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IN SHORT

Highly pathogenic avian influenza found in Canada, U.S.

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An American wigeon

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 4; 10.2460/javma.260.4.381

Animal health authorities in Canada and the U.S. are watching for spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza after infections in both countries.

As of Jan. 18, the cases were limited to two noncommercial farms and two wild birds in Newfoundland as well as three wild birds in the Carolinas. All of the birds were infected with an H5N1 influenza strain.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced in December and January that infections had been found starting in mid-December on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. A Jan. 13 report from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) indicates about 440 birds had either died of the disease or been killed on the two farms to control its spread.

Two wild gulls on the same peninsula also were positive for the H5N1 strain, the report states, and Canadian authorities were continuing surveillance among wild birds and poultry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Jan. 17 to the OIE that an American wigeon killed by a hunter Dec. 30, 2021, in South Carolina was positive for an HPAI strain. On Jan. 18, APHIS officials announced testing had also revealed infections in a northern shoveler in North Carolina and a blue-winged teal in South Carolina.

Resource offers advice on global veterinary careers

Veterinary students and veterinarians interested in international work may not know people who are involved in that kind of work. A new website hopes to bridge that gap.

The Global Veterinary Career Profiles website from the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine highlights veterinarians working abroad and offers advice for those who want to pursue this work.

The site features interviews with several veterinarians working for organizations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development to advance the health of animals, the public, and the environment.

“We set out to ask veterinarians about their school and career experiences, the highs and lows of international work, reflections about their careers thus far and what they’ve learned, and what advice they have for veterinary students and veterinarians considering pursuing international work,” the website states.

Common themes reported by interviewees were the role of mentors, international jobs and travel, and research experiences.

The AVMA policy “Opportunities for Engagement of U.S. Veterinarians in International Programs” states that the Association “actively encourages programs to expand opportunities for, and improve the education and training of, United States veterinarians to be of greater service and utilization in other countries of the world.”

Learn more about what fellow veterinarians are up to abroad by visiting jav.ma/Davis.

American College of Veterinary Radiology

The American College of Veterinary Radiology welcomed 50 new diplomates in 2021, with 35 new diplomates certified in diagnostic imaging, eight new diplomates certified in equine diagnostic imaging, and seven new diplomates certified in radiation oncology. Visit avma.org/news/community to read the list of new diplomates.

Correction

The article “$30M gift aids Cornell Canine Health Center” in the Jan. 15, 2022, issue of JAVMA, page 149, incorrectly stated who would lead the center. Dr. David Lee, associate dean for external programs, is the center’s founding director.

Veterinary leaders see potential to knock down licensing barriers

AVMA delegates discuss reducing time and effort to gain licenses in multiple states

By Greg Cima

Getting licensed to practice veterinary medicine in another state can be a pain.

Each state or territory has its own system for processing an applicant’s professional and academic history and its own timeline for approval. The criteria for approval also vary and can include, for example, an in-person appearance before the licensing board with an oral examination.

Dr. Juan Pablo Amieiro-Puig, who represents Puerto Rico in the AVMA House of Delegates, said during its regular winter session in early January that veterinarians are highly unlikely to gain a national license because that would require state governments forfeiting control. But he encouraged fellow delegates to consider actions that could make these processes easier and how the AVMA could help.

In other discussions, delegates noted that the issue affects a mix of veterinarians and scenarios, such as private practitioners who move, relief veterinarians who want to work across the state border, veterinarians who want to help care for animals during a natural or human-caused disaster in another state or territory, state government veterinarians who have expertise that could help fight a disease outbreak elsewhere, and veterinarians who have to move for military service or the service of their spouses.

Dr. Amieiro noted that some states have already been addressing concerns about temporary licenses for disaster response and easing licensing connected with military deployments. Others in the committee noted that reciprocity agreements between some states also simplify and hasten the licensing process.

The HOD voted to ask that the AVMA Board of Directors examine the issue of license portability and consider what actions could help, which could include modifying or creating AVMA policies. Delegates also recommended that the Board collaborate with state VMAs and other AVMA-allied associations to understand the issues and how to best address them.

Veterinarians describe delays, inefficiency

In September 2018, Federal Trade Commission staff published a report on ways to expand occupational license portability across state lines. The report was part of an effort to reduce employment barriers by encouraging states to “reduce unnecessary and overbroad occupational licensing regulation,” FTC information states.

In general, the slow and burdensome process for cross-state practice may foreclose opportunities for qualified workers, the report says, and states have many options to make licenses more portable. Those options include interstate compacts in which states agree to identical rules governing certain professions, licensing reciprocity agreements, model laws that assure state boards professionals licensed in another state are qualified, and expedited licensing that relies on professional information stored through third-party repositories.

“Indeed, for occupations that have not implemented any form of license portability, the harm to competition from suppressed mobility may far outweigh any plausible consumer protection benefit from the failure to provide for license portability,” the report states.

Dr. Karen Bradley, 2021-22 Board chair, said in an interview that some states are dropping barriers. Her home state of Vermont, for example, has begun offering a simplified licensing process in recent years for veterinarians who have been licensed in good standing by another state or territory for at least three years. She said doing so removed requirements to meet with the board and provide license examination scores.

Dr. Bradley said animals and diseases cross state lines all the time, and those borders should not determine where veterinarians lose their ability to act in an animal or public health emergency. She said that even veterinarians working through the official federal response to a disaster often deal with delays because they need apply to become a federal employee to gain permission to practice at the disaster site.

Dr. Joe Annelli, executive vice president of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians, said veterinarians who are employed by the federal government can work across state lines within the scope of their jobs. But cross-state licensing becomes an issue in large-scale disease outbreaks that require help beyond the federal workforce.

If a private practitioner from Illinois, for example, wants to help federal authorities control a disease outbreak in California, that veterinarian has to become a federal employee, which is more time consuming than if that emergency responder had license portability and could be paid as a contractor, Dr. Annelli said.

Dr. Bradley said she would prefer a national licensing system for veterinarians who meet national education and examination standards—not only for emergencies but also for veterinarians who move. Those who apply for a new license can wait months for a decision and pay substantial fees. Plus, many need to consider whether to maintain their previous state licenses in case they move back.

During the HOD’s regular winter session, Dr. Amieiro led a House reference committee assigned to discuss license portability. There, delegates talked about their difficulties navigating complicated processes that sometimes required securing information from every state where they had been licensed, a need to dig for details on agreements between states intended to make it easier to gain cross-state licenses, and the laws and regulations that make licensing processes difficult to change.

Dr. Jane R. Barlow Roy, delegate for New Hampshire, has had to turn down relief work in nearby states because she is only licensed in her state. She sees potential for regional licensing agreements.

“I looked into being licensed in the other surrounding states, but it’s a pain in the neck, and it’s not worth it financially for me to be licensed in Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island,” she said.

Dr. Ruth Blauwiekel, delegate for Vermont, said any efforts to make it easier to transfer licenses or gain new ones would need support from veterinarians already working within the affected states. She suggested any AVMA actions include examining how much help state VMAs want on the issue.

In discussion by the whole HOD, Dr. Jennifer Lynn Glass, delegate for Idaho, said that the diseases and parasites veterinarians encounter can vary by region, so states that increase license portability may still need to test applicants. Dr. Kerry Allen Rood, alternate delegate for Utah, said licensing systems need to provide strong enough oversight to detect and weed out “bad apples” in the veterinary profession.

Potential in new programs

Dr. Bradley noted that other health professions—such as physicians and nurses—have interstate compacts that ease the process of either cross-state licensing or using one license in multiple states. She cited the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact for physicians in 33 states, the District of Columbia, and the territory of Guam.

