • AVMA Animal Welfare Award

  • AVMA Career Achievement Award in Canine Research

  • AVMA Clinical Research Award

  • AVMA Global Veterinary Service Award

  • AVMA Humane Award

  • AVMA Lifetime Excellence in Research Award

  • AVMA Meritorious Service Award

  • AVMA Public Service Award

  • AVMA Steve Dale Excellence in Veterinary Media Award

  • AVMF/EveryCat Health Foundation Research Award

  • Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award

The deadline for all award nominations is Feb. 22, 2023. Award information and the nomination form are available at avma.org/awards. Email avma-awards@avma.org with any questions or if assistance is needed.

Economist gives big-picture view of economy, veterinary profession

Recession likely, ‘can potentially start right now’

By R. Scott Nolen

The likelihood of a recession, fears of an escalating war in Ukraine, and ongoing supply chain disruptions are among the most immediate trends shaping the U.S. economy, according to Dana Peterson, chief economist for the nonprofit The Conference Board.

“We are expecting a recession in the United States that can potentially start right now and extend to the first half of next year,” Peterson said during her keynote address on the first day of the AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum, held virtually Oct. 24-25.

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Dana Peterson

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 15; 10.2460/javma.260.15.1895

Probability models and leading indicators, such as high levels of inflation and labor shortages, have warned of a coming recession since August 2022, Peterson said. The Federal Reserve, hoping to tamp down inflation, has raised interest rates “very quickly and very aggressively,” to heights not seen in decades, she added.

Peterson said The Conference Board expects the inflation rate will return to somewhere close to the Federal Reserve's 2% target by 2024. Factors driving inflation higher, she said, include strong demand for goods and housing, along with factory closures abroad, supply chain bottlenecks, and commodity price spikes.

Rising interest rates makes it more expensive to buy goods that are often financed, including homes, cars, furniture, and even cell phones, Peterson said. So how are consumers responding to these economic pressures? Spending has dropped on goods but has increased for services. This increase is likely temporary, however, as the nation enters a recession.

Homeownership, which Peterson described as being very important in terms of whether or not people own pets, spiked during the pandemic as a result of low interest rates. Now that the pandemic is in the endemic phase, housing prices and mortgage rates have risen sharply, and new home sales have dropped substantially.

Household spending on veterinary care dropped between 2018 and 2020, then climbed nearly 5% between 2020 and 2022, Peterson added. “People adopted animals during the pandemic, and they need to continue to take care of those animals, so there's still demand for veterinary services,” she said.

As for the U.S. labor market, The Conference Board projects the unemployment rate will hover around 4% during 2023. Participation in the labor force has grown since the great resignation of 2020 among 25- to 54-year-olds, whose participation numbers have recovered to just shy of pre-pandemic levels. The same cannot be said for people who are 55 and older.

“Their participation rate collapsed during the pandemic and has not recovered,” Peterson said. “It looks like it won’t, which isn’t a surprise because many people are retiring, and those retirements are contributing to labor shortages.”

These and other demographic changes are potential contributors to a tight supply of veterinarians over the next decade, Peterson said.

Peterson offered several solutions to the tight supply of labor, including offering flexible hours and work arrangements, encouraging later retirement, job sharing, and training.

Addressing burnout, building belonging in the workplace

Expert talks about how to make work better for everyone on the team

By R. Scott Nolen

Emotions are signals about what each person needs. Workplaces that understand that will go a long way toward reducing employee burnout and creating a culture of belonging.

That's the message keynote speaker Liz Fosslien delivered during the second day of the AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum, held virtually Oct. 24-25. Fosslien is head of content and communications at Humu, a human resources company, and co-author and illustrator of the bestselling books “Big Feelings” and “No Hard Feelings.”

Burnout warning signs

Fosslien first sought to clear up some misconceptions about burnout. For instance, we often think of burnout as a moment when you physically can no longer do your job. Not true, Fosslien said: “I spoke to an expert on burnout who told me burnout taps you many, many times on the shoulder with a feather until finally it hits you with a bus.

“Our job is to listen when we feel those feather taps.”

Signs of burnout manifest as feeling overwhelmed by basic activities, seeing vacation as an opportunity to recover, considering everyone and everything to be irritating, thinking that getting slightly ill sounds like a relief, and practicing revenge bedtime procrastination, which is the decision to delay sleep in response to stress or a lack of free time earlier in the day.

“You go to bed, you’re exhausted,” Fosslien explained. “But instead of actually going to sleep and getting the rest that you need, you take out your phone, and you get on social media.”

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Liz Fosslien

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 15; 10.2460/javma.260.15.1895

This self-sabotaging behavior is a sign you need to take more breaks during the day, she added.

Additional myths about burnout: Burnout is obvious, addressing burnout is only urgent if you’re falling apart, and everyone who experiences burnout experiences it the same way.

What causes burnout? Feeling overextended, as though you have too much to do and not enough time to get it done. Feeling disengaged or, rather, feeling disconnected from your team. And finally, feeling ineffective, that despite all your efforts, it feels like you’re not accomplishing anything.

To alleviate burnout, Fosslien advised creating an after-work ritual, which can be anything as long as it helps delineate between work and home life.

