Going the distance

Going the distance

Jun 01, 2006

LAS VEGAS — He wants a unanimous decision.

This fight's title isn't about money — he's already earned that.

It's about holding on to the profession's reputation with the public, a deeper calling befitting a 61-year-old veterinarian who in 1998 cast the sole dissenting vote to keep boxing's notorious ex-con Mike Tyson out of Nevada's ring while in 2006 pledged $1 million to his alma mater's University of Missouri veterinary college for needed repairs.

"You don't get to be Jim Nave by always being nice," one onlooker says.

It is no secret this self-described farm boy from Protem, Mo., is now self-made. He has built a career, and it's resulted in positions of power inside and outside of the profession.

In the boardroom, he's rumored to be every bit as tough as Tyson. "But don't believe everything you read in the papers," he laughs.

In an hour-long interview with DVM Newsmagazine, Nave's slow-talking, small-town street sense foretells a DVM who loves a good yarn and the art of a great business deal. During the course of a career, he took a slice of Las Vegas, and just kept carving.

As sole owner to 12 veterinary facilities employing some 70 veterinarians in Clark County, Nave's career accolades spew forth like a slot machine that finally hit triple 7s on the Las Vegas strip. Board of directors, Nevada State Athletic Commission. AVMA president. Board, Western Alliance Bancorporation (initial public offering 2005). Board, National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. Director, Station Casinos Inc. Board, Nevada Insurance Commission.

Nave thinks big, and he seems to win even bigger. What are his secrets? In a Q/A spar, five rounds of questions delivered these unanimous decisions.

DVM: What is the greatest professional challenge facing this profession?

Quick take: The pet-owning public makes this business work; protect the relationship at all costs.

A: "The biggest challenge we face is to maintain this love affair with society. If we lose that, we lose such a precious commodity."

And this interrelationship with society is complex and under increasing challenge. It translates between striking balance between the healthcare of animals and economics. In some cases it is showcasing philanthropy to the public, or becoming a key voice on all animal-health related issues.

"If we get to the situation that people think that other organizations, whether it is PETA or other humane groups, care more about pets than we do, then I think we are in trouble.

"Right now we are still considered the protectors of animals. Right now, we are still considered good people, people with big hearts. We have to keep that white hat on.

"I happen to believe that people who love pets are better than those people who don't love pets. So, I often say, 'We only work for the best people. Physicians have to work for all people.' "

DVM: What do you think herald the greatest changes in veterinary medicine?

Quick take: It's about medical delivery, and the evolving generalist/specialist relationship.

A: "I think that the delivery system itself is changing rapidly. Specialty hospitals are becoming much more a part of veterinary medicine out there. And I think that one of the keys to how successful we are going to be (will be decided by) the relationship between the general practitioner and the specialty hospital.