Marschall S. Smith, executive director of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission, said the compact lets physicians quickly use a single application to apply for licenses in multiple states using information already provided to the state where they are licensed. The compact began accepting applications in 2017, and states have issued about 18,000 licenses through the process during its first four years, IMLCC information states.

The IMLCC charges $700 plus the cost of a license in each state along with a $100 handling fee if more than one state is selected. Plus, physicians practicing in multiple states must still adhere to each of the state-specific medical practice regulations.

Jim Penrod, executive director of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards, said his organization is working with state licensing boards to gradually replace the AAVSB’s Veterinary Application for Uniform Licensure Transfer program with a more efficient license verification process that would connect state databases with the AAVSB’s license information database to transfer professional information to the state and update the AAVSB database once a new license is issued. Collaboration started last year with the California Veterinary Medical Board, and the results will be a template for work with other states.

Penrod said some states may need to adjust their regulations to adopt the new program.

Under the current VAULT program, veterinarians pay $90 for basic transfer services or $180 for the organization’s premium service, as well as administrative fees that vary by state.

Penrod thinks a central database is the most efficient method of simplifying the licensing process. Creating a compact commission, he said, adds another layer of regulation and expense, and he thinks the costs passed down to licensees would be higher in veterinary medicine than for larger health professions such as nursing.

“We are intent on making the licensure process more efficient,” Penrod said. “Of course, we’ll need our member boards to participate in that and try to get their buy-in to some of these processes.”

HOD discusses AVMA support of veterinary team members

By Katie Burns

The AVMA House of Delegates, while meeting Jan. 7-8 in Chicago, deliberated on the idea of expanding AVMA membership beyond veterinarians, with the result being a recommendation to look at how the Association can increase support for veterinary team members.

Membership expansion was a topic of the Veterinary Information Forum during the regular winter session of the HOD, with the other topic being license portability (see page 382).

The AVMA does have a category for affiliate members who teach veterinary medicine or allied sciences or who engage in veterinary research, although there are currently only 26 affiliate members among more than 99,500 AVMA members.

The House reference committee assigned to consider membership expansion discussed with stakeholders whether veterinary technicians, hospital managers, or others involved in veterinary medicine should be AVMA members or whether the Association should instead look at various ways to support these groups, in addition to the resources that the AVMA already offers for practice teams.

Ed Carlson, then president of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, said NAVTA appreciates the partnership that it has had with the AVMA. That partnership includes the AVMA providing support services for NAVTA. Carlson favors conversation about how to expand benefits and work together, but he is not sure that membership in the AVMA is the right way to go for veterinary technicians.

Christine Shupe, executive director of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, said the VHMA would not be in favor of extending AVMA membership to hospital managers without voting rights. She said the VHMA welcomes opportunities to collaborate with the AVMA.

Shupe said later that if two organizations offer membership and benefits, people could choose to belong to one over the other. Carlson said he mirrored that sentiment.

Scott MacKenzie, director of the AVMA Membership and Field Services Division, said the AVMA has been developing more resources for the entire veterinary team—such as resources on workplace well-being; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Joe Kinnarney, chair of the AVMA Trust, said practice teams are eligible for a broad spectrum of benefits from the Trust as long as the practice owner is an AVMA member.

The AVMA currently has a working group on utilization of veterinary technicians as well as the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities, noted Dr. Mary Ergen, District III representative on the AVMA Board of Directors. The CVTEA accredits veterinary technology programs. Dr. Lori Teller, AVMA president-elect, added later that the AVMA also has veterinary technicians as members of various other committees.

“One sentence, we can sum this whole thing up: All the groups should work together to find ways to strengthen each organization,” said Dr. Philip Borst, alternate delegate for Indiana.

After further discussion, the reference committee proposed a recommendation for the House of Delegates to request that the AVMA Board of Directors “consider creating a pathway of communication with other veterinary healthcare team organizations, starting with the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, and the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, to investigate how best to work collaboratively to strengthen their organizations and professions as well as the AVMA.” The House approved the recommendation.

“The AVMA is committed to veterinary technicians and the entire veterinary team,” said Dr. Janet Donlin, AVMA CEO. “We will continue to work with our partner organizations on the best path forward as we support these critical team members.”

AVMA supports collection of data on antimicrobial use, House approves other policy changes

By Malinda Larkin and Katie Burns

The AVMA House of Delegates, meeting Jan. 7-8 in Chicago, approved a new policy supporting the collection of antimicrobial use data to help combat drug resistance.

Delegates approved the new policy, “Support for the Collection of Antimicrobial Use Data for Antimicrobial Stewardship,” along with other policy changes during the regular winter session of the HOD.

In a reference committee meeting, Dr. Hunter Lang, delegate for the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, said the policy on collection of antimicrobial use data is a good first step in addressing concerns over drug resistance.

Dr. Karen Grogan, alternate delegate for the American Association of Avian Pathologists, said her organization is strongly in support of the resolution as well. She said: “We as a poultry industry are collecting this data, but it would be good to have all species collected. It (the policy) would also help us coordinate efforts across federal agencies, industry groups, and the profession as a whole.”

The AVMA Committee on Antimicrobials developed the policy, which according to the background materials, “describes best practices for collecting this (antimicrobial use) data, what should be considered during its analysis, and how the data might be used to inform and advance veterinary clinical decision making.”

Dr. Michael Costin is an assistant director in the AVMA Division of Animal and Public Health and provides staff support for the CoA. He said the policy was created, among other things, to give the Association more clear direction on this topic.

“One reason the CoA developed the policy is we did not have a policy that touched on antimicrobial data collection,” he said. “There are a lot of discussions starting to happen on how this type of data can be gathered, how it should be used, and who should be the gatekeeper, and for the AVMA to participate in discussions, we needed to know how AVMA membership felt.”

The CoA submitted a paper for publication in JAVMA that provides additional background on the policy. The paper is under review and is anticipated to be published in coming months.

“That will further explain the CoA’s thoughts on why the policy is needed and further expand on what might need to happen next,” Dr. Costin said.

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Dr. Rex Anderson, AVMA House Advisory Committee chair, speaks at the AVMA House of Delegates’ regular winter session in Chicago. Delegates approved the new policy “Support for the Collection of Antimicrobial Use Data for Antimicrobial Stewardship,” along with other policy changes. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 4; 10.2460/javma.260.4.381

The HOD also approved revisions to the policies on “Rabies” and “Annual Rabies Vaccination Waiver.” The AVMA Council on Public Health recommended revising the rabies policy to, in part, emphasize that rabies infection is almost invariably fatal, and that vaccination of animals is a critical step in preventing infection and protecting public health.

The council recommended revising the policy on vaccination waivers to support communication to clients that unvaccinated animals are at risk of rabies infection if an exposure occurs and to convey that euthanasia of the animal may be required under certain conditions of exposure.

The HOD approved a recommendation from the AVMA Food Safety Advisory Committee to restructure the policy on “Food Safety” regarding foods of animal origin, partly by incorporating the policy on “U.S.-Banned Drugs Used by Exporting Countries.”

The HOD referred revisions of the policy on “Guidelines for Classifying Veterinary Facilities” to the AVMA Board of Directors for additional consideration. The House Advisory Committee and other HOD members raised various questions about the proposed definitions of terms such as clinic, hospital, and center.

All of the resolutions that went before the HOD are available at jav.ma/2022HOD.