She said: “It can be a word or phrase. You can do 10 jumping jacks—anything that's a signal to your brain, ‘Now I’m not going to think about work. I’m in a different space, and I’m taking time for myself.’”

Fosslien also suggested letting go of one lofty but not vital expectation so as not to add unnecessary pressure on yourself. Take advantage of free time by relaxing instead of creating more work for yourself. And create a “smile file” of happy and meaningful moments to lift your spirits when you’re feeling down.

“What you’re doing is so important, so remind yourself that you need to invest in yourself to continue helping animals and other people,” Fosslien said.

Emotional culture

Addressing burnout is much easier in a work environment where employees see supervisors practice self-care and value employee emotions and opinions, according to Fosslien.

She described the differences between a workplace with a cognitive culture and one with an emotional culture. A cognitive culture is one with shared intellectual values, norms, and assumptions that serve as a guide for how to think and behave. An emotional culture emphasizes shared affective values, norms, and assumptions that govern which emotions people feel they can express.

Employees are more likely to feel a sense of belonging in the latter because people are ultimately driven by emotions rather than logic and reason, Fosslien explained.

Belonging matters, she continued, explaining that employees are more likely to leave a job when co-workers show little compassion and gratitude.

“When we feel supported and motivated by our colleagues, we are happier and more productive,” Fosslien said. “We’re also healthier and better able to cope with job stress.”

Small actions that create a sense of belonging include pronouncing and spelling names correctly, bringing people up to speed when they join a conversation, and asking people to continue sharing their thoughts after they were cut off midsentence.

Fosslien encouraged supervisors to ask check-in questions once a week, such as the following:

  • What one thing can I do to better support you?

  • What kind of flexibility do you need right now?

  • Is anything unclear or blocking your work?

  • What was a win for you over the past week? What was a challenge?

“Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice being heard,” she said.

Starting salaries up, debt down for new veterinarians

Half of 2022 graduates went into companion animal practice, a quarter into internships

By Katie Burns

The mean debt-to-income ratio for new veterinarians is down to 1.4:1, a figure not seen since 2005, as educational debt decreases and starting salaries increase. The mean debt from earning a veterinary degree was $147,258 for 2022 graduates from U.S. veterinary colleges, and the mean starting salary was $111,242 for those who secured full-time employment.

Bridgette Bain, PhD, then senior economist and associate director in the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division, discussed some of the results of the 2022 AVMA Senior Survey during her presentation “Supply and Demand in the Market for Veterinary Education” at the AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum, held virtually Oct. 24-25.

In 2020 dollars, starting salaries have returned to the upward trendline from before the Great Recession, Dr. Bain said. The mean starting salary in 2022 was $114,027 for private practice, $87,862 for public practice, $53,987 for advanced education other than residencies and internships, $48,193 for residencies, and $43,931 for internships.

“We did find that males were more likely to negotiate, and their negotiations yielded a higher base,” Dr. Bain said. She said the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division will share more details later about salary negotiations relative to gender.

New veterinary graduates who went to work for a corporate-owned practice or a group consolidator had $157,810 in mean debt from earning their veterinary degree, compared with $147,472 for new graduates who went to work for a private, independently owned hospital or clinic. New veterinary graduates at corporate practices had a mean starting salary of $124,686, compared with $105,637 at independent practices. Among this year's new veterinary graduates going into private practice, 43% went into corporate practice.

Corporate practices provided a signing bonus in 81% of offers to new graduates, at a mean of $27,181, while 42% of offers made by independent practices had a signing bonus, at a mean of $10,678. Corporate practices provided a moving allowance in 48% of offers to new graduates, at a mean of $6,180, while 23% of the offers made by independent practices had a moving allowance, at a mean of $3,626.

Between 2018 and 2022, at least 45% of new graduates from U.S. veterinary colleges joined companion animal practices, although the practice type was unknown for 12% of new graduates. Another 27% went into advanced education, inclusive of internships, residencies, and doctoral programs, between 2018 and 2022.

In 2022, 98% of new veterinarians had secured a postgraduate opportunity two to three weeks prior to graduation. From 2013 forward, the percentage of new graduates going into companion animal medicine has been increasing, with 48% going into companion animal medicine in 2022. Since 2015, the percentage of new veterinary graduates going into internships has been decreasing, with 23% going into internships in 2022.

The percentages of new graduates going into the practice types of mixed animal, food animal, and equine have been fairly flat since 2013. In 2022, 8.9% went into mixed animal practice, 3.2% into food animal practice, and 1.5% into equine practice.

Among new veterinarians, 38% had $200,000 or more in debt from earning their veterinary degree, inclusive of 13% who had $300,000 or more in debt. Another 18% had no such debt, while 10% had debt of less than $100,000, and 34% had debt of $100,000 to less than $200,000.

Parents or other family members covered more than three-quarters of tuition for 18% of graduates. Scholarships or grants covered only up to a quarter of tuition for 93% of graduates, as did personal savings. Educational loans covered more than three-quarters of tuition for 49% of graduates. More tuition was covered by family and less by loans from 2020-22, with the percentage of tuition covered by family increasing from 25% to 28% and the percentage covered by loans decreasing from 60% to 55%.

