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Is Your World Flat?

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At one point, people truly believed the world was flat. We all know this core belief was dramatically disrupted. Countless industries experience disruptive business model changes – the music industry transformed from vinyl disks to streaming music; newspapers from print to being available free online; travel from booking through travel agencies to a plethora of instant-booking, travel-related websites. Is disruptive change coming to veterinary medicine?

Basic veterinary practice business models have changed little in decades. The profession's educational process approximates eight years to receive the DVM degree. Most practices are open traditional business hours, five or six days a week. The profession is fragmented, with large capital investments in buildings and equipment duplicated in veterinary facilities in very close proximity to one another. Animal health suppliers experiencing extreme consolidation. Is disruptive change coming to veterinary medicine?

Can we implement strategies in private practice to ensure relevancy? If the profession fails to remain relevant, others will step into the vacuum. Opportunity abounds in animal health, yet others challenge the profession in numerous areas. Our private practice pharmacies, low-cost spay/neuter clinics, and equine dentistry are but a few examples, areas of opportunity the profession should own. After all, we're the animal experts! Seize the opportunity, get creative, and devise business models preserving these activities to the profession's benefit.

Private practices must generate profit adequate to compensate recent graduates for escalating costs of education and student loan debt. Good medicine is good business, and good business financially supports good medicine. Practice owners have responsibility to manage practices with a high degree of business acumen. The profession's profitability must increase to facilitate the management of disruptive change.

Personally commit to the profession. Approach your practice interests passionately. Always strive for excellence. We're highly trained, kind, caring, compassionate professionals. In the early stages of our careers, we hone our medical and surgical skills, becoming highly skilled clinicians. As we gain experience, we add mentoring and business management skills to our repertoires. Surround yourself with teams of highly committed professionals and devise systems to delegate tasks while maintaining responsibility.

The Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association continually positions the profession to embrace change. Numerous program offerings chart the course for the profession's future in Wisconsin. We all benefit from a tradition of visionary leadership – Food Armor®, the cutting edge platform leading the industry in veterinary-directed food safety; the OSHA alliance providing WVMA members with information and guidance to achieve OSHA compliance; the recently announced partnership with the AVMA to bring the highly regarded Practice Profitability Workshop to the state level in March of 2017, giving WVMA members access to cutting edge business management education.

We know the world is not flat; how do we know that disruptive change is not going to affect veterinary medicine? Leverage your WVMA membership to position yourself and your practice to embrace the future!

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Presidents Message

Never Say Never

It was Tuesday, November 23, 1982 and I was an intern at the Caine Veterinary Teaching Center in Caldwell, Idaho. The Teaching Center had a faculty of six besides me, and we met after each two-week rotation of senior students from Washington and Oregon State veterinary medical schools to review the students and get updates on state veterinary issues. Among the issues presented by our director, Dr. Stuart Lincoln, was his appreciation for all the cold weather we had just experienced. unbeknownst to me, there was an outbreak of Vesicular Stomatitis in eastern Idaho. Dr. Lincoln was sure we’d be spared in our southwestern corner of the state because mosquitoes, the vectors that transmit the disease, should have died and transmission would stop. That was the conventional wisdom of the day and regulatory veterinarians were reporting that the spread of Vesicular Stomatitis had subsided. Moments later, Delores, one of the Center’s receptionists, quietly slipped into the conference room and handed me a note. The note said one of the dairies we serviced had noticed a few large blisters on the teats of some incoming heifers and they wanted me to come out to take a look. So began the saga of an outbreak of Vesicular Stomatatis, a disease clinically indistinguishable from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Despite the recent twenty-four “vector killing” frosts in Idaho, the event Dr.
Lincoln had just assured us wouldn’t happen… happened!

This turned out to be quite the experience for a young, enthusiastic veterinarian. All of a sudden, I was on the frontline of a new presentation of a disease outbreak. The disease continued to spread within the herd until December 16, despite the fact that there was many more below-freezing days. I observed oral, feet, and teat lesions on the 332 cows that I examined. Nearly two thirds of the cows had lesions, many of them with lesions at multiple sites. Oral lesions were the most common, which resulted in excessive amounts of saliva contamination in the waterers. We were able to isolate the virus from one of the water samples. Animal-to-animal transmission was the means to the spread the virus in this outbreak.

There was a flurry of educational meetings to update practitioners in Idaho about the latest developments with our epizootic of Vesicular Stomatitis. Because I was the primary attending veterinarian of this herd, and had the most experience with the disease, the University of Idaho flew me, with other supporting faculty, to two different locations to meet with practitioners. It was an exciting and memorable time. But there was one “deer in the headlight” moment for me. During one of the question and answer sessions, a practitioner asked e the difference between a Vesicular Stomatitis foot lesion and foot rot. I instantly realized I was in the dubious position of having experienced more Vesicular Stomatitis feet than foot rot. I didn’t have an answer. Thankfully, I was rescued by one of the faculty veterinarians who answered, “foot rot wouldn’t have the vesicle lesions with it.”

This event early in my career came to mind when I noticed the CE event sponsored by the WVMA and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP): Secure Milk Supply - Planning for the Unimaginable, on June 15 at Glacier Canyon Lodge in Wisconsin Dells.

Secure Milk Supply is a collaborative effort of industry, state, federal and academic representatives funded by USDA-APHIS. This is a new and important program to help mitigate the disruption of food supply and business while still controlling an outbreak of FMD. The voluntary Secure Milk Supply plan is a workable continuity business plan for uninfected farms in a FMD Control Area. One of the components of the plan is an Operation-Specific Enhanced Biosecurity plan, which herd veterinarians will help design, implement and oversee. This is a very important role in which we maintain the responsibility.

I realize it is hard to get excited about low probability events when we are all busy with high probability challenges every day. However, in today’s world with terrorists looking to disrupt our way of life, some sort of deliberate sabotage is a real possibility. The possibility of a FMD outbreak is just as likely as a vector free outbreak of Vesicular Stomatitis was 36 years ago.

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