AVMA provides updates on workforce, well-being, advocacy

Key areas highlighted during leadership conference

Story and photo by R. Scott Nolen

The AVMA provided updates on the U.S. veterinary workforce, mental well-being, and federal advocacy during the plenary session of the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago on Jan. 7.

Workforce

AVMA Chief Veterinary Economist Matthew J. Salois, PhD, spoke on the state of the U.S. economy and veterinary workforce. While practices face challenges in hiring and retaining qualified staff members, especially veterinary technicians, the U.S. gross domestic product is projected to expand by nearly 6% in 2022 after shrinking by 3.5% in 2020—“the sharpest trough-to-peak rebound in more than half a century.”

On top of the economic recovery, people are also rebuilding their lives. “What is clear is that as we continue to grapple with life with COVID, consequences follow, with burnout being among those consequences,” Dr. Salois said.

Practices feeling short-handed is adding to the burnout that many team members are already feeling.

“Well-being of our veterinary professionals remains a key priority for the AVMA,” Dr. Salois added.

Veterinary medicine is not alone in its struggles, as burnout is fast becoming an epidemic in many professions, including dentistry and pharmacy.

Rising demand for veterinary care during the pandemic is partly driving burnout and workforce challenges. Practice revenue grew an average of 11.4% between May 2020 and March 2021.

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Matthew J. Salois, PhD, AVMA chief economics officer, discusses various factors impacting a struggling veterinary workforce.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 4; 10.2460/javma.260.4.381

“When you look at the data on practice revenue, we have had a two-year roller coaster experience,” said Dr. Salois, adding there are signs that spending and visits are beginning to decelerate at a national level and looking more like pre-pandemic trends.

Inflation is also impacting veterinary medicine. Prior to March 2020, year-over-year price increases for veterinary care averaged about 4%. By December 2022, the average price increase was tipping toward 7%.

“At a 7% price increase growth rate, the average cost of veterinary care to a pet owner will double in about 10 years,” Dr. Salois said. “So clearly, we have an affordability challenge that needs to be on our minds.”

In addition to the demand-side issues, a number of supply-side challenges complicate matters even further, including practice inefficiencies, high rates of employee turnover, and an imbalance between work expectations and reality. That is, veterinarians want to work fewer hours—even for a lower level of compensation—but are, in fact, working more hours.

The reason why these systemic issues of efficiency, turnover, and dissatisfaction are so important, Dr. Salois explained, is because taken together they add to the current workforce dilemma facing the profession, with significant ramifications for well-being and the future of the veterinary workforce.

“A growing number of veterinarians are thinking of leaving the veterinary profession,” he said. “And when we look at the reasons why, the primary issues (veterinarians are reporting) are not difficult clients or wanting higher compensation or student debt or even the feeling that there is too much work—though I am sure we all want to see positive progress made on all these issues. Rather, the leading reasons come down to issues of mental health and work-life balance—a desire to better manage stress, anxiety, and depression.”

Workforce solutions must be focused on the long run, based on evidence, and centered on root causes.

“We need to look above just the demand challenges we are facing and look at the systemic issues of efficiency, turnover, and career dissatisfaction, and we need to be grounded in the data and the evidence,” Dr. Salois said.

If the profession responds with only Band-Aid actions that do not address root issues, the workforce challenges will remain, and the profession will continue to see negative outcomes.

The overload, stress, and pressure are real, and Dr. Salois suggested that while longer-term solutions are being devised, the following measures can be implemented at once.

  • Leverage technology: Owners can automate and streamline management and administrative processes within the practice, such as inventory control, vendor management and purchasing, and accounting and financial standardization.

  • Foster existing talent: Leaders can empower employees to perform the full range of work they’ve been trained and are qualified to do. Credentialed veterinary technicians should be spending less time answering phones and cleaning examination rooms and more time administering vaccines and assisting with preoperative preparation and surgery.

  • Support your team: Create an inclusive, healthy workplace that prioritizes individual and workplace well-being. That can start by honing leadership abilities and nurturing a work environment that bolsters collaboration and teamwork (see page 395).

The AVMA continues to focus on closing critical knowledge gaps in areas such as utilization of veterinary technicians, workforce modeling and assessment, and identifying drivers of practice efficiency. Information is at avma.org/practicemanagement.

“We have strategic research initiatives aimed at delivering answers to these questions and have partnered with key subject matter experts to help us arrive at answers in a timely and evidence-based manner,” Dr. Salois said. “Outcomes of these research projects will all be delivered later in 2022.”

Well-being

Jen Brandt, PhD, AVMA director of well-being, diversity, and inclusion initiatives, briefed attendees on AVMA well-being activities.

“This past year, we continued our extensive outreach via programming, consultations, and interprofessional collaboration,” she said. Some of the most-attended seminars included “Breaking the Cycle of Emotional Blackmail,” “Suicide Prevention and Mental Health,” and “Rudeness on the Rise: When Work Hurts.”

The AVMA convened roundtables on the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of the veterinary team and on suicide prevention. The crux of the latter, Dr. Brandt explained, “was that we recognize the ongoing misinformation about suicide that’s being shared in the veterinary community triggers vulnerable individuals and diminishes effective ways we can successfully combat suicide. The goal was to focus on corrective information and the ways we can safely and successfully address suicide within the profession.”

Additionally, the AVMA expanded its library of cyberbullying and reputation management resources, available at avma.org/wellbeing.

Dr. Brandt said the AVMA will continue its focus on outreach, programming, consultation, and collaboration in 2022, the theme of which is well-being literacy.

She explained that well-being literacy is the consistent, intentional use of language to maintain or improve the well-being of oneself, others, or the world. It takes into consideration that while not everyone may be an expert in well-being or every domain of well-being, people all are communicators, so they all play a vital role in how they communicate on their teams.

One way the AVMA is contributing to healthy teams is through its Train-the-Trainer Wellbeing Educator Program, which launched this year.

“Effective communication is a cornerstone of healthy workplaces, and yet it is often an afterthought,” Dr. Brandt said following the conference. “By learning how to communicate more effectively, we can stop problems from occurring or escalating and help improve employee happiness, loyalty, mental health, and well-being.”

Program participants earn 5.25 hours of continuing education and will learn the following: the link between effective communication and workplace well-being; core communication skills that build trust, increase rapport, and facilitate open, candid dialogue; and how to conduct communication- and relationship-centered training in live and virtual settings.

Advocacy

The AVMA’s chief government relations officer, Dr. Kent McClure, spoke about the political climate in the nation’s capital.

“The last few times I’ve stood here before you, I’ve talked about the extreme partisanship in Washington, D.C. Well, nothing’s changed. It’s as polarized as ever,” Dr. McClure quipped.

Passing legislation in such an acrimonious climate is especially difficult as the big issues dividing Republicans and Democrats spill over into areas where the parties would normally agree.

“The good news is the AVMA has always been and remains nonpartisan,” Dr. McClure said. “We work with members of Congress across the political spectrum, and that is one of AVMA’s core strengths.”

State VMAs and other AVMA-allied VMAs see the AVMA as a trusted partner in the legislative and regulatory arenas, Dr. McClure added. Some of the issues in these arenas include telemedicine, compounding, cannabis, taxes on small businesses, and educational debt.

Dr. McClure encouraged attendees to participate in the next virtual legislative fly-in, scheduled for April 25. He later reiterated, “Don’t underestimate the impact you can have for the profession with a 15-minute meeting with a member of Congress and some follow-up.”

Veterinarians tell a different story

Stories of triumph and resiliency shared at AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference

Story and photos by R. Scott Nolen

Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” Charles opened the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference with an invitation to counter the current negative narrative about the veterinary profession with a different story, “one that highlights the strength of our profession, a story that focuses on empathy and generous listening.”