Black or African American graduates had $188,820 in mean debt from earning their veterinary degree, followed by Hispanic or Latino graduates at $183,596. White graduates had $146,213 in debt, and Asian graduates had $107,399.

In terms of wellness, new graduates had high compassion satisfaction and low burnout. Only 2% had low compassion satisfaction, while 64% had moderate and 34% had high compassion satisfaction. Only 0.2% had high burnout, while 39% had low and 61% had moderate burnout.

Turn to data when the decisions get tough

Speaker summarizes veterinary industry trends, panelists discuss how to use data

By Katie Burns

Veterinary practices can use data from within the practice and from the industry overall to guide tough business decisions in a challenging economic environment.

Two sessions at the AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum, held virtually Oct. 24-25, covered the use of data. Sheri Gilmartin, a veterinary technician who is vice president of sales and marketing at VetSuccess, presented “Morph Your Insights Into Powerful Foresight: Using Data to Get Ahead of Veterinary Trends,” and a panel discussed “Learning to Make Data-Driven Decisions for Better Business.”

Industry trends

The AVMA has partnered with VetSuccess, a data analytics company, to offer the Veterinary Industry Tracker, available at jav.ma/industrytracker. The tracker draws on data that is updated daily from thousands of practices to show revenue and visits per practice, year-over-year comparisons, product sales, and much more.

“The past two and a half years have been a bit of a roller coaster across practices, and we want to use the insights that we’re going to share today to take a step back and think about the changes that we need to make long term,” Gilmartin said during her presentation.

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters the endemic stage, veterinary practices face new headwinds. The inflation rate for the United States reached 9.1% for the 12 months ending in June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's the highest rate since 1981. Also, in the first quarter of 2022, productivity of U.S. workers plunged at a 7.4% annualized rate, the biggest drop since 1947.

As such, the future economic outlook continues to be uncertain.

Revenue for veterinary practices was up 6.4% year over year as of mid-September, but visits were down 1.7%. The number of new clients was down almost 17% year over year as of the end of August. Gilmartin has heard that some practices are not accepting new clients, which certainly could be contributing to that number.

New patients per practice decreased from 149 in January 2019 to 114 in July 2022, while active patients—patients that had at least one transaction in the past 18 months—increased from 4,433 to 5,125. Lapsing patients—patients whose last transaction was 14 to 18 months previously—increased from 437 to 620.

As of the end of August 2022, practices saw a 10% increase in revenue per patient. The number of line items per invoice has increased, meaning patients are getting more products and services per visit, Gilmartin said.

Visits for product purchases were down 8.1% year over year as of mid-September, while visits for services have been flat. Visits for product purchases represent 27% of total visits. Some product purchases have gone to practices’ online stores, and the rest have gone outside practices.

In 2020 and the first half of 2021, practices raised their prices more than the rate of inflation. However, from the second half of 2021 through the first half of 2022, price increases across practices were lower than rapidly rising inflation.

While input costs have increased, it's important for practices to be mindful of the affordability of veterinary care. In January 2022, Synchrony Bank released a study of the lifetime cost of care for a cat or dog, drawing on surveys of 1,200 pet owners and 100 veterinarians. According to the study, 21% of clients said that an unexpected pet-related expense of $251 to $500 caused them stress, and a quarter of clients said the stress-inducing figure was $250 or less.

“Increasing visits is the key to maintaining revenue growth without additional price increases,” Gilmartin said. “We certainly want to grow service visits. We know that that is the lifeblood of practices,” not only ensuring proper care of patients but also providing revenue.

Increasing visits can be challenging for practices that are short staffed and where the team feels overwhelmed and burnt out. However, Gilmartin said, practices can improve efficiency, such as by better leveraging staff members and adopting new technology.

Gilmartin said practices also can try to keep product purchases from going elsewhere, such as by leveraging the practice's online store.

Finally, practices can adopt strategic pricing strategies to reduce pet owners’ financial concerns. Gilmartin recommended the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association's Value-Based Strategic Pricing Tools and Resources, available at jav.ma/value.

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Data through October from the Veterinary Industry Tracker shows a 6.0% increase in revenue at veterinary practices year over year and a 2.1% decrease in visits.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 15; 10.2460/javma.260.15.1895

Better business

Dr. Peter Weinstein, president of Simple Solutions for Vets, led the panel discussion on using data in veterinary practice. He asked the five panelists what it means if the numbers of active clients and patients at a practice go down—and what the practice can do.

Jenni George, co-owner and hospital administrator of Deerfield Veterinary Clinic in Deerfield, New Hampshire, said a decrease in active clients is usually a lagging indicator of something else. Since she has owned her practice, she has found that people are willing to bring in pets even during a recession if they see value in doing so and are treated well. She suggested surveying clients on a regular basis.

Gilmartin, the VetSuccess vice president, said veterinary practices expect to see some attrition as clients move and patients pass away. If a practice is losing patients faster than it is adding them, there might be other things the practice wants to look at. Is the practice down a doctor? Is the reminder system working adequately?

