Summit nets thought leaders to address professional issues

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Oct 01, 2011

Student debt, economy and declining veterinary visits all headlined this year's 2011 Pet Healthcare Industry Summit sponsored by Banfield Pet Hospital.

The summit is held annually to bring together thought leaders in veterinary practice, academia and industry to address significant problems impacting the profession.

This year, Dr. James F. Wilson, of Priority Veterinary Consultants, addressed a new escalating crisis associated with the debt burden on many veterinary graduates. Dr. Ron W. DeHaven, CEO of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), presented on the newest initiative from AVMA and the American Animal Hospital Association to help practitioners build caseload through wellness. And economist Philip J. Romero, professor of business administration at the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business offered a sobering look at the economy in the next few years.

"It brings leadership together, and it's such a unique format that it allows people to work on and talk about things going on in the industry," says Banfield's Chief Executive Officer John Payne. "The second part of it is we try to tackle industry problems. Last year, we attacked the fact that visits were going down and the concern that veterinarians may be losing relevancy."

In fact, as a result of Payne's challenge to the market, the profession and industry rallied to create the most recent Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare, which was unveiled in July. This partnership brings together leading associations and 13 animal health companies representing pharmaceuticals, pet foods, pet insurance, corporate practice and distributors to educate the profession, pet owners and create tools to help foster annual visits to veterinarians.

This year, the focus is on rising student debt and effects on new veterinary graduates. The result, Payne says, could impact the caliber and quality of veterinary students entering the profession as well as influencing fundamental change to the market because of this debt.

Moderator Mark Cushing, a partner at Tonkon Torp LLP, a large-scale Northwest law firm, adds, "We had a spirited discussion about the size and worsening situation degrading student debt." It is an issue that clearly captured the attention of industry leaders, he says.