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Veterinary professionals and storytellers share personal moments from their lives as a reminder about the joys of veterinary medicine.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 4; 10.2460/javma.260.4.381

Dr. Charles is executive director of the Veterinary Leadership Experience. She and her team of veterinary storytellers recounted personal challenges and triumphs during the Jan. 6-9 meeting in Chicago to encourage members of a profession roiled by frustration and burnout. The following are excerpts from their talks, edited for length and clarity.

Dr. Stephanie Jones, co-owner, Animal Hospital of Fort Lauderdale

“Martin Luther King Day. I have a dream. But it’s cold outside. Martin Luther King Day. A day of recognition. But it’s cold outside. Martin Luther King Day. Dad says it’s not a day off but a day to do. But it’s cold outside. These are the thoughts running through my head as I told Alexa to snooze one more time. Eyes closed tight, a voice resonates through in my ear, ‘You have work to do.’”

Dr. Jones is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, a historically Black collegiate organization whose purpose is sisterhood and giving back to the community, and each year, AKA participates in an activity for MLK Day.

This one year, Dr. Jones changed her plans of participating in an MLK Day parade to help out at a community center with elementary and middle school–aged children. Seeing all the people and the bustle of activity, she wondered why she was even there. “What do I have to offer?”

Dr. Jones ended up at the art therapy table. The kids were to write in the corner of their papers the challenges they face and draw a picture of how to tackle those challenges. “I saw dejected, rejected, bullied, abandoned, judgment, grief. These are the words of our foster care kids.” She wondered, how do I reach these kids?

Then it came to her. She said, “I’m a veterinarian.” Faces looked up. “Does anyone know what a veterinarian does?” The floodgates opened as the kids started sharing stories about pets. “I found my open door. To the quiet girl sitting to my left, I said, ‘If I brought my dog, would you play with it?’ And that one phrase got a small smile. That was the moment I knew, that was the moment the spark was reignited for me. And I knew I had to come back. I had to keep this conversation going.

“A destiny awaits, a mission inspired, all because it’s cold outside.”

Dr. Vernard Hodges, co-owner, Critter Fixer Veterinary Hospital

“As I looked down, staring at my report card, heartbeat pounding, one word just kept going over and over in my mind: failure, failure, failure. … I had failed the ninth grade. Tearfully, I looked down at that report card and thought all my life’s dreams and hopes were over. The dream of moving from that single-wide trailer park with the hole in the kitchen floor were gone. The dream of moving from that Georgia red clay road. My dream of moving from Fort Valley, Georgia, the poorest town in the state of Georgia, gone. … My dreams of becoming the first Black Jacques Cousteau, gone.”

Dr. Hodges recalled growing up in a town where certain areas were off-limits to Black people and the high school hosted separate proms for white and Black students. “This was the everyday reality of growing up in my hometown. This was not the reality I wanted for my life. I had to figure it out, but I knew I couldn’t figure it out alone.”

Dr. Hodges reached out to his high school guidance counselor, and she agreed to help. Together, they devised a plan for Dr. Hodges to attend summer school and work together after school so he could graduate with his class. “That’s when I realized how important mentorship is.”

“My next mentor was Dr. Melinda Davis. She was my undergraduate mentor, an amazing lady who believed in me way before I believed in myself. A sweet old white lady who reminded you of your grandma. Now she had some pop. She once came to my dorm room and dragged me to class. See, I’d missed class a couple of days and here comes this 5-foot, 2-inch little lady in this testosterone-filled dorm of teenagers, walks into my room, kicks the bed, and says, ‘Hey, turkey, get up. You’re going to reach your potential.’

“I’m very grateful she did that because mentors are the reason I’m here today.” (See Hodges Q&A, page 391.)

Garnetta Santiago, licensed veterinary technician, Zoetis manager of academic and professional affairs

“I left a comfortable and predictable job in financial publishing in New York City, and I was going to finally pursue my dream of working with animals. It was going to be awesome. … We love animals so much, nothing else mattered. So you can image my shock when the realities of life on the floor didn’t match what I’d envisioned in my mind.”

Santiago recalled a particular rough day trying to place a catheter in a cat. “And at the same time, I’m trying to really ignore the head veterinary technician was standing nearby. I could see her rolling her eyes. I could hear her sucking her teeth and huffing and puffing over how long it was taking me to get that catheter in. My heart was racing because of her, because of that poor cat, because I was losing confidence in myself.”

That’s when she noticed the song playing on the radio, “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World. “In that moment, the lyrics were crystal clear: ‘Hey, don’t write yourself off yet. It’s only in your head you feel left out, looked down on. Just try your best. Try everything you can, and don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away. It just takes some time, little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride. Everything, everything will be just fine. Everything, everything will be all right.

“At the time I didn’t appreciate how good it was that I wasn’t going to get good at ‘this’ because the ‘this’ that I had been beating myself up over was the approval and acceptance of someone whose opinion was utterly insignificant in my life.

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Storyteller Dr. Stephanie Jones recounts how a group of foster kids lit up when they learned she was a veterinarian.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 4; 10.2460/javma.260.4.381

“She will never know the impact that she had on my career and on my journey. See, back then, her words, they hurt. They were like compost: They stunk in the moment, but they became nourishment for my journey going forward.”

Hidayah Martinez-Jaka, Student AVMA president

“My first pets were a flock of chickens my family adopted when I was 14 years old. I thought they were pretty darn cute, but I had no idea what my little birds would endure and how they would change the entire course of my life. My first exposure to the veterinary profession was trying to find a vet for my chickens. For years, I’d get the same responses—‘We don’t see those types of animals. We only see dogs and cats. Just cull it.’—from clinics anywhere within two hours of my hometown in rural Virginia.

Martinez-Jaka recalled the time when she took her pet chicken, Cuddles, to a clinic to be euthanized. Staff members took the chicken into a backroom, not allowing Martinez-Jaka to be with her pet in its final moments. “They did not hear me. They did not listen. They took her away from me and into the back, and I broke down.

“Finding no one to help my chickens, I taught myself to diagnose and treat soft tissue injuries, respiratory illness, reproductive disease and more all by the age of 16.”

Fast-forward several years to when Martinez-Jaka is a student at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Her pet Sammy, a white Ameraucana rooster, is lethargic, and one of his eyes is red. Martinez-Jaka sent a photo of the eye to an ophthalmologist at the veterinary college, who confirmed the eye was infected and that the rooster also had cataracts. She suggested cataract surgery in the future but in the meantime seeing a local veterinarian to deal with the inflammation.

“So I called around, fully expecting another futile search, but a veterinarian was willing to see him—the owner of a clinic where I had shadowed before veterinary school. It meant the world to me that a small animal practitioner who rarely saw chickens was willing to see my rooster and help me figure out what to do.

“I brought Sammy in. The staff had me come in through the quiet cat entrance and kept it low stress for Sammy. The veterinarian was so kind and empathetic. Turns out, Sammy’s eye just needed supportive care. I was and am so grateful for that experience. Such a contrast to the cold, dismissive veterinary experiences of the past.”

Dr. Morgan McArthur, president, M2 VetSpeak Consulting

“I was a large animal vet in eastern Idaho for the first 15 years of my veterinary career. The phone rang at 11 o’clock at night. It never rings like this during the day, does it? On the other end was Chuck Palmer. ‘Yeah, I’ve got a cow that’s cast her withers, and I need you come out.’ Cast her withers is cowboy code for a prolapsed uterus. … This won’t wait til tomorrow. I hung up with Mr. Palmer. I changed from my jammies to my coveralls.