Dr. Ken Brunson, co-owner of Tipp Veterinary Hospital in Tipp City, Ohio, emphasized making clear, consistent recommendations to clients about why they should come in every year. He asked, “Do they see the importance in that? Are they given the same message from every staff member from the front to the back, from the time they check in to the time they check out?”

Among other questions, Dr. Weinstein asked the panelists how much financial information they share with their practice teams.

George has a strong belief in financial transparency. Her receptionists are the best at making sure that the practice gets paid. But if they don’t know that's an issue, how are they supposed to help?

Gilmartin recommended that practices should share as much financial information as they can because the practice is a team, and the team needs to be aligned on goals.

Study explores secrets of highly efficient veterinary practices

By Katie Burns

A study of 60 animal hospitals classified as high, moderate, or low efficiency revealed differences in scheduling, staffing, and other aspects of daily operations.

Frederic B. Ouedraogo, PhD, senior economist and associate director of economics in the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division, shared these findings during his presentation “Improve Efficiency to Enhance Quality of Services, Increase Access to Animal Healthcare, and Build a Healthier and Stronger Workforce: Insights from 60 Independently Owned Companion-Animal Practices.” He spoke during the AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum, held virtually Oct. 24-25.

“I am convinced that increased efficiency and value innovation is the key at this point to cope with change,” Dr. Ouedraogo said.

In his study, the inputs were veterinarian labor, labor of veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants, labor of nonmedical staff members, fixed costs, and number of examination rooms. The outputs were revenue, patients treated, and number of appointment slots. In the sample, 25 hospitals were classified as high efficiency, 26 as moderate efficiency, and nine as low efficiency.

The study found that high-efficiency practices consistently operated nine hours per day Monday through Friday and about three hours on Saturday, and veterinarians were consistently available seven hours per day Monday through Friday to see scheduled appointments. In these practices, nonveterinarian staff members consistently used two hours to get things settled before the veterinarians walked in.

The high-efficiency practices reported up to a 24% higher number of daily appointments slots per full-time–equivalent veterinarian than moderate-efficiency practices did. The highly efficient practices also had more FTE veterinarians than the other practices did. In the high-efficiency practices, owner veterinarians worked fewer hours and associate veterinarians worked more hours, compared with the other practices.

Compared with low-efficiency practices, highly efficient practices reached 42% more patients per FTE veterinarian per day.

Assuming no changes in the way each practice was organized, in the number of veterinarians or support staff members, or to the physical structure, 60.0% of high-efficiency practices said they could increase visits by at least 10%, compared with 53.8% of moderate-efficiency practices and 33.3% of low-efficiency practices.

In contrast, if the practice were able to hire additional veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and support staff members and do minor remodeling to increase efficiency, with no square footage added, 88.9% of low-efficiency practices said they could increase visits by at least 10%, compared with 61.5% of moderate-efficiency practices and 64.0% of high-efficiency practices.

Dr. Ouedraogo's first key takeaway for practices was to use data to track change in the veterinary industry and within the practice, creating conditions for positive response to change. His second key takeaway was to leverage all the practice's team members to the fullest extent of their capabilities, while keeping them healthy and engaged.

Veterinarian employers require innovative solutions to attract, retain staff members

Mean income in 2022 for all veterinarians is $136,837

By Malinda Larkin

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Mean income is $152,441 for food animal veterinarians, $140,348 for companion animal–exclusive veterinarians, $123,125 for companion animal–predominant veterinarians, and $193,196 for veterinarians in industry or commercial settings.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 15; 10.2460/javma.260.15.1895

Retaining and attracting veterinarians has been top of mind for many employers in the industry lately.

The unemployment rate for veterinarians went from 1.8% in 2021 to 0.5% in 2022, according to the 2022 AVMA Census of Veterinarians. Among those in the veterinary profession who are currently unemployed, 79%—or about 1,800 individuals—are not actively seeking employment. That is an increase from 42% in 2018.

“It would be fair to say that all veterinarians who want to work are working or could easily find themselves in a position. Maybe not their position of choice, but a position,” said Charlotte Hansen, AVMA assistant director for statistical analysis. Hansen gave the presentation “The Market for Veterinarians: Examining an Era for Engagement” during the AVMA Business & Economic Forum, held virtually Oct. 24-25.

To recruit, hire, and retain in this new environment, Hansen said, employers will need to create a work environment that is engaging and inclusive and understand what is important to potential employees.

Demand for veterinarians

The AVMA conducted a survey in May among employers who post jobs on the AVMA Veterinary Career Center to get a better pulse on what was happening with employers and their experiences hiring or trying to hire employees.

About 95% of respondents were in private practice, so unsurprisingly, almost 88% of the job postings captured in the survey were for private practice positions. Also among the postings, 93% were for veterinarians, while the other 7% were for veterinary technicians, hospital administrators, practice managers, and the like. Almost 87% of postings were for a full-time position. While 68% of the job postings were to fill a vacancy, 32% were for newly created role.

There was a national average of 1.8 veterinarian job openings per employer, and a national average of 0.6 were filled.

Contributing to the demand for veterinarians is the increasing presence of corporations and consolidation within the profession. According to VCC statistics, at the end of 2019, corporate or consolidated practices had a three-month rolling average of 1,049 new job posts, compared with 560 for independent practices. But by August 2022, those figures were 2,391 for corporate or consolidated practices and 652 for independent practices. However, the number of veterinarians going into corporate practices is not matching the increase in available jobs.

In fact, the trend of veterinarians going into corporate practice was at its highest point in 2019 and has since trended slightly downward, according to data from the 2022 Census of Veterinarians.

“Corporations are hiring more but not necessarily employing more,” Hansen said. “There is a desire to attract veterinarians, as we see a lot of advertising on the Veterinary Career Center, but not seeing that necessarily translate to the number of veterinarians entering corporate practice. Or is it that they are accepting a position in corporations and then leaving?”

In the workplace

The nominal mean income in 2022 for all veterinarians is $136,837—or $125,134 in 2021 dollars—up from $118,460 last year.

Hansen said of employers, “Now you may think you’re paying more, but when you adjust for inflation, we are still playing catch up to the salaries pre–2008 financial crisis.”

Along with the increase in incomes overall, full-time veterinarians were working more hours than expected at almost 49 hours a week, compared with 43 hours they expected to work this year. Equine practitioners and veterinarians in advanced education—including internships and residencies—work the most hours, on average, at around 58 hours, compared with the nearly 50 hours they expected to work. Unsurprisingly, equine practitioners and veterinarians in advanced education had the highest percentage—at 32% and 28%, respectively—of veterinarians who indicated they wanted to work fewer hours, according to the 2022 Census of Veterinarians.

Hansen suggested that some ways employers can help retain veterinarians are to adapt the workplace to offer flexible schedules and to offer incentives for the type of candidate they are trying to hire.

She gave the example of a companion animal practice on the North Side of Chicago that reduced hours of operation, increased salaries by 20% for paraprofessional staff members, remodeled the practice to increase flow and efficiency, and empowered paraprofessional staff members to perform some duties for the veterinarians, including calling clients with laboratory results and inputting medical notes.

As a result, the clinic was able to reduce the work hours of the veterinarians by 20% while increasing revenues by 20% year over year.

Salary is another area to consider when attracting and retaining veterinarians, but Hansen cautioned employers not to have salary be the only factor.

“You might hire at a rate that is greater than the current long-term, experienced staff,” she said. “So if you’re going to use salary as an incentive, think of the possible unintended consequences to profitability and hospital morale and culture.”

Hiring responsively rather than reactively requires advance planning and care. Practices should have a salary budget, job descriptions, and salary ranges, Hansen said.

“Know the community you’re in and what other businesses are hiring for and what that looks like,” she added.

Pet ownership stabilizes as spending rises

Cat-owning households heat up as dog ownership cools

By R. Scott Nolen

The size of the U.S. pet population remained relatively stable over the past six years despite an increase in dog ownership in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and more recent growth in the number of cat-owning households, according to preliminary results from the 2022 AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook.

The sourcebook shows the percentage of U.S. households that own at least one dog increased from 38% to 45% between 2016 and 2020 but had leveled off by 2022. Cats, on the other hand, are becoming more popular recently. The percentage of households that own at least one cat increased slightly between 2016 and 2020, from 25% to 26%, and then increased to 29% in 2022.

“The increase in the number of households with dogs looks large, but it occurred over a six-year period, which is actually pretty conservative growth,” said Rosemary Radich, former principal data scientist for the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division, in a prerecorded presentation Oct. 24 during the two-day AVMA Veterinary Economic and Business Forum, held virtually this year.

Economy's influence

During her talk, Radich highlighted trends in U.S. pet ownership outlined in the AVMA sourcebook, including a decrease in horse ownership from 0.7% to 0.5% of households between 2016 and 2022. She noted that data from 2021-22 were preliminary and would be finalized later this year.

As Radich explained, the sourcebook is an analysis of pet owner surveys fielded by the AVMA along with human demographic and behavioral data provided by various sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, Pew Research Center, and Gallup. The AVMA previously surveyed pet owners roughly every five years but is now fielding the surveys more frequently.

The AVMA analysis shows home ownership and household income impact the rate of dog ownership. “Dog populations are essentially being influenced by the overall economy,” Radich explained.

As dog-owning households grew from 38% in 2016 to roughly 45% in 2020-22, a similar pattern emerged in home ownership, which increased from 63.7% in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 65.8% in the fourth quarter of 2020 and then decreased slightly to 65.5% in the fourth quarter of 2021. The pattern was the same for median real household income, in 2021 dollars, which went from $66,700 in 2016 to $71,200 in 2020 and $70,800 in 2021.

This relationship is further supported by looking at who is adopting dogs. In 2020, at the height of the COVID pandemic, people who worked remotely were eight times as likely to acquire a pet. “We’ve heard this narrative—that people working from home have more time and potentially more money due to not having to commute—were adopting these pets, and we see this supported back in the data,” Radich said.

The 2020 data further show homeowners earning over $100,000 annually were three times as likely to have acquired a pet; people who said their financial status was the same or better were two times as likely to have acquired a pet; and people who were under 45, were married, and had children were six times as likely to acquire a pet.