“I had F words dancing in my head. Far away: This property was harder to find than a North Korean missile site. Frigid: It’s Idaho, it’s March, and I’ve got pellets of precipitation tapping on my bedroom window. Finances: Mr. Palmer was a slow-pay, no-pay sort of a client. And facilities: Truly this place was off the grid, and I knew it was going to be a rustic setup.”

Dr. McArthur drove off into the dark, eventually leaving the pavement for a gravel road that became a narrow trail leading to a wire gate where Palmer was waiting. Dr. McArthur opened the gate and drove into the muddy pasture, where the truck became mired in the mud. Mounting a tractor, Palmer freed the truck and towed it to the cow with a prolapsed uterus “hanging beneath her tail like a 40-pound sack of red potatoes.”

“Friends, this was the road to resentment,” Dr. McArthur said. Working in pouring rain and lit by truck headlights, he wrestled the cow down and administered an epidural. “At this point, my resentment was beginning to soften. A prolapsed uterus is not a self-correcting condition. This was hard work. This was important work. And as a veterinarian, this was my work.”

More than 20 minutes later, Dr. McArthur had pushed the uterus back inside the cow and cinched it in place. “It was then when my resentment surrendered to fulfillment, because I watched this newly repaired mother cow nuzzling her nursing calf. That, friends, is the privilege of this profession.”

The life of a Critter Fixer

Dr. Vernard Hodges, veterinarian turned TV star, talks about how success was hard to come by but well worth the journey

Interview by Malinda Larkin

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Dr. Vernard Hodges spoke during the keynote session of the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference, held Jan. 6-9 in Chicago. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 4; 10.2460/javma.260.4.381

Dr. Vernard Hodges has made a name for himself in the veterinary profession but may be better known as part of the “Critter Fixers” duo. He and his partner and friend, Dr. Terrence Ferguson, star in the Nat Geo Wild television show, which debuted in March 2020 and was renewed for a third season debuting this spring. The Tuskegee University veterinary graduates own and operate Critter Fixer Veterinary Hospitals, located 100 miles south of Atlanta. The two are shown working around the clock with their staff on everything from emergency visits to farm calls throughout rural Georgia.

Dr. Hodges was one of the keynote speakers at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference, Jan. 6-9, in Chicago (see keynote story). AVMA News sat down with Dr. Hodges, who was raised in Fort Valley, Georgia, to talk about his background, how he and Dr. Ferguson built three veterinary hospitals from practically nothing, how the name “Critter Fixers” came to be, and how easy it is to find minority kids interested in veterinary medicine—you just have to know where to look.

The responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Q. What drew you to veterinary medicine as a kid and specifically to aquaculture?

A. Growing up in the rural South, animals were a part of our daily lives. I lived near a creek and played with animals. There was always a stray dog. A lot of times, we didn’t know about veterinary medicine and didn’t have money to take our animal to a doctor, so we’d figure out ways, like old wives’ tales, to try to fix animals and make them feel better. There was a guy who had a cattle farm, and I would help deliver calves.

As for getting into aquaculture, my stepdad was Japanese, and he always had koi fish, so I was raised learning to care for them and developed a lifelong passion for aquaculture. My undergrad (degree) was in fish biology, and my adviser, Melinda Davis, PhD, she helped me write up a project where we’d use carp to feed a village in the developing world. So here I am, a country kid headed to Nepal. In that part of the country, they needed a cheap source of protein, and it doesn’t get much cheaper than fish. So, we had the carp eat phytoplankton, which you don’t even need to feed.

Q. You went to Fort Valley State University for undergraduate studies and Tuskegee University for veterinary college. Both are historically Black universities. What made you pursue that kind of higher education?

A. The beauty of HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) is they give you a chance. Back then, some of the bigger universities weren’t going to give an average 2.0 (GPA) kid a chance. I also knew from friends of mine and school visits that HBCUs provided a nurturing experience for young Black kids, and I needed a place where I could grow and mature as I learned.

I didn’t have the best SAT score or best grades, and I failed ninth grade, but knew I couldn’t give up. There wasn’t a “what if?” There wasn’t a foundation to go anywhere else. You keep going. Even on the bad days, you keep going.

Nothing could be worse than picking peaches for 25 cents a bucket in the hot Georgia summer. I knew I didn’t want to do that anymore.

Dr. Davis, she pushed me and said: “I believe in you. Maybe you got a C, but I believe in you. Keep fighting. We’ll get you internships.”

Q. What was veterinary college like for you?

A. Deer in the headlights. I was a marginal student at best. I’ll never forget Dr. Hari Goyal, my first instructor, walking in with a push cart full of books. It was the syllabus. I took one stack out of its rubber band, and it was only one of the syllabi. This thing had to be 10 inches. I thought, “OK, you’re not in Kansas anymore.” Obviously, it was one of the weed-out classes—gross anatomy.

There’s a lot of times minorities don’t get a chance to prove themselves. I am sure I was in the bottom third of my class the first two years. I even had advisers asking if I’m OK. But in the third and fourth years, the lights flipped on. Instantly, I was the kid teachers would go to on ambulatory. I got more senior awards than anyone in my class. I was not the best academic student, but if you want your animal to live, I’m the guy to come to.

Q. What did you do after graduation?

A. Right after vet school, I worked for Dr. Earnest Corker (a veterinarian who was a professor at Fort Valley State and later a practitioner). His practice wasn’t really thriving. So my partner, Dr. Ferguson, and I started our own practice eight months later. It was in an old paint shop, 800 square feet. We physically built an exam table and exam rooms.

We drove to Alabama in a truck with no air conditioning to the mountains. This guy was going out of business, so we bought cages, an old anesthetic machine, and—I’m not kidding—a World War II–era X-ray machine. This thing was so heavy. But that was our practice.

Q. How did you come up with the name “Critter Fixers”?

A. I told Terrence, “We got to have a name.” He said, “We’ll be Veterinary Associates of Byron, Georgia.” I let him sleep on it. Then I said, “Bro, can you see we ain’t associates? Let’s be ‘Critter Fixers.’” He said, “That’s super country.” And I said, “We country!” That’s how it was born.

Q. What was it like in those early days?

A. We always teased each other. I was his overeducated, underpaid receptionist, and he was my overeducated, underpaid kennel help.

I can remember going to the grocery store and buying a loaf of bread and turkey. That would be our lunch for a week. I remember our first bad check: $75. And we needed that money. We had the carbon paper with the different-colored pages, not a computer. That was our filing system. You never would have thought we’d make it.

But we were providing excellent care, and people believed in us. That’s as grassroots as it got. We had no receptionist; we answered the phone. After six months, we hired our first employee.

That clinic was doing OK, so we started a second one nine months later. It probably was not the smartest thing to do. That’s when we learned about credit—we had none. But that ended up working to our advantage. If we had started with a million dollars, we would have one practice with a million dollars and debt. We started with zero (dollars) and made a million-dollar practice, and we don’t owe anyone. That’s what sweat equity was.

Now, I have many employees who’ve been with us 20 years. We provide a good salary. I take pride in them being able to buy their own house. Some are single mothers providing for their families, some white, some Black. It’s an amazing feeling.

Q. What else would you say contributed to your success?

A. I was in rural central Georgia; I had to think about my clients. I had to figure out a way to make a living. I wasn’t leaving and going to Atlanta. I was going to stay and become the first Black veterinarian who was going to be successful (in my area).

Even though we are a little more segregated than other areas of the country, everyone loves their animal. At end of the day, if you can save Fluffy, that’s all they care about. You can get paid for saving Fluffy.