That trend in the higher rate of pet acquisition appears to be slowing down, according to the 2021-22 data. “Homeowners, people with higher household income, and people who worked remotely were still more likely to acquire a pet in 2021 or in 2022, but we don’t see as high of numbers as we did in 2020,” Radich said.

Why is that the case? Radich said the pandemic was a time of change and transition, such as working from home instead of in an office. For many people, adding a pet to their life was part of that change. Those days are mostly over, Radich said, and society has essentially stabilized. For a brief period, people were acquiring pets because they had more time. The reason for acquiring pets now is mostly for companionship, as was the case prior to COVID.

“All of this shows that demand for pets is highly dependent on the economy and the labor market: remote work, homeownership, household income,” Radich said. “To really understand where we’re going in the future in terms of pet ownership and pet populations, we really have to have a handle on where the economy is going.”

Spending trends

Consumer spending on dogs and cats between 2020 and 2022 increased across the board. Radich said mean annual expenditures on veterinary visits for households with one dog increased from $224 in 2020 to $362 in 2022. For households with cats, mean annual expenditures on veterinary visits were $189 in 2020 and $321 in 2022.

The mean cost of an annual wellness visit for a dog and a cat was, respectively, $168 and $141 in 2016, $195 and $133 in 2020, and $192 and $169 in 2022. The costs for 2016 and 2020, Radich noted, are not adjusted for inflation. When they are, the increase in cost is flatter.

Value and affordability were the primary reasons pet owners cited for not seeing a veterinarian in the past two years. “They felt like they didn’t need the service, they took care of it themselves, they didn’t have the money, or it just wasn’t worth the cost,” Radich said.

Convenience, she added, was cited less than 10% of the time as the reason for lapsed visits.

“Perceived value is key for client engagement, so really focusing on value will help you to have a higher return on investment than focusing on convenience,” Radich said.

The AVMA conducted language-focused research with pet owners across the United States to learn more about harnessing language to improve patient care. From that, the Association created the Language of Veterinary Care Initiative. The initiative provides tools—such as instructional videos, a webinar, and e-book—that can help veterinary teams integrate key words and phrases to improve patient care into daily conversations with clients.

Assemblies

American Association of Zoo Veterinarians

The American Association of Zoo Veterinarians held its annual meeting from Sept. 19-23 in Houston. The new AAZV officials are Drs. Allison Tuttle, Mystic, Connecticut, president; Sharon Deem, St. Louis, president-elect; Sam Rivera, Atlanta, vice president; Julie Swenson, Walnut Springs, Texas, secretary; John Sykes, New York City, treasurer; and Michelle Davis, New York City, immediate past president.

Association of Avian Veterinarians

The Association of Avian Veterinarians held its annual meeting at ExoticsCon 2022 from Aug. 14-18 in Denver. The new AAV officials are Drs. Anna Osofsky, Carrollton, Texas, president; Stephanie Lamb, Phoenix, president-elect; Len Donato, Wayne, Pennsylvania, treasurer; and Byron De La Navarre, Chicago, immediate past president and conference chair.

Iowa VMA

The Iowa VMA held its annual meeting from Sept. 29-30 in Ames. The new IVMA officials are Drs. Shawn Nicholson, Stuart, president; Kristen Clark, Ames, president-elect; Ken May, Slater, vice president; and Brenda Bright, Story City, immediate past president.

Visit avma.org/news/community to read the full reports, including awards.

Organizations launch one-health joint plan of action

The One Health Joint Plan of Action was launched this fall by the Quadripartite—the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations’ Environment Programme, the World Health Organization, and the World Organisation for Animal Health, founded as the OIE—to improve the health of humans, animals, plants, and the environment while contributing to sustainable development.

The plan aims to create a framework that integrates systems and capacity so that the four intergovernmental organizations can collectively better prevent, predict, detect, and respond to health threats, according to an Oct. 17 press release.

“Using a One Health lens that brings all relevant sectors together is critical to tackle global health threats, like monkeypox, COVID-19, and Ebola,” WOAH Director General Dr. Monique Eloit said in the release. “It all starts with ensuring the health of animals. Animal health is our health, it is everyone's health.”

The One Health Joint Plan of Action includes activities to strengthen collaboration, communication, capacity building, and coordination equally across all sectors responsible for addressing health concerns at the interface of humans, animals, plants, and the environment.

The five-year plan, covering 2022-26, focuses on the following six areas:

  • Enhancing one-health capacities to strengthen health systems.

  • Reducing the risks from emerging and reemerging zoonotic epidemics and pandemics.

  • Controlling and eliminating endemic zoonotic, neglected tropical, and vector-borne diseases.

  • Strengthening the assessment, management, and communication of food safety risks.

  • Curbing the silent pandemic of antimicrobial resistance.

  • Integrating the environment into one health.

The Quadripartite document—which the partners say is based on evidence, best practices, and existing guidance—covers actions to advance one health at the global, regional, and national levels. These actions include the development of a guidance document on implementation for countries, international partners, and other stakeholders such as professional associations, academia, and research institutions.