With some of the white guys who would come to my practice, they would be nice with my receptionist, and then they see me, a Black man who is their veterinarian. We’d be in a 6-by-6 room with not a whole lot in common, but I learned to pick up on cues.

A lot of guys wear their (car) racing hats with a number. So every Sunday, I would read who won that race so would have something to talk about with them. You’ve got to find commonality.

I also learned to use resources. And I took my time. I would (make it a point to) talk to drug reps. People do business with people they like. For the drug rep, maybe the guy down the street didn’t have time for him, but I’d invite him in, and we’d be friends, and they became a resource. Those relationships are make or break. They have a choice who they want to make a deal with or which staff to take out to do certain things.

Q. What, to you, makes a good veterinarian?

A. Even with veterinary school, you gotta look beyond grades. We always talk about getting from the “no” stack to the “yes” stack. You might have a whole stack of 3.7 (GPAs), and they are probably smart kids, but what about the 3.0 kid whose mom and dad have never been to college? Who is working at a local hardware store or flipping burgers? They don’t have car, they’re trying to get to school, trying to pay for college, and don’t know if they can pay rent, or maybe they’re paying their mama’s rent. They may get a 3.0, and the person with 3.7 had no obstacles.

Vet colleges have got to start looking at whole individuals. That’s what got me in, going to Nepal. Oftentimes, socioeconomic factors are part of the minority community. Who is worrying about studying if you can’t get something to eat?

You can’t have a profession made up of the same people. There should be people with different experiences. You have to open the door, and everyone has to be open (to it).

Honestly, I have one of the top TV shows in the world as a veterinarian. I have started multimillion-dollar practices. I have achieved a level of success in veterinary medicine, but sometimes, when I go to these conferences, and they have these huge ballrooms, and no one there who looks like me, and I get my coffee, I go back to the days of feeling inferior and wondering if the person next to me sees that I belong. (It feels like) everyone is watching and looking at you like, “Who is this Black guy?” I get nervous, even though I’ve achieved a level of success, I still wonder if I’m good enough. But I can only control what I can control. I have to tell my story, and hopefully people see me and say: “Wow, this kid is from a trailer park. A kid who failed a grade and had to figure it out and had to say, ‘I want my dream, and I’m going to do what I can to get that dream.’”

To see the full version of the interview, visit jav.ma/hodgesqanda.

Speaker: Cycles of grief happen with changes at work, too

Workshop on navigating change guides leaders on best practices

By Malinda Larkin

Change happens, and in the past few years, it seems as though change has accelerated.

In the presentation “How to Succeed in Times of Change” at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference, held Jan. 6-9 in Chicago, Jackie Martin, founder of A Matter of Motivation and an executive trainer, delved into the best ways that leaders can navigate their teams through times of transition.

“We want to think all this rapid change is new, but as humans, we have always experienced this,” Martin said. “Some embrace the new, but by and large, most people struggle with it.

“The truth is, personal change must precede organizational change. Your practice will never change until the people in it change. So you need to understand the human side of change. There’s always a Fred—the person who drags their feet—but unless you get that person along, the change will be really rocky.”

Martin said it’s important to recognize that during many of the changes people go through, they experience grief, often in sequential and predictable stages. The stages are loss, doubt, discomfort, discovery, understanding, and integration. Each stage has associated feelings, thoughts, and behaviors along with its own upsides and downsides. There’s no set duration for how long it takes to go through each stage; each happens in its own time. But there are specific coping skills that can be learned to assist people in moving forward to the next stage.

During the first stage, when change is announced, the dominant emotion is fear because people don’t know what’s happening.

“If you’re no longer the expert, people are afraid of being no longer relevant, for example,” Martin said. “Sometimes we can dip into this so long and get paranoid and take on a victim mentality. You have to channel that fear into something more appropriate. You have to move beyond that.”

Doing so requires distinguishing between real and imagined fears. That can be done by asking questions such as the following:

  • What’s the worst that could happen? Can I live with that?

  • What’s most likely to happen? How will I deal with that?

  • What are my specific top four concerns?

In the second stage, employees may be angry and still cling to “the old way was better.” They are operating on opinions, hearsay, and gossip, when what they need is information—to move from doubt to reality. Martin advises that even if leaders may not have all of the information, it’s important to still say something.

“The worst thing you can do is give information on a need-to-know basis or have closed-door meetings,” she said. Instead, consider what facts are currently known, when and how you will get more, and what you would tell someone in your shoes to do.

After that, when leaders actually make the change in stage three, employees may feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Productivity will naturally drop, and leaders should be patient because people are learning something new. Leaders should continue to point out the positive aspects of change and use this time to motivate. Martin says this is a good opportunity to have a movie night or a check-in every day to encourage the team.

Stage four is when more buy-in has occurred. New ideas come about after employees see the benefits of the new way of doing things, but Martin cautions that decisions do need to be made, and everyone needs to move on from just brainstorming.

Not until stage five is when things finally start getting done the new way. People feel confident and determined as they now start to own the change. Celebrating victories, big and small, is important to keep the momentum going.

Finally, stage six is integration. The team is working efficiently and effectively, and compassion is needed to help employees who aren’t quite as far along. Remaining flexible is key, Martin says, “so you’re ready for the next change.”

Remember, Martin says: “When you announce new change to the rest of the team, they all go in stage one, loss. We look at that behavior and go, ‘What’s the matter with you people?’ But we forget, we had time to think about it and had moved ourselves around to stage four but didn’t give them a chance to do it.”

Repeating a quote attributed to Socrates, she added, “The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting to keep the old, but on building the new.”

Moving veterinary medicine beyond the status quo

Retaining and motivating staff members requires tapping into intrinsic motivation

Story and photos by Malinda Larkin

A miracle has happened in veterinary medicine. All educational debt is gone, everyone is making triple his or her current salary, and no one works more than 35 hours a week. Oh, and no veterinarian is ever double-booked, and clients can afford everything.

Josh Vaisman, co-founder of Flourish Veterinary Consulting, asked: “If this did occur, do you think in a flip of a switch, everyone in veterinary medicine would be thriving? Would we all be fulfilled?

He said: “In 10 or 20 years, all the things that make our work hard are not going to disappear. It’s always going to be a difficult field.”

In his talk, “Lead to Thrive: The 4 P’s of Positive Leadership” at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference, Jan. 6-9, Vaisman said problem-solving in the profession isn’t enough. Instead, veterinary organizations need to cultivate the things that contribute to workplace well-being.

Vaisman is a former practice manager and hospital owner with more than 20 years of experience as a veterinary technician. He also has a master’s degree in applied positive psychology and coaching psychology. And he’s a self-admitted “bad leader,” which led to his burning out and leaving clinical practice.

The BIG veterinary leadership “problem”

Vaisman suggested that it’s not enough to pay underpaid staff members more or give fewer hours to overworked staff members—that’s just the baseline. To be thriving at work means feeling engaged, fulfilled, accountable, and like you are growing. All of this requires an environment that enables the best parts of a person. Positive leadership helps leaders cultivate precisely that environment, he said, and helps practices retain existing employees.

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Josh Vaisman, co-founder of Flourish Veterinary Consulting, presents at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference on Jan. 9.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 4; 10.2460/javma.260.4.381

“It’s not possible to motivate another human being” in an energizing way, Vaisman said. Leaders can, however, cultivate conditions that make that kind of motivation possible. “We create an environment in which enthusiastic motivation is possible” because it supports the employee’s core psychological needs.