The plan sets out objectives such as providing a framework for collective and coordinated action to mainstream the one-health approach at all levels, providing policy and legislative advice and technical assistance to help set national targets and priorities, and promoting multinational, multisector, multidisciplinary collaboration, learning, and exchange of knowledge, solutions, and technologies.

One action item listed is to create one-health training programs for environmental, medical, agricultural, and veterinary professionals.

The plan builds upon existing programs and initiatives such as the Global Laboratory Leadership Programme and Tripartite Zoonoses Guide: Operational Tools and Approaches for Zoonotic Diseases.

WOAH also has the Wildlife Health Framework, a guidance document designed to help member countries manage the risk of pathogen emergence in wildlife and transmission at the human-animal-ecosystem interface, while taking into account the protection of wildlife and biodiversity.

The Quadripartite's joint action plan also fosters the values of cooperation and shared responsibility, multisectoral action and partnership, gender equity, and inclusiveness.

“It's clear that a One Health approach must be central to our shared work to strengthen the world's defenses against epidemics and pandemics such as COVID-19,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

In Memory

Blair H. Campbell

Dr. Campbell (Cornell ’60), 86, Rutland, Vermont, died April 22, 2022. Following graduation, he moved to Vermont, where he established Mendon Animal Clinic in Mendon and Eastwood Animal Hospital in Rutland. During his career, Dr. Campbell also served as a professor at Castleton State College in Castleton, Vermont. He is survived by his life partner, Donna Gilman; two children; four grandchildren; and a great-grandchild. Memorials may be made to the Master Gardeners Program, University of Vermont, 63 Carrigan Drive, Jeffords Hall, Room 206, Burlington, VT 05405, or the American Diabetes Association, P.O. Box 7023, Merrifield, VA 22116.

Larry A. Eld

Dr. Eld (Colorado State ’67), 83, Meridian, Idaho, died Aug. 7, 2022. He practiced mixed animal medicine in Emmett, Idaho, then moved to Boise, Idaho, where he joined Mountain View Animal Clinic. In 1977, he took over the practice, owning it until 1999. He also served as the veterinarian for Zoo Boise, was instrumental in establishing an emergency clinic in Boise, invented and patented the Eld gastrostomy tube applicator, and co-founded the Boise Academy of Veterinary Practitioners. He is survived by two sons, his grandchildren, and three brothers. Memorials may be made to the Boise Rescue Mission, P.O. Box 1494, Boise, ID 83701.

Janette Friel

Dr. Friel (Florida ’83), 82, Eugene, Oregon, died Aug. 4, 2022. Following graduation and after completing an internship at Auburn University, she served as an associate veterinarian at Ansley Animal Clinic in Atlanta. Dr. Friel subsequently established Inman Park Animal Hospital in Atlanta, where she practiced until retirement. She is survived by her spouse, Nancy Curran. Memorials may be made to Freedom From Religion Foundation, P.O. Box 750, Madison, WI 53701, ffrf.org; Atlanta Humane Society, 1551 Perry Blvd. NW, Atlanta, GA 30318, atlantahumane.org; or Food for Lane County, 770 Bailey Hill Road, Eugene, OR 97402, foodforlanecounty.org.

Donald H. Fritz

Dr. Fritz (Cornell ’54), 92, Peterborough, New Hampshire, died Aug. 12, 2022. Following graduation, he co-established Tenney, Fritz, and Combs Animal Hospital in Peterborough. Dr. Fritz was a past president of the New Hampshire and New England VMAs and served on the New Hampshire Board of Veterinary Medicine. He is survived by his wife, Margaret; two sons, a daughter, and stepchildren; a grandchild and stepgrandchildren; and a great-grandchild and stepgreat-grandchildren. One son, Dr. Derek Fritz (Cornell ’85), is also a veterinarian.

Robert F. Goldsboro

Dr. Goldsboro (Tuskegee ’51), 95, Medford, New Jersey, died Sept. 8, 2022. Following graduation, he served as a first lieutenant in the Air Force during the Korean War. Dr. Goldsboro subsequently earned a master's in public health from Columbia University and joined the New Jersey Department of Health, serving as a district public health veterinarian and as state program coordinator of veterinary epidemiology. He retired after 30 years with the department. Dr. Goldsboro was a veteran of the Air Force Reserve, retiring as a lieutenant colonel after 28 years of active and reserve service. His son, daughter, and four grandchildren survive him.

John Theodore Hollister

Dr. Hollister (California-Davis ’55), 91, Pacific Grove, California, died March 29, 2022. Following graduation, he served in the Air Force. Dr. Hollister subsequently established Peninsula Animal Hospital in Pacific Grove, where he practiced small animal medicine until retirement in 1995. He later provided his services at a spay and neuter clinic in Greenfield, California. Dr. Hollister served on the board of directors of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Monterey County. His four children and a brother survive him. Memorials may be made to SPCA Monterey County, 1002 Monterey Salinas Highway, Salinas, CA 93908, spcamc.org.