Self-determination theory represents a broad framework for the study of human motivation and personality. According to the theory, three core human needs are autonomy, connection or relatedness, and competence, or “the capacity to lean into the discomfort of whatever challenge you’re facing and knowing there’s a support system around you as well,” Vaisman said.

With these three things, intrinsic motivation is possible. People want to do something, and the more they do it, the better they feel, so performance and well-being improve. Without these things, there is demotivation or apathy. Vaisman also pointed out that this is not extrinsic motivation, where a person feels forced or compelled to do something. This may work to a point, but it is difficult to stay energized.

In veterinary medicine, Vaisman said, “We focus too much on compliance, rewards, and policies and procedures. Like, ‘If I get into the nitty-gritty of what I expect from them, they’ll do it every time.’ But it doesn’t work, at least not in the long term.”

The four P’s

The four aspects of positive leadership, which Vaisman is currently writing a book about, are as follows:

  • Psychological safety.

  • Purpose.

  • Path.

  • Partnership.

Psychological safety means people feel safe to take interpersonal risks. The need for psychological safety “doesn’t disappear when you clock in. If anything, it’s exacerbated,” he said.

He cited a study by Amy Edmundson, who followed teams of nurses across several hospitals. Her hypothesis was that the highest-performing teams would make the fewest mistakes. The data showed, in fact, that the highest-performing teams seemed to make the most mistakes.

“They (high-performing teams) developed a culture to navigate the awkward space where, on one hand, nurses are human beings and aren’t perfect, but also, in the medical profession, where mistakes are a big deal,” Vaisman said. “It turns out they weren’t making more mistakes—they were admitting to their mistakes more openly.

“The only way we can make systems better is to see where we need to be improved, and we can only do that if we’re being honest. If you withhold the opportunity to learn, that will get you in trouble.”

Having high psychological safety at work results in less employee turnover, fewer medical errors, and higher efficiency, according to studies Vaisman referenced.

Purposeful leadership is about taking advantage of the fact that what people do matters and then showing them how it matters. Experiencing meaningfulness results in engagement, motivation, and satisfaction.

“The more we have this, the more we report having a sense of fulfillment in what we do. And meaningfulness is a vaccine against burnout,” Vaisman said.

Practices of purposeful leadership involve noticing people, whether by making eye contact or learning about their interests; affirming people by highlighting their strengths or recognizing the impact of their contributions; pointing out how employees matter to the team; and showing team members how their tasks connect to things that matter.

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Attendees at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference chat during a break in Vaisman’s presentation. During his presentation, Vaisman cited studies saying that high psychological safety at work results in less employee turnover, fewer medical errors, and higher efficiency.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 4; 10.2460/javma.260.4.381

He gave the example of training new customer service representatives and going through their daily checklist, which includes calling all clients who had appointments the day before by 10 a.m.

Vaisman said: “What if you did that and added, ‘The reason we do this by 10 a.m. is because the docs take their lunch between 10 and 2, and they’ll know during the break in their day if there are clients to follow up with then and not at the end of the day. Also, one of our values is service, so calling them shows we take service seriously.’”

Following the right path

The third P, path, is primarily about clarifying expectations to empower employees. That is, employees understand what is expected of them, they have meaningful control over how to meet those expectations, and they have the tools and resources they need to succeed. The best way to ensure these things is a consistent and effective, structured, one-on-one program.

“This means you as a leader are routinely off the floor, undisturbed, and are checking in with your direct reports at least monthly,” Vaisman said. The meetings should have an agenda, rarely be rescheduled or canceled, happen routinely, and be for the benefit of the employee. The last means the meeting is not a performance review but a chance for the staff member to feel empowered or ask for resources.

Vaisman worked with a large emergency practice in the New England area, which implemented a monthly check-in system for staff members. Those who reported feeling resilient, prior to the program, stood at nearly 50%, while 12% said they were really struggling. Eight months later, those who were struggling totaled only 4%, and those who felt resilient increased to 74%, Vaisman said.

Finally, the partnership aspect of positive leadership means leaders care about their employees, genuinely want them to be successful and support them, and show appreciation.

“I’m not advocating for creating a coddling relationship. You can’t be everyone’s best friend. If we are the person with all the answers and take care of someone all the time, we remove autonomy and create learned helplessness,” Vaisman said. “On the other hand, don’t be a dismissive leader, saying: ‘Don’t bring me problems. Only bring solutions.’”

Vaisman recommends that leaders pick one of the four P’s to work on, then plan out how to go about taking action. Start with considering what it is you’re trying to accomplish or what the goal is, he said. Then think about which practice or tool to experiment with, why this change is important to you personally, and how you will measure progress.

“Shifting from where we are to where we want to be can feel like a chasm,” he said. “You need to build a bridge, but this happens one plank at a time.”

Survey results show rise in hospital employee pay

Veterinary hospitals are paying their associate veterinarians more and managers a little more than they did two years earlier, recent survey results suggest.

In January, the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association announced the findings from the organization’s 2021 compensation and benefits survey, through which the organization collected responses from members of the VHMA and Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society.

Full-time associate veterinarians reported earning a median of $120,000 in 2021, up from $98,000 in 2019, when the VHMA conducted its next most recent biennial survey.

All practice types were surveyed, and VMHA officials said the report covers the types of practices that provided enough data. Those include companion animal, mixed animal, emergency, and specialty practices.

The median salary for office managers rose 14%, from $42,000 to $47,750, according to survey responses. The median salary for practice managers increased 9%, from $55,000 to $60,000.

The median salary for hospital administrators rose about 4%—from $72,334 to $75,000—not high enough to keep up with inflation. Prices nationwide went up more than 6% between the surveys, according to Consumer Price Index data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The VHMA distributed the two most recent surveys in June of 2019 and 2021 and collected responses through August of each year. The 2021 responses provided data on about 200 associate veterinarians, 400 managers, and 2,000 other nonveterinarian hospital employees.

The 2021 report also describes differences in salaries by practice type. Among full-time associates, those in emergency practice or emergency and specialty practice reported the highest median incomes, at $157,000 and $150,000, respectively, whereas respondents for small animal and mixed animal practice types were below the $120,000 median.

Among practice managers, the median annual salaries ranged from $55,000 for mixed animal practice to $70,000 for emergency and specialty practice. For hospital administrators, the median ranged from $57,000 for mixed animal practice to $120,000 for emergency and specialty practice.

The survey responses also provide some details on benefits offered to veterinary hospital employees.

The responses suggest about 82% of veterinary practices provide health insurance and cover a median of 60% of that cost. Two-thirds also provide dental insurance, covering a median of half that cost. About 80% provide a retirement plan, and the practices bear a median of 3% of that cost.

Almost all the clinics provide discounts on veterinary care, typically covering half the cost, and about 8% cover the premiums for employee pet insurance. In terms of professional benefits, the survey respondents indicated about 80% of practices covered the cost of licensing or certification, and two-thirds cover the cost of professional association dues.

In Memory

Mark C. Brigham

Dr. Brigham (Florida ’81), 65, Greensboro, North Carolina, died Oct. 29, 2021. He practiced small animal medicine at Lake Brandt Veterinary Hospital in Greensboro. Dr. Brigham was a past president of the North Carolina VMA. He was active with the Boy Scouts of America. Dr. Brigham is survived by his wife, Katherine; a son and a daughter; and a brother. Memorials may be made to Boy Scouts of America, 1405 Westover Terrace, Greensboro, NC 27408, or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, P.O. Box 96929, Washington, DC 20090.