Duane E. Hughes

Dr. Hughes (Minnesota ’56), 91, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, died July 12, 2022. He established a large animal practice in South Dakota, then ranched and worked as an inspector for the state of South Dakota. He eventually became state veterinarian. He later was inspecting veterinarian for the stockyards in Sioux Falls. He is survived by his wife, Venoye; three daughters and two sons; 16 grandchildren; 21 great-grandchildren; and two sisters. Memorials may be made to the South Dakota VMA, P.O. Box 2175, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007, or Avera Dougherty Hospice House, 4509 S. Prince of Peace Place, Sioux Falls, SD 57103.

Mark Kombert

Dr. Kombert (Louisiana State ’95), 59, White Plains, New York, died Aug. 24, 2022. He most recently practiced in New York state. Dr. Kombert is survived by two sons, his mother, and three sisters. Memorials may be made to the Jewish National Fund, National Office, 42 E. 69th St., New York, NY 10021, usa.jnf.org, or International Animal Rescue, P.O. Box 137, Shrewsbury, MA 01545, internationalanimalrescue.org.

Jerrold Michaels

Dr. Michaels (Illinois ’58), 88, Crystal Lake, Illinois, died April 6, 2022. Following graduation, he practiced in Homewood, Illinois. Dr. Michaels subsequently established Fox Valley Animal Hospital in Crystal Lake, retiring in 2015. He was a member of the Illinois State VMA. He is survived by his wife, Marian; two daughters; five grandchildren; and a great-grandchild. Memorials, toward the Jerrold and Marian Michaels Veterinary Scholarship Fund, may be sent to the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Office of Advancement, Suite 3516, 2001 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana, IL 61802.

Cameron B. Mikkelsen

Dr. Mikkelsen (Minnesota ’62), 90, Devils Lake, North Dakota, died April 29, 2022. He owned mixed animal practices in North Dakota at Oakes, Bowman, and Beach, and he served as a relief veterinarian in the state at Jamestown and New Rockford. Following retirement, he worked on a farm in the area. He was a past president of the North Dakota VMA. Dr. Mikkelsen was a veteran of the Navy. He is survived by his wife, Joyce; four sons, two stepsons, and a stepdaughter; four grandchildren and 11 stepgrandchildren; nine great-grandchildren and 19 stepgreat-grandchildren; two stepgreat-great-grandchildren; and a brother and a sister.

Dewey E. Monty

Dr. Monty (Colorado State ’57), 90, Mesa, Arizona, died Sept. 9, 2022. He served as assistant state veterinarian of Arizona, then established Monty Veterinary Clinic in Flagstaff, Arizona. He later earned his doctorate in physiology from Utah State University. Dr. Monty served as a lecturer at the University of Nairobi in Kenya and as a professor at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. He also assisted in veterinary education and livestock disease control programs in developing countries. Dr. Monty was inducted into the Arizona VMA Hall of Fame in 2011. His wife, Dorothy; two daughters; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren survive him.

James J. Ramage

Dr. Ramage (Pennsylvania ’67), 95, Ford City, Pennsylvania, died May 25, 2022. He owned Valley Veterinary Hospital in Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, prior to retirement. Dr. Ramage subsequently became a master gardener in Pennsylvania's Armstrong County. He was a veteran of the Air Force. Dr. Ramage's wife, Lynn; a son, a daughter, and a stepdaughter; and three grandchildren survive him. Memorials may be made to The Arboretum at Penn State, 302 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802; Orphans of the Storm Animal Shelter, P.O. Box 838, Kittanning, PA 16201; or Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley, 730 Church St., New Kensington, PA 15068.

Russell M. Shoji

Dr. Shoji (Tuskegee ’91), 61, Honolulu, died June 9, 2022. He most recently practiced small animal medicine at VCA University Animal Hospital in Honolulu. Dr. Shoji was a member of the Hawaii VMA. He is survived by his wife, Laureen; a daughter; three stepchildren; and a brother and a sister.

Sharon A. Sickles

Dr. Sickles (Cornell ’99), 69, Endicott, New York, died April 13, 2022. During her career, she worked at several research laboratories in various capacities, including serving as director of clinical services and research compliance. Dr. Sickles’ two brothers survive her. Memorials may be made to Mercy House of the Southern Tier, 212 N. McKinley Ave., Endicott, NY 13760.

Lonnie Richard Smith

Dr. Smith (Auburn ’69), 77, Monroe, Tennessee, died Aug. 17, 2022. He practiced in Nashville, Tennessee, where he established Hickory Plaza Veterinary Clinic, working there for 45 years prior to retirement. Dr. Smith subsequently farmed in Tennessee's Overton County. He was a member of the Tennessee VMA. Dr. Smith's wife, Sue; two sons; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren survive him.

Friedegunde O. Wells

Dr. Wells, 88, Durant, Oklahoma, died Aug. 17, 2022. Following graduation in 1960 from the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover in Germany, she moved to the United States, practicing in Pennsylvania and Ohio. She subsequently moved to Oklahoma, where she worked in Achille. She later founded Bryan County Animal Hospital, a mixed animal practice in Durant. She is survived by two daughters, a son, 11 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and six siblings. Her son, Dr. Billy Wells (Ross ’98), is also a veterinarian. Memorials toward the Dr. Friede Wells Memorial Fund, which helps to care for stray and needy animals in the community, may be sent to Bryant County Animal Hospital, 2315 S. 9th St., Durant, OK 74701.

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