John E. Duff

Dr. Duff (Washington State ’58), 95, Seattle, died Sept. 17, 2021. He owned a mixed animal practice in Des Moines, Washington, prior to retirement in 2003. Dr. Duff was also the chief toxicologist for the Seattle and King County Medical Examiner’s Office for 11 years. He served in the Navy during the onset of World War II. Dr. Duff later served in the Air Force, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel from the Air Force Veterinary Corps Reserve. He was honored with a Commendation Medal and Meritorious Service Medal for his service. Dr. Duff is survived by his wife, Lisa, and two sons. Memorials may be made to the Salvation Army, 111 Queen Anne Ave. N. #300, Seattle, WA 98109, or Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, P.O. Box 647010, Pullman, WA 99164.

Ruth S. Kamino

Dr. Kamino (Colorado State ’55), 95, North Platte, Nebraska, died Nov. 7, 2021. She practiced at Valley Veterinary Clinic in North Platte for several years. Dr. Kamino is survived by a daughter, a son, and two grandchildren. Memorials may be made to the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1321, North Platte, NE 69101; Episcopal Church of our Savior, 203 W. 4th St., North Platte, NE 69101; or University of Nebraska Foundation Fund 7343, 1010 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, NE 68508.

Breanna M. Killian

Killian (Missouri ’24), 24, Columbia, Missouri, died Sept. 11, 2021. She was a second-year student at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. Killian’s goal was to serve as a zoo veterinarian. She was also pursuing a master’s in public health at the University of Missouri. Killian was class valedictorian at Green Bay East High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin; subsequently studied at Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin, and the University of Limerick in Ireland; and graduated with a bachelor’s in biomedical science from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. She is survived by her parents, a sister, and her fiancee.

James C. McCoy

Dr. McCoy (Oklahoma State ’64), 82, Ravenswood, West Virginia, died Oct. 11, 2021. Following graduation, he worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as chief epidemiologist for northeastern West Virginia. Dr. McCoy subsequently established Jackson Animal Clinic in Ripley, West Virginia. He was a member of the West Virginia VMA and served on its board of directors. Active in his community, Dr. McCoy was a past president of the Jackson County Development Authority and was a member of the Jackson County Health Department for several years. His wife, Joyce Anne; two sons and a daughter; three grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and three brothers and three sisters survive him. Memorials may be made to the Jackson County Animal Shelter, 86 County Farm Road, Cottageville, WV 25239; the Conrad and Edra McCoy Scholarship Fund, c/o Jackson County Community Foundation, 108 N. Church St., Ripley, WV 25271; or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.

Gordon P. Miller Sr.

Dr. Miller (Georgia ’63), 90, Wilkesboro, North Carolina, died Oct. 20, 2021. Following graduation, he joined Holly Farms Poultry in Wilkesboro as a poultry pathologist. Dr. Miller subsequently became vice president of live production services for the company. After Tyson Foods took over in 1989, he served as senior vice president of live production services and as a senior veterinarian until retirement in 2004.

A member of the American Association of Avian Pathologists, Dr. Miller received the association’s Lasher-Bottorff Award in 1996. In 2006, he was inducted into the North Carolina Poultry Hall of Fame. Active in his community, Dr. Miller was a past president of the North Wilkesboro Rotary Club and was a Paul Harris Fellow. He was a veteran of the Army, attaining the rank of first lieutenant. Dr. Miller’s wife, Jean; a son; five grandchildren; and a sister and a brother survive him. Memorials may be made to the First Baptist Church of North Wilkesboro, P.O. Box 458, North Wilkesboro, NC 28659.

Robert C. Morris

Dr. Morris (Illinois ’56), 89, Paris, Illinois, died June 23, 2021. He owned a practice in Bargersville, Indiana, for more than 40 years. Dr. Morris was a member of the Masonic Lodge and volunteered with the 4-H Club. His wife, Sara; three sons; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren survive him. Memorials may be made to Haven Hospice, 120 S. Pennsylvania St., Chrisman, IL 61924.

James T. Noonan

Dr. Noonan (Cornell ’58), 87, Tallmadge, Ohio, died Oct. 6, 2021. Following graduation, he served in the Army. Dr. Noonan later practiced mixed animal medicine in Akron, Ohio, retiring at 81. He was active with several community organizations, including the 4-H Club and Boy Scouts of America. Dr. Noonan was the recipient of a J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award for his volunteering efforts. His wife, Barbara; two daughters and a son; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandchild survive him. Memorials may be made to the Akron Symphony Orchestra, 92 N. Main St., Akron, OH 44308, or OLV Charities, 780 Ridge Road, Lackawanna, NY 14218.

Robert E. Pemberton

Dr. Pemberton (Missouri ’59), 87, Blackburn, Missouri, died Nov. 4, 2021. He owned Pemberton Veterinary Services, a mixed animal practice in Blackburn, for 62 years. Dr. Pemberton also owned Pem Farms in Blackburn. He was a member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and a lifetime member of the Missouri VMA. Dr. Pemberton’s wife, Shirley; two daughters and a son; 11 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and a sister and a brother survive him. Memorials may be made to St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, 607 N. Main St., Blackburn, MO 65321.

Janice S. Petree

Dr. Petree (Texas A&M ’97), 49, Longview, Texas, died Aug. 25, 2021. She served as a relief veterinarian in east Texas. Dr. Petree’s husband, Terry; two daughters; and a sister survive her.

William C. Pewsey

Dr. Pewsey (Iowa State ’59), 86, Storm Lake, Iowa, died Nov. 14, 2021. He practiced in Storm Lake. Dr. Pewsey was a member of the Rotary Club. He is survived by a son, two daughters, 11 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and two sisters.

James L. Teare

Dr. Teare (Colorado State ’74), 74, San Ramon, California, died Aug. 23, 2021. He owned Teare Veterinary Hospital, a small animal practice in Pleasanton, California, since 1997. Prior to taking ownership, Dr. Teare worked at the same practice. He is survived by his wife, Cheryl; three sons, two daughters, three stepsons, and a stepdaughter; 35 grandchildren; and two sisters and two brothers.

Henry L. Thompson

Dr. Thompson (Auburn ’51), 96, Rainsville, Alabama, died Sept. 7, 2021. Following graduation, he owned a practice in Houston. In 1980, Dr. Thompson sold his practice and became the administrator of a local emergency animal hospital. He later moved to Alabama, serving as a relief veterinarian in Albertville, Huntsville, Fort Payne, and Boaz and as an inspector for the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. Dr. Thompson was a Navy veteran of World War II. He later served in the Air Force, retiring from the Air Force Reserves with the rank of major. He is survived by two sons, two daughters, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Forrest E. Trafton

Dr. Trafton (Iowa State ’60), 91, Highlands Ranch, Colorado, died Nov. 9, 2021. Following graduation, he worked in Davenport, Iowa. Dr. Trafton later joined Eastview Animal Hospital in Ottumwa, Iowa, eventually taking ownership of the practice. He also helped co-establish the Heartland Humane Society. Dr. Trafton retired after a career of more than 30 years.

Active in his community, he was a past president of the Ottumwa Rotary Club. Dr. Trafton served in the Navy from 1950-54. His wife, Joan; a son and a daughter; and two grandchildren survive him. Memorials may be made to the Heartland Humane Society, 314 Fox Sauk Road, Ottumwa, IA 52501, or Eastview Animal Hospital, 11596 Bladensburg Road, Ottumwa, IA 52501.

Please report the death of a veterinarian promptly to the JAVMA News staff via a toll-free phone call at 800-248-2862, ext. 6754; email at news@avma.org; or fax at 847-925-9329. For an obituary to be published, JAVMA must be notified within six months of the date of death.

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